Tagged in: Las Vegas

Brunson stops Shahbazyan by third round TKO

The only way to the top of UFC’s middleweight division is through Derek Brunson. On Saturday, he slammed that door shut for a red-hot prospect.

Brunson stopped Edmen Shahbazyan via TKO 26 seconds into the third round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

The previously unbeaten Shahbazyan had all the hype coming in as the former training partner of UFC legend Ronda Rousey. But Brunson nearly finished him at the end of the second round and then did so early in the third.

The card took place with no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility owned by the promotion right across from its corporate campus. It was the first event in the United States after a month-long run in July on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which was dubbed Fight Island.

Brunson said in his post-fight interview that he was disappointed he was a heavy underdog. He said he is 3-0 since going to train under coach Henri Hooft at Sanford MMA — and recalled advice Hooft gave him when he first got to the South Florida gym.

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Brunson was a +290 underdog coming in.

This was the largest upset in a UFC main event since Michael Bisping (+400) knocked out Luke Rockhold to collect the UFC middleweight title at UFC 199 in 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

When the third round started, Brunson started his onslaught again. He came forward with a big left hand, took Shahbazyan down and landed more ground-and-pound. This time, Dean had a quick hook and called it off, awarding Brunson a TKO.

Brunson said his instant thoughts were going home to see his family after being apart for the past four weeks while training. He said he will start thinking about his next opponent with his coaches within a week.

Brunson (21-7) is considered one of the strongest outs in the middleweight division. The North Carolina native is on a three-fight winning streak. Brunson, 36, has lost only to current or former champions since 2016: Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Brunson is now tied with three others for the third-most finishes in UFC middleweight history with eight. UFC president Dana White stated he was impressed with Brunson’s performance.

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Gabriel Flores defeats Josec Ruiz by unanimous decision

Blue-chip lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. continued his development with a one-sided unanimous decision triumph over Josec Ruiz on Thursday at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

All three judges scored it 100-89 for Flores (18-0, 6 KOs), who started quickly and outboxed Ruiz (21-3-3, 14 KOs) the rest of the way.

In the second round, Flores, 20, stunned Ruiz with a counter left hook and followed with a right cross that sent him down. It looked as though Flores might score an eye-opening knockout, but he eventually had to settle for a decision victory.

While Flores dominated every round, it was a solid learning experience for him. He got some quality rounds while facing a veteran who had never been knocked down coming into this contest.

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Flores, who recently relocated to Las Vegas from his hometown of Stockton, California, is a young fighter with a high boxing IQ and has a keen understanding of ring generalship.

Blessed with quick hands and great footwork, he is relying on his skills from the outside to win fights. Now he is waiting for some physical maturity so he can finish fights more emphatically.

After Thursday’s victory, Flores, coming off a 117-day layoff, exposed that he had suffered a lower back injury during a training session.

“It happened in my last sparring [session],” Flores said. “My lower back, it hurts severely. I feel probably 50 percent, with the punches I could’ve thrown tonight. I wasn’t tired, at all.”

Despite the victory, Flores wasn’t totally satisfied with his effort.

“Tonight was the night to show everybody what a great performance was, and I didn’t get to show them,” Flores said. “Fifty percent of me, that’s what I showed tonight.”

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Raiders Allegiant stadium in Las Vegas to host 2021 NFL Pro Bowl

The NFL is taking the 2021 Pro Bowl to Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Pro Bowl was staged at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, over the past four years. Peter O’Reilly, executive vice president of NFL events and club business development, confirmed to CNBC’s Jabari Young in January that a probable move was on the table. 

“It’s been a great four years,” O’Reilly said. “From our perspective, it’s looking at what are the other options.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy had also told reporters last August that Las Vegas and Los Angeles could be attractive candidates for the All-Star showcase. SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, is still slated for completion later this summer. The 2020 NFL draft was supposed to serve as an informal welcome for Las Vegas as the Raiders are set to embark on their first season in Sin City. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to accommodate a fully virtual draft. 

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Vegas will have to wait until 2022 to become the epicenter of the NFL’s annual draft frenzy.

Because the Pro Bowl happens well after the completion of the regular campaign, players routinely pull out of the game. Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen also explained how participating in the Pro Bowl can be a somewhat deflating distinction because it means your team didn’t make the Super Bowl.

Las Vegas isn’t as far-flung as Halawa, Hawaii, where the Pro Bowl has most commonly called home in the past. The city might be a more attractive draw than Orlando as well. Combined, the two factors could help retain some marquee stars who otherwise would’ve waffled on whether to suit up in 2021.

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Caraballo cuts half pound late to make weight

Boxing is set to return to Las Vegas on Tuesday as all 10 boxers on the five-fight card weighed in effectively. However, there was some weigh-in drama ahead of the first boxing event in the city since Feb. 22.

Headliner Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) weighed in at 130 pounds, but his adversary in the 10-round fight, Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KOs), missed on his first attempt, coming in at 130.5 pounds. Per the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Caraballo had an hour to make the weight and he was able to cut the final half pound to hit the 130-pound limit.

This is a non-title bout for the WBO 126-pound champion Stevenson, who has yet to make his first title defense since winning the belt in October.

He was arranged to defend that title on March 14 in New York City versus Miguel Marriaga, but that fight was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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After Mikaela Mayer tested positive and her fight was removed on the card, the heavyweight match between Jared Anderson (3-0, 3 KOs) and Johnny Langston (8-2, 3 KOs) was elevated into its spot. Anderson weighed at 236 pounds and Langston was 218.3 pounds.

Here’s a look at the rest of the card: Heavyweight: Guido Vianello (6-0, 6 KOs, 239.25 pounds) vs. Donald Haynesworth (16-3-1, 14 KOs, 294.5 pounds), Middleweight: Quatavious Cash (11-2, 7 KOs, 160.5 pounds) vs Calvin Metcalf (10-3-1, 3 KOs, 158.3 pounds), Featherweight: Robeisy Ramirez (2-1, 2 KOs, 126 pounds) vs. Yeuri Andujar (5-3, 3 KOs, 125 pounds).

During this weigh-in, everyone inside the facility wore masks. The fighters wore foot coverings as they stepped on the scale. The scale was then sprayed and wiped with disinfectant after each bout was set. There were no faceoffs and the boxers posed for pictures on stage several feet from one another.

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Father says Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III injures thigh during a move

Las Vegas Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III, the team’s top draft pick, suffered a cut to a thigh recently while moving things into a trailer, the player’s father informed AL.com on Monday.

A Raiders source stated the team was “told [Ruggs] will be fine” going forward.

“He was trying to move a trailer or something — move furniture or something — and the trailer just kind of pinned him against a car or a wall or something,” Henry Ruggs Jr. said. “He’s pretty much OK, I’m about to go out there and see him in a little bit. It was just like a little open wound on his leg, a little incision. Like something had stuck him right there on his thigh a little bit.”

Ruggs III, the No. 12 overall draft pick, was the first receiver selected in April’s draft, an historically deep draft for the position. He was also the fastest player in the draft, having run a 4.27-second 40 time at the combine.

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But like every player in the draft, the rookie has been reduced to virtual meetings with the Raiders since being selected due to the pandemic.

Being injured would obviously slow any other development.

“The Raiders are aware of a report regarding an off-field injury to Henry Ruggs III. Respecting Henry’s right to medical privacy, the team will not be commenting on the report,” the team said in a statement.

Ruggs Jr., meanwhile, stated his son is “just having to walk on crutches. Not putting as much pressure on it.”

Provisions due to the coronavirus, the elder Ruggs said, have not permitted him yet to speak to the doctor who treated his son.

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Saucedo-Fredrickson to top June Vegas card

The Alex Saucedo-Sonny Fredrickson fight has been rearranged.

BoxingScene.com has learned that Saucedo and Fredrickson will square off in a 10-round junior welterweight bout June 30 at an undetermined location in Las Vegas. ESPN is expected to televise the Saucedo-Fredrickson fight as part of a show that’ll air on a Tuesday night.

Saucedo (29-1, 19 KOs) and Fredrickson (21-2, 14 KOs) were supposed to square off April 25 in a non-televised fight on the Naoya Inoue-Johnriel Casimero undercard at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., Saucedo’s promoter, is in the process of completing a deal to stage a series of cards in June and July at an MGM Resorts International property in Las Vegas.

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The 25-year-old Saucedo knocked out Rod Salka (24-6, 4 KOs) in the first round of his only fight since Maurice Hooker, then the WBO junior welterweight champion, stopped him in the seventh round in November 2018 in Oklahoma City, Saucedo’s hometown. Fredrickson, who’s also 25, lost a 10-round majority decision to Samuel Teah (17-3-1, 7 KOs) in his last fight, November 14 in Washington, D.C.

Saucedo-Fredrickson will be part of the fourth week of fights for Arum’s company upon its return from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pending approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission at its next meeting Wednesday morning, Top Rank will return with an ESPN card June 9.

Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), the WBO featherweight champion, is projected to headline that show, which also will take place on a Tuesday night. Stevenson’s opponent hasn’t been solidified, but whomever it is will face Stevenson in a 10-round, 130-pound, non-title fight.

Arum told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday that Top Rank will return with three ESPN shows that second week of June. Cards also are being prepared for June 11 and June 13, a Thursday night and Saturday night, respectively. 

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Herring set for July title defense in Las Vegas

WBO junior lightweight titleholder Jamel Herring is set to return on July 2 in Las Vegas, headlining an ESPN card in a title defense versus an opponent to be named.

The 34-year-old ex-Olympian Herring (21-2, 10 KO) won the 130-pound belt in May 2019 by defeating Masayuki Ito, and made a successful first title defense in November, out-pointing mandatory contender Lamont Roach Jr.

Herring was set to face Carl Frampton this spring, but COVID-19 shelved that fight, where Herring was set to go over to Belfast to face the popular former two-division titleholder.

Frampton (27-2, 15 KO) definitely won’t be the July 2 opponent, as he can’t get to the United States with travel restrictions, but that fight is still in the cards at some point, so long as Herring doesn’t lose his belt. Frampton doesn’t seem interested in any tune-up bouts, perhaps due to the injury problems he’s had recently.

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Of fighters ranked in the WBO’s top 15, only Abraham Nova, Jonathan Oquendo, and Lamont Roach Jr would seem available as far as travel goes.

The 26-year-old Nova (18-0, 14 KO) is probably the most interesting option of that group, and made his Top Rank debut in January, but if Top Rank feels they might have something there, they probably wouldn’t want to put him in with Herring right now.

Oquendo (31-6, 19 KO) is a 36-year-old Puerto Rican veteran, a solid fighter who might be exactly the sort of opponent everyone will settle for here, while Roach (19-1-1, 7 KO) just had his shot and came up short.

Top Rank’s Oscar Valdez is the No. 1 contender, but it’s not going to be Valdez, who is targeting Miguel Berchelt and the WBC title.Top Rank’s first card back will come on June 9 on ESPN, with Shakur Stevenson likely to main event. It’s expected the company will be running two shows per week on ESPN outlets for a while.

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Lomachenko, Lopez eye Sept. unification fight

Boxing is preparing for its return to the ring in a big way amid the coronavirus pandemic.   

Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez are ready for a lightweight unification fight, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN’s Steve Kim.

“In talking with Lomachenko and Lopez, neither of them want an interim fight,” Arum said. “So we would plan to do that in September, with or without an audience.”

Kim said Lomachenko and Lopez had discussed a May event at Madison Square Garden before the sports world was effectively put on hold due to COVID-19.

Now there’s talk of Las Vegas as the host city, and with or without fans, Arum is ready to cash in.

“It certainly would be a pay-per-view,” Arum said. “… It’s a big fight that we can do something spectacular, in conjunction with the Las Vegas Convention [and Visitors] Authority. Do a big outdoor event. There’s a lot of innovative stuff you can do, and still adhering to the mandate of social distancing.”

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At 14-1, Lomachenko last fought versus Luke Campbell at the O2 Arena in London on August 31, 2019, earning a unanimous decision. In the ring afterward, he called for a unification fight.

Lopez, 15-0, has been out of the ring since he overcomes Richard Commey by TKO in December. 

It may have taken nearly a year to reach the point of negotiations between the two camps, but the long-awaited matchup is finally in the works.

“We don’t need no tune-ups,” Lopez’s father, Teofimo Sr., said. “We are focused with Lomachenko. That’s all we want is Lomachenko.”

