San Jose's Velasquez doesn't last long


San Jose's Velasquez doesn't last long

It was a little more than a decade ago that the UFC was a fledgling MMA promotion. The sport itself was widely considered an underground phenomenon that would never make it in mainstream America. Saturday nights UFC on FOX debut emphatically crushed any remaining notion of that.

The one-fight main card was worthy of introducing the UFC to mainstream audiences. Cain Velasquez, who fights out of AKA in San Jose, took on the Brazilian Junior dos Santos in a battle for Cains heavyweight title. Although that fight did not last as long as FOX officials had hoped, the night did not disappoint in excitement.

As we do with all live UFC events, lets take a look at our three honors of the night. Im sure you know who won Knockout of the Night.

Fight of the Night: Ben Henderson def. Clay Guida via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)

The co-main event, which was not seen on the FOX broadcast, had the hype of any main event fight. Two fighters with non-stop motors, who arent afraid to strike or take it to the ground, put on quite a show for fans in attendance and online. It was worthy of being on the main card as the fight went three full rounds with both fighters gaining and losing momentum. Bendo, Henderson, was able to gain the upper-hand in some form in each round. Guida had chances to throw in submissions, but Bendo continued to roll out and gain control. That led to his victory, which clinched a shot at the UFC lightweight title.
Knockout of the Night: Junior dos Santos def. Cain Velasquez via TKO (punches) Round 1, 1:04 (Heavyweight title fight)

Thirty minutes of on-air hype by FOX and a little over a minute of an actual bout. Not the outcome fans, UFC officials and FOX officials had hoped for. The minute that the fight lasted was an exciting minute. Both men started out striking and it was the striking of JDS that ended the bout and Cains reign as champion. A right hook to the back of Velasquezs left ear staggered the champ and dos Santos pounced. Several shots to Cain from dos Santos caused referee John McCarthy to end the bout after a little over a minute.

Submission of the Night: Ricard Lamas def. Cub Swanson via submission (arm-triangle choke) Round 2, 2:16

This featherweight bout was the tale of two different rounds. The first was dominated by Cub Swanson. He was able to do all that he wanted in dominating Lamas early, but the second round was vastly different. Swanson came out with a high kick in the second, but slipped and Lamas charged to make his move. The two exchanged strikes and Lamas looked to take Swansons back. After that didnt work, Lamas set in a side choke to trap Swanson who ended up tapping after an impressive exchange.

UFCs FOX debut might not have lasted as long as people had hoped, but the images it left with fans will keep them coming back for more. For the sport, and the promotion, Saturday night was a night that few will ever forget. Its importance and significance is not lost on people close to the sport and it is a moment that signified MMA as a sport that has finally arrived.

Nitesh Dutt is a production assistant with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @NiteshDutt.

Burns getting his points, but other Sharks d-men are not


Burns getting his points, but other Sharks d-men are not

SAN JOSE – Brent Burns has resumed his place among the NHL’s highest scoring defensemen. His nine points (3g, 6a) puts him first among all blueliners, and ties him for second overall in the league scoring race with six others.

For the rest of the Sharks’ defense corps, though, the points haven’t been there just yet. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s overtime score on Tuesday was the first goal by a Sharks defenseman that employs the use of a razor on a regular basis, while he and the four others on the back end have combined for just three assists in seven games.

While that lack of production is reflected in the team’s goals-per game average – 2.26, 26th in the NHL – coach Pete DeBoer isn’t all that concerned. He attributes it more to being unlucky than anything else.

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on the other team five-on-five. The puck has bounced, or we just haven’t finished,” DeBoer said. “We’re getting some chances. Most nights we’re out-chancing the other team, and usually that’s a formula for success for us.”

The Sharks have been a strong team in terms of possession, as the coach indicated. They are averaging 32.4 shots per game, fourth in the NHL, and are second in the NHL in shot attempt percentage in close games (56.3 percent).

Still, they could have more. Vlasic, Justin Braun, David Schlemko, Paul Martin and Brenden Dillon have a combined 51 shots on goal, but they’ve also had 48 attempts that have been blocked. In fact, Braun and Martin both have had more attempts blocked than have that made it through to the goalie.

