Who will be next for UFC champ Aljamain Sterling?

Back at UFC 273, Aljamain Sterling (21-3) got to shut a lot of people up. The Funk Master was taking on interim champion Petr Yan (16-3) and he was looking to defend his title for the first time.

Now, the public had a bad perception of Sterling due to the way he won the title. Sterling was awarded the title by DQ after he took an illegal knee from Petr Yan in their first fight. Worth noting that Yan was dominating the second half of their first fight.

When the rematch took place, many expected Yan to win. I was one of the people who expected him to. However, Sterling put on a grappling clinic in the first half of the fight and bagged the rounds needed to win a close split decision.

Say what you want, but there is no denying Sterling’s title reign now. With that, the UFC has been pondering who will be next for The Funk Master. Currently, there are two leading candidates for the spot.

Who will the UFC pick?

Let’s start with the leading candidate to take on Aljamain Sterling. The leading candidate is former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (17-4). Dillashaw was forced to surrender the bantamweight title after he tested positive for EPO after his flyweight title loss to Henry Cejudo.

Dillashaw had a two-year suspension that he returned from last year. In his UFC return, he defeated Cory Sandhagen in a very close fight. The win put Dillashaw right back in the mix and considering the fact that he never lost the title inside the octagon, he still considers that to be his belt.

The other candidate for the UFC is Jose Aldo (31-7). Aldo fought Petr Yan for the vacant title back in 2020 after Henry Cejudo retired. Aldo was stopped in the fifth round by the former champion.

However, he’s bounced back incredibly strong and now he’s won three in a row. Most recently he dominated Rob Font in a main event spot back in December. The All-Time UFC great is wanting a crack at the title given his winning streak.

Sterling appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience where he talked about the options. The Funk Master said, “I think the UFC knows who’s the money fight and who moves the needle. I don’t know if it’s Aldo who moves the needle. I know T.J. definitely moves the needle — you can ask USADA.”

If I had to guess, I would say that the UFC books him against Dillashaw. I still would like to see Aldo fight Dominick Cruz in a legacy fight and I think that fight makes sense if Dillashaw does get the shot.

New York Giants rookie OT Evan Neal ‘dominant’ at OTAs, says teammate

evan neal, giants

The New York Giants revamped and rebuilt their offensive line this offseason. After years of pitiful play upfront, new general manager Joe Schoen prioritized improving the blocking in front of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. In particular, the right side of the line was addressed and upgraded this offseason. Two of the Giants’ most important offseason acquisitions addressed this area: right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Evan Neal.

The Giants did not spend much in free agency, but arguably their biggest splash signing was right guard Mark Glowinski. The Giants gave Glowinski a three-year, $20 million deal. New York then doubled down on the offensive line and invested the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft on right tackle Evan Neal.

All eyes will be on Evan Neal entering this season as one of the Giants’ most exciting offseason acquisitions. After a few short weeks of practice, the rookie is already standing out. Neal’s comrade on the right side of the offensive line, Mark Glowinski, described him as a “dominant” player.

Giants rookie Evan Neal “dominant” at OTAs

Mark Glowinski was asked what his first impression has been of rookie right tackle Evan Neal so far during this summer’s practices:

Just dominant. As long as he gets his hands on guys, that’s the end of the story. So just making sure that we put him in the right place; make sure that he is doing the right things. He has come along drastically every day, learning more and more. – Mark Glowinski on Evan Neal via Giants.com

Evan Neal was a dominant force during his collegiate playing career at Alabama. It should excite Giants fans to hear that their first-round draft pick is continuing his dominant ways in practice. It is also exciting to hear Mark Glowinski describe Neal’s development, explaining how he is learning and improving drastically with every day of practice.

Mark Glowinski has also taken it upon himself to guide and mentor the Giants’ valuable rookie. Glowinski is ensuring that he keeps an efficient line of communication with Neal and helps him learn the playbook:

We just have to make sure that we keep everybody going. Fortunately, we had a few more weeks with the whole group to understand everything so we can just relay the message to him, and every day he is just learning more, so it’s less for me to tell him.

I’m just going to continuously do that even through camp to make sure that we’re all on the same page, offensive line plays, making sure we’re communicating with one another. Be one; whatever it takes to do that. – Mark Glowinski via Giants.com

The new-and-improved New York Giants offensive line could make or break the team’s upcoming 2022 season. Excitement is building as the Giants are already watching their young star make his presence known on the practice field as he develops alongside his teammates.

