San Jose's Velasquez doesn't last long

586880.jpg

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.

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

ANAHEIM — As Yonder Alonso was preparing for the 2017 season last winter, he was tackling another challenge too.

Over the course of three months, the A’s first baseman gathered his thoughts and pieced together a fascinating first-person account for The Players’ Tribune about his childhood experience defecting from Cuba with his parents and younger sister.

Alonso framed the article as him penning a letter to his 8-year-old self, describing the grueling struggle he and his family would go through while reassuring his younger self that it would all be worth it when he finally made it as a major leaguer. Alonso describes in vivid detail the hardships he went through, caring for his sister, Yainee, at night as they dined on meals of microwaved hot dogs and microwaved eggs, while his parents were away from home working multiple jobs to support their family.

Alonso goes on to describe how he would return from college baseball road trips, while he was attending the University of Miami, and immediately head to a night job to help his father clean warehouses and scrub bathrooms.

The story struck a chord within the A’s clubhouse but also among so many people from the Miami area, where Alonso’s family settled after they defected. Alonso said he’s received text messages from many of them.

“I think everybody in this locker room, or any locker room, they definitely have a story to tell,” Alonso said. “And I think it’s awesome when you see a guy just kind of open up a little bit. I’m (usually) not one to open up.”

Athletes are used to reporters peppering them with questions and trying to draw stories out of them. Seldom do athletes take to penning their own story.

Representatives from The Players’ Tribune, an online publication started by Derek Jeter in 2014, reached out to Alonso in early December about writing something. Alonso had a trip planned to Cuba for later that month, before any request for an article came, and his return visit to his native country helped persuade him to go through with it.

“I saw a lot of people,” he said. “For me it was very touching. For my wife as well.”

Alonso met with an editor from The Players’ Tribune during spring training, and they began hashing out ideas. Alonso said he wrote the story himself with assistance from the editor.

“We had ideas, different ways of going about it,” he said. “I think from day one I knew the way I wanted to write it and how I wanted it to come out, which is a letter to my younger self.”

Even after finishing the project three weeks ago, Alonso said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share it publicly. He showed the article to some friends and teammates, including A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Matt Joyce. After reading the piece, Joyce strongly persuaded Alonso to carry through with it.

“I told him it was awesome,” Joyce said. “From my perspective, you don’t really get a good sense of what those guys go through, coming over to the States. You just see them later. So to kind of read it in his own words, it was a really cool perspective and a good story to see what a kid across the water, from a different country, goes through to get to this point. I think it’s a very powerful story and message.”

Alonso said his motivation was simple.

“Just letting my family know, and people in this world know, that if you want to strive for something, it can be tough at times. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Giants lineup: Belt in left field, Kelby at second base

Giants lineup: Belt in left field, Kelby at second base

Programming note: Dodgers-Giants coverage starts today at 11:30am with Giants Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Dave Roberts and Bruce Bochy issued their lineups for today's series finale at AT&T Park:

Dodgers (10-12)
1. Enrique Hernandez (R) CF
2. Corey Seager (L) SS
3. Justin Turner (R) 3B
4. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
5. Chris Taylor (R) 2B
6. Austin Barnes (R) C
7. Scott Van Slyke (R) 1B
8. Cody Bellinger (L) LF
9. Julio Urias (L) P

Giants (8-14) 
1. Hunter Pence (R) RF
2. Brandon Belt (L) LF
3. Eduardo Nunez (R) SS
4. Buster Posey (R) 1B
5. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
6. Nick Hundley (R) C
7. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Matt Moore (L) P (1-3, 5.87 ERA)