2015-05-19

UFC Fight Night 67: Condit vs. Alves

Saturday, May 30th 10:00 p.m. ET
Goiania, Goias, Brazil



Carlos Condit attempts to end a recent rough stretch when he takes on Thiago Alves, winner of his last two bouts, at UFC Fight Night 67 in Brazil.



Condit has gone through stretches where nobody can beat him and has won five of his first six UFC matches. He lost the very first one by a split decision, but took off with five straight victories to follow, defeating his opponents by knockout three times during the period. Hes fallen on hard times of late, though, and has lost three of his past four fights while being competitive in two of the defeats with them being named Fight of the Night. He also earned Fight of the Night honors when he knocked out Kampmann early in the fourth round in August of 2013. The Natural Born Killer has a ton of fighting background that has earned him respect in the octagon as hes been both a professional boxer and kick boxer before; aiding him in getting 14 knockouts in his 29 career wins. His opponent, Thiago Pitbull Alves, has not had quite as much experience in the multitude of rings available, but is a veteran of UFC and has been a member since 2005. Hes fought for the welterweight title belt once, losing to George St-Pierre by unanimous decision, and that started a rough stretch in which he lost three of his next five bouts. He has gotten some mojo back recently, though, with a win in each of his last two fights as the first earned Fight of the Night honors and the second earned him Performance of the Night recognition after knocking out Jordan Mein with a body kick in the second round. Overall, Pitbull has earned his wins by knockout 12 times and has just two submissions to his name with the other seven being a decision. This fight will be a fun one as the Swiss army knife style fighting of Condit will take on the expert Brazilian jiu-jitsu of Alves.



Condit has been a part plenty of exciting fights as he has the ability to both attack and defend his opponent in multiple ways. He lands a solid 3.19 significant strikes per minute at 40percent accuracy and dominated Kampmann in his most recent victory, out-striking him 100-35 with two submission attempts. Although, in his other three most recent bouts, he has landed a mere 91 strikes compared to the 115 by his opponent and has been thrown around like a ragdoll with 22 takedowns against him. That is an area that he has always had issues with as his takedown defense is a meager 39percent while he has a mediocre 50percent takedown success rate with 0.54 takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon. He takes on 2.23 significant strikes per minute while deflecting 58percent of these attempts and has also done well with 1.4 submissions per 15 minutes. He will need to get back to those submission attempts as he has just three in his last two fights and did not have one in the previous three prior to that. Condit is certainly a veteran of many fighting styles, but hell need to find what will be most effective for him in this bout and attack with it.



Alves is a little more aggressive than his opponent in this one, landing 3.58 significant strikes per minute at a 41percent accuracy. He does do better defending against his oppositions advances, though, deflecting 64percent of the attempts as his fights tend to be at a quicker pace with 2.94 significant strikes landing per minute against him. There have been plenty of times in his career where he was actually on the losing end until he was able to get in that powerful strike and earn a knockout. He has rarely gone to the submission in the past, attempting a mere 0.4 per 15 minutes of fighting, but performed a nice rear naked chokehold against Papy Abedi which finished off the match at UFC 138 and proved he is more than a one trick pony. He also has just two takedowns over the past four matches, both coming against Martin Kampmann as hes has preferred to stay upright recently. If he can get back to the mat for this one he may have a better chance with Condits poor defense against the move.




2015-05-19

CHICAGO CUBS (21-16) at SAN DIEGO PADRES (19-20)



Two teams that seem to be heading in different directions, the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, meet for the first of three contests on Tuesday night.



