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Pack’s Adams: Frustration led to deleted tweet

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Davante Adams made no apologies for his desire to play — and even play hurt — but the Green Bay Packers receiver admitted that frustration led to his since-deleted tweet on the morning of his team’s most recent game Oct. 5 against the Falcons, when Adams said it was the team’s decision — not his — to hold him out.

“It’s not too much to read into it to say I was frustrated,” Adams said Wednesday. “Obviously, I’m a competitor. I think everybody knows that. Everybody knows what I’m about and how I play football. I don’t necessarily, obviously, understand what the club’s interest [is] and everything that goes with it.

“But being a competitor, like I said, and me being who I am and how I’m wired, even if I’m not 100 percent, which I said obviously at that point I felt great to play. But even if I’m not 100 percent, I mean, I’ve played few football games feeling 100 percent. So at the end of the day, a lot of that factored into the decision.”

Although Adams did not put a percentage on his hamstring Wednesday, he appears on track to play Sunday for the undefeated Packers (4-0) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) in the third meeting between future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Adams, who caught a career-high 14 passes in the season opener before he suffered his injury in Week 2, practiced Wednesday as a full participant. He practiced on a limited basis leading into the Week 4 game against Atlanta. The Packers had their bye last week, which could have factored into the team’s decision to hold Adams out the previous week. “Hamstring feels good,” Adams said after practice. “It feels even better than it was at that point, when the tweet was put out.”

Coach Matt LaFleur said he didn’t tell Adams to take down the tweet, but Adams said he did it because “that was the best thing to do. A little frustrated when it happened, obviously, but then decided to take it down just so there were no distractions on game day, and my teammates could go out there and take care of business without hearing about too much extra stuff.”

The Packers have won all six games that Adams has missed the past two seasons. They played without their top two receivers against the Falcons because Allen Lazard went on injured reserve following core muscle surgery.

“We’ll just see how his body responds,” LaFleur said. “I know ‘Te has done everything in his power, just like he did two weeks ago before we played Atlanta. He’s always doing whatever he can to get out on the field to play with his teammates because he knows he’s an important part of what we’re trying to get done here. He’s a great player, and I love the way he approaches everything.”

If there’s preemptive concern about injury heading into Tampa Bay, perhaps it should be about Rodgers. He has sustained two injuries at Raymond James Stadium: a shoulder injury in 2008 and a calf injury in 2014 that he blamed at the time on “the poor surface in Tampa.” The Packers have not played in Tampa since that 2014 game.

“I’m hoping that the third time is the charm,” Rodgers said. “Yeah, have had a couple rough ones down there, but it kind of is what it is. They’ve had a lot of play over the years on that surface. I’m not sure what the surface looks like [now], not having played there, like you said, since ’14. But trying to buck that trend here in 2020. And hoping that that’s the reality.”

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Alabama WR Waddle (ankle) out for season

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Alabama wideout and return specialist Jaylen Waddle is out for the season after suffering what coach Nick Saban called a combination of a high-ankle sprain and a fracture during the opening kickoff of Saturday’s 48-17 win over Tennessee.

Saban said the injury is similar to the one former Alabama running back Kenyan Drake suffered in 2014, which caused him to miss most of that season.

“He’s out for the year,” Saban said of Waddle. “And it’s a shame because the guy’s a great player. It’s exciting for college football to see a guy play like that. I hate it that he gets hurt on a play like that. You’re not supposed to bring a ball out when you’re that deep in the end zone. But he’s a great player, so you’ve got to let him use his judgment.”

Waddle, an ESPN preseason All-America selection, limped off the field while favoring his right ankle and was taken to the locker room on a cart.

According to Saban, Waddle was being flown back to Alabama and will go directly to a hospital in Birmingham to have surgery.

The junior from Houston caught 25 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns through four games this season. He is No. 12 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board of NFL draft prospects.

With Waddle sidelined, Alabama turned to Slade Bolden as the team’s third receiver.

Bolden, who hadn’t caught a pass this season, had receptions on each of Alabama’s first two drives against Tennessee. He finished the game with six catches for 94 yards.

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Is Israel Adesanya next for Robert Whittaker? Who’s next for Justin Gaethje?

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Saturday’s UFC main event was predictable in a way, in that the undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov won. What happened next was not as predictable.

