Saturday’s show in Abu Dhabi served as the culmination of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s career as the UFC lightweight champion announced his retirement following a dominant second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje. “The Highlight” was viewed by many as a difficult stylistic challenge for Nurmagomedov due to his mixture of power-punching and All-American wrestling, but Nurmagomedov defeated him as he has every other opponent he’s fought.
“GSP” was watching and afterwards he heaped praise on Nurmagomedov’s denouement in an interview with ESPN.
“It was a masterful performance,” St-Pierre said. “As close as you get of a perfect fight against a very, very tough threat in Justin Gaethje. A lot of people, including myself, was thinking that maybe Justin Gaethje is the answer to Khabib. Maybe Justin Gaethje will be the perfect nemesis to Khabib because of his pedigree in wrestling and in striking.
“However, Khabib did the—I would not say the unthinkable because Khabib is undefeated and he’s so good—but nobody would think that Khabib would do a performance [that] seemed so easy for him. It was just amazing.”
Indeed, as soon as the bell sounded, Nurmagomedov was as aggressive as ever. Nurmagomedov didn’t just rely on his trademark wrestling, he stood and tested Gaethje’s striking before eventually taking the fight to the ground. St-Pierre marveled at Nurmagomedov’s submission transitions, calling the sequence that led to the fight-ending triangle choke “beautiful.”
St-Pierre, 39, had his fair share of memorable wins during his run at the top of the UFC welterweight division, but even he was impressed with how Nurmagomedov handled Gaethje.
“He beat Justin everywhere,” St-Pierre said. “He threatened him standing up, he threatened him with his wrestling on the ground. Even at the end of the first round, Justin was in bad, bad, bad position.
“Justin looked like he was overwhelmed, it looked like he was panicking, like he didn’t know what to do. The threat was coming from everywhere. From under, from over, from everywhere. It was just a masterful performance.”
Given how good Nurmagomedov looked on Saturday, it may have come as a surprise to some that he chose to retire when it’s likely he could continue competing at a high level for years to come. Nurmagomedov, 32, said that part of the reason that he chose this moment to retire is because of the recent passing of his father and coach, Abdulmanap. That loss is something that St-Pierre believes Nurmagomedov used for extra motivation.
St-Pierre didn’t expect Nurmagomedov to retire, though it’s a decision that he fully supports.
“I was surprised he retired because I thought he do—Everyone in the media says he wanted to do 30-0,” St-Pierre said. “That’s his choice, what a great way to finish a career. He left an incredible legacy. One of the best to ever do it, maybe the best to ever do it.”
Watch St-Pierre’s full post-UFC 254 interview with ESPN below:
Blue Jays: Two interesting names emerge from non-tenders – Jays Journal
The MLB non-tender deadline passed with 56 players being non-tendered by their respective teams, however, a couple of names should be of some interest to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays also were involved in the action yesterday non-tendering both Travis Shaw and reliever A.J. Cole. Former reliever Ryan Tepera also saw himself let go by the Chicago Cubs amidst all the movement around the league.
There are a number of familiar somewhat unlikely names that saw themselves non-tendered including Kyle Schwarber, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Maikel Franco, Nomar Mazara, and Carlos Rodon to name a few.
However, it is outfielder David Dahl formerly of the Colorado Rockies, and pitcher Archie Bradley that Toronto should focus their sights on in the coming days. Both players still have some upside and could improve the Blue Jays 2021 contingent at their respective positions.
Dahl is just 26 and a former first-round selection, 10th overall in the 2012 amateur draft. The young outfielder battled injuries early on in his career but managed to play 100 games in 2019. Dahl hit .302/.353/.524 with 48 extra-base hits including 15 home runs and 61 runs batted in for the Rockies.
Last season, the outfielder struggled offensively hitting just .183/.222/.247 with no homers in 24 games. His overall body of work in the majors doesn’t represent last season’s stat line, Dahl is a career .286/.334/.494 hitter with 38 home runs and a 0.9 WAR in 264 games over four seasons in the majors.
Dahl is typically a corner outfielder but does have 71 games in centrefield on his resume including 40 games in 2019. The Blue Jays have been in search of someone who can step in and take over the centrefield responsibilities on an everyday basis.
The outfielder earned $2.475 million last season and was not earmarked to hit free agency until 2024 prior to his non-tendering.
Pitcher Archie Bradley is another name that the brain trust should be prioritizing on their offseason to-do list. For some reason, the Cincinnati Reds did not want to keep the reliable reliever in their plans for 2021 and I personally don’t get it.
