Tagged in: title

Deiveson Figueiredo edges past rival Brandon Moreno to reclaim featherweight title in trilogy bout

Mexican fans showed up in droves on Saturday to witness the UFC’s first Mexican-born champion, Brandon Moreno, defend his title for the first time. But by the slimmest of margins, Deiveson Figueiredo spoiled the party.

Figueiredo (21-2-1) reclaimed the 125-pound title he lost to Moreno (19-6-2) in August by defeating his rival in a unanimous decision. All three judges scored the flyweight title fight, which co-headlined UFC 270 inside the Honda Center, in favor of Figueiredo, 48-47.

Saturday’s result brings the rivalry to an even record of 1-1-1. The two fought to a draw in December 2020, before Moreno dominated Figueiredo in their second meeting. After losing by submission in the rematch, however, Figueiredo looked like a completely different fighter in the trilogy, as his cardio and mental preparation was obvious.

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“Today is my day,” Figueiredo stated. “For this moment, for Brandon, for us to give you the gift of a fight of the night, for everyone who was here. I’ve been away from my family for four months. I’m ready for a fourth fight against Brandon in Mexico.”

According to UFC Stats, Moreno outlanded Figueiredo 106-95 in total strikes.

But Figueiredo landed several devastating strikes, including a heavy right hand that knocked Moreno down, badly hurting him, at the end of the third round.

“I feel like I threw the better combinations with more speed, maybe he connected a little bit more power,” Moreno said. “Obviously, I thought I won, but it is what it is right now. I feel I was putting better pace on the fight. I don’t know. I need to watch the fight again and see what happened.”

The trilogy fight saw the best of both men. Moreno’s boxing and footwork were on display all night. He had great success with his left hook at the end of exchanges and was hard to track down in wrestling scrambles. Figueiredo answered with heavy low leg kicks that knocked Moreno off balance and powerful right hands.

Figueiredo left his native Brazil ahead of Saturday’s fight to train with former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo in Arizona, and his adjustments clearly paid off. His patience was better, and his weight cut during fight week was noticeably improved from August.

Moreno’s popularity exploded after he acquired the belt. Saturday’s crowd was heavily in his favor and played a big role in the UFC setting a new gate record at the Honda Center. In the main event, Francis Ngannou fought Ciryl Gane for the UFC’s heavyweight championship.

The loss was Moreno’s first since May 2018.

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Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by revealing on Tuesday that he would compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No. 1, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram. Organizers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

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The organizers issued a statement later on Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be permitted to compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”

Tennis Australia stated last month the panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

Applicants who pass an initial stage are subject to a second review conducted by a government-appointed panel before the application is submitted to the Australian Immunization Register.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, had told a Serbian television channel that his son would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory jabs was tantamount to “blackmail.”

Djokovic pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts over his participation in the year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition. Thanks everyone for the support,” Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a picture of him in an airport.

He heads to Australia having trained in Marbella, Spain, over the past few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the past three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time list.

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Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup in Sydney

Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, event organizers said on Wednesday, raising further doubts over whether the world number one will defend his Australian Open title next month.

There has been intense speculation over Djokovic’s participation in both events, with the 34-year-old, who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated against the virus.

Organizers of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17, have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

“Novak Djokovic has officially withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney, we have no update as yet on his plans for the Australian Open,” a Tennis Australia spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

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“Regarding the medical exemption process, which pertains to all players, there is a rigorous and independent process in place. As with all medical information it is subject to confidentiality.”

The global men’s tennis governing body ATP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ATP Cup organizers said Serbia’s team would now be led by world number 33 Dusan Lajovic.

Owing to Djokovic’s current world ranking, Serbia received top billing for the 16-team event, which runs from Jan. 1-9, and have been drawn in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, counting the last three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 major titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

His father Srdjan told a Serbian television channel last month that Djokovic would probably pull out nL4N2SK0VQ of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory vaccination was tantamount to “blackmail”.

The season-opening ATP Cup also saw Austria, which failed the eligibility criteria following the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, replaced by France.

Russia, which won the 2021 title, will be missing Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev from that team.

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Titans rally from 10 down at half, edge 49ers 20-17

Coach Mike Vrabel heard that his banged-up Tennessee Titans were being written off after the left side of their offensive line was ruled out a day before hosting the streaking San Francisco 49ers.

Then they lost their backup left tackle to a positive COVID-19 test Thursday morning, forcing them to use their 52nd different starter and 88th player this campaign.

“We’re not dead yet,” Vrabel said. Alive and kicking.

Randy Bullock booted a 44-yard field goal with 4 seconds left and the Titans rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the 49ers 20-17 Thursday night. The Titans (10-5) are a win or a Colts’ loss away from clinching their second consecutive AFC South title despite losing three of their past four games to drop from the AFC’s top seed to third. Indianapolis plays Arizona on Saturday. Tennesse moved to second in the AFC.

