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Rajon Rondo likely to sign with Los Angeles Lakers after buyout from Memphis Grizzlies

Another former Laker seems to be on his way back to the purple and gold.

Rajon Rondo will likely sign with the Lakers, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, upon clearing waivers after a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Rondo, 35, was traded from the LA Clippers to the Grizzlies earlier this month as a part of the Eric Bledsoe deal, but he reached an agreement on the final year of his contract worth $8.3 million to go back on the market.

The two-time champion and four-time All-Star played for the Lakers for two seasons from 2018 to 2020 and was an integral piece on L.A.’s title team in the Orlando bubble.

The 16-year veteran would provide depth for the Lakers at point guard, with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook figuring to shoulder the ballhandling duties for the starting lineup.

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Rondo would sign with L.A. on a veteran’s minimum contract and occupy one of the Lakers’ three final open spots on the roster.

He would be the fifth former player to come back into the fold for the Lakers this offseason, joining Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore.

Rondo averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 assists in 45 matches with the Clippers and Atlanta Hawks last season, shooting a career-best 40.4% from 3.

He spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Boston Celtics after entering the league in 2006. He has averaged 10.0 points, 8.1 assists and 4.6 rebounds over his career, which also stops stops with the Mavericks, Kings, Bulls and Pelicans.

Rondo will fill the 15th roster spot on the Lakers heading into camp. How much he helps them is up for debate.

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback AJ McCarron ‘heartbroken’ after right knee injury in preseason defeat

Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback AJ McCarron left the game in the second quarter of Saturday night’s 37-17 defeat to the Dolphins with a right knee injury at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

While Falcons coach Arthur Smith didn’t want to speculate on the exact nature of McCarron’s injury until after the veteran has an MRI, he did not sound encouraged by the possible prognosis.

“I really feel for AJ McCarron,” Smith said. “Any time something like that happens and it’s non-contact, it’s tough when you know what these guys put into it. I feel for AJ. We’ll obviously get the MRI to confirm but he’s heartbroken.

“He had bounced back and he was out there fighting, fighting for his team and trying to get the extra yards.”

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The injury came with 10 minutes left in the first half.

McCarron handed the ball off to running back Qadree Ollison and as he came out of his typical movement following the handoff he grabbed his right knee.

McCarron tried to walk toward the sideline but couldn’t initially get there. Falcons medical staff came to examine him and he walked off to the sideline. Minutes later, McCarron walked slowly to the Atlanta locker room. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 43 yards and had one run for seven yards versus the Dolphins. The run came a play before he hurt his knee.

Smith stated he wasn’t sure whether that play had anything to do with McCarron’s injury. McCarron was replaced by undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks, who he had been battling with for the No. 2 position throughout training camp. Franks, who was initially projected to play the second half, entered the game with 10 minutes left in the first half instead.

Franks completed 4-of-9 passes for 46 yards, no touchdowns and one interception while also rushing three times for 32 yards. He was sacked four times.

“The one thing that Feleipe has shown is that he can extend plays,” Smith said. “I thought he threw the ball a little bit better tonight at times. Still got to push him where he’s had a lot of growth and will continue to grow.”

Smith said in order to develop quarterbacks, you have to play them and that was the philosophy with Franks over the first two preseason matches. Smith said unfortunately the situation Franks faced Saturday — being forced to play earlier than expected due to injury — is what his role would be as a backup quarterback sometimes.

The Falcons signed McCarron to a one-year deal for more than $1.21 million on April 30 — hours prior to the second day of the NFL draft — to be No. 2 on the depth chart. A fifth-round pick out of Alabama in 2014 by Cincinnati, McCarron has played in 17 games, starting four and completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

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Dustin Poirier wins trilogy rematch by TKO after Conor McGregor injures leg in Round 1

Dustin Poirier now owns two triumphs over the biggest star in the history of mixed martial arts. This one, though, didn’t end in the cleanest way.

Poirier hit Conor McGregor with a combination at the end of the first round of Saturday night’s highly anticipated UFC 264 main event. McGregor went to plant his left foot and his leg buckled, sending him to the mat. Poirier followed up with punches on the ground as time expired in the round.

With McGregor clearly hurt, referee Herb Dean called the lightweight fight. The official result was Poirier by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 5:00 of the first round. A stretcher was brought in to transport McGregor to the hospital. The video replay showed McGregor’s lower leg bent gruesomely as his foot hit the canvas. UFC president Dana White later stated the injury was to McGregor’s lower tibia and that he will have surgery Sunday morning.

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The finish left the sold-out crowd disappointed. There was a mixture of boos and cheers when Poirier was declared as the winner. This was one of the most anticipated trilogy fights in UFC history.

“I beat the guy,” Poirier said in his postfight interview.

