Former UFC champ Cody Garbrandt returns to 135 against Rani Yahya

cody garbrandt

Cody Garbrandt (12-5) is gearing up for a return to the UFC‘s bantamweight division. The former bantamweight champion is moving back up to 135 after a one-fight stint at flyweight to take on veteran Rani Yahya (28-10-1, 1 NC).

The fight will take place at a UFC Fight Night on July 9th. MMA Fighting was the first to report the booking. Fighting a guy with a name like Cody Garbrandt is a big opportunity for a vet like Yahya.

He gets this opportunity on the heels of back-to-back wins. The last time we saw him was in November when he won a decision against Kyung Ho Kang. If you go back to his WEC days, Yahya has been competing under the UFC banner since 2007.

This will officially be his 20th fight inside the octagon. While not taking on the best of the best, Yahya has put together a very solid career. In his last 12 UFC fights, he’s gone an impressive 9-2-1.

Former UFC Champ Returns

Back in 2016, Cody Garbrandt was a rising star in the UFC. He was unbeaten and he was the star pupil of Team Alpha Male. After scoring three straight first round knockouts, Garbrandt got a shot at the bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz.

Garbrandt put on the performance of a lifetime and became the bantamweight champion. However, that was the peak of his career and everything went downhill from there. Injuries and having a weaker chin saw Garbrandt go on a a really bad losing streak.

In his last six fights, “No Love” is just 1-5 and he’s been knocked out in four of those fights. The one fight he wasn’t knocked out in, he was completely outclassed by Rob Font. The former UFC champion has honestly looked like a shell of himself.

As mentioned above, he tried to move down to flyweight as a career-reset in December. However, things didn’t go well at all and Garbrandt was knocked out in the first round by Kai Kara-France.

Now, the former UFC champion returns to the weight class that made him a budding star. Perhaps he can recapture some magic. However, if he loses, this might be the end of the road for Garbrandt inside the octagon.

Bellator 280 Main Event Preview: Ryan Bader – Cheick Kongo

Ryan Bader

On Friday, Bellator lands in Paris and they are bringing a heavyweight title fight for the main event. The heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (29-7, 1 NC) will look to defend his title against Paris’ own Cheick Kongo (31-11-2, 1 NC).

It’s crazy to think about this but Kongo has been with Bellator since 2013. Almost nine years with the promotion and he’s getting another crack at the heavyweight title. His last shot at the title also came against Ryan Bader in 2019 at Bellator 226.

That fight was ruled a No Contest after an accidental eye poke. Overall, Kongo is 9-1, 1 NC in his last eleven fights leading up to this main event and title shot at Bellator 280 in Paris.

Ryan Bader is back and he’s seeking another successful defense of his title at Bellator 280. The last time we saw him was at Bellator 273 earlier this year when he won by decision over Valentin Moldavsky.

Bader came into the at fight on a stretch that saw him go 1-2. However, all three fights came at light heavyweight. Bader just signed a new deal with the promotion and he plans on fighting exclusively at heavyweight to finish out his career.

Bellator 280 Prediction

In terms of Friday’s main event at Bellator 280, it’s a tough one. It’s tough for a few reasons. On paper, Ryan Bader should be the clear cut favorite to retain his title. He’s younger, he’s faster, and he has much better wrestling.

However, we’ve seen Bader’s chin look a little weak at times lately. Kongo still packs a helluva punch and if he lands the right shot, I think he can become the Bellator heavyweight champion in front of his home country.

However, I think that scenario is not extremely likely. I think Bader is going to use his standup to mainly setup his wrestling in this fight. Expect Bader to go for multiple takedowns and take this fight down.

To me, it’s not a question on who wins and who loses. The question is how will Bader retain is Bellator title? Will he finish Kongo with ground and pound or will he grind out a decision. I tend to lean towards the latter with watching Bader as of late.

Prediction: Ryan Bader by Decision

Yankees News: Joey Gallo injury update, Cashman’s lowkey signing panning out

yankees, marwin gonzalez

The New York Yankees overcame a tough Toronto Blue Jays squad on Tuesday night, courtesy of fantastic hitting in the latter portion of the game. While slugger Aaron Judge will gain most of the headlines for his fantastic performance, utilityman Marwin Gonzalez also stood out as a key player in the win.

Gonzalez has waited patiently for his opportunity to make an impact this season, and with his ability to play multiple positions, including every infield and outfield spot, he’s a perfect supplemental option.

With Joey Gallo suffering a left groin injury several days ago, Gonzalez started for the Yankees in left field, picking up two hits and an RBI against Toronto. Gonzalez hit a deep double to left-centerfield, driving in Josh Donaldson in the 7th inning. Jose Trevino grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Gonzalez escaped the tag running to home plate, which was actually a bad call.