Good news and bad news as Yankees torch Ohtani in first leg of doubleheader

gleyber torres, yankees

The New York Yankees faced off against the Los Angeles Angels in the first leg of a doubleheader at 1 PM on Thursday afternoon. With a rain delay stopping the game at the top of the 9th inning, the Yankees were ahead by five runs by a score of 6–1.

If not for a miracle, the Yankees seem to have the game wrapped up ahead of the second leg of the doubleheader at 7 PM.

Good news and bad news as Yankees take first game of doubleheader:

In the 1st inning against SP Shohei Ohtani, newly signed infielder Matt Carpenter launched a second-tier blast to right field. The at-bat lasted 11 pitches, torturing Ohtani right out of the gate.

Shortly after Carpenter’s HR, Gleyber Torres recorded a solo shot, making it his third homer in five games. Torres is now hitting .256 on the season with a .500 slugging percentage. He recorded two hits and an RBI, doubling off the right-field wall in his second at-bat.

The Yankees recorded a total of 13 hits and six strikeouts. They got a ton of production from the bottom of their order, with Aaron Hicks, José Treviño, and Marwin Gonzalez combining for seven hits and an RBI.

The Yankees’ lineup has finally experienced a bit more consistency throughout, which has aided back-to-back stellar offensive performances. The Angels are currently on a six-game losing streak after the first game on Thursday, and the Yankees will be trying to piece together another win with Jameson Taillon on the mound in Game 2.

As for the team’s pitching, Nestor Cortes put together another excellent outing. He allowed five hits over 7.0 innings, walking two batters and striking out seven. Cortes currently has a 1.50 ERA on the season, but the bullpen quickly got into some trouble when Clarke Schmidt walked two batters and gave up two hits, allowing the Angels to get on the board with a run.

Luckily, Wandy Peralta was able to get through the rest of the inning without any further damage. The Yankees have now won two consecutive games and six of their last eight, somehow managing significant injury adversity.

Report: Knicks set to hire Rick Brunson to fill Kenny Payne’s void

The New York Knicks are reportedly adding Rick Brunson to Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff to fill the post vacated by Kenny Payne.

SNY’s Ian Begley was the first to report the story.

Payne left the Knicks late last season to become the first black head coach of the Louisville Cardinals.

Brunson, who played for the Knicks for two seasons during his nine-year NBA career, was previously a member of Thibodeau’s coaching staff in Chicago and Minnesota.

The timing of the hiring comes with scrutiny as Rick’s son, Jalen Brunson, is set to become an unrestricted free agent coveted by the Knicks. But it can be noted that this is not the first time that the organization has attempted to add Rick to their coaching staff.

In 2020, Rick Brunson was rumored to join Thibodeau’s coaching staff. He already tendered his resignation from his Camden High School coaching post. But he had a change of heart and was apparently persuaded to return and continue coaching top-ranked 2023 recruit DJ Wagner, son of former NBA player Dajuan Wagner.

DJ’s grandfather, Milt Wagner, considers Knicks executive vice president and senior advisor Wesley William his best friend, and gave him his biggest break. Dajuan Wagner is Wesley’s godson and was also represented by Leon Rose.

Meanwhile, Milt Wagner and Payne were also teammates during Louisville’s 1986 NCAA title run. He joined Payne in his Louisville homecoming as the director of player development and alumni relations.

This year, Rick Brunson coached the DJ Wagner-led Camden High School to the Group 2 New Jersey state title. He was also Rose’s first client as a player agent. Rose later represented Rick’s son, Jalen Brunson, and negotiated his unique four-year rookie deal (without club option in the last year) with the Dallas Mavericks.

Rick Brunson will also be reunited with the Greer brothers — Larry and Andy — and Dice Yoshimoto in Thibodeau’s staff.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Breaking down the New York Jets’ linebackers ahead of Training Camp

c.j. mosley, jets

Throughout the 2022 offseason, there has been speculation surrounding the linebacker position for the New York Jets. Outside of C.J. Mosley, there have been some concerns at the position the last few years. For the Jets’ defense and, in particular, the run defense to drastically improve this year, this position group will have to be better. Let’s take a look at what Mosley and the other six players at this position provide.

