hangover sports roundup
Hangover Sports Roundup
Fresh and unsung U.S. Olympic medalists
As always, the Olympic Games provided memorable sporting moments that will be talked about for years to come. Highlights of 2012 include Usain Bolt making history by winning three medals in back-to-back Olympics, and Michael Phelps becoming the most-decorated (and arguably greatest) Olympian in history. But with a limited amount of sports featured on the NBC primetime telecast, many athletic feats won't get the attention and respect they deserve. To be specific, let’s examine two athletes who not only won gold but are also primed to make history in future Olympic Games.
Outside of the wrestling and combat-sports community, Jordan Burroughs was a relative unknown despite his two NCAA titles and All-American status at the University of Nebraska. Burroughs’ success in college has caught the attention of the Mixed Martial Arts world to make the crossover. However, he had other plans by beginning his quest to become the greatest American wrestler ever. The 2011 World Championships saw Burroughs win the 74kg championship and made him a favorite to win gold in London. Burroughs embraced his role as the new star of American wrestling by changing his Twitter handle to @alliseeisgold. His confidence and swagger proved to be a valuable asset in defeating a difficult field of Iranian and Russian wrestlers. In the final, Burroughs achieved his destiny by overcoming his 2011 World Championship foe, Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi to claim gold. Along with extending his 38-straight international freestyle match winning streak, the 24-year old got a nice $250,000 bonus from the Living the Dream Medal Fund. When asked what his future held, Burroughs sees more championships and medals on the horizon. If he continues to win gold, he might be in line to replace Phelps as the face of the USA Olympic team.
The United States has always had a strong history in the sport of boxing in the Olympic games. But lately it has been struggling, with the men's team failing to medal for the first time in history. With talk of creating different plans to revitalize America's dominance in boxing, there was pressure on the women to deliver. For the first time, women were allowed compete in boxing. Most of the attention before the games went to Marlen Esparza who appeared in various commercials leading into London. Esparza captured the bronze in the flyweight division, but the youngest member of the team, Claressa Shields, earned the gold. Shields has a classic underdog boxing story growing up in a tough neighborhood in Flint, Michigan. Despite her personal struggles, Shields became the first woman to win a gold medal in women's boxing and was the only gold medalist for USA boxing. She's only 17-years old but experts are already stating she's the new face of boxing in America. With Holly Holm being unknown outside of New Mexico, Shields could fill the void that Laila Ali once had. And with Shields being fairly young, she’d surely excel in future Olympics, although she may capitalize on her newfound fameand turn pro. But if Shields turns her sights to the 2016 Rio Games, USA boxing future may lie with the women instead of the men.
Tiger passes Jack, NBA's free agent frenzy begins
The PGA Tour had enjoyed a period of time when nearly everyone thought Tiger Woods was finished competing for any major titles. Besides all of Woods' personal struggles, injuries plagued any attempt of a comeback. But 2012 may be the year Tiger finally got his bite back. Before the AT&T National, he’d won two tournaments (no majors) in 2012 but was ranked fourth in the world golf rankings. In yesterday’s final round at the Congressional, Woods shot a 2-under 69 to outlast Bo Van Pelt and capture the title. Woods' third victory of the year moves him into second place for the most all-time PGA tour victories. Even though he didn't dominate the tournament, the fire and intensity that made Woods a champion seems to be back. The post-tournament press conference was the first example of the old Tiger, as he seemed defiant and borderline arrogant. If Woods' swagger has returned, other PGA golfers should be very concerned.
NBA Free Agency
The moment the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals, every team in the league began to form plans to land the biggest free agents during the off-season.
Dwight Howard is one of the most talented big men in the league, but he's also the most mysterious. Howard's indecisive choices have made him one of the most disliked athletes in the NBA. Despite the Stan Van Gundy firing, Howard still wants out of Orlando, but he'll have to play by the Magic's rules. Because he opted into another year of his contract, Howard can only beg and plead through the media to be traded. Since Howard is only interested in one team, Brooklyn, Orlando should take its time in making a decision—and probably won’t mind making one of the league’s to superstars suffer.
If Dwight Howard truly wants to leave Orlando, he'll need to open his mind to playing in other cities. Especially if free-agent supersatr Deron Williams leaves Brooklyn—making it a much-less desirable team to play for.