Manager Aaron Boone had great things to say about Gonzalez and his preparation, noting that he is trustworthy.

“He’s prepared,’’ Aaron Boone said of Gonzalez, per the NY Post. “It’s so comforting having him there, with his experience and moxie. He’s a trustworthy, quality big-leaguer you can throw in any situation and know he’s gonna handle it.”

Considering how well Gonzalez performed in the absence of Gallo, the Yankees may continue to roll with their current lineup and not make too many drastic changes. However, Boone also indicated that Gallo will not head to the injured list, which is great news considering the struggling slugger had put together several solid performances before going down.

“I don’t think so,’’ Boone said. “I’m thinking he’s good. … I think we’re through it.”

Gallo is currently hitting .180 on the season with two homers and three RBIs, but the majority of his production has come in the past week or so.

Over Joey’s last five games, he’s recorded four hits and two RBIs, including two homers. In fact, he hasn’t struck out and over two games, indicating a potential shift in his luck.

New York Giants HC Brian Daboll wants QB Daniel Jones to play more aggressive

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants are entering the 2022 NFL season with a brand new coaching staff. Brian Daboll is taking over as the new head coach after spending 2018-2021 as the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator. Daboll sat down today for an interview with the Tiki and Tierney Show on WFAN and discussed his upcoming first season as the Giants’ head coach. When asked about his quarterback, Daniel Jones, Brian Daboll gave a hint as to what the future could hold.

Brian Daboll wants to see a more aggressive Daniel Jones

In this interview with Tiki and Tierney, Brian Daboll had this to say of quarterback Daniel Jones:

“I want him to be himself and not be afraid of consequences, pull the trigger and attack.” – Brian Daboll on what he wants to see out of Daniel Jones this season

Only 6.6% of Daniel Jones’s passes traveled more than 20 yards downfield in the 2021 season. Former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett rarely utilized Jones’s ability to throw the football downfield despite the acquisition of Kenny Golladay, one of the NFL’s best deep-threats entering last season.

Jones connected on 8 of his 24 deep passing attempts, scoring 4 touchdowns in the process. Since 2020, Daniel Jones has been an efficient downfield passer. Two seasons ago, Daniel Jones posted a 95.6 Deep Passing Grade according to PFF as he completed 20 of 43 deep attempts and threw 6 touchdown passes with 0 interceptions.

After posting such an impressive deep-passing stat-line in 2020, fans expected Daniel Jones to throw the ball downfield more frequently in 2021. Instead, the opposite happened. Daniel Jones threw 19 fewer deep passes and the Giants’ offense was inept all year long. This will hopefully change under Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s new offensive scheme.

The Buffalo Bills (Brian Daboll’s former offense) and Kansas City Chiefs (Mike Kafka’s former offense) both threw the ball deep at a high rate last season. Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw 87 passes 20+ yards downfield. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw 76 deep passes. These two quarterbacks were some of the highest-graded and most productive deep passers in the NFL.

The New York Giants need to jumpstart their offense. Brian Daboll is inevitably going to call more deep shots this season. It is now on Daniel Jones to be the aggressive quarterback his head coach wants him to be and lead the Giants’ offense to success.

WATCH: Yankees and Blue Jays fans have heart-warming moment after Aaron Judge homer

aaron judge, yankees

When Yankees slugger Aaron Judge belted a solo homer in the 6th inning of a 9-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday, a beautiful moment sparked between a Yankee and Blue Jays fan, exchanging the baseball for a meaningful hug.

The Toronto fan picked up the baseball in awe as Judge smashed the home run 427 feet into the second deck in left field. A young fan wearing an Aaron Judge jersey immediately began crying in desperate need of retrieving the ball. With tears streaming down his face, he lunged at the Toronto fan to embrace as a sign of thanks.

At this moment, faith in humanity is what is restored just a small amount, but put on display why baseball is such a beautiful game.

Judge, who is hitting .303 this season, is having a monster campaign after declining a big contract extension from the Yankees. Judge is clearly betting on himself, and that is seeming to pay off after 23 games, smashing nine homers and 19 RBIs. His strikeout rate is below his career average and hosts a .674 slugging percentage, which would be the best in his entire career.

Over 162 games, Judge is on pace to hit around 60 homers, which would best his record of 52 back in 2017. While it is unlikely he achieves that incredible feat, the Yankees are seeing why he’s so valuable as both an offensive and defensive threat.

Inadvertently, he also creates a few memorable moments for fans in the outfield.

Luke Rockhold makes UFC return in August as he takes on Paulo Costa

Luke Rockhold

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold (16-5) will finally be making his return to the octagon. Combate reported yesterday that an agreement is in place for Rockhold to return in August to take on former title challenger Paulo Costa (13-2).

