After a short hiatus (goddamn midterms), we’re back!
Another week, another endless deluge of sports stories to wade through. Fear not dear readers, we’ve got you covered. Jump around with us in The Huddle for Week 5 of our coverage of all things sports.
Third Time’s the Charm
Ten months ago, Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard stepped into the cage with each other for the second time, with Maynard having prevailed over Edgar in their first bout in 2008 (that being Edgar’s first and only professional loss). The second time around, Maynard came out guns-loaded for the lightweight champ, and managed to pummel Edgar to near-death in the first round—Edgar was bloodied up, and knocked down three times in those five minutes. But in living up to his old-as-f*ck, never-say-die, please-no-more-sequels hero, Edgar became the only fighter in UFC history to survive a three-knockdown round; and what’s more, he eventually earned a draw in the fight itself.
That draw necessitated the third matchup between the pair of #1 and #2 ranked lightweights in the world, which went down on October 8th at UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard 3. As with their last tilt, the lightweight belt was on the line. Both fighters are extremely well-rounded, so going into the fight few things could be considered “givens” regarding how it would unfold; even fewer people could have predicted that the first round would play out almost identically to their last fight:
By the end of the round Maynard looked as though he had learned from his last fight’s mistakes and let up on Edgar, electing to conserve energy and wait for big shots to put the little New Jerseyan (New Jerseyite?) away, rather than pepper him to exhaustion.
Unfortunately for “The Bully,” that tactic actually allowed Edgar to regain his own wits and recover enough to win rounds two and three (despite looking like this). With unparalleled quickness and head movement, the champ was able to move in and out of the pocket mostly unscathed in those rounds, putting together lethal combinations with his hands, and a few kicks for good measure.
Those combinations obviously took their toll on Maynard, setting up one hell of a fourth round by the champ:
With the win, the indomitable Edgar avenges the one loss on his record, and makes a case for being considered amongst the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. Sadly it also ends what we consider to be one of the greatest fight trilogies of all time, right up there with Randy Couture/Chuck Liddell, and just a ways behind Muhammed Ali/Joe Frazier, and of course, Mickey Ward/Arturo Gatti.
The champ can now wait patiently for his next challenger, who will likely be the winner of the upcoming Ben “Smooth” Henderson and Clay Guida matchup at the November UFC on Fox card.
In disappointing news for fight fans, the October 29th UFC 137 card took a huge hit as defending welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has pulled out of his main event title fight against Carlos Condit. St. Pierre cited a moderate strain to his left MCL and a pulled right hamstring as the reasons for his decision to bow out of the fight (at least we think that’s what he said in that crazy accent):
Rather than pull up another fighter to take on Condit in St. Pierre’s stead, UFC President Dana White has elected to remove Condit from the card altogether, allowing him to retain his title shot whenever GSP is ready to return to action. The scheduled bout between Nick Diaz and BJ Penn will now serve as the main event of UFC 137.
Highlight of the Week:
Following his dominant second round victory over Brian Stann, Chael Sonnen tells Anderson Silva how it is.
Send in the Clowns
The 2011-2012 NHL season got underway on October 6th, and since then several notable stories have emerged:
1) Whoever made the schedule is crazy. Through the first seven days of play, Pittsburgh played 5 games, Toronto (the supposed “centre of the universe” in hockey) played just 2 games (with a 7-day layoff after the second game), and San Jose only played 1. Furthermore, of the first 46 NHL games played, only 4 started later than 6:00PM EST. Considering 8 NHL teams play in the Pacific and Mountain time zones (Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary), this seems very out of place. Go figure.
2) The Avalanche are rolling (no pun intended). Despite being widely predicted as more of a lottery-team than a playoff contender, the Avs managed to pull off a stunning 5-0 record on their first roadtrip of the season, to sit atop the Western Conference standings as of writing. A 1-0 win in Beantown showed they can get it done defensively and in net, while a 7-1 drubbing of the Senators in Ottawa proved their ability to light the lamp. And no, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have not come out of retirement.
3) Washington’s offseason changes are paying off. Through their first five games of the season, the Caps have a perfect 5-0 record. They’re getting scoring from their top-end forwards (Nicklas Backstrom leads the way with 6 points, while Alex Semin has come up with 5 himself), scoring from their defense (Dennis Wideman has already amassed 2 goals and 3 assists alone), and Tomas Vokoun is living up to his hype with a glimmering 1.98 GAA and .935 save percentage. About the only thing lacking is scoring from Alex Ovechkin—he’s only put up 1 goal and 2 assists thus far this season.