It is just the beginning of what should be an extended stretch of successful years for this Cubs franchise as their core of young superstars has led them to victories in six of their last seven games while sitting a mere 3.5-games behind St. Louis in the Central race. They followed up a four-game sweep of the Mets with two wins in three attempts against Pittsburgh over the weekend. They scored 15 runs over the first two games, winning them both before being shutout in the sweep attempt by a score of 3-0. Chicago managed a meager five hits and were 0-for-7 with RISP as they failed to back the strong outing (7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 7 K) from starter Jake Arrieta. Superstar 1B Anthony Rizzo (.344) saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end in the loss and he has dominated the month of May, hitting .365 with six homers, 14 RBI and 10 runs. The Padres season has been trending downwards after a successful start to the year and they come into this matchup with a 2-5 record in their last seven games. The recent series against Washington got ugly as they were outscored 24-6 in the final three meetings and failed to even the four-game set with a big 10-5 defeat on Sunday. The Nationals had only eight hits in the contest, but earned six free passes and maximized with men on base, hitting two three-run homers. OF Justin Upton (.293) put up his best effort in the loss with a 3-for-3 day in which he clocked two solo HRs; posting his fourth multi-hit game in the past eight outings. Starting the contest for the visiting Cubbies will be RHP Jason Hammel (3-1, 3.11 ERA) as he looks to outpitch RHP James Shields (5-0, 3.91 ERA) of the host San Diego group. The road has been a struggle for this young Chicago team as they are 8-8 away from home and will be fortunate enough to take on these Padres that are 10-10 at Petco Park. San Diego has gotten the better of the Cubs since the start of 2013 as they are 10-7 overall in the matchup, barely breaking even (4-3) at home in that time. They already met in the Windy City for three games this year when the Padres took 2-of-3 on the road and scored at least five runs in each contest. Some trends to keep an eye on include that when James Shields is on the mound; his team is a mere 1-8 in home games after a loss since the start of last year as San Diego is a solid 18-5 (.783) after a game with a combined score of 15 runs or more in the past three seasons. Chicago is missing tons of depth in this one as 3B Mike Olt (Wrist), 2B Tommy La Stella (Ribs) and OF Chris Denorfia (Hamstring) are out while the Padres are without OF Wil Myers (Undisclosed), 1B Yonder Alonso (Shoulder) and OF Melvin Upton Jr. (Foot).



Hammel has been steadily improving over the past three seasons and is on pace to post a sub-3.50 ERA for the third time in the last four years. He has done so with impeccable control (1.2 BB/9) as he continues to strike out a decent amount of batters (8.0 K/9). Hes put up four consecutive quality starts entering this outing and has a 25:5 K/BB ratio during that period in which his team is 3-1. Hes had little success against the Padres in his career, going 4-3 (6-7 team record) with a 5.15 ERA (1.43 WHIP) and has allowed four or more runs to score in three of his last five performances. OFs Matt Kemp (8-for-28, 2 doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 7 K) and Justin Upton (8-for-32, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 7 K) have shown some power off of the righty as OF Will Venable has performed horrible with just one hit in 17 at-bats (.059) with three strikeouts. One thing holding Chicago back right now is a below-average bullpen which has gone 8-6 with a 4.32 ERA (1.36 WHIP) and is a poor 9-for-16 (56percent) in save chances. Hector Rondon (3.18 ERA, 8 saves) blew his second save of the year in his last outing and is now 8-for-10 on the year.



Shields has done what his new team was hoping he would, win games, and through eight starts he already has five as he looks to get double-digit victories for the ninth consecutive season. His strikeouts (11.9 K/9) are way above his career average of 7.8 K/9) and he continues to do well despite giving up 12 long balls (2.2 HR/9) on the year. Hes allowed eight of them over his last three starts, but is coming off a fantastic performance (6 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 9 K) in Seattle last Wednesday. Hes met with the Cubs just twice in 293 career starts, going 1-0 (2-0 team record) with a 4.38 ERA (1.30 WHIP) and earned the win against them behind six strong innings (3 ER, 5 H, 9 K) back in April. The only batter with double-digit at-bats against the righty is OF Chris Coughlan and he has been successful with five hits in 15 at-bats (.333) as two went for doubles. On the other side of things, youngsters 3B Kris Bryant, SS Starlin Castro and OF Dexter Fowler have combined to go 1-for-13 with eight strikeouts in the matchup. The Padres pen has been horrible thus far with a 5-5 record, 4.66 ERA (1.38 WHIP), but have saved a solid 11-of-15 (73percent) games. The ninth has been held down by Craig Kimbrel (5.52 ERA, 10 saves) who has not done particularly well in his first season with San Diego, giving up at least one run in six of his last 10 appearances.