The matchup will take place at a UFC event on August 20th. It is not known yet whether or not this contest will be a main event, but nevertheless, it’s a good one that will go down in August.

Paulo Costa will be fighting his last fight on his current UFC deal and he’s entering this fight on a two-fight losing streak. After starting out a perfect 13-0 in his professional career, Borrachinha got a shot at the middleweight title.

At UFC 253 on Fight Island, Costa challenged Israel Adesanya. Costa looked extremely flat and not aggressive in that fight as Adesanya picked him apart on his way to a second round finish. Costa blamed the lackluster performance on the wine that he drank to help himself sleep the night before the fight.

After some contract back-and-forth with the UFC, Costa returned in October to face Marvin Vettori. Despite the fight being agreed to at middleweight, Costa showed up on fight week and stated he couldn’t make 185 pounds. As a result, the UFC shifted the fight to light heavyweight.

It was a very solid fight, but once against, Costa came up short. This is a big fight for Costa’s future. If he wants to make more money and stay with the UFC, he needs a win and a big performance. A loss could send him into the land of the unknown.

UFC Champion Returns

We haven’t seen Luke Rockhold in the octagon since UFC 239 in 2019. That night, he made his light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz. Rockhold was hoping that he would be able to secure a shot against Jon Jones with a win.

However, Rockhold was knocked out by Blachowicz which was his third knockout loss in four fights. With that loss, Rockhold decided to take some time away from the UFC and think about his career. It was not clear whether or not he’d fight again.

He decided he wanted to keep going and was booked to face Sean Strickland back in November. However, an injury forced Rockhold out and his return had to wait. Now, he’s healthy and the UFC is giving him a tough test in his return.

If he can come out and beat Costa handily, it will show everyone that Rockhold is still a threat at 185 pounds. However, a bad loss could end his career for good.

Robbie Lawler returns at UFC 276 against Bryan Barberena

Robbie Lawler

Yesterday we learned that the UFC has booked a welterweight matchup that fans should really be excited about. MMA Fighting was the first to report yesterday that former welterweight champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (29-15) is back as he takes on the entertaining Bryan Barberena (17-8).

The matchup will take place at UFC 276 on July 2nd. This card is really starting to bring some heat and these welterweights are definitely going to deliver. Bryan Barberena is going to be entering the octagon on a two-fight winning streak.

The last time we saw him was at UFC Columbus when he took on Ohio’s own Matt Brown. It was a close fight, but Barberena was able to capture the split decision victory much to the displeasure of the crowd. After the fight, Barberena revealed he had fought out his UFC contract.

He stated that he either wanted a new contract with the promotion or he was going to retire. Barberena didn’t want to go anywhere and the UFC wanted him to keep fighting. Thus, he gets a new deal and a shot against the former welterweight champ.

Former UFC Champion Returns

Robbie Lawler will make the walk in July for the first time since his rematch with Nick Diaz that took place at UFC 266. Lawler was able to score the TKO win in the third round of a back-and-forth fight.

That win snapped a career worst four-fight losing streak for the former champion. Back in 2016, Lawler was on top of the UFC. He was the welterweight champion and he had won five fights in a row including two title defenses.

Then, he was knocked out by Tyron Woodley and lost his belt. That loss started a streak that saw Lawler go 1-5 in six UFC fights. At 40 years old, many wondered if Lawler would walk away after his Nick Diaz win at UFC 266.

However, Lawler wants to keep going and he’s doing what he’s always done, taken tough fights. This should be a tremendously entertaining bout in July.

How the Giants’ red-zone offense is set to change in 2022

Brian Daboll, giants

Looking back at Daniel Jones’s rookie season, he posted a 53.1% completion rate and 13 touchdowns in the red zone for the New York Giants. However, since then, his efficiency has dropped off significantly, completing just 38.1% for five touchdowns in 2021.

If the Giants want to be a more explosive team on offense, they need Jones to be more productive in the red zone. Looking at the team’s schematics and personnel gives justifiable excuses for Jones, but he has also made poor decisions in the passing game and failed to find receivers, flowing through his progressions properly.

At some point, Jones is going to need to take a big step forward if he wants to stick around with the Giants for the long term. Luckily, Big Blue hired Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka as their head coach and offensive coordinator to lead the charge.

Daboll, who was previously the OC for the Buffalo Bills, enjoyed the top-ranked red zone offense in football with a 66.28% touchdown conversion rate. Kansas City landed at 62.20%, so clearly, the Giants have two bright offensive minds who know how to get the ball in the end zone.

