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Who Are The Current UFC Champions?

Now’s a great time to take stock of the current champions in the UFC world. For new fans and those who may be unaware, here is a current list of UFC champions according to the official UFC rankings.

The standings are as follows:

  • Heavyweight Champion: Francis Ngannou (16-3)
  • Light-heavyweight Champion: Jiří Procházka (29-3-1)
  • Middleweight Champion: Israel Adesanya (22-1)
  • Welterweight Champion: Kamaru Usman (20-1)
  • Lightweight Champion: *Charles Oliveira* (33-8-1)
  • Featherweight Champion: Alexander Volkanovski (23-1)
  • Bantamweight Champion: Aljamain Sterling (21-3-0)
  • Flyweight Champion: Deivison Figueiredo (19-5-2)
  • Women’s Featherweight: Amanda Nunes (21-5)
  • Bantamweight Champion: Julianna Pena (11-4)
  • Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko (23-3)
  • Women’s Strawweight Champion: Carla Esparza (20-6)
Heavyweight Champion: Francis Ngannou (17-3)
Zuffa LLC

Date won: March 27, 2021

Defenses: 1

Francis Ngannou has one of the most remarkable journeys to the UFC. Growing up in Cameroon, he faced an incredible amount of adversity before getting to the UFC. He worked in sand mines, had multiple failed escapes to Europe, and did not start training in MMA until he was 25 years old. Now, he is the heavyweight champion of the world.

Ngannou defeated Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 via knockout in the second round. His power was and is widely known to be his most useful weapon, but in this fight he showed more. He put his takedown defense and kickboxing on display in a world-class performance.

The UFC put some pressure on Ngannou, just a few months after his win over Miocic. In August, the company had Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane fight for an interim title. Gane showed the world that he is ready for the big stage, putting on an incredible performance against Lewis. When Gane and Ngannou met, the champion proved his dominance with some remarkably improved wrestling.

Light-heavyweight Champion: Jiří Procházka (29-3-1)
Chris Unger / Getty Images

Date won: June 11th, 2022

Defenses: 0

The Light Heavyweight title had been vacant since Jon Jones’ contentious salary negotiations with the UFC saw him vacate the title on August 17th. Dominick Reyes and former KSW Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Błachowicz battled for the title in late September, with the Polish fighter ultimately coming out on top. After a closely contested title defense against middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, Błachowicz faced UFC veteran, Glover Teixeira. The Brazilian, Teixeira, understood that this was most likely his final chance at UFC gold. And the man delivered. In his first title defense, he would face Jiří Procházka. The Czech fighter had gained popularity for his unpredictable fighting style and his highlight reel knockouts. His big moment in the UFC came when he knocked out Reyes with a spinning elbow that garnished millions of views and lots of conversation. After a remarkably competitive first four rounds, Procházka would finish Teixeira in a surprising manor. He submitted the grappling wizard in the fifth round of their exciting matchup and a rematch between the two does seem like a likely possibility moving forward.

Middleweight Champion: Israel Adesanya (22-1)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Date won: Oct. 6, 2019

Defenses: 3

The “style bender” has only suffered one loss in MMA and in his short time in the sport, he was able to become the middleweight champion. His striking seems almost immediately adaptable to almost any opponent he has faced including the likes of Anderson Silva. He made his promotional debut with the UFC in 2018 and by 2019 he was the interim champ, and finally the undisputed champ when he beat Robert Whittaker at UFC 243.

Adesanya defended his belt for the third time when he was challenged by Marvin Vettori. Most recently, Adesanya squeaked by Rober Whittaker in a competitive rematch.

Welterweight Champion: Kamaru Usman (20-1)
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Date won: March 2, 2019

Defenses: 5

“The Nigerian Nightmare” has lived up to his name in the UFC’s welterweight division proving to be a difficult puzzle for many fighters competing at 170 pounds. The 32-year-old has either knocked out his opponents or ground out a victory and won by decision. His only loss was early in his MMA career in 2013 in his second pro-fight. Since he has proven to be one of the most well-rounded welterweights since the days of Georges St-Pierre. In his rematch against Jorge Masvidal, Usman delivered a showstopping knockout that shook the MMA world. For his fifth title defense, Usman rematched against Colby Covington. The two headlined UFC 268 at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Usman was pushed to the brink, but at the end of the night, he got his hand raised.

