UFC booking headliner between Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus

Curtis Blaydes, UFC

The UFC‘s first fight night with a full crowd in the United States since the pandemic started has a new main event. Ariel Helwani was the first to report this evening that the promotion is in the final stages of booking a heavyweight battle between Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (15-3) and Chris Daukaus (12-4).

The heavyweight battle will headline the UFC’s Fight Night in Columbus, Ohio on March 26th. For Daukaus, this will be his second consecutive main event. His first came back in December when he took on “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis.

Daukaus had won his first four UFC fights leading up to that main event. Not only did he win those fights, he won all of them by knockout. He was looking so good that the oddsmakers made him the betting favorite over the heavyweight knockout king and two-time title challenger, Derrick Lewis.

However, Lewis did what Lewis does and he knocked Daukaus out in the first round. It was a definite setback, but there’s no shame in getting stopped by The Black Beast. This is a big opportunity for Daukaus to get back on track against one of the best heavyweights in the UFC.

UFC Fight Night

Curtis Blaydes will be looking to pick up his second straight win in March when he takes on Daukaus. He will look to continue his slow climb up to the top of the UFC’s heavyweight division and towards an eventual title shot.

Make no mistake about it, Curtis Blaydes is one of the very best in the world. The problem for Blaydes is that he’s ran into some of the biggest knockout artists in UFC history during his run. Since making his debut years ago, he’s suffered three losses.

Those three losses came against heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and knockout king Derrick Lewis. Outside of those two men, Blaydes has defeated everyone the UFC has thrown in front of him. Some of those names include Alexander Volkov, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Junior Dos Santos, and Alistair Overeem.

Whoever wins this fight in March is going to be in an excellent position in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

Casey O’Neill will look to play spoiler at UFC 271

Casey O’Neil

Saturday night on the main card of UFC 271, one of the pioneers of women’s MMA will be making the walk for the final time. That fighter is “The Happy Warrior” Roxanne Modafferi (25-19). Modafferi will be taking on arguably the top prospect in any women’s division in Casey O’Neill (8-0).

It has been some career for The Happy Warrior. After spending most of her early career on the regional circuit, she was introduced to the UFC via The Ultimate Fighter season 18. It was the first season to feature women and Modafferi picked up a win during the season.

After falling short in the tournament, she faced off against Raquel Pennington at the finale. She lost that fight and went to Invicta FC. After a solid stretch, she found herself in the TUF house again on season 26. She made it all the way to the finals and challenged for the inaugural UFC flyweight title.

She came up short that night but has gone on to have a very solid career with the UFC. Highlighted by wins over Maycee Barber, Antonina Shevchenko, and Andrea Lee. Now, she will be making the walk for the final time when she takes on “King” Casey.

Casey O’Neill – UFC 271 Spoiler

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better prospect in the UFC’s women’s divisions than Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is a dominant fighter who has finished all three of her UFC fights. Out of her eight professional wins, she has five finishes.

She is going to be looking to play the spoiler on Saturday night. It’s a really tough draw for Modafferi, but if you know anything about her career, you know that she wouldn’t have it any other way. While O’Neill certainly respects The Happy Warrior, she’s looking to dominate like she has been.

It’s no surprise that she’s such a big betting favorite on Saturday night. If she runs through Modafferi, she’s going to vault up the rankings and start challenging the division’s best. It’s a tale of two stories on Saturday night. Either Casey O’Neill makes a massive statement or Roxanne Modafferi shocks the world and rides off. Should be a fun one at UFC 271.

After a quiet trade deadline, what’s next for Knicks?

tom thibodeau, knicks

It’s not for the lack of trying. It’s just that their spiraling season has diminished the value of the New York Knicks‘ tradable contracts.

Thursday’s trade deadline passed, and the Knicks are stuck with a roster they assembled last summer that hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations.