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Ryan Tannehill threw for just 40 yards in the first half but finished with 209 yards and a TD for Tennessee. A.J. Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards hours after being activated off injured reserve, and his 18-yard TD catch gave Tennessee a 17-10 lead early in the fourth.

“It was all on us and we just had to make a play,” Brown said. “Then we had to make another play. That was the mindset. Just come out here and make plays, so that’s what we did.”

The Titans also picked off two passes, sacked Jimmy Garoppolo twice and forced the Niners to turn it over on downs once.

San Francisco had one final chance. Garoppolo completed a 16-yard pass to Pro Bowl receiver Deebo Samuel, who fumbled, starting three laterals before Jayon Brown finally tackled Brandon Aiyuk to end the game.

The 49ers (8-7) lost for the second time in seven games as they try to hold onto a wild-card berth in the NFC. Their loss ensured a playoff berth for Dallas, which can clinch the NFC East with a victory over Washington on Sunday night.

Garoppolo tied it with a 2-yard TD pass to Brandon Aiyuk with 2:20 left, a score set up by a 56-yard catch-and-run by Samuel down to the Tennessee 6.

This was the Niners’ first loss after leading by 10 or more at halftime under coach Kyle Shanahan — they had been 18-0 in the regular season and playoffs with those leads. They hadn’t blown such a lead since Week 14 of 2016 to the Jets under Chip Kelly.

Garoppolo knows the Niners had their chances.

“It’s tough when you let one like this slip away,” Garoppolo said. The Niners led 10-0 at halftime, their first time shutting out an opponent in the first half since the 2019 NFC title game against Green Bay. That also marked four straight scoreless quarters for the Titans.

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Green Bay Packers clinch third straight division title as Aaron Rodgers ties Brett Favre’s TD record

All Matt LaFleur does is win division titles. In his three years as the Green Bay Packers coach, they’ve won the NFC North three times.

All Aaron Rodgers does is throw touchdown passes. In his 14th season as the Packers’ starter, he tied Brett Favre’s franchise record of 442 touchdown passes.

And just about everybody in green and gold left M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with what they wanted — a 31-30 triumph over the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens.

The victory was secured after the Ravens failed to convert on a 2-point conversion that would have given them a 1-point lead with 45 seconds left.

The Packers (11-3) clinched the division title, giving them an automatic playoff berth, and stayed on track for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with three games to go.

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“You have to savor these a little bit,” Rodgers said. “These are special. It’s just the first step in our goals, but a lot of times the coach speak — I’m not saying that Matt did this — but a lot of times there might be coach speak that takes over and says, ‘Hey, you know this is just one goal and we have bigger goals and stuff,’ but I think it’s important to keep that perspective on how special accomplishing this is three years in a row and so just to enjoy it, to savor it, savor these moments. These are special moments.”

Rodgers also matched the man he replaced as Packers quarterback in 2008 on Sunday.

Greg Jennings caught Rodgers’ first touchdown 14 years ago in Dallas, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught No. 442 as Rodgers tied Favre.

Rodgers did it in 45 fewer games as he set the mark in his 210th game (203rd as a starter), while Favre needed 255 games (and 253 starts) over 16 seasons. Rodgers is in his 17th season but did not become a starter until his fourth year.

Rodgers has also thrown 193 less interceptions in his career than Favre threw as a member of the Packers.

Rodgers entered the match needing three touchdown passes to tie the record and four to break it. He threw his first of the game, No. 440 of his career, on a 3-yard out to Davante Adams to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. It was also his 65th career touchdown to Adams, which tied Rodgers and Adams with Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for the most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in Packers history.

The second one, No. 441, came on the opening drive of the second quarter when he bought time and looped a 9-yarder to Aaron Jones for a 21-14 lead.

The third one, the record-tying No. 442, was an 11-yarder to Valdes-Scantling with 12:54 left in the fourth quarter for a 28-17 lead.

Rodgers nearly had a fourth touchdown pass for the outright record, but he and Allen Lazard just missed on what would have been an 11-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.

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UFC 269 Who has the edge in the two title fights?

Two titles will be on the line Saturday night at UFC 269. The UFC’s final pay-per-view of 2021 will feature two veteran lightweights who have waited a long time to be a champion.

Brazil’s Charles Oliveira (31-8) claimed the vacant title in May and will make his first defense versus Dustin Poirier (28-6) in the main event of UFC 269 in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV).

Even though Oliveira is the champ, and has won nine in a row, many in the sport consider he needs to defeat Poirier to validate his status as a real champ.

