As the minutes wound down on last night’s UFC Fight Night main event, there was no hiding the resignation on Tyron Woodley’s face. The longtime welterweight champion, looking for a rebound nearly 15 months after losing the belt, was stuck in neutral. His wrestling had mostly remained holstered. His leg kicks were few and far between. His powerful overhand right, the thing that made him famous, repeatedly flung wide of its target.
Opposite him, Gilbert Burns looked sensational. He staggered the champion in the opening minute. He took down a guy who’d boasted the best statistical takedown defense in UFC welterweight history. He consistently connected with all of his offense. Between the two, there was a vast chasm, one firing on all cylinders and the other struggling simply to move forward. If you’d never watched MMA before, you’d be hard-pressed to watch the action and pick out Woodley as the former titleholder.
On Saturday night, Burns looked about as good as the welterweight division has to offer. That’s both a blessing and a curse for him. On one hand, he set himself up to face anyone in the division, up to and including current titleholder Kamaru Usman. On the other hand, his run comes in a division that is loaded with talent and doesn’t guarantee him anything more than an impressive notch on his belt. One needs to look no further than Woodley’s originally scheduled opponent Leon Edwards for that. Edwards has won eight consecutive fights in the octagon and was involved in one of the most notorious incidents of last year, a backstage scuffle with Jorge Masvidal. Still, he apparently needs to win another fight or three to finally get a crack at the belt.
The headline bout offered movement for the two individuals who participated and for the division, and its importance to those parties and to the sport meant something, but it was also hard to contextualize the shallowness of its consequence while pockets of America continued to erupt in unrest.
Sports at their best are a wonderful diversion from life’s daily struggles, and few do it better than the top mixed martial arts bouts, where their unbridled intensity demands your full attention. The athletes performing at the UFC APEX last night did their best under the most challenging of circumstances. Billy Quarantillo and Spike Carlyle put on a thrillfest, Mackenzie Dern took a significant step forward, Jamahal Hill announced himself as a player, and Burns put the welterweight division on notice. That they competed in front of an empty arena did not detract from their determination. In fact, they should be lauded for delivering at what felt like a singular moment in time.
With a global pandemic effecting nearly every part of everyday life, with cities around the country—including Las Vegas—experiencing protests that sometimes turned violent, with the world sometimes seeming as though it is on the verge of something cataclysmic, it is somewhat amazing to see these men and women ignore all that long enough to find a few minutes of excellence.
Never over the past 50 years have we seen so many Americans hurt, scared, sick or endangered. Whether it’s the ravages of the coronavirus, the instability of the economy, the anxiety of the upcoming election or the collective anger over racism that far too often goes ignored, there are so many visible wounds that are broadcast around the clock for all the world to see. It’s horrific to watch, and it almost demands you take diversionary breaks to protect your sanity, making the presence of pro sports welcome.
Still, it was hard to go too long without checking on either. Still, it was hard to go on without reminders of the outside world. They were fighting in an empty arena for a very obvious reason, after all. ESPN continued to scroll real-world protest reactions from the sports world, too. The UFC started the night with a graphic in memory of George Floyd, and ended it with the presence of Woodley, a Ferguson, Mo., native who passionately spoke as an activist after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.
There was no escape.
And frankly, there didn’t need to be. There are times to stick your head in the sand and ignore what is happening because it is largely inconsequential and there are times your attention is mandatory. This is one of those times.
Burns looked great last night and Woodley will have a long road back toward the title. That’s all you need to know about the headliner. Very quickly, their career paths will begin to work themselves out. The sports world always finds a way to hum along, even when the world around us doesn’t. The diversion of the greatest fighters and the toughest athletes in the world may not be necessary but it is needed, even if they take a while to pull our attention all the way back.
Habs Headlines: Can the Canadiens upset the Penguins? – Habs Eyes on the Prize
Five Whitecaps to miss MLS tournament – TSN
The Vancouver Whitecaps will be missing five players at the MLS is Back Tournament, including forwards Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts.