The 28-year old hurler has both starting and relief experience and can also close out games accumulating 28 saves in his career this far. Last season, he sported a 2.95 earned run average with six saves and an 8.8 SO/9 rate in 16 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Reds.
The Reds acquired Bradley at the trade deadline last season and he posted an impressive 1.17 earned run average in six relief appearances leading to his non-tendering. The right-hander earned $4.1 million last season and would still be considered a value even with a raise for the 2021 campaign.
In 2019, Bradley went 4-5 with a 3.52 earned run average and 18 saves while fanning 87 in 71.2 innings of work for the Diamondbacks. He is still a serviceable backend of the bullpen arm who can consistently get major league hitters out.
The Blue Jays could benefit from landing either of these two talents, both have enjoyed success at the major league level and have some upside still left in the tank.
Is Westbrook for Wall a lose-lose deal for all involved? – theScore
In a blockbuster akin to a couple teams rearranging expensive deck chairs on a sinking ship, the Houston Rockets traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a future first-round draft pick. Here’s what the deal means for the parties involved:
Rockets take another step back
Westbrook’s on-court value may not match the monetary value of his contract, and he’s two years older than Wall, but Wall arrives in Houston on an equally burdensome deal, and with far more questions to answer about his current standing in the league.
Opening week of the coming season will mark two full years since Wall last appeared in an NBA game. The five-time All-Star underwent left heel surgery in January 2019, which led to an infection. While dealing with that already complicated recovery, a slip and fall at his home resulted in a ruptured Achilles. Wall’s also had surgery on both knees in the past, and missed 41 games the season before his heel and Achilles injuries.
It’s fair to say no one was lining up to take on the $131.5 million remaining on Wall’s contract, which includes a player option worth more than $46.8 million in 2022-23.
Westbrook’s contract also has three years and $131.5 million remaining, with the only difference being Wall will make about $200,000 less this season, while Westbrook’s 2022-23 player option is $200,000 cheaper. If the Rockets believe they can eventually flip Wall before his option season, then owner Tilman Fertitta – whose earned a reputation for penny-pinching – will save a couple hundred grand in this deal, with Houston also recouping a (protected) first-rounder in the process.
That’s fine if you assume this is a precursor to a James Harden trade that will fully launch the Rockets into a rebuild, but if the team remains committed to competing in the short term in order to keep Harden in Houston, which appears the case, this trade makes a lot less sense.
Wall’s no more of an off-ball threat than Westbrook was. Of the 263 players in NBA history who’ve attempted as many 3-pointers as Wall, Westbrook’s 3-point percentage of 30.5 ranks 259th. Wall’s 32.4% conversion rate ranks 247th. In addition, the last time Wall was healthy, he was logging more time with the ball in his hands than any player besides Harden.
Over a five-year run of All-Star campaigns from 2013 through 2018, Wall averaged roughly 20 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, and two steals, and was a more consistent defensive player than Westbrook’s ever been. But expecting a high-usage point guard – whose greatest attribute is his speed – to be the same player at 30 after an Achilles rupture seems like wishful thinking.
Best-case scenario: Wall remains an explosive star who can replace some of what Westbrook brought to the table last season during a three-month stretch when Westbrook got back to being the rim-rampaging guard he was at his peak. If Wall can do that while offering a tiny bit more shooting, more off-ball movement, and a greater defensive focus, this feels like a wash for Houston.
The realistic scenario: The Rockets simply swapped a bad contract (Westbrook) for a terrible contract (Wall), and will still pair Harden with an ill-fitting backcourt mate who’s a worse player than Westbrook is. The only win here is the future draft pick.
The sting of that reality is more excruciating when you consider that just last year, Houston surrendered two first-rounders and two more pick swaps to turn Chris Paul – a better player, on a shorter contract, who actually fit beside Harden – into Westbrook.
That’s the kind of backwards asset management that turns contenders into pretenders.
Wizards move up a tier
Speaking of asset management: Washington trading Wall means the club got zero games played from its former franchise player since Wall’s lucrative extension kicked in last year.
Still, in a deal with no clear winner, the Wizards are certainly the lesser loser.
Westbrook was the better player when both stars were at their peak, and he’s certainly the safer bet now that Wall’s become such an injured and uncertain commodity.
After contracting COVID and dealing with a quad injury, Westbrook was a shell of himself during the summer restart. But with the Rockets going small and a clearer runway to attack in the paint, Westbrook averaged 30.7 points, eight rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.7 steals on nearly 51% shooting over a span of 34 games between early December and early March last season.