Nurmagomedov (29-0) announced his official retirement from mixed martial arts, following the death of his father Abdulmanap in July. He revealed his mother did not even want him to compete at UFC 254, but he promised her it would be the final bout of his career.

The Dagestani legend retires as arguably the greatest fighter of all time. And he departs a lightweight division that is now full of uncertainty. UFC president Dana White admitted he does not know what he’ll do in the aftermath of Nurmagomedov’s retirement. There is a massive fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier tentatively scheduled for January, but not official. Will there a title on the line in that bout or will Justin Gaethje get his chance against the winner?

Robert Whittaker also made his case to be next up for Israel Adesanya with a strong performance over Jared Cannonier, but will he get the rematch he believes he should get? Will he get jumped by another surging middleweight or will he take another fight in the interim?

Brett Okamoto plays matchmaker after UFC 254 and lays out the course for the lightweight title and other standouts from Fight Island.


Justin Gaethje, lightweight (lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov by second-round submission)

Who’s next: Winner of Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23

Assuming the McGregor-Poirier rematch goes ahead on Jan. 23, Gaethje fighting the winner makes a ton of sense to me. He has history with both. After Gaethje beat Tony Ferguson back in May to capture the interim title, McGregor came out publicly saying he wanted to fight him. Gaethje wasn’t interested, as he was to fight Nurmagomedov and Nurmagomedov only. Well, it would seem a perfect time to book that fight now. If Poirier wins, a second fight between Gaethje and Poirier would be as fantastic as their first meeting in 2018, which Poirier won via TKO, was spectacular.

Wild card: Nate Diaz

Look, I have no idea if Diaz is interested in this fight. He hasn’t shown much interest in Gaethje previously … although he did Tweet a little trash talk in his direction the second Saturday’s fight ended. Would this not be an incredible matchup? And now that it appears, for now, that Diaz will not get that Jorge Masvidal rematch he truly wanted, what’s a big fight out there for him? He’s been hinting at a fight against Dan Hooker, but with all respect to Hooker, isn’t Diaz vs. Gaethje a much bigger fight? I’ll answer that. Yes. It’s massive. Look into this one, UFC.

Robert Whittaker, middleweight (defeated Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision)

Who’s next: Israel Adesanya

Prior to his recent title defense against Paulo Costa, Adesanya was singing Cannonier’s praises and even predicted he would “destroy” Whittaker in this fight. Well, Whittaker proved that prediction wrong, and now he should get a chance to make Adesanya eat his words even further.

Yes, these two just fought in 2019, and Adesanya won. Handedly. He knocked Whittaker out inside two rounds, and it’s quite possible the rematch would go the same way. But consider the following:

A) That loss almost doesn’t matter. Whittaker is clearly the No. 1 contender. So, even if he falls to Adesanya again, he’s earned the right at a second shot. That’s how sports work.

B) Whittaker said he was burned out from MMA ahead of the first fight against Adesanya. Again, that might mean nothing in terms of the rematch, but I believe Whittaker is telling the truth about it.

C) Whittaker is an intelligent fighter and lest we forget, he’s won 11 of his last 12 fights. He’s still one of the best fighters in the world!

This is a rematch I actually very much want to see.

Wild card: Paulo Costa

I don’t see this happening, and I don’t particularly think it should happen, but if Adesanya defends his title against someone else before Whittaker — well, what does that mean for Whittaker? Is he gonna wait? That’s potentially a very long time to wait.

So in that scenario, would he take a fight against Costa to even further prove he’s the rightful No. 1 contender? Say it were to play out that way, I mean, no one could deny Whittaker a title shot if he were to go out and beat Costa, on the heels of beating Darren Till and Jared Cannonier.

Jared Cannonier, middleweight (lost to Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision)

Who’s next: Kelvin Gastelum

I really love the idea of this fight. I must admit, I haven’t really thought about this matchup before now, because there was never an obvious time for it. But this is the fight right here. Stylistically, this is a barn-burner. Two very quick, explosive guys on the feet with well-rounded games. Gastelum was very nearly an interim champion 18 months ago. I know he’s on a three-fight skid, but he’s capable of competing with the best on any given night. And Cannonier is still a contender. One loss to a former champ in Whittaker doesn’t change that. Yes, put me down for this one.

