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2021 MMA wish list: 10 fights to make including Jones-Adesanya, McGregor-Gaethje, Masvidal-Covington and more

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2021 MMA wish list: 10 fights to make including Jones-Adesanya, McGregor-Gaethje, Masvidal-Covington and more

Despite COVID-19 ransacking the sports world, the UFC managed to put together a remarkable streak of shows throughout the year. Bellator and other MMA organizations followed suit, which resulted in a semi-regular year in mixed martial arts. But that doesn’t mean we got all the fights we wanted. Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, Francis Ngannou and others only fought one time, with some of the fights that fans have desired needing to be set aside. 

MORE: 2021 boxing wish list: 10 fights to make including Joshua-Fury, Garcia-Davis and more

2021 will hopefully be the year that some of these fights can be made, and Sporting News has come up with a wish list of showdowns we want to see in the wonderful world of mixed martial arts. Some appear to be close to happening while others might be nothing more than a pipe dream. 

Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou

This one almost came to fruition last year but fell apart over money. No disrespect to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, but this is the most intriguing fight to make for Jon Jones in the heavyweight division. Ngannou possesses life-altering power that Jones would have to figure out how to navigate around. And if anybody can, it’s Jon Jones. But considering how Ngannou has improved since losing to Miocic, it’s probable that he has a few tricks up his sleeve as well. 

Jon Jones vs. Israel Adesanya

While Jones-Ngannou almost happened, the fight we really want is Jon Jones vs. Israel Adesanya at 205 pounds. It’s unlikely at the moment considering Jones’ aspirations to compete at heavyweight. But Adesanya has been trolling the hell out of Jones for the past year and it will all culminate in March when the UFC middleweight champion challenges for the title that Jones once held. If there was any reason for Jones to move back down in weight, this would be it. Adesanya’s striking vs. Jon Jones’ wrestling and a heavy dose of bad blood would make this a massive fight. 

Conor McGregor vs. Justin Gaethje

Whether or not McGregor defeats Dustin Poirier, a McGregor-Gaethje showdown is an incredible fight at lightweight. Neither fighter would have to worry about wrestling and the result would be a largely standup showdown with two of the biggest strikers in the weight class. Gaethje has demonstrated incredible resilience over the years but has added patience and poise to prevent taking unnecessary punches. But would McGregor’s pinpoint accuracy and dynamite left hand change all that? Only one way to find out. 

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes 3

The gap between Valentina Shevchenko and the rest of the women’s flyweight division might be the widest of any weight class. Only one person has gotten past her over the past decade and it just so happens to be the woman who most have declared the greatest women’s mixed martial artist of all time. To be honest, a case can be made that the “woman” modifier can be removed from Nunes’ name considering her wealth of accomplishments. And that’s why this fight is so damn intriguing. Both of Shevchenko’s losses to Nunes were razor thin, and it would be her final chance to get revenge. Obviously, the weight difference was and will still be the issue. But considering that Shevchenko has few options left at flyweight, might as well take the leap. 

Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2

After delivering the fight of the year, this one is an absolute no-brainer. Zhang and Jedrzejczyk gave us 25 minutes of epic violence that went far beyond what anyone could have anticipated. There is unfinished business here between the current champion and one who was at one time considered the No. 1 women’s pound-for-pound fighter. Let’s do it again. 

Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal

Some stories just write themselves, and the narrative for this fight is obvious: former training partners with bad blood who tried (and failed) to unseat Kamaru Usman for the welterweight championship. Now they can turn to each other and settle their differences. This isn’t manufactured beef. It’s authentic and it needs to be settled inside the Octagon. 

AJ McKee vs. Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire

The ascent of AJ McKee in Bellator has been nothing short of astounding. The undefeated 25-year-old has torn through Bellator’s featherweight division with relative ease, capped off with 2020’s submission of the year — a wicked neck crank against Darrion Caldwell. Pitbull is the champion and widely recognized as the greatest fighter in Bellator’s history. Will he pass the torch to McKee or remain on top? This one is going to happen and we cannot wait. 

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland

Who was the top prospect of 2020? Some say Holland and others say Chimaev. Conventional wisdom suggests that these two will eventually meet, and considering how both have expressed their willingness to fight multiple times this year, it makes sense for them to collide. It’s somewhat reminiscent of when Jon Jones and Ryan Bader faced off nearly a decade ago and Jones emerged as the better man. Then he went on to become arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time. Not saying that the winner of Chimaev and Holland will follow that path to greatness, but also not saying they won’t. 

Yoel Romero vs. Anthony Johnson

Former UFC fighters clashing in Bellator is nothing new. But Romero and Johnson aren’t ancient fighters who left the UFC on the wrong end of their respective careers. Instead, both have a lot to give. Even at the age of 43, Yoel Romero is one of the most freakishly athletic fighters in all of MMA. As for “Rumble” Johnson, the power has never been in question. A fight at light heavyweight between these two could be the main or co-main event of any UFC card. But now that they are with Bellator, why not pull the trigger? One way or another, these two will need to meet in the Bellator cage.