Aging veterans Ray Allen and Steve Nash are on the wish list of any team looking to win a title. Nash has to most lucrative offers with his home country’s Toronto Raptors offering a three-year $36 million deal. But money may mean less for Nash, who's still looking to win his first-ever NBA title. While Dallas and Miami may have a shot, look for the Knicks to be factor in the negotiations. Nash lives in New York and would be reunited with former Suns teammate Amar'e Stoudemire.
As for Ray Allen, along with his current team, the Boston Celtics, teams such as Miami and the Grizzlies are looking to land his services. Allen has already won a title and was unhappy coming off the bench last season, which may make Boston less appealing. If the Grizzlies can offer Allen a similar deal as other teams in the league, Memphis could be the favorite. But if Allen wants to capture another championship, he'll have an easier team shooting threes in Miami. Which ever team he chooses, Allen still remains one of the most deadly shooters in the game.
Holly Holm gets revenge, Miami turns up the heat on Thunder
Who's says revenge isn't sweet? Holly Holm got some much need retribution in a unanimous-decision victory over Anne Sophie Mathis on Saturday night at the Route 66 Casino. In December, the pair fought a back-and-forth affair that saw Mathis getting the better of Holm with a seventh-round knockout. In the rematch, Holm used a strategy to outbox Mathis instead of engaging in a brawl to avoid getting knocked out. The gameplan may have not been the most crowd pleasing but it got the job done and impressed the judges to earn the 97-93, 96-94, 99-91 victory. Now the debate begins over what move Holm will make next. Along with being an accomplished boxer, she's also had success with mixed martial arts. Despite women's MMA being relatively new, the sport has already made some popular stars and Holm could be next if she makes the full transition. But in the meantime, Mathis will most likely request a rematch away from Albuquerque and in her home country of France. For now, Holm looks to enjoy some time off, but whatever decision Holm makes, the Burque boxing fans will be watching very closely.
Lebron James has been declared the best player in the world by many NBA experts. James has every basketball ability any player dreams of. But when the NBA Finals began, everyone was quick to declare Kevin Durant the new king. Because of James' past inability to perform in the Finals, it has opened the door for Durant to become the league's best player. Despite tuning the media out with antics such as reading The Hunger Games prior to a big matchup, James seems to have taken his game to the next level by averaging 30 points during the 2012 Finals. In the critical game three, James put his finals nightmares behind him, scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He proved the reign of King James has perhaps only begun by hitting a clutch three in the fourth quarter and outplaying Kevin Durant.
Durant did have 26 points and 6 rebounds, but was in serious foul trouble throughout the game (just like in game two). The Thunder made a run in the fourth quarter to cut the Heat lead, but Miami scored the final seven points to prevent any Oklahoma City comeback. The 85-91 loss puts the Thunder in a 2-1 hole and makes game four a must win. Luckily for the Thunder, it’s been in this situation before, being down 2-0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. OKC will need to correct the mistakes if they are going to get back into the series. So far Durant has performed well in his first Finals appearance, but he'll have to find a way to outplay a more determined and focused Lebron James. Game might be the beginning of the King James era, or it may end before it even gets started.
Johnny Tapia's Memorial, Trout defeats Rodriguez, Celtics cool off Heat
New Mexico Boxing
The world of boxing suffered a massive loss when Johnny Tapia passed away on Sunday, May 27. Along with being a five-time world champion, Tapia managed to be a positive member of the community while being a respected figure in the sports world. On Sunday night, thousands waited in line to pay their respects to the champ at University Arena. Several members of the boxing community were in attendance, and others offered tributes though video messages. If your’re wondering how much Tapia meant to the boxing world, or just want to relive a classic bout, check out one of most memorable fights in his career when he battled Danny Romero in Las Vegas in 1997.
Las Cruces native and WBA 154-pound world champion Austin Trout retained his title by defeating Delvin Rodriguez by unanimous decision on scores of 120-108, 118-110 and 117-111. Fans and media were unhappy with Trout's performance, but he got the win and is now in the running to face rising star Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez’ original opponent Paul Williams pulled out after a motorcycle crash and his replacement James Kirkland declined the bout after originally accepting it. Hopefully the sport of boxing will do the right thing and give Trout a chance to prove his worth to a larger boxing audience. But his critics are out in force to prevent the fight from happening, not to mention that Alvarez' promoter, Golden Boy Productions, is unlikely to put a fighter with a difficult style against a rising star.
