Two standout players in Knicks’ double OT win over Celtics

julius randle, knicks

The New York Knicks emerged victorious in an exciting season opener against the Boston Celtics (final score 138-134). After starting the first half with lackadaisical defense and poor communication, the Knicks bounced back strong in the second half, limiting Boston to 48 points while scoring 62 of their own.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 46 points after spending the last ten days rehabilitating from Covid and progressing through protocols. His performance left a stain on the victory, but the Knicks managed to limit the production of Jayson Tatum, who shot 7-for-30 and connected on just 2-of-15 three-point attempts. He scored 20 points with 11 rebounds. Brown, on the other hand, shot over 50% from the field and 60% from three-point range, producing a large chunk of the Celtics’ points.

However, the Knicks had a few stand-out performances of their own; one of them coming from a newcomer to the New York area.

Two standout players for the Knicks in opening win:

Julius Randle:

Randle picked up right where he left off in the 2020-21 season, posting 35 points over 46 minutes, shooting 12-of-27 from the field and 3-of-8 from range. He also contributed eight rebounds, nine assists, three blocks, and turned the ball over a game-high seven times.

Despite losing the ball on a few occasions, he was a monster in the paint and came up big when the Knicks needed him most. His contributions set the stage for another elite season accompanied by an All-Star appearance.

After the game, head coach Tom Thibodeau stated how surprised he was that Randle was more hungry for success than last season. Sometimes, players take a step back after signing big contracts, but you can tell that Randle is motivated by much more than money.

“He gives you everything he has…He had that monster year last year, got a new contract…And he’s hungrier now than he was last year, which I thought was impossible,” Thibodeau told reporters.

Evan Fournier:

While some may point to Mitchell Robinson’s 17 rebounds and 11 points as one of the primary performances for the Knicks (which it was), we can’t go without mentioning Evan Fournier and his incredible shooting prowess in the victory.

The new free-agent signing contributed 32 points, four steals, three-assist, six rebounds, and shot 13-of-25 on the field and 6-of-13 from three-point range. Fournier‘s ability to create opportunities on his own and drive to the rim separates him significantly from Reggie Bullock, who the Knicks allowed to leave this past off-season, subsequently signing with the Dallas Mavericks. The French-born player was on fire during overtime play, which kept the Knicks alive — a 3-PT shot with 55 seconds left in double-OT was the catalyst to give New York the edge. That specific basket provided a three-point lead, just enough cushion to force Boston into taking low-percentage shots the rest of the way.

If Fournier can continue to perform like this, the Knicks will have themselves one of the more prominent and dominant offenses in the NBA. Fournier played 44 minutes, just behind Randle and RJ Barrett, who played a team-high 47.

Despite scoring zero points in the first half, Barrett contributed 19 in the second half, picking up two blocks. The team contributed 10 blocks in total and nine steals. If the Knicks can get off to more aggressive defensive starts, their offense should lead them to plenty of victories. They shot 37.8% from three-point range on the evening and 48.6% from the field. However, one number that needs to increase is their free-throw percentage, as they connected on just 70.4%.

Overall, it was an exciting and majestic way to start the regular season — it’s going to be a fun one, Knicks fans!

Giants’ DC Patrick Graham explodes over defense’s inefficiency

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants defense has been extremely inefficient this season, ranking 26th in points allowed per game at 27.8. Aside from the obvious struggles giving up points, the Giants have also allowed 138.4 rushing yards per game and 270.2 passing yards per game, both landing in the below-average category. Even the New York Jets, who have a vastly less superior defense regarding overall talent have managed to curate a better unit, which is a big surprise given the success Patrick Graham and his defense experience last year.

Against the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Giants’ unit gave up an embarrassing 201 yards on the ground and 324 yards through the air, resulting in 525 total yards allowed. That is not to mention the four touchdowns they gave up along the way, further degrading a team that has lost LB Blake Martinez this year to a torn ACL and allowed Dalvin Tomlinson to walk in free agency has passed off-season.

“In terms of the yardage given up and the loss of the game, it’s unacceptable. Period,” Graham said. “We get paid – myself included – to win games. I’m in this position to help win games. When you give up 500-plus yards in offense, that’s not usually winning football. It’s completely unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.”

At the very least, Graham is holding himself accountable for the lack of production, but he knows his unit must take a step forward if his team wants to stick around against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6.

“After a performance like that, and now you’ve got the Rams coming in here,” Graham said, “we’re going to find out [what we’re made of]. I mean, we’re going to find out. It’s time. I’m starting with me first.”

