Bellator booking middleweight title fight between Gegard Mousasi and Johnny Eblen

Gegard Mousasi

Bellator has finalized it’s next title match in the middleweight division. Ariel Helwani was the first to report earlier today that the promotion was targeting a middleweight title fight between the champion Gegard Mousasi (49-7-2) and undefeated challenger Johnny Eblen (11-0).

We now know that the fight is done and it will take place in June. The finer details are still being worked out, but Johnny Eblen is getting his crack at the champion Gegard Mousasi.

Eblen just fought back at Bellator 276 a little over a week ago. That night, he took on John Salter in a big fight for the middleweight division. Eblen was able to defeat Salter and establish himself as the number one contender.

The American Top Team product first came onto the Bellator scene back in 2019 when he was just 4-0. Since joining the promotion, he’s gone 7-0 which has positioned him perfectly to take on arguably the most decorated champion the promotion has to offer.

Bellator Middleweight Title Fight

Make no mistake about it, when talking about the best middleweights in the world, you have to mention Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi has been in every major promotion and he’s won big fights every where he’s gone.

He’s also won world championships in every organization outside of the UFC including Bellator where he currently reigns. Since joining Bellator back in 2017, Mousasi has nearly been perfect.

Overall, he’s gone 7-1 with the lone loss coming to Rafael Lovato Jr. However, he bounced back strong after that loss and he’s won four straight to regain the Bellator title and defend it.

The last time we saw him was last month when he took on Austin Vanderford in Ireland. Mousasi made quick work of the then undefeated challenger and stopped him in under 90 seconds. It was a massive statement by the Bellator champion.

Now, he’s getting another young and undefeated challenger. Will Eblen suffer the same fate? We will find out in June.

Giants keying in on Mississippi State offensive tackle after great Pro Day

charles cross, giants

The New York Giants are in the market for a new offensive tackle. For years, the Giants’ offense has been bogged down by poor offensive line performances. 2020 first-round pick Andrew Thomas is a promising left tackle. But opposite of him, the right tackle position is clouded with uncertainty. There is likely to be a run on offensive tackle taken in the first round of this year’s draft and the Giants are expected to capitalize. But some fear that the top two tackles will not make it to the Giants’ fifth or seventh overall picks. With this in mind, the Giants have turned attention toward Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross as a potential draft target.

Charles Cross impresses the Giants at his Pro Day

Charles Cross was reportedly “amazing” at his Pro Day. The New York Giants were in attendance for Mississippi State’s Pro Day. According to a report from Jon Sokoloff (WCBI Sports Director covering Mississippi State), “multiple New York Giants scouts praised Charles Cross after his Pro Day concluded.” He also noted that there were many Giants staff members in attendance, including OC Mike Kafka, OL coach Bobby Johnson and assistant OL coach Tony Sparano Jr.

In a post-Pro Day interview, Charles Cross said that he is hearing from a bunch of NFL teams, but he is “is hearing most from the Jets and Giants.” The Giants hold the fifth and seventh overall picks in the draft. But if they are competing with the Jets to draft Cross, they are already behind. The Giants’ MetLife Stadium roommates pick fourth overall in this year’s draft, giving the Jets the chance to steal the Giants’ target.

One of the Giant’ scouts was seen coaching up Cross at his Pro Day:

Charles Cross stats and highlights

Charles Cross makes perfect sense for the Giants with one of their two first-round draft picks in 2022. Andrew Thomas allowed only 18 total pressures on 517 pass-blocking snaps this season, aptly protecting the blindside. Charles Cross could have a similar effect on the right side of the Giants’ offensive line.

Charles Cross allowed only 16 pressures on 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021 (PFF). Cross has good length from the tackle position and eye-opening agility that allows him to excel in pass protection. If the New York Giants want to add another bookend on their offensive line, Charles Cross would make for a perfect selection with one of their two top-ten picks.

What’s next for Dan Hooker after UFC London?

This past weekend at UFC London, the co-main event featured a battle between top featherweight. England’s own Arnold Allen (18-1) was looking to stay perfect inside the octagon as he was taking on the tough Dan Hooker (21-12).

Hooker was returning to the UFC’s featherweight division which is where he started his career inside the octagon. However, it was the lightweight division that saw him rise in popularity and stature.

That being said, after a recent 1-3 stretch, The Hangman decided to move back down. He did that at UFC London, but the surging Arnold Allen was waiting for him. Whoever won this fight was poised to enter the title picture at 145 pounds.

Well, the fight didn’t last long on Saturday. Immediately, Arnold Allen pushed forward and landed big shots on Hooker. At one point, Hooker hurt Allen back, but the fight was all Arnold Allen. Allen would go on to get the standing TKO win at UFC London.

What’s next after UFC London?