Let the bashing begin. Haters of the Heat had plenty of ammo to throw at Miami for its game four performance. Between being down by 18-points at halftime, LeBron James fouling out and Dwyane Wade missing the game winning shot the seemingly unstoppable Heat looked vulnerable. For casual fans, Boston's 93-91 win may be a sign of Miami cracking, but those who look closer know it’s no time to panic. These teams have developed a heated rivalry by playing close and physical basketball. While Boston has many flaws, the Heat isn't able to exploit them. Chris Bosh's injury enabled the Celtics score 17 second-chance points and get 11 offensive rebounds, despite losing the overall rebounding battle. Momentum may lie with the Celtics, but the Heat have the homecourt advantage and may get the services of Bosh after all. If Miami gets Bosh close to 100 percent and its bench can produce, Boston is in trouble.
Mayweather defeats Cotto, Nate Diaz submits Jim Miller
Floyd Mayweather Jr. Vs. Miguel Cotto
The sport of boxing may only have a couple of mega stars, but whenever they’re in action the sports world always takes notice. Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. fought Miguel Cotto for the WBA Super Welterweight title in what turned out to be a compelling fight this Saturday night.
Despite Cotto being the champion, he was a massive underdog among casual fans and Vegas odds makers. Usually, whenever any fighter faces Mayweather, he is overmatched and often embarrassed by defensive boxing skills and technique. Surprisingly, Cotto was aggressive and was able to damage Mayweather. Many experts in chat rooms and Twitter had the fight close heading into the second half of the bout. But eventually supreme conditioning and counter punches carried Mayweather into victory. While the judges scorecard of (118-110, 117-111, 117-111) for Mayweather conveyed a lopsided win, Cotto seemed to have gained more fans and respect in defeat than any of his wins. If Cotto gets a couple of high profile wins, it wouldn't be out of the question to request a rematch or face Manny Pacquiao for the second time.
As for the now 43-0 (26 KO) Mayweather, his next opponent will be a jail cell as he serves time for misdemeanor domestic violence. Once he's done serving his 87-day sentence, the pressure of putting together the super fight between himself and Pacquiao should reach its boiling point. The potential matchup would be the biggest pay-per-view attraction in the history of the sport, but fans’ patience is starting to wear thin. If Pacquiao is dominant over Timothy Bradley, hopefully the wheels will start to go into motion for Pacquiao and Mayweather to finally collide.
UFC on Fox 3
It was a jam-packed weekend of sports, but lost in the shuffle was the Ultimate Fighting Championship on network television. While the card was lacking in star power, it tried to make up in exciting action. The main event featured Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller to possibly determine the next challenger for the Lightweight title.
Before the fight, Miller had a slight edge among mixed martial arts experts, but when they squared off, Diaz used superior boxing to confuse and damage Miller. Then, in round two, Diaz used his signature Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to gain the guillotine choke and make Miller tap for the first time in his career. Ever since Diaz moved to Lightweight, he’s looked almost unstoppable by dominating Takanori Gomi and Donald Cerrone. Now Diaz has proved he's a worthy challenger for champion, Benson Henderson. Since Henderson will face Frankie Edgar in a rematch in August, Diaz would most likely take another bout to stay active rather than take a long break. Since older brother Nick Diaz is suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Nate has gained all the attention and maybe has become a breakout star for the UFC. If Nate Diaz takes another fight and defeats Anthony Pettis, he will no doubt stand on his own as an elite fighter in MMA.
NFL Draft, Bulls lose Rose, Clippers shock the Grizzlies
While some football fans think the NFL Draft resembles the male version of “America's Next Top Model,” most cannot contain their excitement whenever they see the commissioner give his awkward handshake to the new recruits of the league.
The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins took the suspense out of their first two picks in selecting Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (respectively), but the draft still contained some surprises. Cleveland Browns General Manager Tom Heckert chose to overhaul the offense by selecting Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round. Current Browns starting QB Colt McCoy showed some promise last season, but the Browns needed to make some power moves to make sure they’re no longer an afterthought. Another surprise was the Dallas Cowboys moving to sixth pick of the first round to select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Even though the Cowboys had to give up 14th and 45th overall picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was a necessary sacrifice to ensure Dallas improve its much-criticized defense.