The Giants have already started 1–4 on the season and are quickly losing the respect and faith of the fans, which will ultimately spell trouble. Unfortunately, general manager Dave Gettleman has been unable to build a winning team, despite what most believe to be a solid group of coaches. Whether it be the talent or game planning, something needs to change within the Giants’ organization.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 39, what’s next for Mackenzie Dern?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 39, we saw a pivotal matchup in the strawweight division. Top contenders battled it out as Mackenzie Dern (11-2) took on Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2).

Heading into the matchup, the path to victory seemed relatively clear for both ladies. For Dern, she was going to need to get the fight to the ground. She arguably has the best jiu-jitsu out of any female fighter in the UFC.

She has improved striking, but Rodriguez is so much more seasoned on the feet. Rodriguez needed to keep the fight standing where she was going to have a massive advantage, especially from range.

One of the things that concerned me about Dern going into the fight was her takedowns. Despite all of her submission wins, Dern is not effective at all with her takedowns. Coming into UFC Vegas 39, she was only succeeding at a 10% clip.

While the fight did touch the mat a few times on Saturday, Dern’s inability to take the fight down ended up being her downfall. Rodriguez controlled most of the fight on the feet and survived the grappling exchanges to win a decision.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 39?

For Dern, this fight is a reset. The surging contender had won four fights in a row and she was looking to become the star that the UFC believes she can be. As mentioned, she’s becoming more well-rounded, but she’s still a little too one-dimensional.

With the loss, Dern falls to 6-2 in eight fights in the UFC. She’s still one of the better strawweights in the world, but she has to continue to improve her striking and she definitely needs to improve her offensive wrestling.

If Dern can become a fighter who’s dangerous with takedowns, she can easily become a world champion. Now that her winning streak is snapped, who should be next for Mackenzie Dern?

Well, one fighter I like for Dern is a little down the rankings in Tecia Torres (13-5). Torres is just inside the top ten and she’s won three fights in a row. She’s been begging the UFC for a top contender and I think Dern fits the bill.

She showed great striking in her last fight, but she’s been known throughout her career for her wrestling. It would be an interesting stylistic matchup and it would be fun to see how both ladies would approach it. For Dern, it would be the slight step back she needs while still taking on a tough customer.

Bellator announces move to five-round main events

Bellator was in the news yesterday with President Scott Coker having appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour. Coker was on the show to break a number of different news items including a couple of title fights.

However, Coker did announce that the promotion was making a big move in the way that they do main events. Bellator is now going to model in the UFC in that they will have five-round main events moving forward in 2022.

The UFC made this switch a few years ago and it’s been a big success for fans. Bellator has seen a number of great fights over the last couple of years in main events, but fans always felt a little let down with the three-round structure.

One thing that might’ve started this change process is the fight between Yoel Romero and Phil Davis a few weeks ago. After the fight concluded, Romero was confused because he thought their Bellator main event was five rounds.

Bellator’s Change

A confused Romero walked to the center of the octagon where Phil Davis won by split decision. Now, Romero has always been one of those guys who can explode and do something remarkable at any second.

Perhaps if their fight was two more rounds, he could’ve won his Bellator debut. Nevertheless, the rules are what they are and Romero fell short. Bellator had been kicking the tires on this change for some time and that might’ve been one of the things that pushed them over the edge.

As mentioned, this change will start at the beginning of 2022. Last week at Bellator 267, MVP edged out Douglas Lima in their rematch. Again, this was another three-round main event and there was so much talk about how this fight should’ve been five rounds.

There’s already internal conversations at Bellator regarding the trilogy between Page and Lima. I could see the promotion having the trilogy between the two as one of the first non-title five-round main events.

Mackenzie Dern on path to stardom ahead of first UFC main event

UFC strawweight Mackenzie Dern is unlike most other Americans in many ways (just listen to her speak), but the way she is perhaps most profoundly different is that she has found a way to flourish professionally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dern has enjoyed a solid push from the UFC brass ever since she debuted as an undefeated fighter back in 2018, finding herself fighting on main cards in 6/7 of her bouts for the promotion so far.

Yet, only one of those took place on an actual PPV event, while this will also be her first time ever headlining a UFC show in any capacity.

Despite many labeling Saturday night’s upcoming UFC Vegas 39 event as a serious contender for weakest card of 2021, there is still always something to be said for anyone headlining any event for the leading MMA company on the planet.

Up until this point, it has been generally believed that Mackenzie Dern’s popularity – both within the UFC brass and amongst fans – has mostly been based around her looks and social media presence (she currently boasts almost 1M followers on Instagram).