Lightweight Champion: Charles Oliveira (33-8-1)
Getty Images

Date won: May 15th, 2021

Defenses: 1

Hmmm. This is a tricky one.

Technically speaking, there is no current champion in the UFC’s lightweight division.

Oliveira failed to make weight for his most recent fight against Justin Gaethje. He was then stripped of his title, despite submitting Gaethje in the first round.

A lightweight brawler fighting out of São Paulo, Brazil, Charles Oliveira fought former Bellator Lightweight champion Michael Chandler for this vacant belt, following the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Oliveira has been fighting with the UFC since 2010, but this is his first title belt with the organization. Despite this, he holds numerous UFC records including most submission wins in the organization’s history at 14, and for most finishes at 17. The champion made his first title defense at UFC 269 against Dustin Poirier.

Oliveira will be competing for the vacant title against an unknown opponent in the future.

Featherweight Champion: Alexander Volkanovski (22-1)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Date won: Dec. 14, 2019

Defenses: 2

The rugby player turned mixed martial artist recently picked up UFC gold with a recent victory over Max Holloway at UFC 245. The two fought to a decision last year that had the judges award Volkanovski the win and the title but he feels he and Holloway need to go again to solidify his position as the new featherweight champion. Volkanovski fought The Korean Zombie at UFC 273 and won via TKO.

Bantamweight Champion: Aljamain Sterling (21-3-0)
Jeff Bottari / Contributor

Date won: March 6th, 2021

Defenses: 1

During UFC 259 Aljamain Sterling captured bantamweight in bizarre fashion. In the fourth round against Petr Yan, Sterling was hit by a textbook example of an illegal knee strike. Sterling was clearly injured and the referee declared it was a disqualification against Yan. Prior to the knee, Yan was winning on two of the three scorecards. Yan defeated Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 for the interim title, after Sterling was forced to pull out due to a serious neck injury. When Sterling did meet back up with Yan, he shocked a lot of fans by defeated Yan in a split decision.

Flyweight Champion: Diveison Figueiredo (21-2-1)
Christian Petersen/Staff

Date won: Jan 22, 2022

Defenses: 0

When Brandon Moreno took on Deiveson Figueiredo for the second time, history was made. After a close first fight, that was a fight of the year candidate in 2020, Moreno separated himself from the former champ. With his dominant performance at UFC 263, Brandon Moreno became the first Mexican-born UFC champion. However, the story between Moreno and Figueiedo did not stop there. The two competed for the third time at the start of 2022 and Figuiredo reclaimed his title. It appears that the two will fight for a fourth time in the near future.

Women’s Featherweight Champion: Amanda Nunes (21-4)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Date won featherweight: Dec. 29, 2018

Defenses (featherweight): 2

The lioness is considered by many to be one of the best fighters in the world. For a good chunk of time, she was the double champ at 135 and 145. Like most fighters who balance two weight classes, the difficulty eventually caught up to her. However, it doesn’t appear that anyone in the featherweight division will be able to take her throne any time soon. Nunes won the featherweight title in 2018 when she knocked out Cris Cyborg in the first round. That knockout became the biggest moment and fight of her career.

Women’s Bantamweight Champion Julianna Pena (11-4)
Getty Images

Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko (23-3)
Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Date won: Dec. 8, 2018

Defenses: 7

Shevchenko has been fighting professionally since 2003 and coming from the world of kickboxing has made her a force to be reckoned with. She won the vacant flyweight title in 2018 at UFC 231 and has successfully defended it six times with the most recent defense at UFC 275.

