Tagged in: Las Vegas

Broncos are expecting same old Raiders even without Gruden

Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller still sees the Las Vegas Raiders as Jon Gruden’s team even after their rival’s iconic coach resigned in disgrace.

While acknowledging “how they call the game will definitely change because they have a new play caller,” Miller insisted, “what they do is what they do.”

“They’re not going to come out here and be an option team. They’re not just going to come out here and change their whole identity because Gruden’s gone,” Miller argued. “They’re still going to do some of the things that they do well. We just don’t know when they will do it.

“To be honest, that’s really every week that we go out there,” Miller added. “We really don’t know what the other team is going to present.”

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Longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia makes his debut as the Raiders’ interim head coach Sunday, with offensive coordinator Greg Olson taking over play-calling duties in a matchup pitting 3-2 teams who are seeking their first victory in October.

“No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation, no one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances,” said Bisaccia, whose first NFL job was under Gruden in 2002, when he was hired as special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“But it’s an incredible opportunity, not only for me but for all the other coaches to see what we can do with this adversity, see what we can do with this challenge.”

Olson’s voice isn’t an unfamiliar one to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

“My rookie year he called plays,” Carr said. “I’ve heard his voice through the headset. I know how he calls the game and I know how he thinks. We’re in the same room. Every conversation I had with coach Gruden, I had with Oly this whole time.

“It’s not going to be anything crazy new but there are philosophies that some people have. So, I don’t want to give Oly’s secrets away, but could things be different? Yes. Could things be similar? Yes, absolutely.”

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Anthony Smith dominates light heavyweight bout with first-round submission of Ryan Spann

Anthony Smith stated two years ago after a title loss to all-time great Jon Jones that maybe he’d never get another opportunity to defeat Jones.

But that was OK, Smith said, because he’d simply outlast Jones — and the rest of the UFC light heavyweight division.

Those comments have aged pretty well.

Smith took out another up-and-comer Saturday night, submitting Ryan Spann with a rear-naked choke at 3:47 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Smith dropped Spann twice with punches and then finished the job on the ground with his grappling acumen in an outstanding performance.

Smith has five first-round finishes since 2018, tied with Vicente Luque for the most in the UFC during that stretch, per ESPN Stats & Info.

“He’s got the skills,” Smith said in his postfight interview. “I think I’m better.” After referee Herb Dean stopped the fight following Spann’s tap, Smith started jawing at Spann.

The two men had to be separated by security and their teams. Smith took umbrage with some of the trash talk coming from Spann and his team leading up to this fight. But cooler heads prevailed and the two ended up embracing and exchanging pleasantries.

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Smith stated after the bout he wants another streaking prospect next: Aleksandar Rakic. The two fought in August 2020 with Rakic winning by unanimous decision.

“He’s just sitting around,” Smith said. “He’s not next in line for the title. Either I want that fight or I skip it.”

Rakic tweeted seconds later that he was free in December. To that, Smith responded: “Merry Christmas to me.”

Smith clipped Spann with a left hand behind the ear that dropped him early in the first round during an exchange.

Spann was able to get back to his feet after escaping an armbar attempt.

When the two got into another striking exchange, Smith was able to land a big left followed by a right hand that hurt Spann. Another right put Spann down; Smith took his back in a scramble and then cinched in the choke that ended things.

Smith (36-16) has won three consecutive — all by finish — and was coming off a first-round TKO victory over prospect Jimmy Crute.

The Nebraska native lost to Jones, who has since vacated the belt and left the division, at UFC 235 in March 2019. He is 4-2 since then. Smith, 33, has been very solid since moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight in 2018, going 7-3 with wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, as well as former multiple-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson.

Spann (19-7) was seeking his first real signature win against a top light heavyweight. The Texas resident was coming off a first-round TKO win over Misha Cirkunov in March.

Spann, 30, has won nine of his last 11 fights and is a former LFA light heavyweight champion.