In the last few hours of the trade deadline, the Knicks tried to shed the multi-year salaries of veterans Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel. But a three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers fell through after the Raptors and the Knicks couldn’t agree on the draft picks, per The Athletic. The Lakers would have received Burks and Cam Reddish while Noel and Talen Horton-Tucker to the Raptors and Goran Dragic’s expiring salary and draft compensations to the Knicks.

The deal would have opened up cap space for the Knicks this summer and cleared some rotation logjam even when Derrick Rose returns from his ankle surgery. Cleveland and New Orleans also outbid them for the services of Caris Levert and CJ McCollum in the previous days.

The Knicks are left with no choice but to make do with what they have and reshape the roster next summer when most of their tradable contracts essentially become expiring deals with those team options tacked on in the final year.

But what they currently have is not enough to sneak into the playoff and play-in picture at the moment. They are seven games below .500 as they enter Thursday night’s game against Western Conference’s second-best team Golden State Warriors.

 

Thibodeau likes what he has. But he has more than players deserving of minutes in the lineup.

The Knicks’ failure to make a move after the Reddish trade leaves Thibodeau in a predicament that has kept the team from building consistency and chemistry.

How will they evaluate Reddish if he’s not in the rotation? The Knicks gave up a future first-round pick and Kevin Knox for Reddish.

Will Quentin Grimes stick in the rotation even when Rose returns after the All-Star break?

Will they shut down Kemba Walker again or just buy him out?

The Knicks have an open roster spot, but adding another solid player to complicate their rotation should be farthest from their mind. They are running out of games to figure out who they are with the season slipping away. Their last 27 games are the fourth-toughest remaining schedule in the league, per Tankathon.

Do they have one more big run in them like last season?

So many questions, so little time.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC booking Angela Hill – Virna Jandiroba

The UFC has finalized a fun matchup in the women’s strawweight division. MMA Fighting was the first to report earlier this afternoon that the promotion had finalized a matchup between Angela “Overkill” Hill (13-11) and Virna Jandiroba (17-3).

The matchup will take place at a UFC Fight Night on May 14th. For Jandiroba, she’s going to be looking to bounce back after losing in her last fight. The last time we saw her was in October when she took on Amanda Ribas.

Jandiroba was outclassed on the feet and wasn’t able to get the fight to the ground where she really thrives. Ultimately, she lost a unanimous decision in an entertaining fight. Jandiroba was an Invicta FC champion and unbeaten when she entered the UFC a few years ago.

Since making her debut with the world’s premier MMA organization, she’s gone 3-3. However, all three of her losses have come against contenders inside the top ten. This is going to be a very good fight for Jandiroba to find out where she stands in the UFC’s strawweight division.

New UFC deal and fight for Hill

In addition to the fight getting announced, it was also announced that Angela Hill had resigned a multi-fight deal with the UFC. Angela Hill is on the back end of the rankings currently, however, she’s been one of the more unlucky fighters in recent memory.

In May of 2020, Hill looked like she was on the cusp of becoming a contender for the UFC strawweight title. She fought former title challenger Claudia Gadehla and lost a split decision. However, the majority of folks believe that she won that fight.

After that matchup, she took on Michelle Waterson in a UFC headliner. Once again, she lost by a razor close split decision. In December, she took on the tough Amanda Lemos and once again, lost a split decision. Hill is 1-4 in her last five, however, three of the losses have come via split decision.

There’s only one loss and that was her loss to Tecia Torres where it was clear that she lost. Had those three fights gone her way, she would be near the top of the UFC’s strawweight division. She comes into this fight having lost two in a row so she needs to get back on track against Jandiroba.

Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole shows support to fellow players amid rough CBA talks

yankees, gerrit cole

The New York Yankees don’t know when the regular season, or even spring training, will start. At the moment, there has been an impasse in collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations between MLB and the Players Association.

With no CBA, and an owners-imposed lockout, the season is unlikely to start in time. After an Owners Meeting that will culminate today, the league is expected to announce that spring training will be delayed.

The players met this week, too. While Yankees’ managing partner Hal Steinbrenner was in Orlando for the Owner Meetings, the union has been talking about potential next steps, too.