As for the University of New Mexico, no Lobos were selected in the draft, but three defensive players have signed free-agent deals to play at the next level. Leading the pack is Carmen Messina, who shockingly wasn't selected but signed a contract with the improved Detroit Lions. All-Mountain West safety honorable mention Bubba Forrest was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals and defensive end Jaymar Latchison used Twitter to state he signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers.
Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia Sixers
Everything was working perfectly for the Chicago Bulls in game one against the Philadelphia Sixers. The Bulls bench was performing well and the starters were showing why they were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose's triple double was almost in sight with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then the unthinkable happen: Rose drove in the lane and tore his ACL. Pain and fear was written all over Rose's face as he was helped to the locker room. The Bulls went on to win game one, 103-91, but it seems their title hopes have all but disappeared. An 18-9 record without Derrick Rose in the regular season means Chicago has reacted well without their captain. Now its up to Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton to step up and prove the Bulls are still a serious threat to win the title.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
It was a party in Memphis as the Grizzlies had a dominate 27-point lead in game one. With the Clippers down by 21 in the fourth, head coach Vinny Del Negro removed point guard Chris Paul from the game. But Paul pleaded with Del Negro for one more shot to at least gain a moral victory. Instead, Paul had seven assists and hit two clutch free throws to take a 99-98 lead with 23.7 seconds left. Rudy Gay had a chance to be the hero but missed a fade-away jumper to give the Clippers the stunning victory. Now Los Angeles has stolen home court and the momentum of the series. To make matters worse, rumors have now heated up regarding tension between Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies have tons of potential and have good fundamental skills to make a respectable run in the playoffs. But if they can't put a stop to their issues, the Clippers will embarrass the Grizz.
Payton pleads case to Goodell, Jayhawks and Wildcats battle for the title
Looks like New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton isn’t quietly accepting his year-long suspension. Payton, along with general manager Mickey Loomis, have filed an appeal for their participation in a three-year bounty system and will fly to New York on Tuesday to give their side of the story. According to the latest ESPN.com article, Payton hopes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will reevaluate his decision to give the harshest punishment in league history. But Payton shouldn’t be too optimistic. Not only did he know about Saints' Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams’ bounty system, but he also lied to league officials when directly questioned. Payton's motivation for appeal seems puzzling as Goodell is unlikely to change his decision. The investigation warranted the tough suspension to send a stern message to the rest of the league of zero tolerance toward injuring opposing players on purpose. Payton should be thanking Goodell his punishment wasn't worse and instead should disappear from the spotlight.
Tonight's March Madness conclusion between the Kansas Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats provides a must-see matchup hoops fans have been dreaming about. Both teams are coached by two of the premier coaches in college basketball, but their reputations couldn't be more different.
Jayhawks head coach Bill Self has transformed his program into a dominant force while avoiding any major NCAA rules violations. Along with winning the 2012 Naismith Men's College Basketball Coach of the Year, he can finish off his great season with his second ever national title. But if you talk to Self he would probably deflect any compliments and attention onto his squad. Kansas was considered an afterthought before the season started but have morphed into one of college basketball’s surprise stories. Its come-from-behind victory over Ohio State should only give it a minor psychological edge. Regardless of the outcome, in the midst of a blatant disrespect of rules and structure in college sports, the Jayhawks have remained one of the last examples of a clean sports program.
The same could not be said for the Jayhawks’ opponent. Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari uses swagger and charisma to keep media and fans glued to every word he says. Calipari has been to two previous Final Fours that were erased because of rules violations. By winning the national title he can finally begin to regain the respect of the basketball community. The Wildcats have the size and skill advantage and are lead by freshman big man Anthony Davis. If the Naismith College Player of the Year can produce another dominant performance in the title game, the Wildcats will be celebrating their first national title since 1998. If Calipari achieves his lifelong dream, hopefully this team will be devoid of any controversy.
Lobo Tournament curse continues, Sweet Sixteen preview
There's no doubt the University of New Mexico basketball team has had great success throughout its history. From conference championships to 30-win seasons, the Lobos have an impressive résumé. But when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, true prosperity has always been out of reach for New Mexico.
It looked like this might finally be the year that curse would be broken. In Thursday's Second Round matchup, the Lobos held off a tough Long Beach State 75-68 to face Louisville on Saturday night.