2015-05-19

HOUSTON ROCKETS (64-30) at GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (75-17)



The Rockets look to carry the magic from last round into this Game 1 meeting with the Warriors at Oracle Arena Tuesday.



Houston trailed 3-1 in its series with the Los Angeles Clippers and ended up fighting its way back into it to win Game 7 113-100 as 2.5-point underdogs at the Toyota Center. The Warriors didnt face quite as big of a deficit but they were down 2-1 against the Grizzlies and ended up winning the next three games. The Warriors were dominant in their Game 6 win at Memphis, defeating the Grizzlies 108-95 as a 5-point favorite. They hit 50.6percent of their shots and held Memphis to just 37.4percent shooting. Both teams enter this series having won-and-covered in their past three games. The Warriors, however, won both SU and ATS in their four meetings with the Rockets this season. They are, however, just 3-3 both SU and ATS over the past three seasons when facing Houston at Oracle Arena. The Rockets are 8-0 ATS on Tuesday nights this season and 24-10 ATS after a win by 10 points or more as well. The Warriors, meanwhile, are 20-7 ATS after two straight wins by 10 points or more this season. Houston remains without SG K.J. McDaniels (Elbow), PF Donatas Motiejunas (Back) and PG Patrick Beverley (Wrist). Golden State is likely to be without PF Marreese Speights (Calf) in Game 1 and C Ognjen Kuzmic (Ankle) is out for the year.



The Rockets seemed like they were down for the count in their series with the Clippers, but they came back and showed a lot of guts in doing so. SG James Harden (26.7 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG in playoffs) was outstanding in Game 7, finishing with 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 43 minutes of action. He struggled against the Warriors in the regular season though, averaging 25.3 PPG on a lousy 40.5percent shooting from the field. Hell need to be efficient in this series and will likely need to put his team on his back if it is going to advance. C Dwight Howard (17.2 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG in playoffs) has looked like his old self throughout the playoffs and averaged 18.7 PPG and 17.0 RPG in the final three games last series. Hell need to control the paint against the Warriors in this one. PF Josh Smith (12.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG in playoffs) provided a huge spark to the Rockets when he was introduced to the starting lineup in Game 5 last series. He averaged 14.3 PPG as a starter and played well on both sides of the ball. His matchup with Draymond Green will come a long way in determining who wins this series. SF Trevor Ariza (13.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 SPG in playoffs) will be the x-factor for Houston. He is one of the teams best outside shooters and will be counted on to defend Stephen Curry at times in this series.



The Warriors needed PG Stephen Curry (28.2 PPG, 6.8 APG, 5.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG in playoffs) to find his game when the team went down 2-1 last round and he did just that. Curry was huge for the Warriors in the final three games of the series, scoring 32+ points in two of those games. He was 18-for-35 from the outside in those contests and will need to keep shooting well from behind the arc. Houston is weak at the point guard position and he could really take over this series. SG Klay Thompson (20.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.8 APG in playoffs) will be crucial in this series. He averaged 21.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, 4.0 RPG against Houston during the regular season and 1.8 BPG and 1.5 SPG on the defensive end as well. Hell need to be on his game defensively against James Harden in order for this team to advance. PF Draymond Green (13.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.1 SPG in playoffs) is going to need to be tough in this series. The Rockets have a lot of talent at their forward positions and Green will need to be able to defend both outside and inside in this series. Hes also going to need to knock down some outside shots in order to keep Houston honest defensively. C Andrew Bogut (5.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG in playoffs) has not been much of a factor offensively in these playoffs, but he has played well on defense and that is why he is on this team. Hell need to hold his own against Dwight Howard or it will be a long series for the Warriors.




