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Marner and Matthews together make Maple Leafs magic, but Keefe will always consider options – Toronto Sun

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While Sheldon Keefe certainly can see the value in putting Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews on the same line, it’s not a duo that is etched in ice.

At least, not yet.

The pair, aided well by Zach Hyman, were electrifying in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, spiriting the Leafs to a shocking 8-6 win.

“I would say we’re still kind of in the experiment stage,” coach Keefe said of the Marner/Matthews pairing.

“How it works out long term is not necessarily just on how that goes, but how things underneath them go. We look at all of that.”

Keefe had some intriguing looks in the warmup, with Matthews between Marner and Hyman; John Tavares centring Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall; Alex Kerfoot between William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen; and Frederik Gauthier centring Dmytro Timashov and Jason Spezza.

Keefe tweaked to start the game, putting Spezza with Tavares and Mikheyev, saying he had a hunch Spezza would have some off-the-hop pop with his four daughters in the crowd, and it worked, as Spezza scored at 30 seconds. Note, of course, something similar didn’t occur to Mike Babcock on opening night, who refused to get out of his own way and made Spezza a healthy scratch.

Anyway, Keefe reverted to his warmup lines, and eventually Matthews and Marner took over. When there were mistakes made in the game that allowed Carolina to score five in a row, Keefe didn’t think it was because of what certain Leafs lines were doing, so he kept them intact.

“It makes sense to me (in keeping Matthews and Marner together) in terms of the way one sees the ice and passes and the way that one finishes,” Keefe said. “But we also know Mitch and (Hyman) were successful with (Tavares) there as well.

“We have to weigh that, and again, it’s a lot to do with just how things fall into place underneath them as well.

“I think if I’ve shown anything in the early going here, it’s that I’m not one want to maybe stick with anything for too long.”

Agreed. Innovation where Keefe’s predecessor was stubborn.

Fact is, the luxury that Keefe has with his forward depth makes him happy to use it to his advantage when he sees fit. People can be moved around without fear of a drop in play.

As one might imagine, both Matthews and Marner are fine if they’re not separated.

“We just want to make sure we’re defensively stable,” Marner said. “We know if we stay patient, we can get our opportunities and we’re going to score on them and if not, we’re at least going to get those opportunities for good looks and think that’s what we did tonight. We just stayed patient with it.”

Said Matthews: “We’ve always felt we’ve had fun playing with each other in the past, whether it was for a couple of shifts or for a period or one game. We never really had consistency, playing together. He’s a really great player and he’s fun to play with. We just try to feed off each other, like we did tonight.”

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Conor McGregor and the problem with being the man who has everything – MMA Fighting

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In hindsight, Conor McGregor’s most recent legacy-building moment may have been the worst thing that could have happened for him.

Twelve months ago, McGregor was back. “The Notorious” had been sidelined for 14 months, with a humbling loss to rival Khabib Nurmagomedov followed by a year of McGregor ending up in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Smashing a cell phone in Miami. Punching a man in an Irish pub. And before all that, an accusation of sexual assault in Dublin, which resurfaced this past week in the form of a civil claim, along with new alleged details.

McGregor also teased a retirement in March 2019 (the second such time he’d done so), a stunt that didn’t feel remotely permanent. It was obvious McGregor needed something big to regain the faith of the masses, but what?

A second Nurmagomedov fight wasn’t happening, and a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz was stuck in limbo. Eventually, McGregor was handed a favorable matchup with the popular Donald Cerrone, an all-time great who was also a non-factor in the contenders’ rankings. No matter, McGregor made the most of the opportunity, blowing Cerrone out of the water in 40 seconds at UFC 246 and restarting the “What will Conor do next?” news cycle.

On Saturday at UFC 257, McGregor was back again, this time getting a chance to replay one of his old hits. What better way to show that he was never gone than to once more vanquish Dustin Poirier, a former featherweight rival who now stands as one of the best lightweights in the world? This was McGregor’s chance to say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

That wasn’t the case, however. Poirier completely outclassed McGregor, making brilliant use of his wrestling and low kicks in round one to wear the former two-division champ down before flurrying in round two and leaving McGregor flat on his back in perfect position to become the next big meme. McGregor has lost before, but for the first time in his UFC career, it didn’t just look like he’d ran into a superior opponent or a difficult style matchup; no, it looked like his best days had passed.