The first half featured a defensive battle with New Mexico only behind 33-31 and carrying momentum headed into halftime. Despite Drew Gordon injuring his knee early in the game, he returned and had a standout performance with 21 points and 14 rebounds. With Gordon's leadership, New Mexico seemed primed for their its first-ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, but when the second half started, the pressure finally got to the young and inexperienced Lobo backcourt. The Louisville Cardinals capitalized on Lobo turnovers and bad offensive execution to gain a 15-point lead. When the Lobos actually ran plays on the offensive end, they were successful and eventually closed the gap to 53-51 with 1:48 remaining. Louisville's star player Peyton Siva was contained by the Lobo defense but he proved to be the difference by hitting a pass to Gorgui Dieng to extended the Cardinal’s lead by four. Siva also nailed some free throws to give Louisville a conformable 59-53 lead headed into the closing seconds. Gordon did give Lobo fans some hope by hitting a three with 2.9 seconds left, but it was too late as Louisville advanced with the 59-56 victory.
While the Lobos have a lot to be proud of this season, head coach Steve Alford and his team have to feel they let a great opportunity slip away. Alford has lots of young talent to find a true leader to guide the Lobos out of the round of 32 and into competing with top basketball powerhouses. This loss with hurt in the short term, but Lobo fans should feel excitement for a promising future.
As usual, this year's tournament has produced many upsets and busted brackets. With No. 2 seeds Duke and Missouri taking an early plane ride home, there are some refreshing matchups in the Sweet Sixteen.
Kentucky vs. Indiana has the potential to be one of the most memorable games in this year’s tournament. Marquis Teague hasn't let his inexperience affect his performance in the dance so far by having 24 points and 7 assists against Iowa State. Teague's lead the Wildcats to an impressive 87-71 victory and now will face a hot Hoosiers squad. Indiana had an easy time with New Mexico State but faced the dreaded VCU Rams in the second round. The Hoosiers’ Cody Zeller had 16 points and 13 rebounds to help his team survive VCU’s attempt at another run to the Final Four. Many experts and fans probably have Kentucky advancing, but Indiana has been the more battle-tested squad. If Kentucky doesn't bring the intensity, Indiana can spring the upset.
Despite winning back-to-back national titles, Florida doesn't get much national creditability compared to traditional basketball powers. The Gators haven't had the best season and their seven seed proves it, but they have improved their play and even took Kentucky to the limit in the SEC tournament. They handled their first two tournament games with ease but now will face their toughest test against Marquette.
The Golden Eagles have bounced back from their disappointing loss to Louisville with two wins over BYU and the Cinderella story of the regular season, Murray State. Now Marquette must battle a Florida team with a successful tournament track record.
Henderson edges Edgar, West takes All-Star honors
The Ultimate Fighting Championship made its return to the land of the rising sun this past Saturday and delivered an entertaining night of fights featuring knockouts and comebacks. Despite having the shadow of Japanese MMA looming over the event, most fans will have fond memories over the potential fight-of-the-year featuring Frankie Edgar v. Benson Henderson for the Lightweight title.
Edgar has put on many exciting performances as champion but is considered undersized, while Henderson has been on a huge role since his loss against Anthony Pettis in 2010. Once the cage door shut, both men engaged in nonstop action with neither able to have a clear advantage in the first round. Round two featured Henderson scoring a huge up-kick which immediately drew blood on the champion, but like many times before Edgar continued to press forward.
When the final round started many experts and fans had the fight dead even. Henderson may have finished landing punches in the dominate position when the bout ended, but the round was still razor close. Surprisingly, all three judges scored the bout for Henderson and ended the “Edgar Era” in the Lightweight division.
Also shocking has been the support for Edgar to move to the Featherweight division and for Pettis to receive the next title opportunity. While Pettis is an exciting fighter with lots of potential, Edgar deserves his rematch, especially since B.J. Penn and Grey Maynard got their second chance. Other than Edgar no one in the UFC Lightweight division stands out as an immediate title contender. The current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez is the only other fighter deserving as he has been the second-ranked fighter in the division for years. Hopefully UFC President Dana White will see the light and grant Melendez a chance to prove he belongs in the elite tier.