Wild card: Uriah Hall

If Hall beats Anderson Silva at UFC Fight Night on Oct. 31 in Las Vegas, his stock will be on the rise. And as I always point out, the UFC doesn’t typically like pairing a fighter coming off a loss with one coming off a win — and I get that — but I also think it’s not a necessary rule to follow all the time and this matchup would certainly make sense despite that. It’s also a very fun stylistic matchup, although granted, most of the fights at middleweight right now are.

There are a lot of entertaining middleweights at the moment, and these are definitely two of them. If Hall wins on Halloween, there’s a strong case for him getting Cannonier next.


Magomed Ankalaev, light heavyweight (defeated Ion Cuțelaba by first-round KO)

Who’s next: Johnny Walker

Ankalaev is good. Really good. That first fight against Ion Cutelaba, the one that didn’t last a minute and ended in controversy, you couldn’t take much from it because it was basically 38 seconds of chaos. But this second fight, we really got a great look at how fantastic of a counter striker Ankalaev truly is. He believes in his speed and his ability to see punches, which results in very, very confident counters. He’s probably one of the fastest guys in this division. Similarly, Walker is considered one of the better athletes at 205 pounds. I’d be very intrigued by this matchup, and even though Walker is only 1-2 in his last three, it makes sense from a rankings perspective.

Wild card: Jiri Prochazka

Prochazka is just 1-0 in the UFC, but I’m hearing whispers about them having a hard time finding him an opponent. He’s unorthodox on the feet, and it would be fascinating to see Ankalaev try to counter that unpredictability. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Prochazka booked against more of a household name than Ankalaev, something that might help turn him into an attractive title challenger, but if that’s an option, I could see the UFC going this route. It’d be a great clash of styles.


Lauren Murphy, flyweight (defeated Liliya Shakirova by second-round rear-naked choke)

Who’s next: Cynthia Calvillo

Great result for Murphy as she notched the first submission win of her career. She handled the late change in opponent beautifully and she gave a great post-fight interview, in which she stated her next fight would be for the title. I respect the call for a title shot, but I don’t think it’s realistic.

Valentina Shevchenko has Jennifer Maia lined up in November, and I think Jessica Andrade will be (and should be) after that. So, in the meantime? Go back to the original fight, the one that always made sense. Murphy was supposed to fight Calvillo at UFC 254, but Calvillo was pulled due to a positive COVID-19 test. Murphy is in shape, and prepared for Calvillo. It appeared she took no damage in this fight.

Book that matchup again, before the end of the year. And if she wins that, I think. she’ll get her title shot.

Wild card: Jessica Andrade

Conceivably, Andrade could be next for Murphy. If Andrade’s next fight isn’t for a title, there are only a couple options that would even make sense for her and Murphy is one of them. I only think this would happen if Andrade is bullish on fighting soon though. She’s already, very clearly, the most attractive option for a title shot after Maia in November. There’s no need to book her another non-title fight.

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Khabib retiring while at the top of his sport elicits memories of Michael Jordan

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There were so many questions surrounding Khabib Nurmagomedov heading into Saturday’s title fight, his first without his late father, Abdulmanap.

Would he be as dominant? Would he care as much? Would he be too emotional? Would he win?

In the end, Nurmagomedov looked better than ever. That’s not hyperbole. That’s fact.

He dominated Justin Gaethje from the get-go. He controlled the pace of the fight, took the center of the cage and imposed his will.

It looked like he was a man on a mission en route to submitting Gaethje in the second round. A man on a mission to win for his father, who died in July of a heart condition complicated by the coronavirus.

And when it ended Saturday in Abu Dhabi, Khabib couldn’t stop crying. There he was, the best fighter on the planet, weeping uncontrollably. He had done such a great job of publicly suppressing his feelings leading up to this fight, one had to wonder if he would break in the aftermath. Well, he did. And you can’t blame him.

Immediately, I was reminded of the scene when Michael Jordan couldn’t stop crying after winning the ’96 NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics. You remember that moment, right? Father’s Day. His first title since the murder of his father, James.

It’s a moment basketball fans will never forget: seeing the greatest player of all time cry for his father while laying on the floor, clutching a ball.

MMA fans just witnessed a similar scene play out with arguably the greatest fighter of all time.

There’s one big difference between those two scenes, though.

You see, Nurmagomedov had to answer a lot of questions about his dad leading up to this fight. He handled those questions with grace and class. But he kept one answer to himself.