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Baltimore Ravens fear RB Gus Edwards, CB Marcus Peters have torn ACLs

The Baltimore Ravens fear they lost running back Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters to season-ending knee injuries Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Ravens think Edwards and Peters tore their ACLs during Thursday’s practice, sources told Schefter. Baltimore wasn’t practicing in full pads Thursday. Both players are undergoing testing to confirm the initial diagnoses.

This continues a horrid run of injuries for Baltimore and delivers a major blow to the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations.

Edwards becomes the third running back to suffer a season-ending injury in a span of 12 days. J.K. Dobbins tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason finale Aug. 28, and Justice Hill hurt an Achilles tendon Sept. 9.

Ty’Son Williams, a practice player from a year ago who doesn’t have an NFL carry, becomes the Ravens’ lead back. The other two running backs on the roster –Trenton Cannon and Le’Veon Bell (practice squad) — only started practicing with the Ravens on Wednesday.

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The Ravens are also signing free-agent running back Devonta Freeman to their practice squad on Thursday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Schefter.

It is expected that Freeman will be promoted to the active roster.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown took to Twitter to wish the best for their injured teammates.

The Ravens have had the NFL’s most dominant ground attack, leading the league in rushing the past two campaigns. Dobbins and Edwards totaled 1,528 yards rushing last season, which accounted for 81% of the output by Baltimore running backs. Edwards signed a three-year, $12.38 million deal in June that included $8 million in guaranteed money.

The loss of Peters would represent the most significant injury to the defense this year. The Ravens have depth at cornerback, but it will be difficult to replace Peters’ playmaking ability. His 31 interceptions leads the NFL since he entered the league in 2015.

Since Peters was traded to Baltimore in Week 9 of 2019, the Ravens have permitted the fewest yards per pass attempt (6.1) and tied for the second-fewest touchdown passes allowed (31), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Anthony Averett, a fourth-round pick in 2018, would be a candidate to replace Peters and start opposite Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens open the season at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.

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Dustin Poirier’s next fight will be against Nate Diaz

After a rare off weekend in the world of UFC, action returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday as middleweights Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum each try to come back from losses to Robert Whittaker in their most recent fights.

While it would seem to be more pressing for Gastelum, who has lost four out of five — albeit versus the top fighters in the division — when it comes to factors including age and urgency, whether Cannonier’s UFC journey will ever include a title shot could well hinge on winning this fight.

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Mark O. Madsen has similarly lofty aspirations in the lightweight division, and he steps into Saturday’s co-main event — looking to move his record in the UFC to 3-0 — against 15-year UFC veteran Clay Guida.

As he looks to climb the ranks in a deep 155-pound division, a win over a familiar face will certainly help, but how much?

Dustin Poirier is already there, sitting as the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division. Poirier was there before he elected to fight Conor McGregor for the third time, which seemingly set him up for a championship fight against Charles Oliveira.

But buzz is starting to build around another high-profile, non-title opponent for Poirier — Nate Diaz. Could Poirier once again forego a title shot?

Yair Rodriguez, on the other hand, seems supremely focused on getting himself a title shot in the featherweight division.

His previously scheduled bout against Max Holloway is still searching for a new date later in the year, but after almost two years out of the Octagon, would a win over the former UFC featherweight champ put Rodriguez at the top of the list to challenge the winner of Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega?

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Rashod Bateman to undergo groin surgery, may miss Baltimore Ravens’ season opener on Monday Night Football

Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Rashod Bateman will have surgery on his groin this week and could miss the start of the season.

“He’ll be back from that sometime in September,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday’s practice. “I think that’s pretty good news.”

Bateman’s surgery likely jeopardizes his availability for the Ravens’ season opener on Sept. 13, when they play at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. Baltimore then hosts the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 (Sept. 19) before traveling to face the Detroit Lions in Week 3 (Sept. 26).

Bateman tweeted later Thursday that he will “be back soon.”

