Octagon reflections

Dave Doyle

LAS VEGAS – An Octagon's worth of observations coming out of UFC 109:

1. What Randy wants, Randy gets: If Randy Couture wants a title shot, he should get one. Sure, one of these days the ageless wonder is finally going to slow down. But he went toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at heavyweight in his first two fights back after a long layoff, and he's now 2-0 since his move to light heavyweight after his effortless win over Mark Coleman. It is an open secret that the UFC's champions from middleweight on up are clamoring for a crack at Couture while he's still a viable headliner. One could make an on-paper case for other fighters at each weight class, but at this stage of his career, if the five-time champion wants one more run at the gold, he has earned the right to call his shot.

2. Walk the walk: If you talk smack, you better be able to back it up. That's exactly what Chael Sonnen did on Saturday night, and in doing so, he is poised to become one of 2010's breakout stars. Sonnen made waves all week by badmouthing everyone from Couture to middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Then Sonnen, a stylistic throwback to Team Quest's glory days, did the job in the cage with a convincing win over super-tough Nate Marquardt. Sonnen made waves again after the fight, saying he would rather fight Vitor Belfort, Silva's next challenger, for the title, instead of Silva, because he considers Belfort a better fighter. While that is open to debate, there's no doubt Sonnen is a credible challenger who provides the 185-pound class a much-needed boost of out-of-the-cage spice.

3. Paulo Thiago is legit … But there's no obvious next match for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout. Thiago (13-1) needs another win or two before being considered a sellable contender to Georges St. Pierre's title. But he has already been matched up with the American Kickboxing Academy's three-headed welterweight roadblock, finishing Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick and losing to Jon Fitch. And the AKA trio's refusal to fight one another is making it increasingly difficult to set up the sort of matches that will separate the pack at 170 pounds. Assuming the winner of March's Fitch-Thiago Alves rematch gets a title shot, perhaps Thiago should face the loser of the match to see who moves up the ladder.

4. End of the road? There should always be a place in the sport of MMA for Frank Trigg. Unfortunately, that place doesn't appear to be the UFC octagon. Trigg returned to the company last year, but has lost a couple steps and suffered a pair of first-round knockouts, the latest being Saturday night's loss to Matt Serra. The veteran Trigg is one of MMA's most eloquent representatives, a thoughtful person who made an excellent color commentator in PRIDE. Hopefully the UFC can find an out-of-the Octagon role for Trigg that makes use of his versatile talents.

5. Get me rewrite: It seemed the book had been written on Melvin Guillard. "The Ultimate Fighter 2" cast member is explosive and exciting, but also sloppy and vulnerable to the choke, variations of which account for all four of his UFC losses. But Guillard finally appears to be getting serious, going to star trainer Greg Jackson's camp in New Mexico. In his first fight under Jackson's tutelage, Guillard looks like he may be ready to live up to his potential after all. Guillard fought a patient fight against Ronys Torres, avoided mistakes and ground out a unanimous decision win.

6. Inauspicious debut: Rolles Gracie has the pedigree, as the nephew of UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie. And he has the right trainers, as Renzo Gracie and Greg Jackson were both in his corner for Saturday night's opening match. But the heavyweight faltered in his debut, basically quitting in the second round against "The Mexicutioner" Joey Beltran when Beltran began to pour it on with his strikes. Gracie had only three prior fights and is clearly a work in progress, and it would seem best to let him gain more experience in smaller promotions before returning to the Octagon.

7. Auspicious debut: On the other hand, Phil Davis shined in his first UFC fight. The 2008 NCAA wrestling champ at 197 pounds from Penn State dominated former WEC light heavyweight champ Brian Stann on the undercard, stifling Stann on the ground to the point he picked up a pair of 30-26 scores in a unanimous decision win. Davis (5-0) obviously has the wrestling skills; with improvement in his finishing ability he could eventually become a contender in a stacked division.