Women’s Strawweight Champion: Carla Esparza (20-6)
Alex Menendez / Stringer

Date won: May 7th, 2022

Defenses: 0

Rose Namajunas won the strawweight title by knockout at Madison Square Garden at UFC 217. Eventually, she would lose the title and have to work her way back up to the top. At UFC 261, “Thug” Rose stunned the fight community by knocking out Weilli Zhang via head kick. She defeated Zhang for a second time at UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden in a very close battle. However, there was a boogeyman that still loomed over her. Carla Esparza would be the one to strip Namajunas of her title in May of 2022. It was many years earlier where Esparza handed Namajunas one of her few losses in her MMA career. Esparza’s unque skillset has proved to be difficult to her competitors. This is Esparza’s second time holding UFC gold.

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A Complete List of the Current Bellator Champions

MMA continues to be one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and although the UFC is by far the big dog in the market—fans even mistake UFC for being the name of the sport—there are multiple organizations for fans to choose from. Bellator is easily the second biggest worldwide promotion. To help you get to know it better, here’s an introduction to every belt holder in the league. They are as follows:

  • Heavyweight Champion: Ryan Bader (31-7)
  • Light Heavyweight Champion: Vadim Nemkov (15-2)
  • Middleweight Champion: Gregard Mousasi (49-7-2)
  • Welterweight Champion: Yaroslav Amosov (26-0)
  • Lightweight Champion: Patricky Freire (24-10)
  • Featherweight Champion: Patricio Freire (33-5)
  • Bantamweight Champion: Sergio Pettis (22-5)
  • Women’s Featherweight Champion: Cris Cyborg (25-2)
  • Women’s Flyweight Champion: Liz Carmouche (17-4)
Heavyweight Champion: Ryan Bader (31-7)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Astonishingly, Ryan Bader is just the fourth heavyweight champion in Bellator’s history. He won the title by beating all-time great Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214 last year, the same night he won the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix. The title was vacant before that. His MMA fight history is a who’s who of recent heavyweight and light heavyweight history in MMA, with names like Jon Jones, Rampage, Lyoto Machida and Tito Ortiz on there from his UFC run. Since debuting in 2007, Bader has proved himself in not one, but two different divisions. His most recent win came against Cheick Kongo in May of 2022.

Light Heavyweight Champion: Vadim Nemkov (15-2)
Bellator MMA

Being a double champ in MMA is revered because it is so difficult. Bader held that title for some time in Bellator, but there is always someone waiting in the shadows. For Bader, that man was Vadim Nemkov. The intimidating sambo fighter captured the title when he defeated Bader via TKO in the second round of their 2020 matchup. Nemkov is considered one of the best in the world at 205 pounds and is mentored by MMA legend, Fedor Emelianenko. His most recent fight was a title defence where he kept his belt in a no contest against Corey Anderson. That fight was stopped due to an accidental headbutt.

Middleweight Champion: Gregard Mousasi (49-7-2)
Icon Sportswire / Contributor

Rafael Lovato Jr. (10-0) beat Gegard Mousasi in London fair and square (even if Mousasi doesn’t think so), which only makes what happened next all the more devastating. The undefeated champion then got the news that the cerebral cavernoma that he had previously been diagnosed with was more serious than initially thought of and in the weeks after the bout, multiple commissions in Europe stated that they would no longer clear Lovato to compete in the future. Going off of the advice of his doctors, he decided to take some time off and has not formally announced his retirement. Mousasi was booked to fight Douglas Lima for the vacant 185lb title and won the bout via unanimous decision. There is no denying that Mousasi is one of the scariest competitors in the division. His last fight against Austin Vanderford is a good example of that.

Welterweight Champion: Yaroslav Amosov (26-0)
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At some point, winning is undeniable. So when Yaroslav Amosov continued to add to his impressive record, he was an undeniable figure in the way of the former champ, Douglas Lima. The Ukranian-born Sambo superstar trains with American Top Team and earned his title shot after a split decision win against Logan Storley. In his bout against Lima, he dominated in all five rounds and became the new Bellator welterweight champion.