The Players Association has been meeting in Florida and Arizona, and Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole was present in the latter location to show his support. He is, according to NJ Advance Media, a member of the MLBPA executive subcommittee.

The Yankees’ ace stands for his fellow players

The players are still ready to negotiate and fight for their rights: a more competitive league with no tanking and service time manipulation and; of course, a higher minimum salary, better conditions for minor leaguers, and more earning opportunities for pre-arbitration players.

“I was at our PA meeting in AZ and it was exciting to see solidarity this high,” Cole tweeted. “We had 100+ players show up and are united to protect the integrity of the game.”

Owners, so far, have refused to increase the minimum salary beyond $600,000, while players want something closer to $775,000. It was $570,500 last season.

MLB can still secure a full 162-game schedule if both parties agree on a new CBA deal before March. Once that date passes, if there is no CBA agreement, it could be problematic.

There is a chance the season doesn’t start on time, especially if owners, who have been rather inflexible at the moment of negotiation money issues, don’t concede things. The Yankees, and the rest of the teams, remain in wait-and-see mode.

Players will start to suffer financial consequences if regular season games are lost.

Report: Knicks discuss multi-player deal with Raptors, Lakers

The New York Knicks are involved in an extensive discussion to shed salaries and recoup more assets and cap space this summer.

In the latest trade rumor, the Knicks have discussed a three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers involving veterans Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and potentially Cam Reddish.

Since Reddish’s salary cannot be aggregated, the potential trade would be broken down into two separate deals.

The Reddish-Kendrick Nunn and a future pick will be treated separately in this scenario.

“With New York trading away three rotation players in the proposal, one potential hangup in the trade discussion centers on the draft pick compensation for the Knicks. Toronto discussed sending a first-round pick, and the Lakers discussed sending a second-round pick to the Knicks, HoopsHype has learned. As conversations continued, the Knicks sought additional draft compensation,” Michael Scotto wrote.

The Lakers have been reluctant to part with their 2027 first-round pick in any trade. So, a compromise could be an additional second-round pick from the Lakers going to the Knicks.

The Knicks used a heavily-protected first-round pick and Kevin Knox to acquire Reddish from the Atlanta Hawks.

Earlier reports suggest the Knicks would like to deal some of their veterans to open up a rotation spot for Reddish. There’s still a possibility that the Knicks would hold on to Reddish and just do the first part of this three-team trade which is shedding Noel and Burks’ salaries.

Dragic and the still injured Nunn are on expiring deals.

ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst doubled down on the Knicks closing in on shaking up their lethargic roster.

“The Knicks are close on some deals. They’re looking to move one, two or three of the veterans. The Knicks are looking to have cap space this summer,” Windhorst said on ESPN Radio a few hours before the 3 p.m. Thursday’s trade deadline.

The Knicks have been linked to Dallas Mavericks’ point guard Jalen Brunson who should be their top free agent target unless the marquee names such as Bradley Beal (player option) and Zach LaVine (unrestricted) will not agree to extension with their current teams make themselves available. Other notable free agents this summer are Miles Bridges (unrestricted), Collin Sexton (restricted) and DeAndre Ayton (restricted).

Noel and Burks are owed a combined $19 million salary next season. Brunson has been reportedly seeking that salary range in his next deal. Dragic, a Mavericks target because of his close ties to Luka Doncic, could also be used in a potential sign-and-trade with Brunson this summer.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Knicks still targeting Indiana big-man Myles Turner at the deadline

While there’s no guarantee the New York Knicks will make a move at the trade deadline on Thursday, they’re certainly rumored to be active. Whether they look to unload big contracts or acquire a legitimate talent who can boost their playoff chances is yet to be seen.

The Knicks have been connected to a myriad of players, ranging from De’Aaron Fox out of Sacramento or Goran Dragic from Toronto.

