It’s business as usual for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), for now, as UFC Fight Night 170 will indeed go down later tonight (Sat., March 14, 2020) inside Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Brazil, despite the coronavirus outbreak. In the headlining act, Kevin Lee will tango with Charles Oliveira in lightweight action, while Demian Maia and Gilbert Burns collide in a welterweight bout in the co-main event.
Despite other major sports organizations such as the NBA, MLS, MLB and NHL postponing or delaying their current seasons because of the coronavirus plaguing the entire planet, UFC decided that the show must go on. With a few adjustments, of course, such as some events relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the promotion owns its very own venue to stage fights. For UFC Fight Night 170, the event will go still go down in Brazil, but fight fans will not be allowed to attend in order to prevent any potential spread of Covid-19. Of course, disaster still nearly struck the event after Lee missed weight for the fight, coming in 2.5 pounds heavy. But after some negotiating, Oliveira agreed on a payout from Lee’s fight purse and the fight will go on as planned.
Barring a last-minute cancelation such as this one, of course.
As for the bout itself, it’s an interesting one to say the least, as Lee and Oliveira both have a lot riding on it for different reasons. For Lee, a win is crucial here as it will give him his first consecutive win streak since 2017. In his last outing, “The Motown Phenom” knocked out Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244, snapping his two-fight losing streak. Over his last four bouts, Lee has gone a sub-par 1-3. Slump aside, Lee is still a dangerous opponent for anyone, and since he is still determined to fight for a world title and possibly score big fights against Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, he will come in highly-motivated. And he will have to, as all Oliveira has done since mid-2018 is win, earning six straight victories inside the Octagon. By the way, despite “Do Bronx’s” impressive win streak and Lee’s struggles, “The Motown Phenom” is still ranked five spots above the Brazilian bomber, proving once again that UFC’s official rankings are nothing more than a popularity contest. Because if you don’t believe Oliveira is a Top 10 fighter, you’re crazy.
Both men come to scrap, but when it comes to the standup department, I’ll give the edge to Lee, as well as the wrestling advantage. Once on the ground, however, it’s all Oliveira, who has five submissions over his last seven wins. Can he strike? Yes. But against Lee, his best bet is to try and take the fight to the ground, which is easier said than done given the wrestling Kevin possesses. While the Detroit native is simply trying to string together a few wins to stay relevant in the division, Oliveira has something bigger going for him, as he can finally break the Top 10 and inch himself closer to a title shot which at one point seemed impossible to get.
I can’t complain too much here, as the card is pretty well-balanced for a Fight Night event. Plus, while the world is reeling and adjusting due to the current pandemic affecting literally everyone, UFC went against the grain and decided to proceed with the card. As a result, it will be one of the few sporting events going down this Saturday around the world. While some don’t agree with the move I, for one, welcome it if fighters want to willingly compete. If they had united and decided that fighting at this time simply isn’t the right thing to do, then I’d agree with that, as well.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Paige VanZant and Amanda Ribas were all set to throw down at this event, but after “12 Gauge” suffered yet another health setback, Randa Markos was pegged as a replacement for the women’s strawweight bout.
Aside from VanZant’s setback, Brad Tavares was forced out of his scheduled middleweight bout against Antonio Carlos Junior with an injury. After UFC booked Junior to take on Makhmud Muradov, he bowed out of the fight weeks later with an injury of his own and Muradov was taken off the card altogether.
For this event, only one person is set to make his Octagon debut, and that is David Dvorak, a flyweight contender looking to pump some new blood into the division. Yes, the 125-pound weight class is still chugging along. Dvorak has been on a tear over the last seven years, winning 13 straight fights, last tasting defeat in 2012. Which begs the question: What took UFC so long to sign him if the weight class needs all the talent it can get? Nevertheless, he is here now and looking to make a splash on the biggest MMA stage of them all. What’s even more impressive about the win streak, is that he has finished every single one of his opponents during that span, with no one making it past round two. Standing in his way is Bruno Silva, who failed to make a splash in his debut after coming up short against Khalid Taha at UFC 243.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The undercard features a couple of intriguing match ups, including the 125-pound showdown between Jussier Formiga and Brandon Moreno. Brandon has looked good since returning to UFC, defeating Kai-Kara France at UFC 245 last December. Formiga, meanwhile, had his four-fight win streak snapped by Joseph Benavidez, so he will be fired up to get back to his winning ways in order to get back in the championship hunt.
Alexey Kunchenko is desperate to get back into the win column after suffering the first loss of his career to Gilbert Burns last October. Prior to the defeat, Alexey had won 20 straight fights. His foe, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, is also looking to get back on track after having his seven fight win streak snapped last August.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Renato Moicano was at one time considered to be a legit title contender. But after back-to-back knockout defeats to Jose Aldo and Chan Sung Jung, the Brazilian bomber’s stock took a huge hit. Like many other struggling fighters have done in the past, moving up a weight class wasn’t an option for Renato, who will continue to fight at 145 pounds for the foreseeable future. But if he can’t get a win over Damir Hadzovic on Saturday, expect him to pack on some pounds for his next fight.
Interest Level: 7/10
It’s a pretty good lineup to be honest. In the co-main event, Demian Maia will battle Gilbert Burns. Demian has enjoyed a nice little career resurrection as of late, winning three in a row including scoring an impressive win over Ben Askren. His run is preceded by a horrid three-fight win streak that had the jiu-jitsu ace wondering if retirement was around the corner. But after stringing together his latest win streak, the former title contender has found a new lease on his combat life. Trying to get win number four will prove to be a tough task, as Burns is also on his own run, winning four straight in the highly-competitive welterweight division.