8. And finally … With UFC 109 out of the way, it is worth taking a quick peek back at the past couple months in MMA. To hear some tell it, this was supposed to be a period of gloom and doom for the sport, as a slew of top fighters were felled by injuries and mishaps at the time boxing was undergoing its resurgence. Instead, the past two months featured a slew of solid cards. Strikeforce put on compelling events in both December and January. The WEC had an action-packed card in Sacramento that sets up its biggest fight ever, Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber, in April. And on the heels of a UFC 108 card that delivered in the face of doubts, UFC 109's co-main events also gave fans their money's worth. MMA, now in position for a killer spring and summer as boxing tries to rebound from the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fiasco, showed off its depth as a largely diverse cast of characters stepped up and delivered solid action while the biggest stars were on the sidelines. It bodes well for the sport's long-term health and is something to remember next time we hit an injury-plagued stretch.

  • Giants finally release Josh Brown, John Mara cites team's 'misguided' actions

    Brown was left home from the Giants’ game against the Los Angeles Rams in London in Week 7 and was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by the NFL, granting the team a roster spot to replace him. Giants co-owner John Mara explained (via ESPN) why the team released Brown now and not when the allegations of abuse first surfaced, or after the shocking documents in which Brown admitted he abused his wife were released by the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Bruins' David Backes to miss at least 2 games after elbow surgery

    The injuries affecting the Boston Bruins isn’t only limited to their crease. Aside from being without their top two goaltenders they were also missing Frank Vatrano, Kevan Miller and David Backes. Backes is the newest member of the Bruins’ injured list and his situation was clarified a bit by the team on Wednesday morning.

    Puck Daddy
  • Kyle Schwarber shows why he's a freak of nature who can do some World Series damage for the Cubs

    Kyle Schwarber is a freak of nature, a hitter with the hand-eye coordination, explosiveness and guts to do what should be impossible. Now you know why the Cubs always believed Schwarber could help get them that championship parade down Michigan Avenue — and how the Cleveland Indians won’t just fade into history’s background as The Other Team. “No, not right now,” Schwarber said.

    Yahoo Sports
  • Experienced Cup drivers limited to 17 Xfinity and Truck Series races a year starting in 2017

    Kyle Busch will only be able to make 10 Xfinity Series starts in 2017. A rule limiting Sprint Cup drivers in NASCAR’s No. 2 and No. 3 series is official. NASCAR said Wednesday that Cup drivers with five years full-time experience in the series will be limited to 10 Xfinity races and seven Camping World Truck Series races a season starting in 2017.

    From The Marbles
  • Lakers shoot down Rockets to launch new era

    The new-look Los Angeles Lakers, with Kobe Bryant retired and coach Luke Walton at the helm, opened their NBA season with a 120-114 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to score 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. D'Angelo Russell scored 20 points and Julius Randle added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who overcame James Harden's 34 points and career-high 17 assists for Houston -- who lost in former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's first game in charge of the Rockets.

  • David Toms Enjoying His Transition to Champions Tour

    You should make a note that Sonya Toms, wife of golfer David Toms, will celebrate her birthday on Jan. 4. "The nice thing is, I don’t forget her birthday," David said Wednesday on the eve of the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. Since he won 13 tournaments, including the 2001 PGA Championship, they were frequent Kapalua visitors.

  • Man United beats City in EFL Cup Manchester derby, easing pressure on Mourinho

    Juan Mata scored the winning goal for Manchester United in the 54th minute. For an October game in the lamentably irrelevant League Cup, now for some reason renamed as the English Football League Cup, this one actually mattered. Because it was a Manchester derby, of course.

    FC Yahoo
  • Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly disappointed in AD's vote of confidence

    Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday he was disappointed that athletic director Jack Swarbrick had to give him a vote of confidence last Friday. Notre Dame started the season ranked in the top 10, but are now 2-5 coming off a bye week and the groans about the coaching situation have been persistent. “Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Swarbrick said.