The club said defender Andy Rose and defender/midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa are also sitting out the Florida tournament, which starts Wednesday and runs through Aug. 11.
Ricketts has a medical issue while Mukumbilwa is not cleared to leave the country. Cavallini, Montero and Rose are not taking part for personal reasons.
Cavallini, Ricketts and Rose all started in the Whitecaps’ last game, a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 7, while Montero came off the bench. Ricketts scored the game’s lone goal.
“There’s no doubt that the players that are not present are very key players and players that help the team,” coach Marc Dos Santos told a virtual conference call prior to training Tuesday night in Orlando.
“Now with that being said, it opens the door to other young players … I don’t have a doubt from what I’ve seen in training and what I’ve seen from them that we’re still going to be a hard team to beat.”
The Whitecaps’ five remaining forwards are 20-year-old Theo Bair, 21-year-old Ryan Raposo and Cristian Dajome, David Milinkovic and Yordy Reyna, all 26.
While Reyna has 19 goals in 70 MLS regular-season appearances, the other four have a combined two goals in 22 games.
Cavallini, a designated player, cited losing family members to COVID-19 in his decision not to play.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for me,” he said in a statement. “I would love to be out on the field with my teammates fighting with everything I have to play for this club and community in Orlando.
“Unfortunately COVID-19 has had a very big impact, taking away two beloved members of my family. I feel that it is best that I remain home to support my loved ones at this challenging time.”
Rose and Montero also cited family for missing out.
“My wife is due to give birth on July 17 and my original plan was to be with the team in Florida for our first and possibly second game,” said Rose, an Australian-born English defender who is also a diabetic. “However, the sacrifice of potentially missing my daughter’s birth and the risk of infection travelling home meant it didn’t make sense to go.”
Montero, a native of Colombia, cited the pandemic in making the “hard decision” to stay with his wife and daughters in Canada.
“I truly love what I do for a living and have been eagerly waiting to return to the pitch as much as anyone however the health of my family is my No. 1 priority,” he said. “My family and I have had a complicated few months not only with being isolated in Canada without family or friends but also with unforeseen health emergencies.”
The club did not detail Ricketts’ injury.
“I worked hard and was prepared to fight with my team in this tournament. unfortunately, I was not given a choice and was pulled out due to a pre-existing condition,” the Canadian international said.
Ricketts told Vancouver radio station TSN 1040 that he had been taking medication to deal with the condition.
“Everything is fine with me health-wise,” he said. “Unfortunately the pills affected my immune system and put me in a position where I’m at a much higher risk if I contract COVID.”
The club said Mukumbilwa, a Canadian resident who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is not cleared to travel outside of Canada at this time. Mukumbilwa, who signed a homegrown player contract in August last year, has seen just nine minutes of action with the first team.
The withdrawals leave Vancouver with just 23 players.
Dos Santos said the club supported all five players who decided to stay at home,
“This is a tournament that is important, but it’s not life or death,” he said. “It’s not the last tournament we’ll be in. So it’s important that everybody that’s here feels good about being here.”
Vancouver opens its tournament July 15 against the San Jose Earthquakes at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Orlando area.
Group B is down to three teams — Vancouver, Seattle and San Jose — with the withdrawal of FC Dallas due to 11 positive COVID-19 tests.
Whitecaps CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster says the league is trying to find a solution that would allow the teams in the group to still play three matches. The tournament’s original schedule had every team playing three group games that will count in the regular season.
Complicating the matter is the availability of fields, he added.
Vancouver Whitecaps Roster
Goalkeepers (3): Maxime Crepeau, Thomas Hasal, Bryan Meredith.
Centre Backs (4): Derek Cornelius, Erik Godoy, Jasser Khmiri, Ranko Veselinovic.
Fullbacks (3): Ali Adnan, Cristian Gutierrez, Jake Nerwinski.