Lightweight Champion: Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (24-10)
Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Widely considered the best and most accomplished fighter in Bellator history, Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire made quick work of three time lightweight champion Michael Chandler in May of 2019, winning via TKO in just 61 seconds. It was Pitbull’s second fight in the division after he moved up years before to avenge his brother’s loss to Ben Henderson, a fight he lost due to injury. Freire is the kind of fighter organisations dream of…

Featherweight Champion: Patricio Freire (33-5)
Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

…145lbs is certainly Pitbull’s bread and butter though. In 2013 he lost a title fight to Pat Curran but after rallying back in the division with a four fight win streak that same year, he won a rematch. He later lost the belt to Daniel Straus but beat Straus in 2017 and hasn’t lost a fight since. There’s value in avenging losses and all of that is what makes Patricio Freire arguably Bellator’s king. Him and AJ McKee have fought twice now, splitting the series.

Bantamweight Champion: Sergio Pettis (22-5)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Contributor

There were plenty of people who questioned Pettis’ decision to join Bellator after a successful stint with the UFC. But since moving on, it has been smooth sailing. Pettis captured Bellator gold when he defeated Juan Archuleta at Bellator 258 in a decision win. He is in a prime position to be a big name for the promotion in the coming years. Take a look at his most recent title defense… where he may have secured his career signature moment.

Women’s Featherweight Champion: Cris Cyborg (25-2-1)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Cyborg’s UFC exit was unfortunate, with Dana White claiming the former champ was scared of a rematch with Amanda Nunes despite her real problem being with her contract. No problem though because Bellator was happy to have her and immediately gave her a fight with their 145lb champion Julia Budd back in January. Cris got the win in the fourth round and quickly became maybe the most popular fighter in the organisation.

Women’s Flyweight Champion: Liz Carmouche (17-7)
Bellator

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane lost the Bellator title to Velasquez in December of 2020. Velasquez was undefeated in her MMA career until she took on MMA veteran, Liz Carmouche at Bellator 278. This was an exciting fight, but also a great moment for MMA. Carmouche is a major component in the history of women’s MMA.

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Top 10 All-Time Premier League Goal Scorers

The Premier League season is coming to a close and Liverpool and Manchester City are fighting for the title.

The season has been full of drama with an intense relegation race and plenty of goals.

Harry Kane finished last season as the top goal scorer in England once again and now sits fifth all time in goals.

The England international is the only active player competing in the Premier League top 10 with goals.

Kane is now less than 100 away from Alan Shearer’s record of 260.

[ MORE: Guide To Pickleball Terms ]

England’s top flight has featured plenty of elite talent over the years and perhaps a new generation of top stars will break onto this list.

Jamie Vardy, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah are some of the current figures that continue to inch their way closer to the league’s immortal.

Meanwhile, Man City’s new star signing Erling Haaland could be a player many look towards to shatter goal records in the future.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Premier League’s top 10 goal scorers of all time.

10. Michael Owen
150 goals
Simon Bellis – PA Images via Getty Images

Owen was a legend for both club and country in England and his legacy at Liverpool will always be remembered. Owen won the 2001 Ballon d’Or, becoming just the fifth English player in the country’s history to win the award. 

9. Jermain Defoe
162 goals
Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Defoe’s career was different than many of the other goal scorers on this list and widely under-appreciated throughout his career. The Englishman scored over 20 goals at five separate Premier League clubs during his time in England and that’s what makes it so impressive.

8. Robbie Fowler
163 goals
Albert Perez/Getty Images

Fowler became a Liverpool legend after rising quickly through the academy and starring for the Reds at the senior level. Fowler may be sixth all-time in Liverpool goals, but his legacy at the club won’t ever be forgotten and remains in the conversation as one of the team’s greatest players alongside Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush and Kenny Daglish.

7. Thierry Henry
175 goals
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The former Arsenal great was one of the most prolific attackers in Premier League history, and his ability to help guide the Gunners to the greatest season in English football history set the tone for his legendary career.