No doubt this year’s edition of the NBA All-Star Game was somewhat overshadowed by the lackluster Slam Dunk Contest and Dwight Howard trade rumors. But the actual game still provided some noteworthy-enough moments to prevent fans from changing the channel to the Oscars. Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant was the focal point for his quest to become the all-time leading scorer in All-Star games. Bryant's 27 points helped the West dominate the East for most of the game until LeBron James caught fire in the fourth. James had 36 points and hit two huge threes to bring his squad within striking distance. But costly turnovers and bad execution in the final minutes allowed the West to escape with a 152-149 victory. Kevin Durant captured the game's MVP with 36 points and seven rebounds.
Lobos make loud statement against UNLV, Linsanity continues
Fans of Lobo basketball have experienced the full gambit of emotions this season; from the overconfidence of destroying inferior non-conference opponents to feeling the despair and fear from two early losses to the UNLV Rebels and San Diego State Aztecs. The end result seemed very much in question but now that New Mexico has avenged both defeats convincingly, the Lobos should be in good shape to try on their dancing shoes come March. This past Wednesday, New Mexico put themselves in position to take firm control of the Mountain West Conference by upsetting No. 15 San Diego 77-67. With the victory, UNM had a chance to prove through a nationally televised game why they belong in the NCAA tournament. UNM only had a single-point lead at half time, but then turned to Lobo senior Drew Gordon to dominate and bully the Rebels in the paint. Along with Gordon's 27 points and 20 rebounds, a suffocating defense allowed the Lobos to outplay and outclass UNLV to a 65-45 victory. For doubters and nonbelievers, perhaps these two wins over nationally ranked opponents will change their minds. While it was a great week for New Mexico, the job is not over as they must finish the season out strong to win the conference. If Gordon’s production remains at this level, look for the Lobos to be a massive favorite in the conference tournament.
Two weeks ago Jeremy Lin was an afterthought in many basketball circles and was about to be cut by the New York Knicks. But with Baron Davis unavailable and Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony hurt, the Knicks were looking deep into the abyss. Fortunately for New York, Lin wasn't just a spark off the bench, he was the missing piece of the puzzle they've been searching for, and the team is playing it’s best ball in years. Along with his scoring, Lin has finally provided leadership and direction to the Knicks offense. His latest test was against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and he passed mostly with flying colors. Despite another game with 7 turnovers, Lin continued his hot shooting with 28 points and added a career-high 14 assists. New Knicks J.R. Smith and Steve Novak teamed up for 29 bench points to defeat Dallas 104-97. New York may have tons of flaws, but with Anthony returning from injury, it might just have the most dangerous offense in the Eastern Conference.
Lesnar retires, Lobos on fire, Giants embarrass America's Team
Brock Lesnar made his long-awaited return to the octagon when he faced top Heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem. UFC President Dana White was certainly happy to see Lesnar return as he's the biggest pay-per-view draw in mixed martial arts. Despite Lesnar's bout with diverticulitis, many critics picked him to win by overwhelming Overeem with his wrestling ability. Shockingly, when Overeem aimed to the body with knees and kicks, that ability disappeared. Eventually, Lesnar crumbled to the ground and allowed the referee to rescue him from the Overeem beatdown. In the post fight interview, Lesnar announced his retirement under pressure from his wife and kids. Despite only having eight professional fights, Lesnar accomplished a lot in his brief tenure in the sport. While professional wrestling fans will wish for Lesnar's return to the WWE, Overeem can now become a major star with American MMA fans with a victory over UFC Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos.
Also in MMA, Jackson's fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone earned his co-main-event spot against Nate Diaz by going 4-0 in 2011. Both men engaged in a war of words through interviews and press conferences before the bout. Then, when the fight started, Diaz’ trash talk seemed to take Cerrone out of his comfort zone. Diaz’ signature boxing frustrated Cerrone and gave Diaz a massive advantage headed into the later rounds. “Cowboy” mounted a decent comeback in Round 2 with huge leg kicks, but Diaz countered with multiple combinations to the head. In Round 3 Diaz continued his striking dominance en route to a 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 unanimous decision. Diaz makes a very convincing case for a title shot but most likely will have another fight against a wrestler in order to become No. 1 contender. As for Cerrone, he has six victories out of his last seven fights and is still a major player in the Lightweight division. If he gets his wish to fight on the UFC Japan card, a victory could put him back in the title mix.