    Dr. Saturday
  • Tim Tebow answered Stephen A. Smith's dumb question with a riveting inspirational speech

    Hate on Tim Tebow all you want, but there’s no denying he’s one of the most motivational guys in sports — period. On Tuesday he appeared with Stephen A. Smith on First Take and dropped the best speech you’ll hear all week. When he was criticized for taking a long shot at making an MLB roster, Tebow dropped the hammer.

    SB Nation
  • Don't panic, fantasy hockey owners!

    Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski offers early fantasy hockey advice including a Maple Leafs forward to grab off the waiver wire and a goalie to ship out while the going is good.

    Yahoo Sports Videos
  • Rangers storm back, crush Bruins

    For the first half of Wednesday’s game in New York, everything was going pretty great for the Boston Bruins. They not only had a two-goal lead, but rookie goalie Zane McIntyre was playing extremely well in his first NHL start as he filled in for injured veterans Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. And then everything kind of fell apart for him and the Bruins defense. The Rangers stormed back for five consecutive goals on their way to a 5-2 win, handing the Bruins their fourth loss in seven games to start the season, and their second lopsided loss in a row. This game was always going to be a struggle for Boston given the injury situation both in goal and up front (David Backes was also sidelined for

  • Kyle Schwarber added to Cubs' World Series roster

    For a team that’s supposed to be cursed, everything seems to be coming up in the Chicago Cubs’ favor right now. The Cubs will not only enter their first World Series in 71 years as the overwhelming favorite, but they’ll also do so with a player who was expected to miss the entire season. Joe Maddon then said Kyle Schwarber would be the team’s DH in Game 1. Relief pitcher Rob Zastryzny who hadn’t appeared thus far for the Cubs this postseason.

    Big League Stew
  • Why Tony Ferguson doesn't care for UFC gold: 'Belt is tarnished'

    Tony Ferguson continues to rack up wins in the UFC, and he keeps getting passed over for title shots. Tony Ferguson may be the most underrated, underappreciated fighter in the UFC. Six of his last eight wins have come by finish, and he’s bested a series of elite opponents, including Edson Barboza and Josh Thomson.

    Yahoo Sports
  • New starter Dennis Schröder signs a multi-year extension with the Atlanta Hawks

    The Atlanta Hawks did as they had to. Fourth-year guard Dennis Schröder was signed to a four-year, $70 million contract extension on Wednesday, ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe were the first to break the news. The move came on the eve of Schröder’s debut as a (hoped-for) season-long starter as Atlanta starting point guard, with the Hawks opening their 2016-17 campaign at home against Washington on Thursday night.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Rory McIlroy: No-cut rule helped Tiger Woods win so many WGCs

    At the pinnacle of his career, Tiger Woods dominated the World Golf Championships, winning an incredible 18 of them from 1999-2013. No other player is even remotely close to that tally, with Dustin Johnson and Geoff Ogilvy a distant T-2 with three each. Rory McIlroy, who has two WGCs to his name, said Wednesday ahead of this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions that Woods was a beneficiary of the no-cut nature of the tournaments.

    Devil Ball Golf
  • EFL Cup QF draw: Man United-West Ham; Arsenal-Saints in all-PL ties

    Following the conclusion of Wednesday’s Manchester derby in the fourth round of the 2016-17 EFL Cup, the draw for the quarterfinal round presented a pair of all-Premier League clashes. Manchester United will take on West Ham United at Old Trafford, while Arsenal will welcome Southampton to the Emirates Stadium. All quarterfinal fixtures will be played the week commencing Nov. 28. As for the other two matchups, Liverpool host Leeds United at Anfield, and Hull City will face one of the three clubs they replaced in the PL this season, recently relegated Newcastle United, at the KCOM Stadium. Full EFL Cup quarterfinal draw Liverpool vs. Leeds United Manchester United vs. West Ham Hull City vs. Newcastle

  • Why Ty Montgomery isn’t RB eligible on Yahoo (for now)

    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery pushes Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos away as he carries the ball. There have been numerous tweets and questions about whether Ty Montgomery would become eligible at running back in Yahoo Fantasy after getting a chance to line up in the backfield after a rash of injuries for the Green Bay Packers. After much consideration, Yahoo Fantasy Sports has decided to leave Montgomery as receiver only at this time.