Poirier explained that he hurt McGregor’s ankle on a checked kick and then the ankle buckled at the end of the first round. McGregor denied that it was a checked kick that did it. Poirier picked up his 15th career first-round finish.

“This is not over,” McGregor said.

White said Poirier will fight for the UFC lightweight title next versus champion Charles Oliveira and that when McGregor is healthy he will probably get a fourth fight against Poirier.

“When Conor is healed and ready to go, we’ll do the rematch, I guess,” White said. “Poirier will do his thing until Conor is ready.”

Oliveira told ESPN’s Mike Coppinger he expects the fight with Poirier to possibly be in December.

“It’s really sad what happened [to McGregor], but if you look at Poirier’s game, he’s been improving a lot, he’s been putting a lot of pressure, so he deserves the win,” Oliveira said of Saturday night’s result.

White said he believes that had McGregor not been injured, he would have gotten out of the first round.

“His ankle snapped from throwing punches. He was fighting back,” White said. “It wasn’t like he was up against the cage with Dustin unloading punches on him. If his ankle doesn’t break, I think we get to the end of the round.”

Poirier, for his part, said he and McGregor “are going to fight again, whether it’s in the Octagon or on the sidewalk. … He was saying that he was going to kill me. You don’t say stuff like that.”

Poirier said he wasn’t sure he felt a sense of closure following the trilogy.

“I need to digest it all, because right now, it kind of feels weird,” he said. “It’s not a good feeling.”

Poirier stopped McGregor at UFC 257 in January via second-round TKO. In 2014, at UFC 178, McGregor knocked out Poirier in less than two minutes.

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Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. misses weight by 2 pounds, forfeits $100K to Anderson Silva

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has missed weight once again.

The son of the legendary Mexican boxer weighed in at 184 pounds Friday, two pounds over the contracted weight for his arranged fight with UFC all-time great Anderson Silva, promotion officials confirmed with ESPN.

The fight will go on Saturday in Guadalajara, Mexico, as part of an event called Tribute to the Kings. But Chavez Jr. will have to forfeit $100,000 of his purse to Silva, per officials. Silva weighed in right on the contracted mark of 182 pounds.

Chavez Jr. has had several struggles on the scales in his career. Most famously, he had to forfeit $1 million — a third of his purse — to Daniel Jacobs before a December 2019 bout.

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Chavez Jr. has missed weight at least twice more in his career, with other additional fights having to be changed late to catchweights.

This 182-pound bout is heavier than Chavez Jr. typically fights at. Most recently, Chavez Jr. has been competing at 175 pounds. And he fought Jacobs and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at the contracted weight of 168 pounds.

Tribute to the Kings also will feature Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., 58, returning to the ring in an exhibition to face Hector Camacho Jr., the 42-year-old son of his fiercest rival.

Chavez Jr. (52-5-1, 1 NC) has dropped three of his past five fights, but is coming off a fourth-round TKO over Jeyson Minda last November. The 35-year-old Mexico native is the former WBC middleweight champion.

Silva is 1-1 as a pro boxer and has not fought in the boxing ring since 2005. But “The Spider” is one of the most decorated champions in UFC history, holding the middleweight title for seven years — the longest reign ever in the UFC. Silva, 46, also has the longest winning streak in UFC history (16).

The Brazil native asked for his release from the UFC last year and it was granted. Silva has just one victory in MMA since 2012 and has stated he is likely done with mixed martial arts, though he might continue to pursue interesting fights in other combat sports like boxing.

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Jairzinho Rozenstruik authors another buzzer-beater, stopping Augusto Sakai in UFC Fight Night

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has a knack for getting finishes right before the bell.

Less than two years after he earned the latest finish in UFC heavyweight history, Rozenstruik uncorked another buzzer-beater Saturday. The kickboxing standout stopped Augusto Sakai via TKO with punches at 4 minutes, 59 seconds of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night.

Rozenstruik pressured Sakai against the cage with the first coming to an end. Sakai attempted to circle off to his right, but Rozenstruik caught him with a stunning left hook and then a right hand behind the ear.

Sakai dropped to the canvas and Rozenstruik swarmed with big punches until referee Herb Dean stopped the action right before Sakai could be saved by the horn.

“As soon as I heard the [10-second] clock — tock, tock, tock — I faked him with the right, hit him with the left and hit him with the right again,” Rozenstruik stated in his postfight interview.

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In December 2019, Rozenstruik finished Alistair Overeem via TKO at 4:56 of the fifth and final round, the deepest a UFC heavyweight bout that ended in finish has ever gone.

ESPN has Rozenstruik ranked No. 7 in the world at heavyweight. He was coming off a loss, so this gets him back on track — and right back into title contention.