2015-05-18

Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial



Odds to Win Tournament


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The PGA shifts its focus out West for the Crowne Plaza Invitational this week; one of five invitationals on tour that hosts a smaller 125-player field. The par-70, 7,204-yard course has been the venue for this tourney since 1946 while hosting both the U.S. Open (1941) and second edition of the Players Championship (1975) in past years. It will be tough to follow up the performance that Rory McIlroy put on at the Wells Fargo Championship this past weekend when he was seven shots better than the runners-up with his score of 21-under-par. McIlroy wont be attending this event, but the top two players (Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker) from the current FedEx Cup standings will headline a rather weak field which has another five players (Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson) from the top-25. Two of those golfers in that group are past champions at this tournament with Zach Johnson winning in both 2010, when he shot a tournament record 21-under-par, and 2012. Adam Scott was the eventual victor in last seasons installment. The Aussie made a run on the final day to catch up with Jason Dufner and forced a playoff in which he took at the second hole. His winning score of nine-under par was the lowest since Olin Brown won at eight-under-par in 1999. As the season continues to heat up, lets take a look at who could take home the trophy this week in Fort Worth.



Zach Johnson: Johnson is actually having a down season in comparison to what hes used to and has already missed four cuts while also having seven top-25s in his thirteen outings. He also did not perform well here last season (73rd), but it is hard to ignore what he had done before that. Johnson posted four consecutive years of top-four finishes from 2010-2013 which included two victories. The weak field should also allow him to shine as he had three of his four top-10 finishes before March when most of the events arent featuring a ton of top talent. His driving accuracy (68.5percent, 21st on tour) will aid him in navigating the tight fairways as he also ranks 19th in strokes gained from tee-to-green (0.845). Look for Johnson to put up another great effort at Colonial and make a run at the win.



Ryan Palmer: Palmer is a regular at Colonial as both a club and PGA member and has performed like he knows the course well in the past. Hes been in the top-14 at each of the last three installments, including two fifth place finishes, and already has seven top-25s in 11 2015 starts. His huge drive (302.3 yards per, 13th on tour) and total strokes gained (1.385, 8th on tour) have kept him in it every time out and it should be no different at his home course this week as he goes for his first PGA victory since the 2010 Sony Open.



Brendon Todd: Todd is coming off a huge 2014 campaign in which he earned his first career victory and finished 27th in the FedEx Cup standings. While he is not played to that level this season, Todd has still been competitive with three top-10s in 14 events as hes missed only two cuts. He has struggled over the past two events played, going against the toughest of fields at the WGC Match Play Championship and the Players Championship, but had his best showing of the year just before that with a fourth at the RBC Heritage in which he had three rounds of 67 or better. He can thank his driving accuracy (70percent, 14th on tour) and solid putting (0.464 strokes gained putting, 22nd on tour) for any success that hes had and those stats will certainly factor in at this tough course where he had a fifth-place finish last year. He hit only 41.1percent of fairways in that performance but was great on par-3s (five-under) and was 1.17 strokes better than the field in putting. Todd is extremely talented and should have no problems being towards the top of the leaderboard.



Kevin Kisner: Kisner has nearly won twice in his last four events while being the runner-up at both the RBC Heritage and Players Championship. Overall in that time he has shot under 70 in 11 of his 16 rounds and is 44-under-par. Just like Johnson and Todd, Kisner has excelled with his accuracy off the tee (66.4percent, 38th on tour) and also has been one of the best scramblers (64percent, 23rd on tour) out there. The 31-year-old has two Web.com Tour victories under his belt and is on the cusp of winning at this level very soon, making him a solid bet each week.