6. Frank Lampard
177 goals
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Lampard is a Chelsea legend for a reason and what makes his record so impressive was his ability to score from the midfield. Lampard was a chief creator in the Chelsea attack, but his goal scoring record made him lethal on some of the Blues’ top teams.

5. Harry Kane
179 goals
Visionhaus/Getty Images

Out of the entire top 10, Kane is the only player still competing in the Premier League.

Kane recently broke into the top 5 and he’s showing no signs of stopping his fine scoring form.

Last summer, Kane was subject of massive transfer talks and perhaps this summer will bring similar headlines.

4. Sergio Aguero
184 goals
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Aguero won’t be in the Premier League this season after joining Barcelona, but his track record at Man City was one of the key reasons for the club’s rise to the top of English football over the past decade.

3. Andy Cole
187 goals
John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Cole made a name for himself throughout the top flight, but most remember the striker for his time spent at Man United.

He played a role in five Premier League titles, as well as a First Division championship during his time with Newcastle.

2. Wayne Rooney
208 goals
Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Red Devils legend became the second player in Premier League history to break the 200-goal barrier and his time at Old Trafford made him one of the most exciting players to ever suit up for the club.

Rooney was successful in domestic and European competitions for nearly a decade-and-a-half after leaving Everton in 2004.

1. Alan Shearer
260 goals
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Shearer famously made himself a household name in Newcastle after coming home to his childhood club after spending years at Blackburn and snubbing Manchester United.

Shearer’s goal scoring record in England will go many years without being broken. To this point, Kane looks like the only one that can break it within the next decade.

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How Kansas Commit Ernest Udeh Jr. Can Help The Jayhawks Repeat

The defending NCAA champions are only getting better. Ernest Udeh Jr., a top 25 prospect in the class of 2022 from Orlando, Florida, will be suiting up for the Kansas Jayhawks next season. The 6’10” center was mulling offers from schools like UCLA, Texas Tech, and the University of Florida until ultimately deciding to make the jump to Lawrence, Kansas. Udeh joins fellow McDonald’s All-Americans Gradey Dick, and M.J. Rice at Kansas, solidifying them as a top ranked recruiting class this off-season. 

“The Fans can expect, first and foremost, the chemistry,” Udeh told the media at the McDonald’s All-American game. “Being here with these guys and knowing them before committing, the chemistry is going to be really good. Just going into next year with all our focus, we’re trying to win every game and be the best group in this class.”

Udeh jr., is your prototypical big. He excels at defending the paint and is always primed to grab extra rebounds on either end of the floor. His ambition to play on the boards gives Udeh Jr. a number of second chance baskets every time he steps on the floor. Possessing a 7’2” wing-span, he has ample time to make adjustments on the defensive end, which regularly leads to blocks. 

On the offensive end, Udeh Jr., is a lethal lob threat. Whether it’s catching the ball off the rim or soaring through the air for an alley-oop slam, you will see plenty of Ernest Udeh Jr. at the rim. There is room for him to improve shooting the basketball. Udeh Jr. doesn’t have a reliable mid-range game, but that is somewhat typical for high-school big-men. If he can find a way to engineer a cool jumper, Ernest Udeh Jr., could transform into one of the best bigs in the country. 

The Jayhawks undoubtedly have big expectations next season coming off a national championship. A stacked recruiting class and the confidence of knowing that your program can actually win it all, Kansas is looking to be just as lethal next March. It’s not crazy to think Kansas could be the first repeat national champions since the University of Florida in 2006-07.

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The AHL’s Charlotte Checkers Are Ready For The Playoffs

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of covering the Charlotte Checkers who played their final regular-season home game against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Not only was it my first time ever covering a hockey game, but it was also my first time even attending a hockey match in person, which was incredible. The game took place at the Bojangles Coliseum, which was an overtime matchup that ended with the Hartford Wolf Pack taking it 4-3.