Of course, it is fair to mention that the Giants don’t have Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, so they will have to find different ways to increase their efficiency. Adding Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky will undoubtedly be a key factor in the team’s offensive plan, utilizing a shifty receiver who can make defenders miss in the open field. In fact, Robinson ranked 6th in all of college football last year with 22 missed tackles forced, but also ranked 6th in deep catches with 16. His screen catches landed at 35, good for 3rd in college, and 268 yards from screen passes, which ranked 4th.

Clearly, the Giants have a vision of what Robinson can achieve in the NFL, and pairing him with Kadarius Toney will only force defenses to be even more careful. The new offense will include a big uptick in pre-stop motion. The Giants used pre-snap motion just 7.5% last year. Buffalo hosted a 34.3% pre-snap motion rate and the chiefs at 64.5%.

Pre-snap motion is essential because it gives quarterbacks more information about what the defense is trying to do. It uncovers the coverage and shifts defenders out of alignment, making them adjust on the fly. The NFL is a game of inches, and every slight advantage you can create is beneficial to a team’s success.

The Giants, last season, failed miserably to get anything done in the red zone. Their best receiver, by the numbers, was Sterling Shepard, who recorded 35 yards on just six receptions, failing to score. Dante Pettis scored the only red zone touchdown for a Giants receiver last year on a 5-yard catch. The Giants paid big money to one of the NFL’s best red-zone receivers in Kenny Golladay, who posted just one reception for 5 yards.

The Giants have the personnel to be an effective team in the red zone, but it starts with schematics. Daboll and Kafka will likely construct a West Coast-style offense that spreads out a bit more, giving more space to their playmakers.

With so many versatile pieces and open field maestros, the team’s poor red-zone efficiency should see a tremendous uptick in the future, but they need Daniel Jones to play with more confidence and aggression. A re-tooled offensive line should help him tremendously.

Anthony Smith takes on Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 277

Anthony Smith

The UFC has finalized a banger of a matchup in the light heavyweight division with potential title implications. MMA Junkie was the first to report last night that former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-16) will be taking on Magomed Ankalaev (17-1).

The matchup will take place at UFC 277 which goes down on July 30th. For Ankalaev, he’s going to be looking for his ninth straight victory. Back in 2018, he lost via a last second triangle choke to Paul Craig, but outside of that, he’s been perfect in his professional career.

The last time we saw Ankalaev was in a UFC Fight Night headliner against Thiago Santos back in March. Not going to lie, the fight was extremely underwhelming and nobody walked away blown away with either fighter.

That being said, Ankalaev walked away with his eighth straight win that night. He’s been on a remarkable run and he’s defeated two straight former UFC title challengers. He hopes to make it three when he takes on Lionheart in July.

UFC 277 Title Eliminator?

Another man on an impressive winning streak is Lionheart Smith. Back in 2020, things looked pretty bad for the former UFC title challenger. He lost a brutal fight to Glover Teixeira and then he was handily defeated by Aleksandar Rakic.

The UFC decided to give Lionheart a step back in competition and that was the best thing for his career. It started with a fight against Devin Clark and Smith made quick work of him stopping him in the first round.

Then, he took on Jimmy Crute at UFC 261. A brutal leg kick from Lionheart hurt Crute and gave Smith his second straight finish. Again, the UFC gave him a rising contender in Ryan Spann next and you guessed it, another first round finish.

Smith proved that he still has plenty in the tank and he’s proved that there is levels to this game. Lionheart Smith is still at the top level and at UFC 277, he could put himself in line for a title shot with a win over the dominant Magomed Ankalaev.

Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley receives 6th Man of the Year votes

immanuel quickley, knicks

New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley’s late surge did not go unnoticed.

Quickley, who had two triple-doubles in the Knicks’ final five games, received two third-place votes in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year race, eventually won by Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro.

Courtesy of NBA

The former Kentucky combo guard averaged 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last 22 games. Quickley shot 43.7 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep during that hot stretch on four three-point attempts.

Quickley’s inclusion as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate bodes well for his future. He came into the NBA drawing comparisons to Lou Williams, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year.

Quickley has shifted his play from just a spark plug off the bench to a potential starting point guard, attested by his impact on winning when given starter’s minutes. The Knicks went 11-5 in games where Quickley played at least 30 minutes, producing 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and a scorching 41 percent from the outside on 7.5 attempts.

In his second season, Quickley sustained his scoring (11.4 from 11.3 points per game) from his rookie year and made a marked improvement in rebounding (2.1 to 3.2 rebounds) and playmaking (2.0 to 3.5 assists).

The Knicks have an interesting summer ahead. They have to decide what to make do of Quickley’s growth in his second year. Are they ready to give him the keys to their backcourt? Or swing for the fences and pursue Dallas Mavericks’ breakout star Jalen Brunson or perhaps Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell if he suddenly becomes available.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo