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Edgar defies critics, edges Munhoz by decision

Frankie Edgar is shopworn. He has been in too many wars, and he’s too old. Moving down to bantamweight 15 years into his career? A last-gasp move.

Those were some of the storylines coming into the UFC Fight Night main event Saturday night in Las Vegas. Like he has so many times before, Edgar hushed the doubters.

Edgar defeated Pedro Munhoz by split decision (48-47, 46-49, 48-47) in his bantamweight (135 pounds) debut. Edgar, 38, is the former UFC lightweight (155 pounds) champion and was a perennial featherweight (145) contender. Now he has knocked off a top-flight bantamweight.

“We also recognize the world class facilities at Grove and confirm that there are no plans to relocate,” he added. Edgar, who became the 11th fighter in modern UFC history to collect in three divisions, addressed his critics in his postfight interview.

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“I proved all them wrong,” said Edgar, who cashed as a +235 underdog, according to the Caesars Sportsbook. “I still got some fight in this tank, and we’re gonna make a run at [135].”

The card took place in front of no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility owned by the promotion across the street from its corporate campus. Coming in, ESPN had Munhoz ranked No. 7 among MMA bantamweights. Edgar is a surefire future UFC Hall of Famer.

Edgar vs. Munhoz was awarded Fight of the Night by the UFC, earning both men bonuses of $50,000. The two combined for the most significant strikes landed in UFC bantamweight history (301), with Munhoz landing 166 and Edgar landing 135.

The fight was extremely close and could have gone either way. Edgar showed from the outset that he was just as fast, sharp and quick at bantamweight as he was two weight classes above. But Munhoz carries big power and landed hard right hands in the first round.

Judges Derek Cleary and Eric Colon scored the fight for Edgar. Judge Sal D’Amato had it for Munhoz. Cleary gave Edgar the second, third and fifth rounds, while Colon gave him the first, second and fifth. D’Amato had Munhoz winning all but the second round.

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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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Anthony Davis could miss Lakers’ opener with eye injury

The Los Angeles Lakers don’t know how they’ll look in Thursday’s match versus  the Los Angeles Clippers just yet because they’re waiting to find out just how well Anthony Davis can see.

Davis, who was inadvertently poked in the right eye by Michael Carter-Williams during Saturday’s scrimmage versus the Orlando Magic, did not practice Tuesday.

The All-Star big man spent the session in a seat on the sideline while sporting shaded eyewear.

“He’s day-to-day, and while he’s still dealing with discomfort there is some concern that he could potentially not play Thursday,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said on a video conference. “But we’re hopeful that he does, and we’ll see how that plays out. He’s going to continue to be evaluated each day.”

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Vogel, who has used the term “discomfort” on several occasions to describe Davis’ situation since Saturday, was asked to elaborate.

Does that mean blurred vision? “I don’t know if I’m allowed to really get into the details of it, other than that’s what they told me to report,” Vogel said. “So that’s all I can give you.”

Davis looked dominant in L.A.’s second scrimmage since reporting to Orlando, putting up nine points and 10 rebounds in limited minutes before exiting the game when Carter-Williams’ hand unintentionally caught Davis’ face while he was swiping for the ball. Davis, an eight-year veteran, averaged 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 blocks in his inaugural season with the Lakers before the NBA went on hiatus in March.

The Lakers will have to update Davis’ status on Wednesday, according to league rules. The NBA recently told teams in a memo that participation status for every player — detailing an injury, illness or the potential for a rest day — has to be submitted by 5 p.m. ET the day before a game, according to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears.

Vogel’s colloquial use of “day to day” for Davis is not an established status. Teams must choose to designate their players as available, probable, questionable, doubtful or out.

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Hybrid combat card relocated, won’t test for Virus

A 13-fight hybrid card arranged for Saturday in Topeka, Kansas, has been moved to Abilene and will not involve any testing for COVID-19 beyond temperature checks and questionnaires.

A few weeks ago, fighters on the card — which will feature boxing, kickboxing, bareknuckle fighting combat, jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts — were given a COVID-19 participation questionnaire by the Kansas Athletic Commission.

Once at the weigh-in facility, fighters will have their temperatures taken.

They are asked to wear masks while in Kansas and adhere to other social distancing protocols. Saturday’s show, initially scheduled for the hangar at Forbes Field, will take place without a live audience at the Never Surrender MMA gym in Abilene, Kansas.

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“Basically our goal is to ensure that no one who has symptoms of COVID-19 gets close to the other participants,” Dr. Matthew Bohm, the head physician for the Kansas commission, told ESPN. “So from a standpoint of the way we run medical clinics now is that when people come to the front door, they aren’t allowed in the building until they answer questions.”

Each training team will be limited to four individuals. Everyone involved in the fight — fighters, promotional team members, production staff, and commission members — must abide by the established regulations.

Adam Roorbach, the boxing commissioner for the state, said the plan is for portions of the card to be brought to the venue. Then, as they finish with their assignments, another batch of fighters will be brought into the venue to keep the number of people inside the building as low as possible at any given time.

“It’s going to be a bit of a logistical nightmare for the fighters and uncomfortable for their corners, but it’s just what has to be done at this point,” Roorbach told ESPN.

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Gaethje batters Ferguson to win UFC interim title

Two months ago, Justin Gaethje was training and waiting for the UFC to find his next rival.

On Saturday night, after accepting a short notice opportunity to compete in the UFC 249 main event, he stopped Tony Ferguson by TKO in the fifth round to become interim lightweight champion, setting up an inevitable showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year.

It was a jaw-dropping show, as Gaethje punished Ferguson round after round before finally putting him away with less than two minutes remaining in the combat.