C.J. Mosley

Mosley is currently the only known commodity to this group. He is the lone player Jet fans know what they can expect. Mosley is an established veteran heading into his ninth NFL season. He will turn 30 years old in a little over two weeks. His leadership for the Jets team as a whole is highly-touted. Pre-snap he can communicate with the defense to get everyone appropriately aligned and knowing their assignment. He is an intelligent player. Mosley provides size and physicality. He will be a contributor against the run. He totaled 168 tackles last year. Anticipate another significant tackle amount from Mosley in 2022. Overall, he is still a good top linebacker to have.

Quincy Williams

Quincy Williams is a young fourth-year linebacker who will turn 26 shortly before the start of the season in late August. He has room to grow, thanks to his athletic ability. Last season, he showed flashes of his great potential. In 2022, it will be about consistency for Williams. He has incredible speed sideline-to-sideline and getting in the backfield. It allows him to cover a ton of ground fast. When his technique is sound, he can be a physical tackler. Moving forward, he will have to be more reliable with his technique. If so, Williams can have a role in this defense, playing in space against the run and in zone coverage.

Jamien Sherwood

Jamien Sherwood was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft. He converted from safety to linebacker. His rookie year last season was going to be a learning experience. Sherwood will play this upcoming season at 22-years-old. The Jets love his intelligence. He is not the fastest or most athletic to play in coverage. However, Sherwood does have the physicality to be a good run stopper. If he can take better pursuit angles more frequently, he will give himself a chance to have an integral role on the second level of this defense in his second year.

Hamsah Nasirildeen

The Jets selected Hamsah Nasirildeen shortly after Sherwood. They added him in the sixth round of the draft last year. At the time, it seemed like the pick could have been incredible value. Similar to Sherwood, he made a move from safety to linebacker. As a rookie, he took on a sizable special teams role and contributed. Nasirildeen will play this year at 23-years-old. He offers a ton of height and arm length. Primarily, he can have a role in this defense as a coverage linebacker. His ability to cover in the box could be tremendous for the Jets’ defense to add.

Del’Shawn Phillips

The Jets signed Del’Shawn Phillips in March of 2021. He played in all 17 games last season. His role defensively was minimal. He did finish the season with 374 special teams snaps. A year ago, Phillips ended up as one of the Jets’ best players on special teams. He is still a young player. He will turn 26 in October as he plays his fourth NFL season. Phillips should remain a core piece of the Jets’ special teams unit for Brant Boyer.

Marcell Harris

This offseason, the Jets signed Marcell Harris. He has three years of experience with Robert Saleh from 2018-20. Harris is another converted safety like Sherwood and Nasirildeen. Last year was also his first year playing the position. Harris has played in 52 games in four NFL seasons and had at least 34 tackles each year. He will turn 28 next week. Each of the last two years, Harris has played at least 250 snaps on special teams. As a whole, it is fair to expect Harris to just have a role on special teams if he makes the roster.

DQ Thomas

It seemed like there was a chance the Jets could come away with a linebacker in the 2022 draft. Ultimately, they did not spend a selection on the position. Shortly after the draft, the Jets signed DQ Thomas as an undrafted free agent. They gave him a hefty amount of guaranteed money ($130,000) for a free agent. He gained a lot of experience in college (60 games) and produced. Thomas provides good athletic ability. He offers the required speed, explosiveness, and agility. Thomas can help in coverage and pressuring the quarterback in the passing game. His size and tackling were likely the reasons he went undrafted. If Thomas can show his enticing traits early on, he may have a chance to be on the roster.

All in all, while there is some valid reason for concern with this group, there is also upside as a result of the youth. Mosley will bring credibility and lead this group. Williams, Sherwood, and Nasirildeen are all essentially guaranteed roster spots. Considering their complementary skillsets, it would be nice to see them flourish. Williams has the speed and athleticism, Sherwood the physicality against the run, Nasirildeen the measurables and pass coverage skills. The fifth linebacker could be either Phillips, Harris, or Thomas. Phillips and Harris may be in competition on special teams. Thomas does have upside but could start on the practice squad.

Jets’ Revis, Mangold and D’Brickashaw being added to Ring of Honor

darrelle revis, jets

For roughly a decade, cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold, and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson were three great New York Jets. The Jets drafted Ferguson and Mangold both in the first round of the draft in 2006. A year later, in 2007, the Jets traded up to select Revis. The three were core pieces to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010. It was just announced that they will all be added to the Jets Ring of Honor this season.

Mangold found out about the news at the Jets facility. He was with Mark Sanchez, the Jets quarterback, from 2009-12. As the two were set to record their podcast, they were joined on video by Revis and Ferguson as Woody Johnson entered the studio.