After a heartbreaking overtime loss to Santa Clara, the Lobos have been on a roll, winning nine straight before their New Year’s Eve battle with St. Louis. More than 15,000 witnessed UNM hold off the Billikens for the 64-60 victory. The Billikens kept within reach, but Drew Gordon’s 18 points and 9 rebounds carried the Lobos for their 10th straight win. While UNM may have been a little rocky to start the season, it has huge momentum headed into conference play. The Lobos have a good combination of athleticism, defense and confidence that may lead them to a Mountain West Conference title.
The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants had challenging seasons in 2011. But each team had had one last opportunity to erase the failures of the past and earn an NFC East title and a ticket to the playoffs with a win last night. Many would think with everything on the line during Sunday Night Football, this game would be competitive. Instead the Giants embarrassed the Cowboys and moved into an early 21-0 lead in the first half. The injured Tony Romo engineered a fourth quarter comeback with two touchdowns to close within seven points. But the underrated Eli Manning made the Dallas defense pay and threw a four-yard touchdown to Hakeem Nicks to seal the 34-13 victory and win the division. The Giants earned a wild card home game and will face the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday. Meanwhile, Dallas will search for answers to the many flaws they showed this season. Expect Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones to evaluate everyone’s job, from star players to the coaching staff.
Diaz retires Penn, Ravens escape Cardinals, Steelers hold off Patriots
Despite the UFC 137 main event changes, BJ Penn and Nick Diaz delivered an exciting bout featuring a back and forth, crowd-pleasing battle. In the first round, Penn was very aggressive by getting the better of the striking and momentarily taking Diaz' back. But in the second and third rounds Diaz' conditioning enabled him to give Penn the worst beating of his career. Diaz demonstrated pinpoint accuracy by nailing Penn with lethal combinations to the head and body. Despite Penn bleeding for the first time in his career, he still showed fighting spirit by not allowing the former Strikeforce champion to finish him. But getting beat up by Diaz forced BJ Penn to unexpectedly retire from the sport. No one knows for certain if Penn has truly retired, but if he has, Penn doesn't have anything to be ashamed about. Meanwhile Diaz’ performance was enough to convince UFC President Dana White to grant him a title shot against George St. Pierre. While GSP vs. Diaz will be a money maker for the UFC, Albuquerque fighter Carlos Condit lost his title shot and will be forced to climb the ladder again to regain his spot.
It wasn't all bad news for Albuquerque fighters as Lightweight contender Donald Cerrone destroyed Dennis Siver on the Spike TV prelims. Cerrone has gone 4-0 this year and can make a case to fight for the title. But his main goal is to stay active and now is rumored to face Nate Diaz at UFC 141.
Last Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens went through a nightmare when they got embarrassed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. So when the Ravens welcomed the Arizona Cardinals, many thought Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis would take out their anger on one of the worst teams in the league. Instead, the Cardinals humbled the Ravens defense by taking a 24-6 lead into halftime. But Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin’s seven receptions for 145 yards and running back Ray Rice’s three touchdowns helped fuel a 21-point comeback. The Cardinals tied up the game in the fourth quarter but Flacco’s pass to rookie Torrey Smith set up a Ravens game winning field goal.
Steelers vs. Pats
It's rare to see the New England Patriots get bullied by any team in the NFL. Often Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick push around and frustrate their rivals. But when New England traveled to Pittsburgh, the Steelers turned the tables and dominated the Patriots defense. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made Belichick’s defense look amateur by going 36-50 in the air with two touchdowns. Despite having long offensive drives, New England was unable to finish off their longtime AFC foe. Brady threw a red zone touchdown late in the fourth quarter to cut the lad to six. But a botched onside kick and a safety sealed Pittsburgh's 25-17 victory. With Roethlisberger finally finding his rhythm, the Steelers have recovered from their opening day disaster against the Ravens and look primed for a deep playoff run.
Brewers get beastly, Edgar makes another comeback, Patriots humble Jets
There's no love lost between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams engaged in trash talk throughout the season, which came to a boiling point in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. St. Louis controlled the tempo with David Freese’s three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning. But the Brewers went into their signature “beast mode” and delivered a six-run fifth inning. Prince Fielder's two-run homer, Ryan Braun’s two-run RBI double, along with a Yuniesky Betancourt two-run homer gave the Cardinals pitching nightmares. The 9-6 win was huge for Milwaukee, but the series is far from over as the teams split their season series. Despite barely making the playoffs, the Cardinals still have the pitching advantage and could easily win their home games. But they'll have to find a way to win Game 2 without their best pitcher, Chris Carpenter.