“Five-on-five we haven’t really been getting the tips or the dirty goals around the net that come off shots, but that starts with us getting it through,” said Braun, who has seven shots, but 12 that have been blocked. “The more shots we can get towards the net the better chance we’ll have for the forwards to bang some home, and go from there.”

David Schlemko is also scoreless through seven games, but he managed six shots against the Ducks on Tuesday and has 17 for the year (with 13 blocked). Other than Burns, he’s been the Sharks’ most effective defenseman at getting the puck through.

Brenden Dillon (nine shots, eight blocked) and Paul Martin (five shots, 10 blocked) have one assist each.

Martin indicated that it gets harder and harder every year to get shots through, as more teams commit to getting in lanes. The Sharks also make it a point to put the puck on Burns’ stick as much as they can, considering how much of a weapon he is. Both are factors in those low point totals.

“A lot of times we key on making sure that [Burns] gets the puck. But teams do a better job each year at getting in lanes and blocking shots and fronting pucks and packing it in [around the net],” Martin said. “It’s harder to get pucks through to the net than it used to be.”

The primary role of the defense, of course, is to defend. Except for some notable lapses against the Rangers and Red Wings, the Sharks have been doing that fairly well, holding the opposition to just 24.9 shots per game, second in the NHL.

As long as they keep that up, and Burns continues to produce, the Sharks will be in a good position to win on a nightly basis.

“We’re defending well,” DeBoer said. “That’s our team defense, and that starts with us controlling the play, playing in the other team’s end [and] putting pressure on the other team. I think that’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on all the way back to the beginning of last year.”

Raiders enjoying change of scenery in Florida, but focused on football

Raiders enjoying change of scenery in Florida, but focused on football

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders hope central Florida is a home away from home. They’re treating this week in picturesque Sarasota as a normal practice week, with freedom to roam after practice and meetings and meals.

While that makes it sound like Raiders can take advantage of this beautiful beach town and the Ritz Carlton amenities, that isn’t exactly true. While there have been dinners and trips to the hotel’s beach club, most have become familiar with the quarantined event space housing most non-practice activities.

“I looked out this morning and realized there was actually water close by,” head coach Jack Del Rio said with a smile. “It only took me three days to realize that. We’re just going about our business really. Happens to be a beautiful city, but the work’s the same. Put the last game behind you, get ready for the next. Understand what they like, what they’re good at, who their strong players are. Who are some guys that are not as strong? We want to make sure we attack them, things like that. It’s very normal in terms of the preparation and the way we’re going about our business.”

The Raiders have a fixed routine through the heart of his practice week. They have morning meetings as always, with a walk thru conducted in a hotel ballroom. Then they eat and head out to the famous IMG Academy, located 16 miles north in Bradenton. Their first full practice was conducted Wednesday afternoon. 

The school/training space has some famous alumni and trainees including Cam Newton, Tim Howard, Andre Agassi and Amar’e Stoudemire.

A few Raiders have trained there as well. Amari Cooper participated in a national 7-on-7 tournament there, and three offensive linemen did pre-NFL draft work at a massive facility that also acts as a school for athletic children.

“I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s pretty nice,” Crabtree said. “I just don’t when all those guys go to school. It seems like it’s sports year round. That’s a nice facility and that’s good.”

The Raiders hope to mimic a typical game week, but it’s not always easy. This still feels like a road trip, though it’s a pretty nice one with perfect weather and a postcard’s backdrop.

“It’s just a change of scenery. I feel like we’re just enjoying it,” Crabtree said. “It’s beautiful. Sarasota, this is nice. Taking it all in and at the same time, we’re working every day. You can’t beat this weather. You can’t beat this scenery, the Ritz, you can’t beat none of this. I’m just taking it all in, enjoying it and playing ball.”

Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith compared this experience to training camp in Napa where a team really comes together, though it comes with a bit less stress.

“As far as team bonding goes, this has been a great experience,” he said. “It’s better than camp because we’re not fighting for jobs and things like that. This is our group, and we’re focused on getting ready to play."

There are ancillary benefits to a long Florida trip as well.

“I love it, man. The weather’s nice and there’s no state tax here,” Carr said with a laugh. “That’s always a good thing for the people that live here. (laughter) It’s been awesome. The people here have been great.”