UFC

Jones duels, two titles & Miocic trilogy - Daniel Cormier's UFC highs and lows

By Sports Desk August 16, 2020

So that's it. Daniel Cormier, a two-weight UFC champion, has entered the Octagon for the final time.

Stipe Miocic claimed a unanimous-decision win at UFC 252 in Las Vegas on Saturday, edging a bruising contest to retain the heavyweight championship.

"It sucks, being on the losing end of two big fights and trilogies - it's a very sad position to be in," said Cormier. "But I will deal with it as I've dealt with things in the past.

"I'm not interested in fighting for anything but titles, and I don't imagine there's going to be a title in the future, so that'll be it for me. I've had a long run, it's been great."

The 41-year-old has certainly left a lasting mark on mixed martial arts and so, to mark the end of a memorable career, we take a look back at some of his highs and lows.

LOW: Jones keeps Cormier at bay

Cormier's first attempt at claiming a UFC championship did not go to plan. The former amateur wrestler had an unbeaten 15-0 record when he took on Jon Jones but was beaten by unanimous decision.

The conquered Cormier would never get his revenge against Jones. The pair met again in 2017 with Jones this time winning via knockout, although the result was later overturned as the winner tested positive for steroid metabolite turinabol.

HIGH: DC seizes light heavyweight chance

Cormier had been preparing to face Ryan Bader later in 2015 when news broke of Jones being stripped of his championship and suspended indefinitely after facing felony charges. The title was suddenly vacant and it was not an opportunity Cormier was going to pass up this time.

He saw off Anthony Johnson to seize the belt in May, recovering from an early overhand right that put him on the canvas.

HIGH: First title defence a classic

Hanging onto that light heavyweight belt would prove far from straightforward, Cormier quickly found. His first defence came against Alexander Gustafsson in a gripping encounter in October of the same year.

The entertaining bout went to a split decision in Cormier's favour, although the victor admitted afterwards: "I feel pretty beat up. This is the worst that I've ever been beat."

HIGH: Stipe stopped to top heavyweight division

Cormier was still the light heavyweight king in July 2018 when he sought to become a two-weight champion by taking on Miocic, then in possession of the heavyweight belt, for the first time.

He got his wish in ruthless fashion, dropping Miocic with his right elbow and completing the job on the ground late in the first round, becoming then just the second UFC star - after Conor McGregor - to simultaneously possess titles at two weights.

LOW: Miocic soon makes amends

An initial title defence was successful against Derrick Lewis, but Cormier - who relinquished his light heavyweight championship in December 2018 - then met Miocic again in August of last year. Cormier was ahead on all of the scorecards in the fourth round but an effective barrage of punches swiftly ended his reign.

It was that reverse that led Cormier to Saturday's trilogy fight for the final chapter of a storied career.

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  • From Rule 5 pick to MLB sensation: Rapid rise of history-making Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo From Rule 5 pick to MLB sensation: Rapid rise of history-making Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo

    Akil Baddoo is the name on everyone's lips.

    Baddoo has shattered records from his very first pitch in MLB this month amid an incredible rise from unheralded Rule 5 pick to the biggest sensation in baseball.

    The 22-year-old Detroit Tigers outfielder is already the first player in modern MLB history (dating back to 1901) to hit a grand slam, another home run and a walk-off hit in his first three career games.

    But Baddoo's story is one of perseverance. Let's rewind back to May 2019. He was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.

    If sitting out the 2019 campaign was not bad enough, he missed last season when the minor leagues were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    During the winter's Rule five draft in December, Baddoo was taken by the Tigers, having initially been drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 2016.

    The Rule 5 draft aims at preventing franchises from stockpiling too many young players on their minor league affiliate teams when other clubs would be prepared to play them in the major leagues. If chosen, a player must be kept on the selecting team's major league active roster for the entire season.

    "If you think about it, he's gone through so much," Baddoo's mother Akilah said. "And then this opportunity came, and it was like, 'This can't be a joke. There's a plan for you. You got to know that'."

    In the least likely of places, the Tigers appear to have landed a gem, and Baddoo is making the most of his opportunity, immediately becoming a cult hero in Detroit.

    Baddoo had 233 career minor leagues games to his name, but none above Class A as he earned a place on the Opening Day roster after hitting .325 in Spring Training with five home runs. However, the Maryland native looked like a man for the big stage.

    In his opening at-bat on April 4, Baddoo homered in a memorable maiden outing for the Tigers, driving to left field in the bottom of the third inning against the Cleveland Indians.

    "I'm just living in the moment," Baddoo said post-game after becoming the ninth player in Tigers franchise history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat and only the second to do so on the first pitch, following George Vico in 1948. "I got a good pitch to hit, and I was able to hit it in front of my family and everyone."

    If that was not enough, Baddoo continued the fairy-tale week by hitting his first career grand slam against the Twins the following day. He became the first Tiger to homer in each of his first two MLB games and the first player in major league history to homer out of the ninth spot of the batting order in his first two career games. Baddoo was also the first player in franchise history to hit a slam within his opening two games.