Central Midfielders (8): Michael Baldisimo, Janio Bikel, Simon Colyn, Inbeom Hwang, Patrick Metcalfe, Leonard Owusu, Damiano Pecile, Russell Teibert.
Forwards (5): Theo Bair, Cristian Dajome, David Milinkovic, Ryan Raposo, Yordy Reyna.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2020.
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Tanev would 'love' to remain with Hughes, Canucks – NHL.com
Christopher Tanev said he is hoping to be teammates with Quinn Hughes on the Vancouver Canucks well beyond this season.
“I’d love to stay here and play with Quinn as long as I’m able to,” Tanev said Tuesday. “I think we played great together when we did this year and I think we both enjoyed it. … I think he’s an extremely dynamic player that is only going to get better and better for this organization, and it was pretty special what he did this year.”
Tanev, a 30-year-old defenseman who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, has been frequently paired with Hughes, who led rookies with 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) in 68 games this season and played in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game.
Last week, Hughes discussed how important Tanev has been to him during his rookie season.
“Chris has probably played the biggest role for me, on and off the ice, my first year,” Hughes said. “He’s been extremely important for the team; I think he’s a leader in the locker room and a guy that everyone likes, so that would be a huge blow if we lost him (in free agency). I think that [general manager] Jim [Benning] and the coaching staff understand his value. It’s not my business, but I would think they’re going to do the best they can to make a deal.”
The Canucks, who haven’t qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2014-15 season, were 36-27-6 (.565 points percentage) this season and will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the No. 10 seed, the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, .558), in one of eight best-of-5 series, with the winner advancing to the playoffs and the loser having a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.
“I’m ready to play hockey,” Tanev said. “I think I can get a contract regardless. I feel like I’m going to play well. If we play playoffs, then I’m confident in my abilities. If the [NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement] does get voted through, you take all those things into effect.”
The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association announced Monday that they have agreed in principle on a memorandum of understanding for a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement, through the 2025-26 season.
Tanev, who sustained a lower-body injury March 10 in the Canucks’ final game before the NHL season was paused two days later due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, said he is healthy for the qualifiers.
“I feel good,” he said. “I did tweak my knee a bit in the last game of the year and probably would’ve missed five or six games, but it felt great to play in [all 69 games] of the season and I felt good, strong and like I was playing well.”
The Canucks skated June 30 for the first time under the NHL Return to Play Plan. Phase 2, which began June 8, allowed for voluntary workouts on and off the ice in small groups at team facilities. Tanev has been skating in a group with defensemen Alexander Edler, Troy Stecher and Tyler Myers, and forwards Jake Virtanen and Micheal Ferland.
Tanev, the second-longest tenured Canucks player (he has played with them since 2010-11), tied his NHL career high with 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 69 games this season; only Edler (2006-07) has been with Vancouver longer. Tanev played three games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, when the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games, and played in five playoff games that season, his first in the NHL. Vancouver reached the playoffs four of his first five seasons.
“I was fortunate enough, my first few years in the League, to be able to play in the playoffs, and we haven’t been able to do it in the recent years, so I think (young) guys understand that,” Tanev said about Hughes and forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. “I don’t need to go and tell them that it’s not a given that you’re going to make the playoffs every year. Guys are smart and our young guys are our best players, and they’ll be ready to go.
“You never know when you’re going to get the next chance. … you want to go out and try to seize the opportunity.”
Provided health and safety conditions allow, the opening of training camps in the teams’ local markets, which is the start of Phase 3, is scheduled for July 13. Teams will then travel July 26 to one of two hub cities, where they will begin Phase 4, the resumption of play, with the qualifiers starting Aug. 1. The hub cities have not been announced.
“We have just as good of a shot as anyone to win this thing, so I think we’re going to be ready to go once the puck drops,” Tanev said. “I think when we were healthy, we could play anyone this year and go toe-to-toe with them. [Goalie Jacob Markstrom] was great. … We can beat anyone.”
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