While the Checkers may not have gotten the win, it was still a memorable day for team captain Zac Dalpe who was playing in his milestone 600th professional game. I attended this game not for a “recap,” but to learn more about the team that has Charlotte’s heart.

The Charlotte Checkers are a minor league professional ice hockey team that are a part of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the American Hockey League. They are affiliates of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and Seattle Kraken.

Originally known as the Capital District Islanders from 1990 to 1993 and based in Troy, New York, the team took on another moniker, the Albany River Rats for nearly seventeen years before relocating to Charlotte in 2010. Once there, the River Rats officially changed their name to the Charlotte Checkers, making them the second professional minor league hockey team to officially be recognized in the highest level of minor-league hockey.

At the time, the Checkers were playing at what was then known as the Time Warner Cable Arena (now the Spectrum Center) and moved to the Bojangles Coliseum in 2010. While the Checkers have been fun to watch every year, their 2018-2019 season is widely regarded as their best thus far in team history. That year, the Checkers captured the Regular Season Title, the Division Championship, the Conference Championship, and the Calder Cup.

For those that don’t know, the Calder Cup is the annual trophy awarded to the American Hockey League Champion each year. Fast forward to 2022, and the Checkers are hoping for the same outcome. The team clinched their playoff berth on April 7th, making them the first team to get an invitation to the 2022 Playoffs

Obviously, the city of Charlotte is very excited about the team’s chance to bring home another trophy this year, and that was evident during this final home game. The Bojangles Coliseum houses 8,600 seats, and despite already clinching a playoff spot, the turnout was still amazing. I’d estimate that at least 8,300 of 8,600 seats were filled, and that number could have been more as there were tons of people getting food and merchandise.

Many of those fans were rocking Checkers gear, and we’re genuinely disappointed to see their team lose despite the fact that in the grand scheme of things, the game really didn’t matter much.

The food options were simple yet satisfying with an abundance of pizza, popcorn, hot dogs, chicken tenders, and more, and the live experience was awesome. Since I had never been to a hockey game before, I didn’t know what to expect. I had multiple people tell me that the hockey live experience is among the most exciting to watch, and after attending myself, I would have to agree. I can only imagine what a hockey playoff game feels like, and it is my hope that one day I’ll be able to attend one.

Best of luck to the Charlotte Checkers as they embark on their postseason journey, which you can follow via their Instagram and Twitter.


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Why the San Diego Padres Should Be Your New Favorite MLB Team

At a time where Major League Baseball seems plagued by an endemic apathy among its middle-tier teams, it’s radical and refreshing when a team actually tries to win. With the new collective bargaining agreement implementing an expanded postseason field, there’s never been less incentive to try to be good—what’s the point of spending the requisite cash to win 97 games when a cheaper, more threadbare roster can sneak into the playoffs with 87 wins?  Being a baseball fan can sometimes feel distressingly like being a fan of some other guy’s stock portfolio. In that sense, the San Diego Padres should be your new favorite baseball team

For the last two seasons, the Padres have been MLB’s most ambitious team. Since adding Manny Machado in 2019, the Padres have aggressively pursued talent. Going into the 2019 season, their payroll was a touch over $104 million; today, it’s more than doubled, topping $209 million. Despite a disappointing 79-83 campaign that was sabotaged by an epic late season implosion, the Padres redoubled their efforts over the offseason, trading with the Oakland Athletics for both workhorse starter Sean Manaea and Bob Melvin, the three-time Manager of the Year. 

But even beyond the fact that the Padres have cool and charismatic players like Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Yu Darvish, the coolest thing about them is how they disregard every fan-antagonistic aspect of the status quo. The Padres are a mid-market franchise that share a division with the Los Angeles Dodgers (the consensus best team in baseball by a large margin) and the San Francisco Giants, who are fresh off a 107 win season. No matter how honorable and rare, their spending hardly guarantees success; from a purely economic perspective, the Padres would have every incentive to maintain the meagerest possible payroll and rake in that sweet revenue-sharing profit, which makes their efforts to contend even bolder and more endearing.