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor
Zuffa LLC

How did we get here? Let’s look at the Cerrone matchup again. With respect to “Cowboy,” one of the best to never win a UFC title and someone who could probably compete until he’s 50 if he wanted to, he entered the matchup with McGregor as a potential showcase opponent. Cerrone was coming off of back-to-back lopsided losses to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, and while there’s no shame in that, it wasn’t expected he’d last long against McGregor either.

The booking was considered such a layup for McGregor that Cerrone had to suffer the indignity of actually having to respond to critics suggesting that he was going to take a dive for McGregor and the UFC. Cerrone’s ensuing loss only opened the door for more criticism, much of it coming from talking head pundits that are barely qualified to analyze rec league soccer, much less the highest level of combat sports. But I digress.

It was everything McGregor wanted. A highlight-reel win over a known property. The chance to rehabilitate his image with a respectful buildup and an appreciative opponent. He even hugged Cerrone’s grandmother afterward.

Jerry Cerrone and Conor McGregor
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It was too perfect, and exactly the sort of thing that could make one overlook the fact that McGregor’s game wasn’t any different and that Cerrone was his first win since November 2016. Nothing had changed for McGregor other than the fact that he bit the bullet and signed on for another UFC fight.

He was still a multi-millionaire, still beloved by countless fans, still a shining star in Dana White’s eye even as their public confrontations became more frequent. If this was supposed to be the turning of a page for McGregor, the words sounded too familiar.

If Cerrone was the right man to welcome McGregor back last year, then Poirier was exactly the wrong man to welcome him back this year. “The Diamond” did nothing but sharpen his edges since first fighting McGregor in 2014, moving up to the loaded lightweight division and dominating the competition outside of a blip against Michael Johnson. McGregor was a former lightweight titleholder, but his actual achievements at 155 pounds paled in comparison to Poirier’s.

So when Poirier had his chance for revenge, he put on one of the best performances of his career while McGregor wilted. It looked exactly like what it was on paper, one fighter who had scraped his way to an interim title one win at a time versus a fighter who had done a brilliant job of maneuvering himself into position to win a second undisputed title. There’s a difference.

White wasn’t wrong when he said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference that McGregor has grown complacent. He’s the highest-paid athlete in MMA. He was chilling on a yacht in Abu Dhabi while the rest of the fighters were whittling away their time at a hotel. He was able to bring his family with him to Fight Island while a fighter like Dan Hooker wouldn’t see his for another few weeks due to strict COVID-19 safety measures in his native New Zealand.

In the grand scheme of things, there is simply no consequence to McGregor losing anymore outside of a little public humiliation. And that’s nothing that a few seven-figure checks can’t fix. How can one maintain the edge they once had when they were literally fighting to put food on their table and now have reached the level of success and comfort that McGregor has? We can’t blame McGregor’s shortcomings completely on his affluence, as there are plenty of other athletes and fighters (including Poirier) who have only elevated their games as their bank accounts have increased. It’s not an excuse. It’s a weakness, and it’s costing him in the cage.

They say that good living is the best revenge. It certainly isn’t the best motivation. So while McGregor can be content with the incredible financial security he’s created for himself and his family for generations, he may also have to accept that his days as a legitimate UFC contender are behind him.

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Morning Report: Georges St-Pierre discusses lost fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov – MMA Fighting

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For the past several years, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and his team have been stating their desire to fight UFC Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre. However, things changed last year when Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, passed away due to COVID-19. Khabib fought one time after his father’s passing, a successful title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, and then announced his retirement right there in the cage. It was a decision that caught everyone off guard, including St-Pierre, who was doing French-language commentary for the event.

“I was in the same boat as everybody,” St-Pierre told Michael Bisping on his Believe You Me podcast. “I thought maybe he would have called me out to maybe pressure the UFC to organize the fight.”

Khabib’s decision was perhaps more shocking than it should have been because in the lead up to UFC 254, Khabib’s team gave little indication of his intention to retire, talking about potential next fights. In fact, heading into UFC 254 the general assumption seemed to be that Khabib would defend his title against Gaethje and then look to set up a retirement fight against St-Pierre next, to hopefully leave the sport at 30-0 as tribute to his father’s dreams for him. But even if Khabib hadn’t retired, St-Pierre says there was no guarantee the fight would have happened anyway.