    Baddoo has continually showed maturity beyond his years as the rookie adds to his growing legend. Taking over Motor City, he then delivered a walk-off shot to sink his old team the Twins 24 hours later.

    His game-winning hit saw him become the first Detroit player with a walk-off shot within his first three MLB games since 1998.

    Baddoo is yet to drop off, his history-making season continuing with a homer against the Houston Astros on Tuesday. Through eight games, he took his tally to four home runs, a double and a triple. According to Stats Perform, his slugging percentage at the time – 1.043 – was the highest in American League (AL) history after eight games.

    After his RBI double against the Astros on Wednesday, Baddoo has now driven in at least one run in seven of his first nine career games, the second Tiger in franchise history to do so, following Dale Alexander in 1929.

    Since 1920, only George Shuba (eight) managed more RBIs in his first nine career games across MLB, according to Stats Perform.

    As it stands, Baddoo's slugging percentage stands at .963 (which ranks eighth all-time through first nine career games since 1901) with 11 RBI. If you combine his RBI and SLG percentage, he is one of four players to have 11-plus RBI and a 900-plus SLG over his first nine career games, after Trevor Story (13/.974 – 38/39 in 2016), Taylor Teagarden (12/1.000 – 29/29 in 2008) and Dave Kingman (11/1.105 – 21/19 in 1971).

    Baddoo was rated as Detroit's fifth outfielder before the start of the season, so how does he compare to his team-mates?

    Counting only plate appearances while playing outfielder, Baddoo's .370 average, .379 on-base percentage, .963 SLG, 1.342 OPS, four homers and 11 RBI are more than the team's other outfielders combined –.190 AVG, .277 OBP, .330 SLG, .607 OPS, three home runs and nine RBI.

    As for the team who left their prospect unprotected, Minnesota's outfielders have tallied a .263 AVG, .331 OBS and .474 SLG so far this season – numbers surpassed by Baddoo.

    Baddoo is flying the flag for Rule 5 picks – Roberto Clemente is the only player out of that unheralded draft to earn Hall of Fame honours.

    Following an 18-season career, Clemente – who died in a plane crash at the age of 38 in 1972 – was a 15-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, 1966 National League (NL) MVP, World Series MVP and 12-time Gold Glove winner.

    Is Baddoo destined for a Hall of Fame career?

    At the same stage of their careers, Baddoo trumps Clemente in all categories: AVG (.370 to .316), OBP (.379 to .325), SLG (.963 to .500), OPS (1.342 to .825), home runs (four to one), RBI (11 to six) and runs (five to three).

    "Obviously he has the talent to do a lot of different things, I knew he'd give me everything he's got," Tigers manager AJ Hinch has said previously. "That was evident from the beginning."

  • Dallas Cowboys: Prescott means progress but defense in dire need Dallas Cowboys: Prescott means progress but defense in dire need

    Dak Prescott's season-ending Week 5 injury ensured 2020 was a wasted year for the Dallas Cowboys.

    Rather than bolster their defense, the Cowboys gave Prescott an exciting new weapon with the 17th overall pick in the NFL Draft last April.

    But wide receiver CeeDee Lamb's impact was diminished after Dallas' quarterback sustained a compound fracture and dislocation of his ankle.

    Without their talisman, the Cowboys stumbled to a 6-10 record, only good enough for third in the poor NFC East.

    However, Prescott is set to return in 2021 and has committed his future to the franchise following a long-awaited breakthrough in contract talks.

    This year's draft also provides the opportunity for a re-do, which should address the key flaws highlighted here with the help of Stats Perform data.

    Offense

    Prescott's lay-off makes an assessment of the Cowboys' offense last year rather tricky, but the team showed enough in his limited time on the field to encourage optimism.

    Dallas finished 17th in the league for total points scored with 24.7 per game, yet this average was 32.6 points across the five games Prescott played. Over the course of the season, the Green Bay Packers led the league with an inferior 31.8 points.

    Likewise, for five weeks, Prescott threw a sensational 371.2 yards per game, the most of any QB in the NFL in 2020. It is an achievement even more impressive when considering he bowed out in the third quarter of his fifth outing.

    To put the Cowboys' miserable results in perspective, backup QB Andy Dalton (197.3 yards per game) ranked 37th. In the NFC East, he outperformed only Philadelphia Eagles rookie Jalen Hurts (70.7 yards per game) among players with 100 attempts.

    Even with Dalton applying the handbrake, Amari Cooper put up 1,114 yards from 92 receptions for five touchdowns. Lamb also had five TDs on 74 catches for 935 yards, while Michael Gallup's own five came from 59 receptions and 843 yards.

    Cooper had contributed eight scores the previous season when paired with Prescott throughout, and Lamb will hope he can similarly profit from the starting QB's return.

    The receiving corps could still be more efficient, however. Lamb dropped 8.1 per cent of the passes sent in his direction, while running back Ezekiel Elliott dropped 8.5 per cent - the Dallas pair ranking third and second-worst among players with 50 or more targets.