Mangold will be added to the Ring of Honor in Week 3 on September 25th against the Cincinnati Bengals. Ferguson will be honored in Week 8 on October 30th against the New England Patriots. In Week 12, on November 27th against the Chicago Bears, Revis will be added to the Jets Ring of Honor.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson

Ferguson was with the Jets each year of his 10-year career from 2006-15. Ferguson played all 16 games every year of his 10-year run (160 total). He only missed one snap his entire career. That one snap was because of a trick play the Jets ran on the final play of the 2008 season. He was as reliable as it gets. The Freeport, Long Islander had a fantastic run. He made three straight Pro Bowls from 2009-11. Ferguson had some elite years anchoring the Jets’ offensive line at left tackle.

Nick Mangold

Mangold spent his whole 11-year NFL career with the Jets from 2006-16. In 2009 and 2010, he was a First-team All-Pro. In 2011, he was a Second-team All-Pro. Mangold made seven Pro Bowls in 11 years with the Jets. He made four straight from 2008-11 and then three straight from 2013-15. He started in 164 games throughout his career, just four more games than his running mate in Ferguson from the 2006 draft class. Mangold was one of the best centers in football for many years as a Jet.

Darrelle Revis

Revis spent eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Jets. His first stint was from 2007-12, and his second was from 2015-16. Revis changed the landscape of the cornerback position during his early years with the Jets in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, he totaled six interceptions and recorded 31 passes defended. He is arguably the best cornerback in NFL history. He was a four-time First-team All-Pro, with three of those honors coming as a Jet in 2009-11. Revis made seven Pro Bowls, five of which came as a Jet in 2008-11 and 2015. Revis played in 108 games as a Jet. In total, he had 25 interceptions, and 112 passes defended with the Jets. Revis will forever be one of the Jets’ best players.

These three were integral leaders of the team and huge to the success the Jets attained over multiple years. It comes as no surprise to see the honors come their way. Revis, Mangold, and Ferguson will forever be a part of Jets’ history.

UFC books Shane Burgos – Charles Jourdain

The UFC has finalized a banger of a matchup in their featherweight division. MMA DNA was the first to report earlier today that the promotion has finalized a matchup between “Hurricane” Shane Burgos (14-3) and Charles “Air” Jourdain (13-4-1).

The matchup will take place at UFC on ABC 3 which goes down on July 16th. The card is headlined by another banger in the featherweight division between Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez.

After his last fight, Charles Jourdain wanted a big fight and that’s what he’s getting. The last time we saw him was in April when he stopped Lando Vannata in the first round.

The win was Jourdain’s second in a row in the UFC after he defeated Andre Ewell back in December. After the latest win, he called for a fight with Edson Barboza. While he’s not getting Edson Barboza, he is getting one of the toughest featherweights in the UFC.

UFC on ABC 3

The last time we saw Shane Burgos inside the octagon was at UFC 268 back in November. Entering the bout, Burgos was looking to snap a two-fight losing streak and boy did he ever do that. He put on an absolute clinic on his way to defeating Billy Quarantillo by decision.

Prior to that win, his two losses came against Edson Barboza and Josh Emmett. Prior to those losses, he had won three straight in the UFC’s featherweight division including a win over veteran Cub Swanson.

After starting his career a perfect 10-0, Burgos has lost three of his last seven fights. However, the three losses came against Calvin Kattar and the two listed above. Only the best of the best in the UFC are getting the better of Burgos.

Now, he’s going to look to pick up his second straight win. Both men are needing a big win to try and challenge someone in the featherweight top ten. If I could give fans advice for this one, I’d say don’t blink.

Yankees: Nestor Cortes praises Shohei Ohtani; recalls his days as a hitter

nestor cortes, yankees

The Los Angeles Angels are set to visit the New York Yankees for a doubleheader on Thursday, with Shohei Ohtani on the mound. The Bombers are countering with left-handed ace Nestor Cortes Jr., who has a 4-1 record and an excellent 1.70 ERA.

Ohtani, a top-notch slugger who also stars on the mound (he has a 3-3 record and a 3.45 ERA in 2022), is a unique player in today’s MLB. Nobody can do what he does: be elite at both hitting and pitching.

“I could never do what he’s doing. For Ohtani to pitch innings like Gerrit Cole, that’s impressive. His body takes a beating, too, because he hits. That’s what’s even more impressive. Honestly, I don’t know how the hell he does it,” Cortes said, per NJ Advance Media.