While Westbrook’s off-ball issues are well documented, and even though his taking the ball out of Bradley Beal’s hands will be detrimental for Washington when Westbrook falls in love with his nonexistent jumper, he and Beal will immediately become one of the NBA’s most dynamic backcourts should Westbrook play to his strengths, as he did for a sizeable chunk of last season.
Beal, as a better shooter and more willing off-ball threat than Harden, also presents a much more seamless fit for Westbrook. In reuniting with Westbrook, head coach Scott Brooks could stagger his star backcourt’s minutes to ensure one of Russ or Beal is on the court at all times (though Brooks has often been criticized for failing to stagger stars).
The Wizards will likely remain a defensive disaster, but with plenty of shooting around Beal and Westbrook, an offense that played at the fifth-fastest pace last season – and one that was surprisingly potent before being besieged by injuries – should be enough to get Washington back in the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
The Wizards should join the revamped Hawks in a two-team tier below the East’s top seven, but from a talent perspective, both are closer to the Pacers than they are to a bottom-six group that’s likely to include the Magic, Bulls, Hornets, Pistons, Knicks, and Cavaliers. At the very least, Washington should qualify for the 2021 play-in tournament that will involve teams No. 7-10 – a sobering new reality for Westbrook, who’s used to playing for Western Conference teams with grander postseason ambitions.
After extending Beal last year, the Wizards have remained hellbent on keeping their other franchise cornerstone happy. Beal, in turn, has at least said the right things about wanting to remain in Washington for the life of his contract. Trading a future first-rounder and swapping one overpaid star for another in order to graduate from futility to mediocrity might seem like a shortsighted play, but the Wizards should be more competitive on a nightly basis, and if that keeps Beal happy and engaged, it’s a worthwhile gamble.
NHL players will likely have to pay for lost revenues, commissioner Bettman warns – CBC.ca
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman warned players Wednesday they are likely going to have to pay one way or another to make up for the league’s projected lost revenue whenever the 2020-21 season gets underway.
Speaking on a Sports Business Journal panel, Bettman stressed the NHL is not attempting to reopen the collective bargaining agreement some five months after it was extended. Instead, he said, the fiscal realities amid the pandemic mean the 50-50 revenue-sharing split between owners and players will be affected for at least the near future.
And that means players will have to bear the brunt of any shortfall to owners.
The question then becomes, Bettman said, whether it’s in their best interest to pay the money back in the short-term — by deferring a higher percentage of their salaries as the NHL has raised in discussions — or face the potential of having the salary cap stay flat over the remainder of the six-year deal.
“If we have to pay out lots of cash, two-thirds of which is going to come back to us, that may cause some stress,” Bettman said. “And by the same token, if the players owe us more money than anybody imagined, the salary cap could well be flat or close to flat for the next five or six years, and players into the future will be repaying what we’re owed.”
The NHL’s new CBA currently calls for players to defer 10 per cent of their salary for the upcoming season and it puts a cap on how much money will be kept in escrow over the length of the deal.
Without calling it a formal proposal, the league has raised the possibility of having players increase salary deferrals to 20 per cent or 26 per cent and increasing the escrow caps, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is publicly announcing details of negotiations.
The National Hockey League Players’ Association did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Players, agents unhappy with state of talks
Players and several agents have privately grumbled at the developments, and accused the league of attempting to renege on the deal reached in July that led to the resumption of play and the completion of last season.
Bettman refuted the criticism, calling it “unfortunate” and “inaccurate,” and said the agreement at the time was based on collective assumptions that are no longer applicable. The NHL now has to factor in a shortfall in gate revenue because fans aren’t expected to be allowed to attend games, at least initially.
Another issue is the likelihood of a one-time realignment due to cross-border travel restrictions, which will likely result in Canada’s seven teams competing in one division. U.S.-based teams might be required to play in hub cities, as opposed to their own arenas.
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The league is also expected to play a shortened season, which could feature as few as 48 games, such as what happened in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
In an email to The Associated Press, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “as of right now,” the NHL is still targeting Jan. 1 to start the season, before adding: “That is obviously subject to change.”
It’s becoming increasingly unlikely the NHL will meet that target date. Players have not yet been asked to travel to their home cities. When they do, they will be potentially required to spend up to two weeks in self-quarantine before teams can even be allowed to open training camp.
Another issue are local health regulations. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, for example, relocated to Arizona this week after Santa Clara County banned contact sports teams from holding games and practices for at least the next three weeks.
The San Jose Sharks are based in the same county.
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