While that may have some truth to it, anyone would be a fool not to recognize Dern as the elite prospect (now entering her prime) that she really is. The Brazilian National heads into this fight against a super game Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) with a stellar 6-1 record in the UFC (11-1 overall).

The BJJ prodigy also has recorded four finishes (all coming in the first round and by submission) which is a very high finishing percentage, especially compared to other female fighters.

The women’s strawweight division is universally recognized as the toughest, deepest division in all of women’s MMA and the #4-ranked Dern has a chance to make another statement in the biggest spot of her career.

Will a win at UFC Vegas 39 lead Dern to a title shot?

With plenty of attention being focused on the upcoming 115-pound title rematch between Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang taking place on November 6th at UFC 268, Mackenzie Dern could do well for herself to score an impressive finish this weekend.

Taking out the very formidable, and #6-ranked 115’er in a main event spot could potentially be enough for the BJJ Black Belt to earn herself a title shot sometime in 2022.

More than likely, though, it’ll take one more win after this one to sew that shot up.

Crazier things have surely already taken place in the UFC, and you can bet Dern believes she is just one more fantastic submission away from getting her first shot at UFC gold.

UFC targeting Francis Ngannou – Ciryl Gane for January (Report)

Francis Ngannou

The UFC has kicked off the last couple of years with a bang having Conor McGregor in their featured PPV in January. Well, The Notorious one is on the shelf, but the UFC is planning on a massive PPV for their first event of 2022 without McGregor.

French news outlet La Sueur is reporting that the UFC is in advanced talks to book a heavyweight title fight for UFC 270 on January 22nd. The matchup would pair the heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (16-3) against the interim champion Ciryl Gane (10-0).

It is also being reported that the rematch between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker will take place in the co-main event. With a heavyweight unification bout in the main event and that rematch in the co-main, it’s clear that UFC 270 is going to be massive.

Ciryl Gane has taken the UFC by storm since he made his debut with the promotion back in 2019. He debuted and he was very green at 4-0. However, he’s continued to get better and better and he’s a perfect 6-0 inside the octagon.

In his last fight, he took on Derrick Lewis for the interim UFC heavyweight title. Gane completely outclassed Lewis on the feet and ended up stopping him in the third round.

UFC Heavyweight Unification

While Gane had a title wrapped around his waste at UFC 265, it was more of a guarantee than a title. That belt guarantees Gane a shot at the current heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou.

Originally, the UFC wanted Ngannou and Lewis to face off back in August. However, when Ngannou said he wouldn’t be ready until September, the promotion scrapped the plans and gave Gane the shot while putting an interim title on the line.

Ngannou was incredibly frustrated by this decision justifiably so. The champion has won five consecutive fights with the longest one lasting 52 seconds into the second round.

The last time we saw Ngannou was at UFC 260 when he rematched with Stipe Miocic. Ngannou completely dominated the fight and knocked Stipe out cold to claim the heavyweight title. The Predator will look for his first successful title defense in January.

What’s next for Thiago Santos after UFC Vegas 38?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 38, Thiago Santos (22-9) returned to take on Johnny Walker (18-6). Santos entered the bout trying to snap a three-fight losing streak.

Now, the first fight in that losing streak for Santos came against Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title. Santos lost a split decision in a fight where he completely tore his knee apart in the first round.

Since returning, he hasn’t looked like the same fighter. Santos dropped fights to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic since returning from injury. This main event against Walker was a good opportunity to reset against a lower ranked opponent.

Now, Walker is very dangerous and he showed that on Saturday night. There were some definite spots where Walker gave Santos some trouble at UFC Vegas 38, but nothing that Santos wasn’t able to get through.

Santos landed some good shots and clean counters throughout the main event. In the end, he walked away with a unanimous decision victory and now he’s finally back on track.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 38?

When Santos heard his name called, it was the first time in two and a half years that he won a fight in the UFC. The last win he had came against the current champion Jan Blachowicz.

With a win under his belt, now it’s time for Santos to try and build back towards a title shot. So, what should the UFC do with him next? I don’t think his performance was impressive enough to get him close to title contention.

He likely will need another win or even two before he gets to that point. In terms of a next fight, I would look at UFC 267 at the end of the month. Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) is taking on Volkan Oezdemir (17-5).

Whoever wins that fight would be a great next step for Santos. A win over one of those two then perhaps you could put him in a title eliminator. However, he’s going to need to impress more in his next outing.

After No Contest at UFC Vegas 38, Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus will fight again

Kevin Holland

Last Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 38, we saw a middleweight showdown between Kevin Holland (21-7, 1 NC) and Kyle Daukaus (10-2, 1 NC). Holland was looking to snap his two-fight losing streak.