You always wonder how fighters are going to do whenever they move down a weight class after having a solid run in the weight class above. Cody Garbrandt recently moved to flyweight from bantamweight where he became a UFC champion.

Garbrandt was knocked out in his first flyweight fight. Hooker suffered the same fait and now he’s looking at a stretch where he’s 1-4 in his last five fights. What’s even worse is the fact that he’s been finished in his last three losses.

That being said, Hooker is far from done and Dana White said that after UFC London. This isn’t a situation like Marlon Moraes where you’re truly wondering if the guy needs to hang it up for good. I think Hooker still has plenty left in the tank, but he needs to win his next one.

I think he’s going to take a big step back in terms of competition. He needs a reset, but he still needs an opponent who is serviceable. A guy like Andre Fili comes to mind especially if he decides to stay in the featherweight division.

Yankees have interest in Cubs All-Star catcher via trade after Ben Rortvedt injury

Willson Contreras, yankees

After trading away, Gary Sanchez to the Minnesota Twins in a blockbuster deal that added Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the New York Yankees’ roster, general manager Brian Cashman left a void at catcher. Sanchez, who has struggled to reach his potential over the last few seasons, presenting a liability on defense and inconsistent hitting offensively, will look to resurrect his career in Minnesota.

In the trade, the Yankees also acquired Ben Rortvedt, who enjoyed just 39 games of action last season at the major-league level. Over 98 plate appearances, he recorded a .169 average with a 30% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate. However, he was a bit more successful at the minor-league level in AAA, recording a .254 average with five homers and 22 RBIs. The problem is, Rortvedt came to the team with an oblique injury that will keep him sidelined in the batter’s box for a few weeks, making him a scratch for the start of the regular season.

It is clear the Cashman was looking for an upgrade defensively, as the Yankees project to deploy a platoon a catcher with Kyle Higashioka and Rortvedt.

Recent reports have suggested, though, that the Yankees inquired about Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score.

Contreras is preparing to hit free agency in 2023 with one year of service time left before he’s eligible. At 29 years old, Contreras is coming off a season where he belted 21 homers, recording a .237 average with 57 RBIs. His 28.6% strikeout rate isn’t ideal for the Yankees lineup, but they prefer sluggers who can launch homers and provide better defensive qualities compared to Gary.

Last year, Contreras posted a .993 fielding percentage with three passed balls over 935.2 innings.

There is no question that Contreras is a far better player compared to Sanchez defensively, and his offensive capabilities are very similar. Analytically, sacrificing strikeout rate for home runs is something the Bombers have stuck by in recent years.

Despite acquiring Rortvedt from Minnesota, the Yankees shouldn’t feel confident at the catcher position, given Higashioka’s inconsistencies offensively.

With just one year until Contreras hits free agency, his value isn’t astronomical. The Yankees could probably acquire him for a few mid-level prospects, which makes a potential trade realistic.

Miles McBride knocks on Knicks door after another G League milestone

The New York Knicks recalled rookie Miles McBride after another career game in the G League.

McBride dished out a career-high 18 assists, one short of the franchise record, in the Westchester Knicks’ 113-94 win over Grand Rapids Gold Monday night at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT.

McBride completed a monster double-double with 20 points, three rebounds, and four steals. He was a game-high plus-27 throughout his 40-minute stint to help Westchester catch College Park Skyhawks at 14-13 record, tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Only the top six teams of each conference will make the playoffs.

Through nine games in the developmental league, McBride averages 29.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, a league-leading 11.1 assists, and 2.7 steals. He’s shooting 47 percent from the floor and 52 percent from deep, making 4.6 three-pointers per game.

But despite his gaudy numbers, McBride couldn’t crack the Knicks’ regular rotation. That could change soon as the season continues to slip away for the Knicks.

“We’ll see,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said via NY Post. “I love what ‘Deuce’ has done. We’ll try to figure out how to work that out. He’ll probably be going back and forth. He’s done a really good job. We’ll see how this unfolds.’’

Julius Randle will be out against the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday with sore right quadriceps. Obi Toppin is expected to move up to the starting unit. McBride could earn minutes with the second unit and help shadow Trae Young, the prolific Hawks’ point guard.

In January, McBride hinted why the Knicks are sending him back and forth to their G League club.

“I’m here to learn how to become an NBA point guard and run a team,” McBride said after a 39-point, seven-assist effort in January win against the Motor City Cruise.

He should get his chances in the Knicks’ remaining games, especially when they officially kiss their postseason hopes goodbye.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Julius Randle sits out crucial Knicks-Hawks game with sore right quadriceps

knicks, julius randle, trae young

Last season, everything went right for the New York Knicks and Julius Randle except for his poor playoff performance in a first-round exit against the Atlanta Hawks.