    Roto Arcade
  • Welcome to the Tim Tebow baseball and PR Experience

    In the last seven days, I've talked to a handful of Mets insiders, none of whom believe Tim Tebow will be with the team next spring in Port St. Lucie. I've heard several different reasons behind their thinking. But, in the end, everyone agreed that -- if he's still with the organization -- he's more likely to show up in St. Lucie when minor-league camp starts, as opposed to when big leaguers arrive in February. This is good news ... if you ask me. It's nothing against Tebow, who has every right to pursue a career in baseball. It's just, the Mets have real goals, and real business at hand, as they try to right their ship and get back to the World Series. I expect Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah

  • Unhappy 49ers fan edits Trent Baalke's Wikipedia page

    The San Francisco 49ers might be the worst team in the NFL. Yes, the Cleveland Browns are winless, but taking a glance at the 49ers roster, there’s not a lot there. As The Mercury-News discovered on Monday, someone did some … creative editing to Baalke’s Wikipedia page.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Jonathan Bernier exits Ducks game at Sharks with upper-body injury

    Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonathan Bernier exited his team’s Tuesday game against the San Jose Sharks with an upper body injury. It’s unclear when exactly Bernier was hurt. It was just the second game for Bernier with his new team this season.

    Puck Daddy
  • Column: Should NHRA get with the times to grow sport?

    Drag racing has been one of the biggest motorsport passions of my life. Ever since the first time I went to the now-defunct U.S. 30 Dragstrip in northwest Indiana – with the famous loud and echoing radio liner, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, at beautiful U.S. 30 Dragstrip, where the GREAT ONES Runnnnnnn!” – in the early 1970s, I’ve been a big fan of the quarter-mile. (By the way, for those in the Midwest who remember U.S. 30, which closed nearly 30 years ago, efforts are under way to bring it back. But I digress.) As a reporter, I’ve covered drag racing since the early 1980s. I still get as excited today following the sport as I did back then. But … and you probably figured a but was coming. While

  • Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields turning pro

    Claressa Shields celebrates after winning her second Olympic gold medal. There will be no third gold medal for Claressa Shields. The only American to win a boxing gold medal since Andre Ward in 2004 is turning professional and will make her pro debut on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas on the undercard of the Ward-Sergey Kovalev pay-per-view show.

    Yahoo Sports
  • The Oilers are off to their best start since the Gretzky era

    The Edmonton Oilers just keep on winning. Thanks to their 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, the Oilers are now 6-1-0 through their first seven games, have the best record in the Western Conference, and the second best record in the NHL behind only the Montreal Canadiens. To find the last time the Oilers won six of their first seven games, you have to go all the way back to the 1985-86 season when Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey still played for them and their dynasty was just starting to take shape. Their best start since then was a 5-1-1 start during the 2000-01 season. The recipe on Wednesday was similar to the one we have seen from the Oilers

  • It’s time: Russell Westbrook looks to fill void after Durant’s exit

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — There were few indications before August that Russell Westbrook would be so willing to be the hero downtrodden Thunder fans needed. For years, the sometimes combustible Westbrook toiled in Kevin Durant‘s shadow. He often was viewed as the talented, selfish player who was as likely to get in Durant’s way as he was to make a winning play. His flashy style seemed at odds with small-market Oklahoma City so when Durant, who seemingly was a better fit in OKC, left for rival Golden State, fear that Westbrook would bolt for a larger market increased. He didn’t. He chose to re-sign with the Thunder and now that he has answered the call, it’s time to deliver. “We know a few things

  • The Dr. Saturday Podcast: The College Football Rankings are coming

    Will Michigan remain undefeated after playing reeling rival Michigan State. In this week’s edition of the rankings we wonder if Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings will mimic the AP poll. As always, you can listen to the podcast in the player below or via iTunes where you can subscribe right here.

    Dr. Saturday