Accordingly, the Padres’ roster reads like a roster in a 12 team fantasy baseball league. The rotation is headlined by 2018 AL Cy Young Winner Blake Snell and five-time All Star Yu Darvish; the lineup is anchored by Machado and, eventually, Tatis Jr., who’s the best baseball player in the world (albeit one of the worst motorcyclists). Even with Tatis slated to miss the first half of the season, Draftkings and other Vegas sports-books peg the Padres as a top five team in the National League and a legitimate World Series contender. If the Padres succeed, they could provide a blueprint and inspiration for the rest of the league to try as well. 

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Get Ready For The 2022 WNBA Draft

Well, this is a quick turnaround, right? It was just a few days ago that we were watching the Final Four and Championship matchups, and now in just three days, we are going to have the first in-person WNBA Draft since 2019. And if we’re having the draft, that means we’re only about a month away (actually less than a month) from the season starting. We’ll have a little more on that as we get closer to the May 6th tip-off date, but for now, our focus is solely on this draft, and the exciting storylines that are following it.

Here are some of the key things to look forward to.

When is the 2022 WNBA Draft?

The WNBA Draft will take place on Monday, April 11, 2022, and ESPN will broadcast the event at 7 pm EST.

Where is the 2022 WNBA Draft?
DraftKings

As we mentioned earlier, the draft will be held in person at Spring Studios in New York for the first time since 2019.

Who’s Picking First?

If you watched the WNBA Draft Lottery on December 21st, then you probably already know that the Washington Mystics won the first pick. However, there’s been a development. This past Wednesday, the Mystics traded that number one pick to the Atlanta Dream in exchange for the No 3. overall pick, No. 14 overall pick, and the rights to swap 2023 draft picks. This means ATL is officially picking first this year, which leads us to our next point?

Who Is The Anticipated No. 1 Draft Pick?

This is gonna be a close one. The projected number one picks this year are Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, and Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. The Atlanta Dream aren’t giving any hints either. In fact, they are having a lot of fun with their secretive “we know something you don’t,” social media teasers. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

How Many Players Will Be Drafted?

A total of 36 players will be drafted, with 12 players being selected in each round, so there are plenty of opportunities for players coming out of college to get picked up by a team.

Who Are Some of the Top 12?

Obviously, Rhyne Howard and NaLyssa Smith are a part of the top 12, but other names to look out for include: Destanni Henderson from South Carolina, Shakira Austin from Ole Miss, Nyara Sabally (recognize the last name?) from Oregon, Elissa Cunane from NC State, and more.

So, we’re watching the draft as a family right? Cool! Be sure to keep up with me on Twitter as I will be live-tweeting through the night.

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15 ONE Championship Fighters to Watch

ONE Championship (commonly referred to as ONE) is a Singapore based mixed martial arts (MMA), kick-boxing and Muay Thai promotion that has been around since 2011. It was founded by Chatri Sityodtong and is considered Asia’s largest MMA promotion and is still expanding. ONE held a few events live on TNT last Spring and ranks as one of the world’s top “ sports media properties for viewership and engagement,” according to their official website

Competition is the life-blood of any sports promotion and especially in combat sports, so ONE of course is looking to expand. ONE has had plans to come and hold events in the United States in 2020 according to Sherdog, but those plans were sidelined when COVID-19 put the world on pause. 

Now, with everyone in the fight business putting on events ONE is looking to stick to those plans. With their rule-set recently approved by the Colorado State Boxing Commission, the road to ONE bringing their brand of combat sports to the US is looking closer to happening. With that in mind, here are 15 ONE athletes that should be on your radar.

1.) Demetrious Johnson (30-4-1)
Former UFC Flyweight champion, 2019 ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion

Originally from Kentucky and fighting out of Washington,Johnson’s path to ONE is a great story because he was traded from the UFC to ONE, for Ben Askren. At the time, Johnson competed as the 125 lb champion, a division that was rumored to be gone when Johnson left but has turned out to be one of the more fun divisions to watch. When he entered ONE’s Grand Prix, he was a favorite to win and he did, but it was a tournament title, he suffered his first loss when he fought for the ONE flyweight (135 lb in ONE) division title. Still, he’s accomplished a lot in his career as an MMA fighter, so since ONE lets athletes compete in kickboxing and MMA, Johnson will be testing himself against one of the best fighters in his weight class under a special rule set and the next man on this list.