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Bateman, who was projected to be among Lamar Jackson’s top three wide receivers, injured his right groin Tuesday while making a cut against cornerback Marcus Peters in a one-on-one drill.

Harbaugh stated Wednesday that Bateman was expected to miss “a number of weeks.”

The No. 27 overall pick, Bateman was one of the biggest offseason additions to a Ravens receiver group that totaled the fewest catches (137), receiving yards (1,729) and first downs (83) in the NFL last season.

Bateman is the fourth Baltimore wide receiver to miss multiple practices leading up to Saturday’s preseason opener versus the New Orleans Saints, joining Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (hamstring), Miles Boykin (hamstring) and Deon Cain (undisclosed). Brown, who hasn’t practiced since July 29, has been running off to the side and appears to be close to returning.

The Ravens’ only three healthy wide receivers who have caught a pass in the regular season are Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Watkins is the only one with more than 20 career receptions.

Bateman had no history of injuries in his three seasons at Minnesota, where he played every game in 2018 and 2019 before opting out after five games last campaign.

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Nick Diaz joins brother Nate back in UFC, agrees to September bout vs. Robbie Lawler in Las Vegas

Nick Diaz is formally returning to the UFC.

According to his longtime attorney, Ross Goodman, Diaz, 37, signed a fight agreement Tuesday to face Robbie Lawler at UFC 266 on Sept. 25 in Las Vegas.

Lawler has not signed his agreement yet, sources told ESPN, but wants the fight, and is expected to sign his side shortly. The non-title fight is expected to be five rounds, and will be on the main portion of the pay-per-view card.

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Diaz (26-9) is the older brother of UFC star Nate Diaz, and a pioneer in mixed martial arts.

He is a former Strikeforce welterweight champion, and was involved in big fights with the UFC versus B.J. Penn, Carlos Condit, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva from 2011 to 2015.

In September 2015, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Diaz for five years after he tested positive for marijuana metabolites after his fight versus Silva in UFC 183. It was his third marijuana-related offense in the state of Nevada, which led to the harsh punishment.

Ironically, the NSAC voted just last week in favor of no longer disciplining combat sports athletes for marijuana use.

Diaz and Lawler have a history that runs back to 2004. They met on the undercard of UFC 47. Diaz won via knockout in a highly entertaining contest.

Lawler (28-15) is a former UFC welterweight champion. He won the 170-pound title by defeating Johny Hendricks in 2014 and defended it twice in instant classics versus Rory MacDonald and Condit.

The 39-year-old has dropped his past four bouts, all against very high-level competition.

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Team USA falls to 0-2 in Olympic exhibitions after loss to Australia

Team USA might indeed win its fourth successive Olympic gold next month in Tokyo. But if they do, it will be a story of overcoming adversity.

The Americans lost their second consecutive exhibition Monday, this time bested by Australia 91-83 in Las Vegas. Dating to the 2019 World Cup, where they concluded seventh, Team USA has lost four of their past five matches.

It also has lost two in a row now to Australia, a team expected to contend for the gold in Japan.

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It was a better showing than the loss to Nigeria on Saturday but just reading those words is a little mind-boggling considering the pedigree of this roster and coaching staff. Damian Lillard, who had 22 points, and Kevin Durant, who had 17 points, definitely looked more like All-Stars. But in the end, they weren’t able to deliver clutch shots.

The final indignity came with one minute to play and the U.S. down five as Jayson Tatum tossed up an air ball on a corner 3-point try. It was better than the next possession, which resulted in a turnover.

The execution differential between the teams was glaring.

Over and over and over the Aussies were able to throw passes into the middle to players either wide open from great cuts or in an advantageous matchup.

Maybe it’s a little early in this process for heavy game planning but it was clear that Australia felt it could take advantage of a relatively small U.S. roster.

Patty Mills, who has long been a star for his national team, had 22 points. Joe Ingles had 17 and the Aussies concluded shooting 53% for the game.