Chris Stroud: After two straight seasons in the FedEx Cup top-50, Stroud has stumbled this year and sits at 121st after missing seven of his 17 cuts. He has made four of his last five, though, and has two top-25s in that time with his best showing of the season coming when he finished 17th at the Shell Houston Open behind a score of nine-under par. What Stroud really has going in his favor is his past at the Colonial where he has been in the top-14 at each of the last three tourneys with his best being a seventh in 2013. Despite his poor showings this year, Stroud has been solid around the greens with 56.4percent mark in sand saves (49th on tour) while ranking 62nd in scrambling (61.3percent). Stroud is still searching for his first career PGA victory and could surprise many with his standing come Sunday afternoon.




2015-05-11

ATLANTA HAWKS (65-26) at WASHINGTON WIZARDS (52-37)



The Hawks will be trying to even up the series at 2-2 when they face the Wizards in Washington on Monday.



The Hawks did not have an answer for the Wizards offense in Game 2, allowing Washington to shoot 47.4percent from the field and 35.7percent from the outside. The Wizards also outrebounded them 54-49 and Atlanta will need to come out with a lot of fire on Monday or they could be heading home shortly. They have not had much success in Washington though, losing five of their past six games at the Verizon Center SU and three of those games ATS. Its worth noting that four of the past five games in this series have gone Over the total. This Hawks team is 27-13 ATS after playing three consecutive games this season and also happens to be up against a Wizards group that is 1-8 ATS after a home game where both teams score 100 points or more as well. Washington is, however, 31-19 ATS as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points over the past two seasons and Atlanta is just 1-12 ATS after two straight games with 10 or more steals on the year. PF Paul Millsap (Illness) is probable for the Hawks, but PG John Wall (Hand) is doubtful for the Wizards in this one.



The Hawks were unable to pick up a much-needed victory in Game 3 and SG Kyle Korver (13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG in playoffs) needs to make a bigger impact on the game. He had just six points in 37 minutes on Saturday and is shooting just 38.1percent from the outside in the postseason. He is a much better shooter than that and needs to start hitting some shots to space the floor for his teammates. PG Jeff Teague (13.7 PPG, 7.7 APG, 1.8 SPG in playoffs) is also going to need to play a lot better moving forward. The Wizards are playing without John Wall, so Teague should be able to get to the rim at will in this series. Hes going to have to be very aggressive as a scorer in Game 4. PF Paul Millsap (15.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.2 SPG in playoffs) was sick in Game 3 and it showed, as he finished with just eight points and two rebounds in 23 minutes. He did not look like himself and will need to be better, but it likely wont happen unless he is feeling better. C Al Horford (14.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.3 BPG in playoffs) had 12 points and 10 boards in 28 minutes in Game 4. He tweaked his knee in the fourth quarter last game and didnt reenter the game, but should be good to go in this one. Hell need to be a big presence inside on both ends of the floor.


The Wizards have played extremely well in this series and have been able to make adjustments whenever theyve been needed. SF Paul Pierce (15.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG in playoffs) has provided this team with the leader it needs and he hit a buzzer-beater on Saturday to put the Wizards up 2-1 in this series. Ever since Randy Wittman moved him to the power forward position, this team has thrived offensively and hell need to keep playing well with John Wall out. SG Bradley Beal (21.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.6 SPG in playoffs) continues to play at a high level in this postseason and had 17 points and eight assists in Game 3. He took over most of the play-making responsibilities with Wall out and will likely continue to do that. C Marcin Gortat (15.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG in playoffs) had 14 points and eight boards to go along with three blocks in Game 3. His size continues to be a big issue for the small frontcourt of Millsap and Horford. PF Nene Hilario (7.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG in playoffs) and SF Otto Porter (11.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.3 SPG in playoffs) were major difference makers in Game 3, combining for 34 points and 16 rebounds. They hit shots when they needed to and must continue to contribute with Wall out.