Lomachenko is reportedly back home in Ukraine but has a green card to re-enter the United States when it is safe to do so.  His manager, Egis Klimas, said they’ll fight under just about any circumstance. The only thing that matters is if Lopez is standing in the ring once Lomachenko enters. 

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Las Vegas Raiders finalizing deal with CB Prince Amukamara

The Las Vegas Raiders are finalizing an agreement with veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

Amukamara, who has started 99 matches in his career, should compete for a starting job with Las Vegas at best and provide much-needed experience and depth at cornerback at the very least.

The Raiders return Trayvon Mullen, who started the last 10 games of his rookie season last year, and used a first-round draft pick, No. 19 overall, on Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette and a fourth-round pick on slot corner Amik Robertson.

Amukamara, who turns 31 on June 6, was released by the Chicago Bears on Feb. 21, as he was entering the final season of his three-year, $27 million extension signed in 2018. His cap hit was to be $8 million.

Amukamara spent three campaigns with the Bears, appearing in 44 of 48 games with 42 starts, and had three interceptions (all in 2018), 29 passes defended, three forced fumbles, a recovery and a defensive touchdown. In nine NFL seasons, he has 476 tackles and 10 interceptions.

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A first-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2011, he was part of their Super Bowl team in his rookie year.

He also spent a season with the Jacksonville Jaguars before joining the Bears in 2017.

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock recognized before the draft that the Raiders needed to address the position, especially after an offseason agreement with free-agent cornerback Eli Apple fell through.

“We feel like we got a bunch of talented young kids that we don’t know enough about yet,” Mayock said. “Trayvon played really well the second half of the season. We believe that he’s going to be a starter for years to come. Isaiah Johnson was a fourth-round pick, a former wide receiver with all kinds of physical skill set. We love his traits. He got hurt early, we brought him back late. He’s a guy we can’t wait to see play. Keisean Nixon was a free agent out of South Carolina who made the team and played well on special teams. He’s a really competitive young man. And Dylan Mabin is another kid out of Fordham who got hurt and didn’t get a chance to show what he can do.

“So, we’ve got four or five young corners who we’re kind of intrigued by. Now, do we think that we need to get better there? Yeah.”

Enter Arnette, Robertston and, now, Amukamara.

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Raiders to host Saints in Las Vegas regular-season debut on Monday Night Football

The Las Vegas Raiders will make their regular-season home debut Sept. 21 on Monday Night Football versus the New Orleans Saints, a match that will be simulcast on ESPN and ABC, according to the full 2020 NFL schedule released Thursday night.

The matchup will introduce the country to the Raiders’ new home at Allegiant Stadium, where they have relocated after a 25-season run in Oakland, California.

The Saints, meanwhile, are one of nine teams that will make multiple appearances on Monday Night Football. In addition to their Week 2 match at Las Vegas, they’ll also host the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5.

The NFL revealed its full 2020 schedule in anticipation of playing a typical season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Roger Goodell told teams in a memo this week that adjustments will be made if necessary.

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“We will continue to work in a deliberate and thoughtful way to plan for the 2020 season, including with [Thursday’s] schedule release,” Goodell wrote, “and we will be prepared to address any contingencies as they arise.”

Other highlights of the Monday Night Football calendar include:

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will travel in Week 3 to play the Baltimore Ravens, the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed in 2019.

In their most recent matchup against each other, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes overcame the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson 33-28 in Week 3 of last season.

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will travel in Week 3 to play the Baltimore Ravens, the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed in 2019. In their most recent matchup against each other, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes overcame the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson 33-28 in Week 3 of last season.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make two appearances, in Week 8 at the New York Giants and in Week 11 at home against the Los Angeles Rams.

Two AFC East-related appearances by the New England Patriots, who bid farewell to Brady and are on track to start second-year player Jarrett Stidham in his place. The Patriots will play at the New York Jets in Week 9 and then host the Buffalo Bills in the final Monday Night Football match of the season, in Week 16.

A Week 1 doubleheader Sept. 14 that will pit the Pittsburgh Steelers at the New York Giants at 7:15 p.m. ET, followed by the Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos in a 10:10 p.m. ET kickoff.

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