“I knew I was a killer stepping in here,” Gaethje said about his performance. “No better drug on Earth. Adrenaline coursing through my veins.”

Following two consecutive losses, Gaethje started making noticeable changes to his strategy and approach to fighting without sacrificing any of his highlight-reel finishes.

It was more of the same at UFC 249 as he attacked Ferguson with devastating power behind his punches while refusing to engage in the wild exchanges that cost him so dearly in many past fights.

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“I had to lose to change,” Gaethje stated. “Can’t fix what’s not broken. I was getting hit too much, and I was having too much fun. At this level you absolutely cannot do that.”

While Ferguson did manage to put Gaethje down briefly at the end of the second round with a staggering uppercut, the former Ultimate Fighter winner failed to mount much offense over 25 minutes. He did display incredible durability, though, as he absorbed punches that would have likely knocked out every other lightweight on the roster.

Gaethje’s controlled aggression continued to add to his significant strike total as he cut up Ferguson’s face and left him a bloody mess by the fifth round. It was a stiff jab late in the fight that rattled Ferguson for the final time, and as he wobbled backwards toward the cage shaking his head, that forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.

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Ferguson, Gaethje make weight for UFC’s return

Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje both made weight Friday ahead of their fight for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249 on Saturday. 

According to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, both Ferguson and Gaethje weighed in at 155 pounds in Jacksonville, Florida, which is where UFC 249 will take place.

The event is set to be held at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with no fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. UFC 249 will mark the first event from the organization since UFC Fight Night: Lee vs. Oliveira on March 14 in Brazil.

Ferguson and Gaethje had been expected to headline UFC 249 on April 18, but the event was postponed after UFC President Dana White said he was told to “stand down” by ESPN.

The fight is a replacement for the originally scheduled bout of Ferguson vs. UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who has been unable to travel outside of Dagestan, Russia, due to travel bans brought on by COVID-19.

With Khabib unable to fight currently, the winner of Ferguson vs. Gaethje will go on to face him at a later date to determine the UFC Lightweight champion.

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The 36-year-old Ferguson is the No. 1 contender for the title. He owns a career professional record of 25-3 with 12 victories by way of knockout and eight by submission. He is on a 12-fight winning streak, with his last two victories coming over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.

Gaethje, 31, is the fourth-ranked lightweight and owns a career record of 21-2 with 18 of those victories coming by knockout. Gaethje lost two fights in a row to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier in 2017 and 2018 but has since bounced back to win three consecutive, including a knockout victory over Cerrone in September 2019.

Other major fights planned for UFC 249 include Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz for the UFC Bantamweight title, a heavyweight title eliminator between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik and a featherweight contest between Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar.

Cejudo, Cruz, Ngannou, Rozenstruik and Kattar all made weight, but Stephens came in overweight, which could put his fight versus Kattar in jeopardy.

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Mikey Garcia ready to erase doubts at welterweight against Jessie Vargas

For 39 professional fights, Mikey Garcia didn’t know what it felt like to lose. He’d risen through the ranks on his way to becoming a four-division world champion and being regarded as pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in boxing by taking the hardest challenges along the way.

That was certainly the case when Garcia jumped up two weight classes to battle IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in front of over 47,000 people at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, back in March of last year.

However, things didn’t go Garcia’s way, and Spence dominated from the opening bell to win a lopsided decision. Eleven months later, the fire is reignited, and Garcia comes back to the ring on Saturday versus Jessie Vargas at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, live on DAZN.

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“That fight isn’t indicative of who I am and what I’m capable of doing,” Garcia said. “The last fight doesn’t represent who I am. It was just one of those nights where I just couldn’t get off or do anything. I feel this a good way to get back on track against a big name in search of winning a world title in a fifth different weight class. I know there’s a lot more I can deliver, and that’s what this fight is all about.”

Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) had plenty of routes on who to take on for his in-ring return.

He could have easily taken a tune-up in the welterweight division. However, that’s not the mindset Garcia possesses.

It’s about taking the toughest matchups — ones that will further establish himself and help him be remembered after his career is over.

That’s why Garcia is excited about facing Vargas, who checks all the boxes that he’s looking for. Vargas (29-2-2, 11 KOs) is a former two-division world champion and has taken on Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley and brings an exciting style to the table.

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Niners get kwon Alexander, others back for Saturday

Linebacker Kwon Alexander will be back on the field Saturday when the 49ers open the playoffs, but he likely won’t step into his old every-down role quite yet.

Alexander is just nine weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn pectoral. He returned to practice last week and still on IR.

The 49ers plan to activate him to the 53-man roster to play Saturday versus the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium in the NFC divisional round.

The 49ers know what to expect from Alexander. But they also do not know exactly what to expect.

“I know Kwon will fly around,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’ll hit. He’ll be energetic. He’ll get everyone going. I think everyone will feel his energy on the field. And we’ll see how it goes.

“We’re not going to throw him out there, just down-in and down-out. But we don’t have a plan, where it’s only going to be ‘this’ amount. He’s looked good in practice, but we’re also not laying people out in practice.”

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Rookie Dre Greenlaw played the weakside linebacker position during the second half of the season in Alexander’s absence.

Greenlaw made the big defensive play of the season in Week 17 when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line on a late-game fourth-down play.

The tackle preserved the 49ers’ 26-21 victory and wrapped up the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The 49ers’ three linebacker positions are similar, so the team will have some decisions to make on how they want to use Greenlaw and Alexander alongside middle linebacker Fred Warner.

Shanahan said a lot of the team’s in-game decision-making will be in reaction to Alexander’s effectiveness.

“You got to wait to see how the tackling goes and how he feels,” Shanahan said. “(He is) someone we’ll be communicating with throughout the game.”

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