However, New York rekindled their interest in Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner, a player they’ve had their eye out for quite some time.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that the Knicks are still pursing Turner, despite the Pacers trading away Damontis Sabonis to Sacramento:

Even though Pacers center Myles Turner is out with a stress reaction in his foot, the Knicks are still pursuing him with Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline approaching, according to an NBA source.

Considering Indiana just traded away Sabonis, they may view Turner as a legitimate center for their future, but considering he’s dealing with a stress reaction in his foot, they could still sell high on him.

The last time Turner played was on January 14 against the Phoenix Suns in a loss. This season, he’s averaging 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and shooting 33.3% from range. In the modern-day NBA, having a scoring big man is essential, but the Knicks have gotten a lot out of Mitchell Robinson since the start of 2022.

In January, Robinson recorded 10.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and about one block per game. In February, his numbers are even better, averaging 12.3 points per game and 14.3 rebounds over just three contests.

It is possible that the Knicks are looking to sell high on Robinson, gaining Turner back and injecting a unique talent into the starting five.

If New York were to strike a deal, they would also have to unload several big contracts to fit Turner’s contract into their salary space. Turner is currently on a four-year, $80 million deal with one year left. He will count $18 million next season, so the Knicks would have to include Nerlens Noel and potentially Alec Burks in the trade too. Otherwise, they could look to part ways with Evan Fournier and unload his contract, which is very similar in yearly salary.

Nonetheless, the trade deadline is boiling, but nothing has hit the fan just yet.

Should the New York Giants bring back Jabrill Peppers on one-year deal?

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

During New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen’s introductory press conference, he noted that oftentimes you miss more on the person than the player. The ability to fight through injury and perform for your team no matter the pain is something that is built into character.

If there’s any singular player that contains the fighting spirit and energy required to be a great NFL player, it is safety Jabrill Peppers. Unfortunately, injury and inconsistencies have impacted his career.

Peppers ended his 2021 season prematurely after suffering a torn ACL in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Peppers recorded 29 combined tackles, two tackles for loss, and one pass defended. He struggled in coverage last season, giving up a total of 225 yards and one touchdown, which came against the New Orleans Saints in Week 4, a game the Giants actually won.

However, Big Blue is going in a different direction with their defense after Patrick Graham elected to depart, joining the Las Vegas Raiders. New head coach Brian Daboll hired Wink Martindale to take over, the Ravens’ former DC.

Martindale is known for his blitz-heavy scheme, ranking 6th during the 2021 season in blitz rate among NFL teams. Despite significant injuries and disruptions, Martindale still managed to produce the second-most sacks in the NFL. His defense is predicated on unique blitz packages and pressure schemes to throw quarterbacks off and make them operate at a faster pace, which increases mistakes.

Peppers may actually be a perfect player in Martindale’s system, showcasing energy and physicality as a blitzer and run defender. At 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Peppers doesn’t have the big frame you’d like for a middle linebacker, coming in about 20 pounds lighter and 3 inches shorter than Blake Martinez.

However, Martindale deployed linebacker Patrick Queen with the Baltimore Ravens, standing at a similar height compared to Peppers but also about 20 pounds heavier. If Peppers can add a bit more weight onto his frame, he could make the transition to a linebacker role instead of strong safety.

James Bettcher coined the term “money-backer,” a more versatile LB who can drop into coverage and act as a hybrid safety. Given Peppers’ underrated physicality and speed attacking the offensive backfield, Martindale could see him as an asset moving forward.

It is possible the Giants present him with a one-year deal coming off an ACL tear. It is unlikely he receives a multi-year contract after a serious injury, so the Giants may be able to retain him on a cost-efficient contract. Peppers’ projected AAV sits at about $2.5 million, but the Giants may be able to keep him around at $2 million.

More realistically, though, the Giants will allow him to walk this off-season as Martindale targets players he’s familiar with. They will also use the 2022 NFL draft to inject more talent into the defense, helping turn over the personnel groupings to Martindale’s liking.