In 2020, you couldn’t get much better than Kevin Holland in the UFC. His personality was infectious and he was a perfect 5-0. That blistering year earned him a main event spot earlier this year against Derek Brunson.

Had Holland won that fight, the UFC would’ve put him in title contention. However, he ultimately fell short against Brunson. Then, he took a short-notice main event against Marvin Vettori and again fell short.

In both of those fights, Holland was exposed for not having the best wrestling. Prior to UFC Vegas 38, Holland switched things up and started training with former welterweight champion and national champion wrestler, Johny Hendricks.

Holland was excited to show off his new defensive wrestling and he did that early on at UFC Vegas 38. However, the fight wouldn’t last much longer and it ended in a very odd fashion.

UFC will run it back

Both men advanced for strikes in the first round and the two clashed heads. Holland had Daukaus’ head land right on his chin and it essentially put him out. He was really never able to recover.

Eventually, Daukaus got his back and was able to submit him for the win at UFC Vegas 38. However, the referees got together after the fight and started talking about what led to the submission.

Ultimately, it was ruled that the headbutt led to the finish and the fight was ruled a No Contest. Everyone, including Daukaus, seemed content with the decision. Holland was actually the one saying he thought he should’ve lost because if it was in the streets, he would’ve lost.

The UFC has decided to run things back as a result of Saturday. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported this afternoon that the two will run it back on November 13th.

UFC books Charles Oliveira – Dustin Poirier

The fight that’s been rumored for a while is officially signed. We now know that UFC 269 on December 11th will be headlined by the lightweight title fight between the champion Charles Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) and Dustin Poirier (28-6, 1 NC).

Poirier confirmed that the fight was signed last night on Twitter and the news has been confirmed by MMA Fighting. This matchup has been in the UFC’s plans for over a month, but the fight just became final over the weekend.

Oliveira will be looking to defend his title for the first time when these two meet. He’s riding a very impressive nine-fight winning streak heading into UFC 269. That winning streak culminated by in May when he became the lightweight champion.

The two best lightweights in the UFC was considered to be Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier. With a vacated lightweight title, the UFC wanted these two to fight earlier this year. However, Poirier opted for a fight with Conor McGregor.

The UFC then switched to Oliveira against Michael Chandler. Chandler dominated the opening round almost finishing Oliveira. However, Oliveira came right out in the second round and scored a finish to become the new UFC lightweight champion.

UFC Fighter of the Year?

Dustin Poirier has the chance in December to cap off the greatest year that a combat sports athlete can have. The Diamond got the chance to fight Conor McGregor twice which netted him the biggest paydays of his career.

Poirier walked away with his hand raised both times and saw his star power rise through the roof. Now, he has the chance to do the one thing he hasn’t done which is become the undisputed UFC lightweight champion.

Poirier has tasted UFC gold before when he became the interim lightweight champion. However, he fell short in his attempt to become the undisputed champion. Now, Poirier has his chance to live out his dream and became the undisputed UFC lightweight champion.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 38, what’s next for Johnny Walker?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 38, we saw a showdown of top light heavyweights. Former title challenger Thiago Santos (22-9) returned as he took on Johnny Walker (18-6).

Walker was competing in his first UFC main event on Saturday. Santos was looking to snap his two-fight losing streak and get back on track. He hadn’t looked like the same fighter since he returned from his serious knee injury a year ago.

I really didn’t know what to expect from either man heading into UFC Vegas 38. Walker was always a wild man and Santos has been very tentative as of late. With the difference in activity level, I was leaning towards Walker.

To my surprise, Santos looked really good on Saturday. He did a good job with beating Walker to the punch and he landed some really clean shots throughout the fight. Walker also held his own and did a good job of landing on Santos.

The fact lacked the action I was expecting at UFC Vegas 38. I think that most expected a wild fight that would end in a finish, but that’s not what we got. In the end, Santos walked away with a decision after taking three of the five rounds.

What’s next for Johnny Walker after UFC Vegas 38?

Even in a loss, I think we can take a lot away from Walker’s performance at UFC Vegas 38. To me, this was the first time that he fought with poise and had a mature look to his fighting style. That said, he didn’t land enough or have big enough spots to get the win.

However, I don’t think he’s going to be hurt too much by this loss. With that, what should the UFC do with him next? There are several options out there, but one of the options I like is a fight with Paul Craig (15-4-1).

Craig ranks just behind Walker in the rankings currently and he’s riding a current streak that has him 4-0-1 in his last five. To me, this is a really good matchup to see who’s ready for a more serious contender inside the UFC’s top ten. A good measuring fight for both men in my opinion.