Whoever said real life couldn't mimic Rocky movies has obviously never seen UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar fight before. Edgar fought Grey Maynard on Saturday night for the third time to settle their rivalry. On New Year’s Day of this year, both men fought to a controversial draw that saw Maynard almost knock out Edgar in the first round. Edgar recovered and did enough to convince the judges to rule the fight a draw. Their third encounter shockingly resembled their second fight with Maynard nailing Edgar with a huge uppercut in the first round. Edgar survived and Maynard failed to take advantage. During rounds two and three, Maynard was conservative, allowing Edgar to pull even in the fight. Then during round four, Edgar made Maynard pay for a takedown attempt and finished the fight with a dramatic knockout to retain the title. After two failed attempts, Maynard will have to climb back up the difficult rankings to get another shot at the title. Edgar may get matched up with Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez or fight the Ben Henderson-Clay Guida winner.
Also in MMA, it looks like Anderson Silva maybe seeing Chael Sonnen back in the octagon sooner rather than later. Brian Stann was poised to become breakout fighter of the year with a win over Sonnen. But the 14-month layoff did not bother Sonnen as he dominated Stann with his wrestling, eventually submitting him with an arm-triangle choke. However, the impressive victory was not enough as Sonnen insulted Silva and challenged him to a fight during Super Bowl weekend. Sonnen even put his career on the line if he lost, but with a victory told Silva he had to leave the Middleweight division.
The New York Jets struggles continue as the New England Patriots used their running game to frustrate the Jets defense. Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a breakout performance with a career best 136 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to the 30-21 victory. The Jets were down most of the game but managed to make a compelling comeback from 13 points down in the fourth quarter. But the Patriots used good clock management and sealed the game with a field goal with 1:03 remaining. Jets coach Rex Ryan shouldn't panic, despite losing his third game in a row; but losing one more could send the locker room into disarray.
Locksley finally fired, Jones dominates Jackson, Bills surprise Patriots
Looks like the ongoing nightmare of Lobo Football may finally be coming to an end. After suffering an embarrassing home loss to Sam Houston State 48-45 in overtime and news of a Lobo recruit getting a DWI in a vehicle registered to Mike Locksley, Athletic Director Paul Krebs finally had enough. On Sunday, Krebs finally pulled the plug on the Locksley experiment and announced Defensive Coordinator George Barlow will coach the squad for the rest of the season. Locksley's 2-26 record and off the field issues had fans wishing for the days of former coach Rocky Long. At least under Long, the team appeared in bowl games and was a respected member of the Mountain West Conference. Now Lobo Football may be at its lowest point ever with only 16,313 fans attending the loss to Sam Houston State. When players got news of the firing, they seemed shocked and upset the University did give Locksley a chance to finish the season. But UNM will need to have a short memory as New Mexico State comes into University stadium looking to capture their second victory of the season.
Fans and media thought underdog Rampage Jackson would give Jon Jones the biggest test of his entire career. Instead Jones showed an evolved display of striking which confused and battered Jackson for four rounds. From kicks to spinning back elbows, Jones discouraged and drained the heart of Jackson, enabling him to be the first man to finish Rampage in the UFC. Despite receiving most of the boos from the Denver crowd, Jones remained humble in victory. So Jones will now get ready for perhaps the most personal grudge match in MMA history as former Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter Rashad Evans is next in line for a title shot.
Typically the Buffalo Bills are considered one the bottom feeders in the AFC. So when the Bills had a shot to to stay undefeated and end their 15-game losing streak to the New England Patriots, many thought Buffalo would return to their losing ways. For the first half, that was true as the Patriots took a 21-0 lead. But the Bills defense came through, forcing Tom Brady to throw four interceptions. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continued his rise up the league ranks with two touchdowns, leading his team for a winning field goal in the 34-31 victory. Buffalo needed the victory more than New England and should move to 4-0 against struggling Cincinnati next week. Meanwhile, New England should be fine and will rebound against the newly confident Oakland Raiders.