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Poirier, of Louisiana, could have fought for the championship earlier this year, but he elected to take a lucrative detour versus Conor McGregor.

Now that he’s coming off back-to-back victories over McGregor, Poirier has set his focus solely on claiming the undisputed title, something he’s never done in his decorated MMA career.

In the other title fight of the night, Amanda Nunes (21-4) makes her sixth bantamweight title defense versus Julianna Pena. Nunes has made it look relatively easy at the top in recent years, as she has dominated both the 135- and 145-pound weight classes.

Pena, of Spokane, Washington, has been very vocal in her belief that she is the one to truly challenge the female GOAT. Pena is only 2-2 in her past four fights, but she has a physical, grinding style of offensive wrestling, which she used most recently to defeat former U.S.

Olympic wrestler Sara McMann at UFC 257 in January. As usual, Nunes is a strong favorite to retain her title, but does Pena have a chance at the upset?

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Kansas City Royals reliever Wade Davis announces retirement

Reliever Wade Davis, a three-time All-Star selection who has 141 saves in 13 major league seasons, is retiring, the Kansas City Royals revealed Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Davis, who led the National League with 43 saves in 2018, clinched the World Series title for the Royals in 2015 with a game-ending strikeout versus the New York Mets.

Davis returned to the Royals in 2021, going 0-3 with two saves in 40 appearances.

“Wade will forever be remembered by our fans, his teammates and our organization as an elite competitor and a very classy person,” Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore said in a statement.

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The Royals acquired Davis from Tampa Bay in December 2012, converted him to a full-time reliever in 2013 — he had 47 saves over four seasons with Kansas City — and then traded him to the Chicago Cubs after the 2016 season.

He spent one season in Chicago, completing a four-year, $12.6 million contract with three options that wound up totaling $35.1 million in salary.

He then signed a three-year, $52 million contract with the Colorado Rockies.

Davis was 63-55 with a 3.94 ERA and 141 saves in 161 chances over 88 starts and 469 relief appearances for Tampa Bay (2009-12), Kansas City (2013-16, 2021), the Chicago Cubs (2017) and Colorado (2018-20). He was an All-Star from 2015-17.

The right-hander was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and eight saves in the postseason, counting 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA and four saves for the Royals in 2014 and ’15.

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Boston Red Sox exercise club option on manager Alex Cora for 2023-24 seasons

The Boston Red Sox have exercised Alex Cora’s club option through the 2023 and 2024 seasons, the team revealed Monday.

Cora, 46, is 284-202 in three seasons as Red Sox manager, having led the club to a winning record in all three seasons at the helm, including setting a franchise record with 108 victories and a World Series title in 2018.

“I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to manage the Red Sox,” Cora said in a statement. “We experienced so many special moments as a team and as a city in 2021, but we still have unfinished business to take care of. I am excited about the current state of our organization and eager to continue my work with our front office, coaches, players, and everyone who makes this such a special place.”

Cora was let go after he was identified as the ringleader in the Houston Astros cheating scandal.

After Ron Roenicke managed the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Cora was brought back to the Boston dugout.

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Cora, who finished fifth in AL Manager of the Year voting, led the Red Sox to a 92-70 record during the 2021 regular season, counting a Major League-best 47 come-from-behind wins.

The Red Sox advanced to the American League Championship Series after defeating the rival New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game and the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Division Series. Boston fell in the ALCS to the Astros in six games.

“There’s so much that you can say about what an organization looks for in a manager,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “I think a lot of it comes down to leadership and partnership. You’re seeking a leader, not just for your clubhouse, but for the entire organization, and a partner in our goal of bringing championship caliber baseball to Fenway Park on an annual basis. And in Alex, we have both of those things.

“One of the unique things about Alex is that he combines a lot of different qualities that help bring the best out of players, his feel for the game of baseball, his intellect, just the way he notices things on the field and is able to combine them with the preparation that he does to maximize what goes on the field. He can really take a clubhouse to another level, there’s not that many people that bring both of those things to the table in abundance like Alex does. On top of that, he’s just a great guy to work with. He’s charismatic, he’s funny, he’s real.”

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Max Holloway edges Yair Rodriguez in bloody, back-and-forth UFC Fight Night main event

Yair Rodriguez, blood coming from several cuts on his face, pointed his finger and planted it in Max Holloway’s chest. Holloway, face swollen and bleeding from above his right eye, took his fist and patted it versus Rodriguez’s face.

Holloway’s legend continued Saturday with a unanimous-decision victory (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) over Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. And Rodriguez’s own lore leveled up after a warrior-like performance in a losing effort.

The back-and-forth bout, which ended up as one of the best of 2021, could have been a torch passing moment from Holloway, the former UFC featherweight champion, to the up-and-coming Rodriguez. Instead, Holloway, nicknamed “Blessed,” earned another huge victory in a historic career.