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Johnathan Abram’s goal is to play under control for Las Vegas Raiders

First, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Karl Joseph. Then they used a second-round draft pick on Trevon Moehrig. Tyree Gillespie came in the fourth round.

Surely, bringing in three new safeties had to send a message to incumbent starter Johnathan Abram, right? Meh …

“It doesn’t,” insisted Abram, a first-round draft pick in 2019, after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “Only thing it does is bring us together. As soon as those guys got drafted, as soon as Karl got signed back, I reached out to everybody. I told them, ‘It’s time to go to work.’

“Each guy’s going to push each other. We’re all going to come out every single day and just be our best. Day in and day out. Being a pro … if everybody does that, it’s going to make the room entirely better.”

And it should improve Abram’s oft-boom or bust, heat-seeking-missile style.

For one thing, Abram is settling in at a new position as a box safety in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s heavy Cover-3 scheme.

“It’s interesting going from what we went to last year, playing a lot of split-safety, playing high,” Abram said. “So this is going to be more suitable to my talents and my strengths.”

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For another, Abram realizes he needs to slow down a tad and not always go for the kill shot, lest he take out a teammate — which has happened on occasion — or himself — yeah, that’s happened, too.

Like his rookie campaign, when he played all of one half of the 2019 season opener due to a self-inflicted shoulder injury.

“Last offseason was a struggle for me coming off the shoulder injury,” he said. “So this year I stayed around the facility a lot … I’m more than 100 percent, honestly. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.

“This year, [the goal is] just being more consistent. Playing under control. Not really taking that many wild hits, getting myself knocked out of the game [and] hurting my own body … being consistent, being disciplined and constantly just doing my job. Filling my grade sheet with ‘plusses’ every day. Then every Sunday, I think my game will blossom.”

It’s only OTAs, and they are voluntary, but 83 of the 89 players on the Raiders’ current roster were practicing on Wednesday, with running back Josh Jacobs, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, tight end Derek Carrier, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and rookie linebacker/safety Divine Deablo not participating.

But there was Abram, taking on a leadership role with the defensive backs on a far side of the field.

And as draft classmate Clelin Ferrell noted, he has seen Abram focusing on “making it a special year” for both himself and the Raiders.

“All of us, we’re tired of losing,” Ferrell said. “Seeing his discipline, he’ll bring the guys along on the back end and the way he’s trying to push the fact that we’ve really got to learn this defense, so we can just go out there and play.”

Abram had two interceptions last season. He was also criticized for his inconsistent ball skills and for being badly out of position on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 22-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Travis Kelce in the final minute of the Raiders’ loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 22.

Still, as former Raiders defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil stated last year, it is easier to get a player to slow down than to get him to speed up.

Now, Abram has a new position coach in 21-year coaching veteran Ron Milus.

And Abram also has a couple of veterans in the secondary to lean on in new cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., who has played for Bradley, and a one-time roommate in Joseph. Remember, Abram and Joseph started one match together and now Joseph is entering his sixth season.

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Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder make third fight in rivalry official

WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have both signed contracts for the third fight in their heavyweight rivalry.

During the Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez telecast on ESPN on Saturday, Fury stated that he had signed his contract. Wilder has also completed his side of the deal, according to boxing manager Shelly Finkel.

The fight will be on July 24, sources told ESPN. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will host the bout, Top Rank’s Bob Arum told ESPN’s Kel Dansby.

Fury will get 60% of the purse to 40% for Wilder, sources told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel.

The agreement comes six days after an independent arbitrator ruled that Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) was legally obligated for a third fight with Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs).

The arbitrator’s ruling derailed negotiations between Fury and Anthony Joshua for an undisputed title fight in Saudi Arabia this summer. Both sides were on the verge of finalizing a deal before Monday’s arbitration.

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Discussions were limited regarding a potential “step-aside” fee to Wilder to make Fury-Joshua possible.

The World Boxing Organization (WBO) has ordered Joshua to defend his heavyweight title against mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk.