In a bizarre twist this season, their postseason fate will have to go through the Hawks. But Randle will be reduced to a spectator with sore right quadriceps when the Knicks fight for survival against the Hawks Tuesday night at the Garden. The Knicks are five games behind the Hawks for the final play-in spot with 11 games left. A loss will officially send the Knicks to the lottery.

The usually durable Randle will miss his first game of the season due to an injury. It came on the heels of an ugly shooting performance and another temper flare-up in the Knicks’ 108-93 loss to the Utah Jazz Sunday night.

“I really don’t know to be honest with you,” Randle told reporters when asked about the endgame incident that saw him shove Jazz center Rudy Gobert. “I was having a conversation with the official first, and then when I walked away, they kind of grabbed me, I guess.”

“They thought it was some confrontation between him and me from the play before or whatever it was, but it wasn’t. It was a little bit too much. But it’s fine. It’s not a big deal.”

The postgame commotion made his 13-point effort on a poor 6 of 21 shooting looks worse. When asked how he assessed Randle’s play against the Jazz, New York coach Tom Thibodeau skirted the question.

“I thought we fought, but it felt like we were a step behind most of the night,” Thibodeau said without directly answering the reporter’s question. “When you have a guy like [Donovan] Mitchell, who’s going to require a lot from you — you’re going to be blitzing. [Rudy] Gobert can put a lot of pressure on the rim and then [Jordan] Clarkson as well. He’s a big-time scorer.”

“When the two of them are on the floor, you got two guys that you really got put two on to, which will spread you out, and that probably hurt us some with the rebounding because you’re in rotation. It requires high energy, and I felt like, as a team, we were behind tonight.”

When pressed more about Randle’s postgame incident, Thibodeau deferred answering, saying he needed to watch the video first. Randle agreed with Thibodeau’s assessment that they were a step behind the Jazz but could not pinpoint why.

“I’m not sure. [Maybe] wear and tear of the season, from game to game, or whatever it is,” Randle said. “I’m not really sure. We’re usually a high-energy team, but for some reason, we weren’t [Sunday].”

His answer turned out to be an ominous sign.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

What’s next for Alexander Volkov after loss at UFC London?

Alexander Volkov, UFC

This past weekend in the main event of UFC London, we saw a clash in the heavyweight division. England’s Tom Aspinall (12-2) was looking for the biggest win of his career when he took on the tough Alexander Volkov (34-10).

Volkov was looking to get his second straight win while Aspinall was looking to stay perfect in the UFC. This was the biggest test in the career of Tom Aspinall and we were going to learn a lot about the heavyweight contender in that matchup.

Well, we learned that he’s just as good as everyone thinks and says he is. Immediately when the UFC London main event started, we saw Aspinall’s speed bother Volkov. Now, Volkov did have moments where he landed some of his solid rangey strikes.

However, those strikes were few and far between. Aspinall mixed in some beautiful takedowns to get Volkov down to the ground. Once there, the fight was completely one-sided. Aspinall brutalized and bloodied Volkov before submitting him with a straight armlock.

What’s next after UFC London?

After this latest loss, Volkov is now just 4-4 in his last eight UFC fights. Granted, all four of the losses have come against top competition. The losses have come against the likes of Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, Ciryl Gane, and now Tom Aspinall.

Four guys who make up the top five or six in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Anyone else that’s been put in front of Volkov has fallen inside the octagon. Outside of those four men, Volkov is 8-0 inside the octagon.

So, with this latest loss at UFC London, what’s next for Volkov. Well, I think it’s the perfect time to run one of those losses back. The loss I’m referring to is the loss that came against Derrick Lewis.

Like Volkov, Lewis is coming off of a loss in his latest bout. Volkov was winning their first fight handily before a late rally KO from Lewis. I think it’s a great fight and it makes sense given the landscape of the UFC’s heavyweight division currently.

Yankees News: Brett Gardner return update, Aaron Judge wants him back

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

Some may say he’s washed, overrated, and simply isn’t worthy of an extension, but most players on the New York Yankees will agree that Brett Gardner brings unparalleled intangibles to the team.

Gardner has consistently seen a decrease in production with age, hitting .222 last season with 10 homers and 39 RBIs over 140 games. He featured a 21.7% strikeout rate and 13% walk rate, but he still offers solid defensive capabilities in the outfield. Given his versatility and depth value, it would be surprising if the Yankees didn’t bring back Gardner on a one-year contract to help fill the back end of the roster.

The Yankees haven’t brought Gardner back the past few seasons as a legitimate starter, but rather a depth piece who can fill a supplementary role due to injury or deficiencies. Unfortunately, the Yankees have had to call Gardner into action far more than they would’ve liked, which is why fans have lashed out at his lack of efficiency as a batter.