Rodriguez pushed Holloway to the brink, rallying with an elbow that cut Holloway in the fifth round. But Holloway held on.

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“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best — and the best is ‘Blessed,’ baby,” Holloway said in his postfight interview.

Both fighters were taken to a hospital after the fight.

Holloway outlanded Rodriguez in important strikes 230-159, per UFC stats. The 389 combined significant strikes are the third largest total in a single fight in UFC history — and Holloway has been involved in each of the top four highest totals, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Holloway landed 251 total strikes, becoming the first fighter to eclipse 3,000 total strikes in a UFC career. His 2,848 significant strikes are also a UFC record. Holloway is the only fighter in history to have 25 UFC fights and never get knocked down.

“Insane,” UFC president Dana White said. “It was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen.”

Holloway is arguably the best featherweight in UFC history, holding the 145-pound title from 2017 to 2019 with three title defenses. ESPN has Holloway ranked tied for No. 9 in the world in its pound-for-pound MMA rankings. At featherweight, Holloway is ranked No. 2 and Rodriguez is No. 8.

“Max is an amazing fighter,” Rodriguez stated. “He has a lot of experience. He’s done an amazing job. I have nothing to do but accept [the loss].”

Afterward, Holloway was noncommittal about what he wants next. He mentioned a possible title fight at lightweight, another shot at the man who took the featherweight title from him in Alexander Volkanovski, and even being on “the short list” for a fight versus Conor McGregor, who beat Holloway in 2013.

“We’re ready whenever,” Holloway said.

Holloway, 29, owns the most wins (18), most KO/TKO wins (8) and most stoppage victories (10) in UFC featherweight history. Rodriguez (13-3, 1 NC) was undefeated in three consecutive fights coming in and has just two losses in 10 UFC fights.

The Mexico native had not fought since a unanimous-decision victory over Jeremy Stephens in October 2019. Rodriguez, 29, owns the record for the latest knockout in UFC history, a spectacular back elbow finish of “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung, with one second remaining in the fifth and final round in November 2018.

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Novak Djokovic downs Daniil Medvedev to claim record sixth Paris Masters title

Novak Djokovic won a record 37th Masters title by avenging his US Open final defeat versus Russian Daniil Medvedev with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory at the Paris Masters on Sunday.

Djokovic moved one clear of fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal for Masters trophies, and nine ahead of Roger Federer, the other tennis great with 20 majors.

The victory also marked a record-extending sixth Paris Masters title.

The Serbian, who is guaranteed to secure the year-end world No. 1 spot for a record seventh time, needed time to adjust to break the world No. 2’s sturdy defense but was unstoppable once he found his opening.

Djokovic was looking to avoid ending a season without a Masters title for the first time since 2017 and kept his cool throughout to accomplish his mission against the holder.

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Medvedev was overwhelmed in the third set and bowed out of the contest on the first match point when Djokovic unleashed a superb forehand winner down the line.

Two months after Medvedev denied Djokovic a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title when he beat him at Flushing Meadows, the Russian was hoping to lock his opponent into a backhand-to-backhand battle again.

Medvedev broke in the opening game as Djokovic made a flurry of unforced errors with the lanky Russian keeping him on the back foot.

The world No. 1 leveled for 2-2, but Medvedev stole his serve again to move 4-3 up with a splendid sliced backhand at the net.

The Russian then held serve twice to pocket the first set when Djokovic returned long.

The Serbian, however, turned the tables in the second set, going 3-1 up as Medvedev buried a backhand into the net.

Djokovic served and volleyed to save a break point at 5-3 and saw off a second with a big serve. Medvedev set up a third with a spectacular block at the net but the top seed’s first serve again came to the rescue.

Djokovic eventually took the match into a decider with an ace on his third set point.

He broke for 3-2 courtesy of three unforced errors by Medvedev and stole his opponent’s serve again to move 5-2 up.

Serving for the match, Djokovic gave Medvedev too much space and the Russian pulled a break back, but his tank was empty and he surrendered on his serve in the next game.

Medvedev complained he had been bothered by a spectator making too much noise in the crowd.

“I got mad because crucial, crucial moment, 5-2 for him, double break, even if I manage to get the break back, we all know that against Novak it’s tough to actually come back from this score,” he told a news conference.

“I got mad because it was not nice, and it was done on purpose. Some of the spectators, they were just into the match and you could feel it. You’re getting ready for serve, they were like, Allez, Novak or Allez, Daniil. But you could feel it was like they are just trying not to be in the game, and you wait.

“This one was done, when I did the toss already, it was done by a Serbian spectator … I hope he doesn’t watch tennis anymore.”

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