    Behind an offensive line also ravaged by injury, Elliott - another former first-round pick on offense - led the way on the ground with 244 carries for 979 yards and six rushing TDs. The Cowboys' 111.8 rushing yards per game ranked 17th.

    So there is still plenty of room for improvement but reason to believe Prescott's return will lift this offense into the upper echelons.

  • Foden stops history repeating for Guardiola and Man City Foden stops history repeating for Guardiola and Man City

    Liverpool, April 2018:

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn't scored for three months since he smashed home a long-range strike against Manchester City.

    Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions elect are back at a bloodthirsty Anfield and Mohamed Salah already has the Reds in front, so why not have a go?

    Oxlade-Chamberlain larrups it beyond Ederson and before the half hour Sadio Mane has made it 3-0.

    There would be no way back for City, who would finish the Premier League season 25 points better off than Liverpool, as they threw caution to the wind in the second leg but lost 2-1.

    Guardiola talked himself into a half-time red card when Leroy Sane had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside before UEFA were using VAR. The competition the Catalan threatened to make his own at the start of the decade had already become a nagging irritation.

     

    London, April 2019:

    After losing three consecutive semi-finals at Bayern Munich, not to mention two out of four on the occasions his Barcelona didn't win it under his leadership, Guardiola is wary of a pressure-cooker Champions League night.

    Embroiled in a titanic title battle with Liverpool, he rests Sane and Kevin De Bruyne and picks an unusually cautious line-up. Nevertheless, VAR intervenes to award them a dubious penalty against Tottenham, granting Sergio Aguero a punt at a priceless away goal.

    Hugo Lloris saves from City's all-time record goals scorer and there will be no away goal as Son Heung-min gives Spurs a 1-0 win thanks to an Ederson mistake

    At the Etihad, all hell breaks loose as the sides trade goals and Aguero puts City 4-2 ahead on the night to lead the tie for the first time. Then Fernando Llorente bundles home and survives a VAR examination for handball. Raheem Sterling has a stoppage-time winner ruled out because replays show Aguero's heel to be offside in the build-up.

    Guardiola crumples to his knees. City are out on away goals to a team that would finish 27 points behind them in the Premier League.

     

    Lisbon, August 2020:

    No away goals to bother City this time, as the pandemic-delayed final stages of the Champions League take place as one-off matches in Lisbon.

    After seeing off 13-time European champions Real Madrid, Guardiola has to reckon with Lyon – a team who finished seventh in Ligue 1 in 2019-20.

    However, one point from two games against the same opponent in the previous season's group stage spooks the City boss into a rarely used 5-3-2.

    They fall behind to a Maxwel Cornet goal, their attack disjointed. De Bruyne, who appears to be fighting a lone hand, equalises but Gabriel Jesus and Sterling miss glorious chances and Ederson is culpable as Moussa Dembele's brace ensures City's biggest European humiliation to date.

    Phil Foden, so impressive in the second leg against Madrid, looks on as an unused substitute.

     

    Dortmund, April 2021

    The last time Guardiola won the Champions League, his present tormentor was seven years old.

    Jude Bellingham's slick footwork and cool 15th-minute finish at Signal Iduna Park is the sort of thing City players do quite a lot but not on these occasions.

    Here was the fear, it was happening again. Everyone just stay calm… no, Kyle Walker, don't shoot from all the way over there in Gelsenkirchen.

    De Bruyne is in no mood for stage fright to kick in and tears at Dortmund, rattling the crossbar. Ruben Dias, unscarred by City's previous failures, is colossal in neutering Erling Haaland. Still, at half-time they are going out.

    The big occasions do strange things to even the most seasoned performers, but Emre Can deciding to break out an elephant impression while heading a cross clear is a new one.

    Handball. Penalty. VAR. Still a penalty.

    Oh God, a penalty. City don't tend to be great at these, as Aguero showed at Tottenham.

    Up steps Riyad Mahrez. Remember the Anfield loss? Well, the next time Guardiola's men visited the red side of Stanley Park, the Algeria winger put one into orbit from 12 yards.

    Not this time. Having fought long and hard to become one of his manager's go-to attackers, Mahrez emphatically clatters home.

    Nerves are dissipating but have never been a problem for Foden. They never are, as he showed with the winner after Dortmund equalised in Manchester last week. He and Bellingham might have a very exciting future together in their national team.

    The boyhood City fan draws back his left boot to send home the decisive blow and makes a beeline for Guardiola in the dugout, grabbing his boss' head. It feels like an exorcism.

    After sharing a post-match chat with the man of the moment, Haaland now towers in Foden's rear-view mirror. PSG and Kylian Mbappe are up next. Foden arguably belongs in their conversation, as an individual good enough to dominate for a decade.

    Of course, such dominance is easier forecast than achieved. Guardiola's quarter-final problem is no more. Now, how is his Champions League semi-finals record?

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