Jose Aldo vs. TJ Dillashaw

It’s funny to think that a Jose Aldo-TJ Dillashaw fight was unfathomable six years ago. Aldo was the UFC featherweight champion and rumored to move up to lightweight while Dillashaw had just captured the UFC bantamweight title in a stunning upset of Renan Barao. A collision course was the furthest thing from our minds. Now, it seems much closer to reality. Aldo has since lost the title and made a successful move down to bantamweight, where he ended a three-fight losing streak by defeating Marlon Vera. Dillashaw is set to return from a two-year ban for a USADA drug test failure. With both out of the title picture, this is the fight to make.

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Warriors’ Draymond Green ejected for yelling at . . . a teammate?

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Warriors' Draymond Green ejected for yelling at . . . a teammate?

Warriors forward Draymond Green was on the receiving end of a horrible technical foul call Thursday night. To make matters worse, it was his second tech of the game, which meant he was ejected. 

Why was the call so bad? Because Green was yelling at a teammate, rookie James Wiseman, rather than an official or an opponent when he got T’d up.

Green was incredulous as he got the news during Golden State’s game against the Knicks.

Oddly, neither of the other two officials chose to confer with colleague John Butler and make sure the second-quarter technical was legitimate. They, too, had to have heard what Green was yelling inside the empty Chase Center.

MORE: Wiseman impresses Kerr with ‘Giannis play’

Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game that one of those other officials, Ben Taylor, told him at halftime that Butler thought Green was yelling at him and not Wiseman.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was just happy to see Green gone.

“Draymond, we caught a break when he got thrown out,” he said postgame, per The Associated Press. New York won the game 119-104. 

The NBA can decide to rescind Green’s second technical once it gathers all the information about it. Based on the Warriors’ reactions and Taylor’s reported admission, expect that T to go away quickly on Friday. Too little, too late, but at least some justice will be done after Green was done wrong by the officials.

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NBA trade rumors: Cavaliers to send Kevin Porter Jr. to Rockets following outburst

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NBA trade rumors: Cavaliers to send Kevin Porter Jr. to Rockets following outburst

The Cavaliers have found a taker for Kevin Porter Jr.

Cleveland is trading the second-year wing player to the Rockets, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported late Thursday. It will receive a protected second-round draft pick in return. The Associated Press reported the deal was pending NBA approval.

MORE: Cavs’ Sexton beats Nets’ Big 3 in double OT

The Cavs decided to move Porter after he threw a tantrum over the team giving his locker to newly acquired veteran Taurean Prince and moving him to another part of the locker room. The Athletic reported the Jan. 15 outburst included Porter throwing food and being “combative” during an argument with general manager Koby Altman.

Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Monday spoke of Porter as a soon-to-be-former member of the organization.

“We all want to see Kevin be successful,” Bickerstaff said, per The Athletic. “I still feel that way. So whatever it is that happens in the future for him, I hope nothing but the best for him. And it’s part of our responsibility as coaches to give everyone our all and try to make the best of every situation. I can say that we did that.”

Porter did not play for Cleveland this season because of unspecified personal issues. He was charged with weapon and drug offenses last November in Ohio following a car crash. Prosecutors later dropped the charges, ESPN reported. 

He played in 50 games (three starts) for the Cavs last season as a rookie, averaging 10.0 points and 3.2 rebounds. 

Houston will waive injured guard Chris Clemons to make room for Porter on the roster, Feigen reported.

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Blue Jays preparing to play home games in Florida if necessary, report says

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Blue Jays preparing to play home games in Florida if necessary, report says

The Blue Jays are making contingency plans in the event the Canadian government prevents them from playing home games in Toronto at the start of the 2021 MLB season because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that the club is looking at its spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., as a possible alternate site and that the Jays and Dunedin officials have held preliminary discussions about holding regular-season games at TD Ballpark.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Jan. 12 that the Canada-U.S. border would remain closed to nonessential travel through at least Feb. 21, and on Jan. 16 Ontario extended emergency measures within the province through Feb. 19 as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase.

MORE: New stadium to replace Rogers Centre in Toronto, report says

“We would welcome the opportunity if they were to open their season here,” Vince Gizzi, Dunedin’s parks and recreation director, told the Times. “It would just be wonderful for our city, if they were restricted from going in and out of Canada, that they could play here.”

The Jays were forced to play their entire 60-game schedule last year in the U.S. after Canada prohibited them from playing at Rogers Centre amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The team played its home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., the home of its Triple-A minor league affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, beginning in mid-August. The Bisons’ 2020 season had already been canceled, making the stadium available to the Jays full time. 

The Bisons are scheduled to resume playing there next spring, although the exact opening date is unclear because MLB is still deciding when to begin the 2021 minor league season.

Dunedin is also home to Toronto’s affiliate in the Single-A Florida State League, but the Times speculated that any scheduling conflicts could be resolved by having the minor league team play on one of the fields adjacent to the stadium inside the Jays’ complex. The parent club’s home opener is scheduled for April 8. 

MORE: Blue Jays’ free-agent moves assure AL East respectability

The Times noted that MLB and the MLB Players Association would have to approve moving games outside Toronto. 

The NBA’s Raptors are dealing with a similar prohibition. They’ve moved their home games this season to Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., home of the NHL’s Lightning. Dunedin is about 30 minutes west of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The Maple Leafs are playing their home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto but are not scheduled to leave Canada in the regular season. The NHL placed all seven of its Canadian teams in one division for the 2021 season and are having them play just each other, with games taking place entirely within Canada.

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