Ohtani is the reigning AL MVP after hitting 46 homers last year with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings. Against Cortes, however, he is 0-for-3, with one of the funniest moments you will ever see on a diamond:

The Yankees’ ace was once a good hitter, back in high school

Speaking of Ohtani, the Yankees’ left-hander recalled the days in which he was a hitter himself: it was at Hialeah High School.

“I was our leadoff hitter,” Cortes said. “No home runs, but a lot of doubles.” He hit .410 as a sophomore, but “to me, to be considered a good high school hitter, you have to hit at least .450.”

He said he couldn’t catch up with good fastballs, which ended up pushing him to the mound. “Anything above 88, I couldn’t hit. I faced some guys who threw 90. I couldn’t hit them.”

He won’t be asked to hit this time, and will have to deal with Ohtani’s obvious abilities as a batter once again. He will, however, be tasked with keeping the Angels’ hitters at bay.

Yankees Roster Moves: Double-header calls up hopeful outfielder from Scranton

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial

The New York Yankees Vs. Los Angeles Angels game was rained out on Wednesday, forcing the two squads to partake in a doubleheader on Thursday afternoon. With the first game starting at 1 PM and the second at 7:05 PM, fans will get a Thursday full of baseball.

With the doubleheader allowing the Yankees to expand their active roster to 27 men, they pulled up one of their top outfield prospects to help soften the blow.

Yankees make a roster move:

Prior to today’s doubleheader, the Yankees appointed OF Estevan Florial (#90) as their “27th Man”.

Florial has been the Yankees’ go-to option during these doubleheader days. He’s made four appearances this year, enjoying 12 plate appearances. However, Florial has failed to record a hit up to this point. He does have an 8.3% walk rate. His strikeout rate sits at 33.3% but has made some solid contact that unfortunately didn’t result in a positive outcome.

Defensively, Florial seems comfortable in the outfield, manning CF for 25 innings this year, recording six putouts. For Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Florial is hitting .277 with a 36.5% on base rate. He’s launched four homers with 13 RBIs and an impressive 13 stolen bases. He still hosts a strikeout rate over 31% but is also walking at 11.5%.

After multiple injuries in the past, Estevan is still fighting his way to the major leagues for a consistent role, but he needs to showcase a bit more potential when he gets the opportunity. Thursday’s doubleheader should present another chance for him to display his qualities.

The Giants have the ‘Incredible Hulk’ on the defensive line with Azeez Ojulari

azeez ojulari, giants

When the New York Giants drafted former Georgia stand-out pass rusher Azeez Ojulari with the 50th overall pick back in 2021, many were skeptical about the health of his knee. A previous ACL injury had degraded his draft stock, dropping him from the 1st round all the way to the middle of the 2nd, where the Giants were patiently waiting.

Ojulari ended up being one of the most productive pass rushers of any rookie last year. He recorded 8.0 sacks, 49 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits.

Azeez Ojulari is looking to round out his game:

Azeez struggled with his run defense at times due to a lack of size in 2021. He entered the league at 6’3″, 240 pounds, but he’s bulked up to about 255 pounds, adding 15 pounds of pure muscle mass.

“I feel like as a rusher you’ve got to have some type of power with you when you rush,’’ Ojulari said, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “You can’t just always go speed. These tackles nowadays are so athletic and good, everyone is very professional. So you’ve got to add — you’ve got to switch it up a little bit. We’re in the NFL, so everyone is going to be big and strong, so it’s just that little niche, what you can do to get yourself a little ahead.’’

The second-year outside linebacker isn’t simply trying to elevate his run defense, he’s also trying to add a power element to his pass rush strategy.

“When we got here in February, watching him on tape, you realized this is a guy who had an exciting, big year in year one,’’ said new OLB coach Drew Wilkins. “But then he comes in and he looks like the Incredible Hulk and you recognize this is a guy who put in work from the time that great season ended until he came back here.

Ojulari has an incredibly thin waist but broad shoulders with a muscular upper body. The concerns that once plagued his knee are gone, and he’s taking tremendous steps forward physically to help the Giants elevate defensively. Big Blue also drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux with a 5th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, pairing Ojulari with a dynamic pass rusher on the opposite side.

Building a strong defensive unit starts in the trenches, and the Giants now have two young pass rushers who could develop into extremely productive players, given they maintain their health.