He revealed after the win to Jon Anik that he promised his mother he would retire after this fight. He promised her he would not continue without Abdulmanap by his side. He took his gloves off and placed them in the center of the cage, as is tradition when a fighter calls it a career.

Nurmagomedov’s mother isn’t as well known to the public, but he is just as close with her as he was his father.

So, truth be told, in one way, this isn’t a total shock. He discussed retiring after his 30th pro fight, which would have been his next one. So, it comes one fight early.

But it’s hard to digest because of how dominant he is. An athlete hasn’t left in his prime like this since Jordan did back in ’93. That’s how good Khabib is right now.

But who can blame him? There aren’t many challenges left. Would the Georges St-Pierre fight have been fun? Yes. Absolutely. It would have been an amazing scene. Fascinating theater. Would a Conor McGregor rematch have been amazing? Yes. I’d love to see that, too.

But if you know anything about Khabib, it’s that he has always followed “Father’s plan,” and the fact that he feels like he can’t continue without his father by his side seems like a perfect ending to a legendary career.

“Father’s plan” is now mission accomplished. Nothing left to prove.

Ariel Helwani

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Robert Whittaker lands a series of leg kicks throughout his fight against Jared Cannonier and tacks on some ground-and-pound in the third.

No one seems super excited to talk about an Adesanya-Whittaker rematch, and I get it. Whittaker, who won a unanimous decision over Jared Cannonier on Saturday, doesn’t talk trash. He barely talks at all. You ask him about his next fight, and he talks about putting up his Christmas tree with his family instead. He’s one of the most respected men in the sport, in part, because he’s going to stay true to himself and not really discuss his next move. So, you have that aspect of it, the fact Whittaker isn’t going to get anyone hyped for a rematch using his words. And then you have the fact this fight just happened one year ago, and Adesanya won convincingly in a second-round knockout. It’s not the makings for a blockbuster rematch.

But at the end of the day, Whittaker has the best chance at dethroning Adesanya, in my opinion. He’s still world class. He’s still elite. He has a high fight IQ and he did admit that ahead of his first meeting, he was feeling burned out with MMA, and it’s impossible to say that had zero effect on him. It might not be the massive headliner the sport wants right now, but it’s the right fight to make. No one has a better shot at dethroning Adesanya right now than Robert Whittaker.

Brett Okamoto

Which prospect was the most impressive?

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Magomed Ankalaev lands a powerful punch that sends Ion Cutelaba to the mat in the first round.

Magomed Ankalaev is still just 28 years old and he looked like an absolute monster in stopping Ion Cutelaba with strikes in Round 1 on Saturday. The two fought back in February, a controversial Anklaev TKO. Cutelaba appealed the result, claiming he was not really hurt, never went down and was attempting to bait Ankalaev into committing on shots. The UFC booked a rematch and this time Ankalaev left absolutely no doubt he was the better man.

The Dagestan native seems like he’s going to be a force in the evolving UFC light heavyweight division, which has a new champion in Jan Blachowicz. Ankalaev has won five straight in the UFC and has finished four of those victories via TKO. This was his biggest win to date. Ankalaev surely seems like the real deal — and nearly ready to go from prospect to contender.

Marc Raimondi

Volkov steps toward heavyweight elite

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Alexander Volkov connects on a series of punches that hurt Walt Harris in the first round.

Alexander Volkov entered UFC 254 as the best fighter on the card not appearing in any promos. He left with a striking display and knockout that should open some eyes in the heavyweight division.

Walt Harris opened looking lean, light and quick. Volkov stuck to striking basics to win the opening round, picking apart Harris with jabs and body shots that made the American suddenly stationary. Over the 6-minute, 15-second fight, Volkov landed all 11 body shots he attempted, included the teep kick that spelled the end for Harris. It was the second knockout stemming from body strikes in UFC heavyweight history, the first since Alistair Overeem permanently derailed Brock Lesnar‘s hype train at UFC 141.

Celebrating his 32nd birthday at the event, Volkov only sees one younger heavyweight ahead of him in the rankings: Curtis Blaydes. Volkov has won six of eight fights in the UFC, and was cruising toward a win over Derrick Lewis before suffering an 11th-hour knockout in one of the losses. A rematch is as sensible now as ever, as Volkov further showed he’s not done climbing the ladder.

Phil Murphy

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