“It doesn’t mean I would have accepted,” St-Pierre said. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, when is it going to happen?’ I never said I wanted to do it. It depends (on) the conditions too. I could think about it seriously if the conditions are right in terms of the weight class and all that, but there’s no way I’m gonna go down to 155 now. I’m 39 years old and this is out of the window…

“We’re both about the same size. I’m not gonna lie. I wake up in the morning and I’m about 183 pounds. I’m sure he’s about the same weight as me if not probably bigger. So I think the weight class — it’s like a novelty fight, a superfight — you need to stipulate the rule maybe no weight class or maybe (that) you cannot be more than three percent different in terms of weight. I don’t know but there’s ways to do it. You don’t have to cut weight and damage yourself to do something like that.”

Historically, Khabib has shown little interest in competing outside of his weight division, however, the point is moot now as even UFC President Dana White has finally had to admit that Khabib’s retirement appears to be genuine. That means that fans can only imagine what a superfight between the two would look like, but St-Pierre has his thoughts on how he would have approached the contest.

“If in a hypothetical world this fight would happen, I think I would need to use all my tools,” St-Pierre explained. “I’m good at what I do and it’s not because I’m fighting Khabib that I’m gonna change my way of fighting. The way I fight, that’s how I’ve been successful all of my career. I think the mistake that a lot of guys are doing when they fight Khabib is that they change the way they’re fighting because Khabib is very known to be probably the best wrestler in the sport. (But) I’m good with the takedown, to mix it up. It’s not because I’m fighting Khabib that I’m not gonna mix it up with him. If I have a chance to put him down, I’m gonna try to put him down. I believe in my chance to put him down and I’m confident in myself. I think confidence is a very important piece of the puzzle in MMA to be successful and I believe a lot of guys when they fight a legend fighter status, part of that confidence and their skill goes out the window. That’s one of the mistakes I would not do because I know Khabib would not do it against myself.”

Unfortunately, the end of the Khabib-GSP superfight signals not only Khabib’s retirement, but likely also the last hope for one more St-Pierre fight. St-Pierre retired in 2019 after talks for a Khabib fight were summarily rebuffed by the UFC but has since lingered with the possibility of a return specifically for that fight. Now that Khabib has walked away, St-Pierre admits he’s not sure what it would be, but it would take something special to bring him back.

“If the UFC would want me back, it’s not me that would try to go and beg for a fight. ‘Hey please, can I come back?’ They’re gonna lowball the sh*t out of me!” St-Pierre said. “It would be the most stupid thing I could do. If they have an offer to make to me, an offer I cannot refuse, Dana knows where to reach me.”


Drawing board. Conor McGregor plans to ‘regroup,’ interested in Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz trilogy bouts.

Let it go. Dana White: If Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn’t want to defend title, ‘I won’t push it anymore’.

Fanciful. Michael Chandler hopes Khabib Nurmagomedov returns for one last fight so ‘he becomes 29 and Chandler’.

Sad. B.J. Penn arrested, released on suspicion of DUI, video shows belligerent encounter.

Apology. ESPN apologizes for technical issues that plagued UFC 257 pay-per-view.


Top ground and pound in Bellator.

[embedded content]

Marc Goddard talks about good stoppages vs. bad stoppages.

[embedded content]

Michael Chandler thinks he’s up next.

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Chandler’s KO.

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The Co-Main Event. Discussing the fallout from UFC 257.

UFC Unfiltered. Interviews with Gilbert Burns and Michael Chiesa.


Nate has some thoughts.

Do it.

He’s going to rebuild . . .

Motivation.

Ready to do it.

Rivalry.

Thanks for clarifying.


Robert Whittaker (22-5) vs. Paulo Costa (13-1); UFC Fight Night, Apr. 17.


Remember when Nate fought for the lightweight title? Khabib fighting him would be . . . not good for Nate.

Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.


Poll

Who would have won?