4) Aaron Asham is a clown.
Good news also came to the Pittsburgh Penguins last week as Sidney Crosby was finally cleared for contact, although a timetable for his return to game action is still undetermined. The news for the Vancouver Canucks was even better as super-center Ryan Kesler returned to the ice on Tuesday night against the Rangers. With a seemingly endless list of injuries filling NHL headlines every week, it’s good to see two of the best that were relegated to the sidelines making recoveries.
Speaking of good things to see…
Highlight of the Week:
Marty Brodeur: They don’t call him the best for nothing. After making an unbelievable BK paddy-stacker save, Marty immediately upstages himself by diving with his blocker (sans stick) to make the next stop.
Week Six: The Cheese (Still) Heads the Pack
Winning six games in row in the NFL is not an easy task. Winning six games in a row to start the season after winning the Super Bowl… now that’s impressive. The Green Bay Packers have done just that, and leading the way is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Super Bowl XLV MVP leads the league in passer rating (122.4), touchdowns (17), completion percentage (70.2), and yards per pass attempt (9.76), and is third in passing yards (2031); basically, in a league full of mere mortals, Rodgers is friggin’ Superman.
Also atop the league’s power rankings (surprise surprise) are Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, who are 5-1 following their Sunday afternoon victory over the Cowboys, 20-16. While they’ll take the win, the outcome marked the first time in 14 regular season games dating back to last season that the Pats failed to crack the 30-point barrier. I guess when you’re the league’s best team for the better part of a decade, you can worry about things like “winning by too little.”
The Sheer Entertainment-Value Highlight of the Week this week has to go to the aftermath of the San Francisco 49ers-Detroit Lions game. In the most unpredictable of 5-0 (Lions) vs. 4-1 matchups, the game came down to the wire, with the Lions eventually being unable to lateral their way to the tying touchdown. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was obviously elated with his team’s win over their previously-undefeated opponents, and was showing it as he ran toward Lions coach Jim Schwartz:
Over/Under on the number of punches thrown had officials let the Battle of Coach Jims play out: 2. We’re taking the under.
Real Highlight of the Week:
Dallas Clark shows us that leaning, one-handed, back-of-the-end-zone catches aren’t that hard to do.
“Mr. Stern, Suh, Would It Be Alright If We Jus’ Played Some Basketball On This Here Plantation, Suh?”
While multi-million dollar NBA players won’t find any real sympathy from us as modern-day slaves, this week Bryant Gumbel (host of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”) stirred the pot by calling David Stern a “plantation owner” who controls the players. The only real merit in his comments stems from the fact that historically exploitative race relations remain a mostly-unaddressed issue between the mostly-white NBA owners/executives and the mostly-black players. And while we mostly just want to see balls flying again (that came out wrong), more off-the-court race equality throughout the league would stand to benefit everyone in the long run.
As far as flying balls go though, things aren’t looking too good just yet: last week Stern canceled the first two weeks of the season, with more games (including the traditional Christmas day games) likely to get the axe if a deal isn’t reached shortly.
In a reaction to these developments, a few NBA players took to the interweb to consider other occupational options if basketball will not be played this fall and beyond. LeBron James, aka “75-Cent” (he doesn’t have a fourth quarter) joked over Twitter with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll about trying out for the NFL. In a scenario much more likely to become true, Orlando Magic forward Brandon Bass started his quest toward rap superstardom by releasing the video for his soon-to-be-platinum hit “Billion Dollar Dreams”:
Which leads us to the ever important question…
Highlight of the Week:
Yup, even without any NBA games being played, Rajon Rondo managed to squeeze in a one-handed, no-look, over-the-head alley-oop pass.
Say It Ain’t So
The eyes of the sports world landed squarely on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon as we learned of the tragic death of IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon, following an absolutely horrific crash at the IZOD IndyCar World Championship:
The 33-year-old Englishman was a former two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, with his second victory coming a mere 4 and 1/2 months ago. Wheldon is survived by his wife Susie, son Sebastian aged 2, and son Oliver aged 7 months. Our condolences go out to the whole Wheldon family.