Also, Randa Markos will look to earn her second straight victory as she faces off against Amanda Ribas, who is flying high after handing Mackenzie Dern her first loss, which also earned her consecutive win number three.
We also have a pretty good light heavyweight scrap between Johnny Walker and Nikita Krylov to compliment the main card. Walker is looking to get back into the win column after suffering a knockout loss to Corey Anderson at UFC 244 last November, which ended his nine fight win streak. It won’t be an easy task, as Krylov is a talented individual with his own skills to get the job done inside the cage. While he is only 1-2 in his last three fights, he’s still a formidable foe and it would behoove Walker to take him seriously come fight night.
Enjoy the fights ladies and gentleman, as it will be slim pickins’ for your sports entertainment this weekend.
Full Fight Card:
UFC Fight Night 170 Main Event on ESPN/ESPN+:
155 lbs.: Kevin Lee vs. Charles Oliveira
UFC Fight Night 170 Main Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Demian Maia vs. Gilbert Burns
115 lbs.: Amanda Ribas vs. Randa Markos
155 lbs.: Renato Moicano vs. Damir Hadzovic
205 lbs.: Johnny Walker vs. Nikita Krylov
125 lbs.: Bruno Silva vs. David Dvorak
UFC Fight Night 170 Prelims Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (3 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Francisco Trinaldo vs. John Makdessi
170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Aleksei Kunchenko
135 lbs.: Enrique Barzola vs. Rani Yahya
125 lbs.: Jussier Formiga vs. Brandon Moreno
125 lbs.: Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Maryna Moroz
135 lbs.: Veronica Macedo vs. Bea Malecki
Report: Trump hopes to have fans back at sports games by end of summer – Sportsnet.ca
U.S. President Donald Trump told major-league sports commissioners on a call Saturday afternoon that he hoped to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski.
Trump reportedly also said he believes the NFL season “should start on time in September.”
The call included 13 league commissioners, among them the NHL’s Gary Bettman, NBA’s Adam Silver, MLB’s Rob Manfred and NFL’s Roger Goodell.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere tweeted a statement following the completion of Trump’s call.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters later Saturday that he doesn’t anticipate sports being played with fans in the stands by September in his state, contrary to Trump’s reported comments.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the plan for the call was “to discuss charitable contributions and how the leagues would help those dealing with coronavirus.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought most of the sports world to a halt for the last three weeks, as only White’s UFC and MacMahon’s WWE are the only organizations still hosting events.
Kobe, Duncan, Garnett headline 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class – TSN
Kobe Bryant was already immortal. Now he’s officially a Hall of Famer as well.
And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class.
Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.
They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.
“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honour him,” Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”
Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said — as if there was going to be any doubt — that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.
Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.
“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said.
Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medallist . Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.
Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.
The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.
For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.
With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.
“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Nelson, Fimis taken No. 1 and 2 in OHL Draft – TSN
TORONTO — Teammates Ty Nelson and Pano Fimis were the top two picks in the Ontario Hockey League’s Priority Selection Draft.
Nelson, a 16-year-old defenceman from the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Toronto Jr. Canadiens, was announced by the North Bay Battalion as the first overall pick on Friday, the night before the OHL draft formally began.
Fimis, a centre with the GTHL’s Jr. Canadiens, was taken second overall on Saturday morning by the Niagara IceDogs.
North Bay had the first overall pick when the season was cancelled on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nelson led all GTHL defencemen in regular-season scoring with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) over 33 games. He then posted a league-best 12 points over 11 playoff contests as he helped lead the Jr. Canadiens to the league title.
Fimis had 14 goals and 28 assists in 32 games for the Jr. Canadiens. Three more centres were taken after Fimis on Saturday.
Maxim Namestnikov was selected third by the Sarnia Sting, Bryce McConnell-Barker was picked fourth by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and the Kingston Frontenacs made Paul Ludwinski the fifth overall pick.
Namestnikov is the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The younger Namestnikov had 53 goals and 75 assists in 59 games for the midget Honeybaked U15 team, then had 12 goals and 11 assists in 13 games for the same team in the High Performance Hockey League.
Defenceman Jorian Donovan, the son of former NHLer Shean Donovan, was taken sixth overall by the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Highly touted prospect Adam Fantilli went 18th overall to the Saginaw Spirit.
Fantilli, is a six-foot-two 181-pound centre who spent 2019-20 with Kimball Union Academy — a US high school prep program based in Plainfield, N.H — who had already committed to the United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel on March 25.
That means it’s very unlikely the Toronto native comes back north while allowing him to keep the NCAA route open when he turns 18.
The Priority Selection has been held online every year since 2001. However, this year teams worked remotely and adhered to all government and public health guidelines on physical distancing when selecting the 2004-born skaters.
Team staff were not allowed to work the draft from their hockey offices or arenas and made their announcements through a conference call, most often from home.
Players were not permitted to enter into league offices for introductions and sweaters on draft day. They also weren’t allowed to meet their new fans and interviews were out of the question.
The OHL also reminded prospects and their families that the province of Ontario has prohibited organized public gatherings and social gatherings of more than five people, keeping celebratory groups tight, while American-based OHL teams are following the rules set in place by their state.
The Western Hockey League Bantam Draft is scheduled for April 22 while the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft goes June 6.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 4, 2020.
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