Yankees’ minor league pitcher raves about Anthony Volpe’s quality: ‘I can definitely see he’s being compared to Jeter now’

anthony volpe, yankees

The hype surrounding star New York Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe is real. With general manager Brian Cashman unwilling to part ways with Volpe or Oswald Peraza this off-season in a blockbuster trade, it seems as if the Yankees are keen on developing both players and seeing what they can offer at the major league level.

However, most view Volpe’s development as the saving grace for the Yankees at shortstop. The last time a prospect got this much attention at the position was from Derek Jeter, who went on to have one of the best careers in the history of the game.

Fellow minor-league prospects continue to rave about Anthony’s attributes and qualities, as shared in a recent interview by NJ Advanced Media.

“You could definitely tell he was different,” Yankees pitching prospect Ken Waldichuk told NJ Advance Media in a recent interview. “He’s just really smart. You’d see him even on an off day studying pitchers, like seeing what their tendencies were, which is definitely a big-league thing.

“That’s where the whole mental game comes in, especially once you get to the higher levels. Hitters will study each other and they’ll see tendencies and they’ll just sit on stuff. I think the craziest part is at that (rookie league) level everyone’s a little younger and people will watch the game, but it won’t be literally every pitch. Whenever the other pitcher was on the mound, it almost seemed like Volpe was making a scouting report in his head. So you could see he had the mindset to be really good.”

Volpe already has the capabilities to study the game at an extremely high level, which makes his preparation top-tier. Most professional athletes would confirm that studying and understanding each individual pitcher’s tendencies makes a job a bit easier when in the batter’s box.

After a phenomenal first season with the Yankees in single-A, Volpe is preparing to take the jump to Double-A ball. This past season with Tampa and Hudson Valley, he hit a combined .294 with 27 homers, 86 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases. His elevated athleticism and power were showcased through his statistics, but he’s also a solid defender who continues to work on his game. During the 2021 season, Volpe recorded a .962 fielding percentage, a number he will look to improve this upcoming season.

Nonetheless, his teammates already recognize how special of the talent he really is, which should get the Yankees excited for the future as they plan to land a stopgap shortstop until he’s ready for the big leagues.

“Yeah, I can definitely see he’s being compared to Jeter now,” Waldichuk said.

Giants’ GM Joe Schoen hints at trade-back in 2022 NFL Draft

new york giants, joe schoen

The New York Giants have an incredibly difficult decision to make in the 2022 NFL draft. Should they either stay put with the 5th and 7th overall picks, taking the best player available at offensive tackle and pass rusher or should they draft trade back and acquire more assets?

Last season, Big Blue passed on Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons and Rashan Slater out of Northwestern, both of which ended up being elite-level players during their rookie campaigns.

In the process, the Giants acquired Kadarius Toney and a first-round pick for the upcoming draft via the Chicago Bears. Whether or not that value will equal Parson or Slater’s impact moving forward is yet to be seen. However, new general manager Joe Schoen indicated that he is open to moving back or forward.

Schoen implied blatantly that the state of the team requires more draft picks than not. With that being said, we should fully expect the team to move back with either the 5th or 7th overall selection. It all depends on what teams are looking for in the draft and if the quarterback class ends up generating enough buzz to convince a team to move up.

The Senior Bowl served as a great hype practice scenario to elevate the stocks of Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh and Malik Willis out of Liberty. Both quarterbacks could end up going in the top 15 selections, which puts the Giants in a spot of leverage.

When a team falls in love with a quarterback, they often times move up to ensure they get their man. With that being the case, the Giants have two selections to maximize, hopefully leading to more capital for the 2022 draft or for 2023 as an insurance policy on Daniel Jones.

Schoen also revealed that positional value is a real thing, heavily revolving around the price of players in free agency. He coined defensive ends, quarterbacks, and cornerbacks as some of the most expensive players to acquire on the open market, so drafting them high makes logical sense to achieve “cost control.”

The Giants currently hold nine picks in the 2022 NFL draft, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up with 10+. The draft is won in the middle rounds, and Schoen has undoubtedly done ample research to find quality players who can contribute in a positive way in the future.