  • 63%

    GSP

    (199 votes)

  • 36%

    Khabib

    (112 votes)



311 votes total

Vote Now


If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

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Tom Brady is defying age — and belief – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without Tom Brady

For all the upheaval we’ve experienced lately in sports and in life, there remains a near constant: Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The age-defying quarterback made it back for the fifth time in seven years by helping Tampa Bay upset Green Bay 31-26 in yesterday’s NFC championship game. Brady will now try to knock off Kansas City and reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes after they stamped out Buffalo’s magical run with a dominating 38-24 win in the AFC title game.

We’ll have plenty to say about the Super Bowl matchup as the Feb. 7 game gets closer. But, for today, let’s just appreciate Brady.

This is the 20th Super Bowl matchup since Brady became an NFL starter in 2001 and, come two weeks, he’ll have played in 10 of them. He went 6-3 and won four Super Bowl MVPs with New England. And now, after just one year in his new conference, Brady owns as many NFC titles as fellow future-hall-of-famer Aaron Rodgers has managed in 13 years as Green Bay’s starter.

Did we mention Brady is 43 years old? Sure, he looked it at times yesterday, throwing three interceptions. But he also tossed three touchdown passes — the eighth time since the season started that he’s had at least that many in a game.

How wild is that for someone his age? Well, before this, there was exactly one instance in NFL history of a player past his 43rd birthday throwing at least three TD passes in a game. And that happened a half-century ago. George Blanda, who had transitioned from QB to kicker in his old age, came on in relief of Oakland’s injured starter and threw three TDs to beat Pittsburgh in Week 6 of the 1970 season.

Which is all to say, there’s no precedent for what Brady is doing right now. He’s not just defying age. He’s defying belief. Read more about how Tampa Bay and Kansas City reached the Super Bowl here.

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Quickly…

The Edmonton Football Team’s head coach quit before he even coached a game. Scott Milanovich resigned today to, as the CFL team put it, “pursue NFL opportunities.” He’s reportedly joining the Indianapolis Colts as their quarterbacks coach after the guy who had that job was promoted to offensive co-ordinator. Edmonton hired Milanovich as its head coach after the 2019 season, and the 2020 campaign was wiped out by the pandemic. Read more here.

And in case you missed it…

A few more things from the weekend that you should know about:

Canada’s speed skaters can’t be trusted. Oh, they’re fine people and all. But they told us not to expect any medals from them at the long-track World Cup season opener in the Netherlands. Save for a two-week training camp back in the fall, the Canadian team had no opportunities to train on a proper oval since the pandemic hit, forcing them to resort to short tracks and outdoor ice to prepare for the shortened season. So of course they showed up to the Netherlands and promptly won five medals — including a gold by Ivanie Blondin, Isabelle Weidemann and Valérie Maltais in Friday’s women’s team pursuit. Read more about the haul and watch highlights here.

Reece Howden had himself a weekend. The 22-year-old Canadian won back-to-back men’s World Cup ski cross events in Sweden on Saturday and Sunday. He now has three victories and four podium finishes in seven races this season and sits atop the World Cup standings by a wide margin. Canada’s Marielle Thompson is second in the women’s chase after reaching the podium for the fifth time this season on Sunday. Read more about the women’s and men’s races and watch highlights here.

Conor McGregor got knocked out. The UFC’s biggest star hadn’t fought in a year and was making just his third appearance in the octagon since 2017. But he was expected to beat Dustin Poirier for the second time in his career and bolster his case for luring undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement for a megafight. Instead, Poirier spoiled McGregor’s (and the UFC’s) plans by dropping him with a flurry of punches to score a shocking second-round KO on Saturday night. Read more about the upset here.

Patrik Laine got traded. Winnipeg swapped him for another talented young player who wanted a change of scenery, sending Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick. Laine averaged about 35 goals over his first four NHL seasons and is still only 22. But he’s wanted out of Winnipeg for a while and, with his contract set to expire after this season, the Jets didn’t seem all that interested in convincing him to stay. Dubois was the third-overall pick in 2016 and looked like a promising player the last two seasons. He scored 27 goals in 2018-19 and had 18 in pandemic-shortened 2019-20. But he asked for a trade after his relationship with fiery Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella soured. Read more about the deal and why Laine wanted a fresh start here.

Coming up on CBC Sports

Alpine skiing: The World Cup season continues Tuesday with a women’s giant slalom in Italy starting at 4:30 a.m. ET and a men’s slalom in Austria starting at 11:45 a.m. ET. Watch both two-run races live on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

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