Prior to the first fight in 2018 that ended in a draw, Wilder had knocked out all his previous adversaries. Fury got off the canvas in the 12th round to escape his first defeat. In the 2020 rematch, Fury battered Wilder for a seventh-round TKO victory. Neither fighter has fought since the fight.

Fury first fought Wilder, who is now 35, in 2018 and took the WBC title from him in a rematch in February 2020 with a seventh-round stoppage.

“Shall we do it and put him out of his misery? Crack the other side of his skull? Give him another shoulder injury, another bicep injury, a leg injury… the whole lot,” Fury said in a video posted by Top Rank Boxing.

“Wilder, contract’s signed, you’re getting smashed… You’re getting knocked out, end of, one round, you’re going. I’ve got your soul, your mojo, everything, I own you.”

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Robert Whittaker beats Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision in Las Vegas

Robert Whittaker doesn’t create a lot of headlines. He doesn’t talk any trash. Never has he made a spectacle of himself.

But quietly, Whittaker has built a résumé that rivals some of the most impressive in mixed martial arts.

The former UFC middleweight champion put forth another brilliant performance Saturday, defeating Kelvin Gastelum by one-sided unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Whittaker beautifully mixed up his striking over all five rounds, landing jabs, straight rights, left hooks, leg kicks and even a front kick to Gastelum’s jaw in the final frame. It was a sublime showcase against another one of the top middleweight fighters in the world.

“I’m feeling on top of the world,” Whittaker said. “Obviously, this was a very hard fight. A lot of people were selling Kelvin short. … He’s one of the best fighters in the division. That was a very tough fight.”

ESPN had Whittaker ranked No. 2 in the world at middleweight coming in. This victory should put him in line for a shot at champion Israel Adesanya, who beat him for the belt two years ago.

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“Nothing but respect,” Whittaker said of Adesanya. “He’s a great fighter. But I think we should talk, mate. I think it’s time we crossed paths again.”

Whittaker and Gastelum were first supposed to fight at UFC 234 on Feb. 10, 2019, when Whittaker was the UFC middleweight champion. But Whittaker withdrew from the fight the day of the card due to a hernia. A collapsed bowel caused him to have to undergo emergency surgery.

On Saturday, Gastelum was replacing Paulo Costa, Whittaker’s original opponent, who had to pull out due to lingering effects of COVID-19.

The change of opponent did not affect Whittaker at all. He rocked Gastelum in the first round with a head kick and never really slowed down from there. The very tough Gastelum hung around for all 25 minutes, but rare was a minute when Whittaker was not in total control.

Later in the first round, Whittaker took Gastelum down and landed some ground-and-pound. In the second, Gastelum had some success with his boxing and straight left hands, but Whittaker landed some nice jabs and counters. Whittaker rocked Gastelum again with a combination in the third, a round in which Gastelum had some success early.

Whittaker landed two nice uppercuts in the fourth round and got right up from a Gastelum takedown. In the fifth, Whittaker was starting to wear some of Gastelum’s offense — Gastelum was bruised up, as well — but Whittaker capped the technical performance with a surprising front kick to Gastelum’s face.

Whittaker outlanded Gastelum in meaningful strikes 150-62, and 115 of those from Whittaker were to the head, according to UFC Stats.

Whittaker (23-5) has won three consecutive fights and 12 of his past 13 overall. The New Zealand-born Australia resident has just one loss since 2014, versus Adesanya. Whittaker, 30, held the middleweight belt from 2017 to 2019, dropping it to Adesanya at UFC 243 in October 2019.

Whittaker is 14-3 in UFC.

Gastelum (16-7, 1 NC) was coming off a unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 on Feb. 13. The California native had lost three straight prior to that.

The 29-year-old Gastelum was once considered one of the best middleweight fighters in the world, fighting Adesanya for the interim belt at UFC 236 in April 2019.

Saturday’s card was held with no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility across from the promotion’s corporate campus, with COVID-19 protocols in place.

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