“Anybody that’s ranked above me makes sense,” Rozenstruik said when asked whom he wants to fight next. “There’s the top five there. I’m coming for you guys. I’m coming.”

Rozenstruik (12-2) has won two of his past three fights.

The Suriname native struggled to pull the trigger in a unanimous decision loss to Ciryl Gane in February. Rozenstruik wanted to return as quickly as he could to remove the bad taste from his mouth from that loss.

Following a quick knockout loss to top contender Francis Ngannou in May 2020, Rozenstruik bounced back with a TKO of former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos last August. And now he has bounced back from the Gane fight.

Rozenstruik, 33, has several kickboxing titles to his name and is now seeking MMA gold in the future. Sakai (15-3-1) has been one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC heavyweight division.

The Brazil native won four consecutive in the UFC before falling to Overeem by fifth-round TKO last December. He has now dropped two straight.

Sakai, 30, has just those two losses in his past eight battles.

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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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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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Kamaru Usman defeats Gilbert Burns by TKO to retain UFC welterweight title

Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns were full of emotion while embracing in the middle of the Octagon on Saturday night. Burns had blood and tears running down his face. Some of their cornermen behind them were trying not to cry.

Usman stopped Burns, his former teammate, via TKO at 34 seconds in the third round to defend his UFC welterweight title in the main event of UFC 258 in Las Vegas.

Usman landed a right hand as he was switching stances to floor Burns, then slammed Burns with punches on the ground until referee Herb Dean pulled him off.

“Gilbert is a guy that I’ve known from the start,” Usman said in his postfight interview. “I love him. This one was tough for me to deal with.” Usman picked up his 13th consecutive win, surpassing legend Georges St-Pierre for the most consecutive victories in UFC welterweight history.

Only Anderson Silva has won more than 13 straight fights in UFC history, winning 16 in a row from 2006 to 2012.

Usman is tied with six other fighters with 13 consecutive wins.

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Usman and Burns were teammates in South Florida since 2012, first with the Blackzilians and most recently with Sanford MMA.

Usman departed for Colorado to train under coach Trevor Wittman last year after the initial fight with Burns was scheduled for July.

But Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from that bout. Henri Hooft, the longtime head coach for both Usman and Burns, did not corner either man and said he would not even watch the fight.

The fight had major implications outside of the personal story. Coming in, ESPN had Usman ranked No. 5 in the world in its pound-for-pound MMA rankings. In the welterweight division, ESPN has Usman ranked No. 1 and Burns at No. 5.

Burns rocked Usman twice early with huge right hands. But Usman hung in through a tumultuous first round. He then took over in the second, working a beautiful jab and stymieing Burns’ power and explosiveness. Usman’s striking looked better than ever, as he switched stances and landed with power from each one.

In the second round, Usman dropped Burns twice, the second time with a jab. In the third, it was a right hand that resembled a jab that put Burns on his butt before Usman pounced and finished on the ground.

Usman outlanded Burns 83-45 in significant strikes, per UFC Stats.

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Anthony Joshua dispatches Kubrat Pulev via KO, sets up prospect of Tyson Fury bout

Anthony Joshua returned to ruthless form by dispatching Kubrat Pulev in nine rounds in London on Saturday to set up the prospect of facing Tyson Fury in 2021.

The WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion kept his titles by turning on the power switch to drop Pulev twice in the ninth round. It was Joshua’s first knockout victory since his previous performance on home soil, in September 2018.

Pulev crumbled to the canvas under a barrage of right uppercuts and was then finished by a straight right hand.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., the retired former pound-for-pound boxing No. 1, had made the trip from the United States to be among 1,000 present at the SSE Arena and was the first to congratulate Joshua at ringside.

Since halting Alexander Povetkin two years ago, the English boxer lost his titles via a shock knockout to American Andy Ruiz Jr. before regaining them on points a year ago.

This was a much more explosive performance from Joshua than the Ruiz rematch, as Joshua floored tough Pulev twice in Round 3 and twice in Round 9 in front of the first crowd at a professional boxing event in the U.K. since March.

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A second defense in his second reign as world heavyweight clears the way for Joshua to fight either rival world heavyweight champion Fury, his fellow Englishman, or Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk first in 2021.

Fury, regarded as the world No. 1 heavyweight by ESPN after stopping Deontay Wilder for the WBC title in February, would be the preferred choice, but because of mandatory defense obligations, former undisputed world cruiserweight champion Usyk might be the first person in the opposing corner to Joshua in 2021.

“It’s not about the opponent — it’s about who has got the belt, and if that’s Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury,” Joshua said. “It’s one fight at a time, picking them off one by one.”

Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn stated he wants Fury to be Joshua’s next opponent in 2021, despite the obstacles, including legal action Wilder has brought to enforce a third fight with Fury.

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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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