There are plenty of players that want Gary to make a comeback, including big slugger Aaron Judge, who is waiting on a monster extension in the coming year.

“I think everyone in this room wants him back,” Judge said, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.

“I feel like the past couple of years,” Judge said, “he’s always been the last guy that we’ve signed.”

The Yankees have a loyal relationship with Gardner, as general manager Brian Cashman has waited until the final moments to bring him on before the start of the regular season.

Gardy knows how to take care of his body and prepare for action, meaning he doesn’t need a full spring training’s to get into the flow.

Skipper Aaron Boone also came to his defense, harping on his leadership qualities and what he brings to the roster off the field.

“Love the player,” Boone said, “love the person. He’s been such a force in our room and really helped bring guys along and help guys transition into a leadership role. He’s a complete package. Really good player, spent his entire career in pinstripes. But just a tough, blue-collar, great teammate. Any time you lose that, you miss that kind of stuff.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gardy ended up being a great head coach down the line, but for now, the Yankees still view him as a contributing piece and will likely bring him back before the start of the regular season.

Giants attend Kenny Pickett’s Pro Day, what do make of it

kenny pickett, giants

With the NFL draft quickly approaching, the New York Giants are trying to determine what their strategy is going to look like as teams move up and down the draft order. After the Atlanta Falcons traded Matt Ryan and signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year contract on Monday, Big Blue’s plans may have shifted slightly.

With Malik Willis (Liberty) and Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) coined as the top two quarterbacks in the draft class, the Giants have an opportunity to leverage one of their two first-round picks in a potential trade, landing them more draft capital.

Teams in the mid-first round like the New Orleans Saints may view one of the two quarterbacks as a solution moving forward, but the Giants were on hand for Kenny Pickett’s Pro Day on Monday. Why is this important?

Pickett is an interesting player that features undersized hands, but stands at 6’3″ and 220 pounds, an adequate frame. With NFL footballs a bit bigger than the college football, that factor may play into team’s decisions.

However, I don’t believe the Giants are seriously looking at a quarterback this off-season to draft, but rather getting a feeler on what competitive teams are thinking.

Pickett absolutely crushed his Pro Day, which is a great thing for general manager Joe Schoen. If clubs begin to fall in love with Pickett as a prospect, the Giants can already start leveraging teams against one another, driving up the price to move up to acquire the star Pittsburgh quarterback.

Last season, Kenny finished 3rd in Heisman voting, tallying 4,319 passing yards, 42 touchdown passes, and seven interceptions. With five years of experience at the collegiate level, Pickett has the mental capabilities and physical qualities to become a great NFL quarterback.

With his draft stock rising, the Giants could look to the Atlanta Falcons, Panthers, or Saints to move back and acquire more capital. A trade with the Saints may land them a 2023 first-rounder, whereas the Falcons may be willing to offer up their second-round pick in exchange for the 5th selection, leapfrogging Carolina.

Nonetheless, with teams finally falling into place, Schoen must be excited about the prospect of how the quarterback market is shaking out.

UFC’s Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington involved in restaurant fight in Miami

The bad blood is far from over after UFC 272. Earlier this month, Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal had their opportunity to settle the score inside the octagon after years of trash talking and bad blood.

The fight went how most expected as Covington used his superior grappling and cardio to break down Masvidal. After the fight was over, there was still clearly animosity between the two men.

Almost every day since the fight ended at UFC 272, Colby Covington has been posting images of the fight on his Instagram. Jorge Masvidal has mostly remained quiet outside of interviews where he expressed his frustration in his lack of wrestling from the fight.

Last night, Covington was out in Miami with the Nelk Boys and social media star Bob Menery. The former interim UFC champion who has dubbed himself “The King of Miami” was at Papi Steak in Miami beach. Per reports, as Covington was leaving, Masvidal and an entourage showed up.

UFC’s Next Steps

The Nelk Boys had posted the location earlier in the evening and Masvidal’s manager got word of where Covington was at. He relayed that information to Masvidal who then showed up to the restaurant.

Per reports, Masvidal jumped Covington and started throwing punches. The two men were quickly separated and the cops were called. Covington can be seen surrounded by cops while talking to people in the TMZ footage here.

This of course is not the first time that Masvidal has been involved in a situation outside the UFC octagon. We of course all remember the “Three-Piece and a Soda” combination that he landed on Leon Edwards back stage a few years ago.

That being said, I don’t think there’s any negative implications from the UFC’s side of things. I’m torn on this situation. As a father, I get where Jorge is coming from in wanting to exact some revenge for the comments that were made.

On the flip side, they literally just fought on a regulated platform and the reality is that Covington dominated the fight. If Masvidal would’ve won, there would have been no need to try and jump Covington but it resulted in that because of the UFC 272 outcome.