2.) Rodtang Jitmuangnon (Muay Thai record: 267 -42 -10)
Current ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion, Three title defenses, Currently on a five-fight win streak

You’re not reading that wrong. Jitmuangnon’s Muay Thai record is 267 Wins, 42 Losses, 10 Draws. In 2020, The Nation, an English language daily online publication in Thailand where he’s from listed Jitmuangnon as the best pound-for-pound Muay Thai fighter in the world. He and Johnson faced one another in a four round fight, with the rules alternating between Muay Thai and MMA rules according. Rounds one and three were under Muay Thai rules and two and four, were under MMA. Johnson’s grappling proved to be too much.

3.) Eddie Alvarez (30-8-2)
Former Bellator Lightweight Champion, Former UFC Lightweight Champion

Alvarez is known as “The Underground King” to fans of MMA in the northeastern United States. Growing up in Philadelphia, it was easy for Alvarez to get the hunger to be a professional fighter. First with boxing, then wrestling he found his way to MMA fighting in unsanctioned fights before making a career as a professional mixed martial artist. His fights with Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Dos Anjos are some of the best fights in modern MMA. Alvarez has brought that same energy to ONE and is definitely a must watch fighter.

4.) Shinya Aoki (47-10-1)
Former ONE Lightweight Champion, Former DEEP Lightweight Champion, Former Shooto Middleweight Champion

Aoki is probably one of the most dangerous submission based fighters in the current landscape of MMA. Of his 47 wins, 31 come by way of submission and he is currently riding a four-fight win streak in ONE. In his off time, like many MMA fighters Aoki competed in grappling events and after a win at a recent one, he challenged fellow Japanese MMA legend Yoshiro Akiyama to face him at ONE’s next event, ONE: X.

5.) Garry Tonon (6-1)
2nd Degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, No. 3 Ranked ONE Featherweight

New Jersey’s Tonon came into MMA with a heavy following from the world of competitive submission grappling. While he is known for his leg-locks, he keeps evolving as a complete mixed martial artist by using everything he has learned since making his transition to MMA in 2018. His record might seem small but as a lifelong competitor and only 30-years-old, Tonon’s name should be on your watchlist of fighters signed with ONE,  despite a recent loss to Thanh Le. 

6.) Adriano Moraes (20-3)
Three time ONE Flyweight Champion, Current ONE Flyweight Champion

Fighting out of Brazil, Moraes was undefeated before he came to ONE riding a nine-fight win streak. He lost his debut with the promotion in 2013 and it was the first loss of his career. Fight fans unfamiliar with Moraes soon came to recognize him as he quickly became a title contender, then champion. When he fought Johnson on ONE’s TNT event, no one expected him to win against a fan favorite and former UFC champion like “Mighty Mouse” Johnson but he did. It is a testament to the level of global talent in MMA that ONE is looking to bring more exposure to. He followed up that win against Johnson with another win against Yuya Wakamatsu.

7.) Reinier de Ridder (15-0)
ONE Light-heavyweight Champion (current), ONE Middleweight Champion (current)

Being a “Champ-Champ” in any organization is a pretty big deal. It’s making yourself top dog in two different weight classes and not many get to do it. For ONE, that man is Reinier de Ridder. The 31 year-old “Dutch Knight” got to showcase his skills on TNT last April when he won his rematch against Aung La Nsang for the light heavyweight title. Most recently, he secured an arm-triangle against Kiamrian Abbasov.

8.) Angela Lee (11-2)
ONE Women’s Atomweight Champion (current), No.3 Ranked in ONE Women’s Strawweight division

This Canadian-American young lady holds black belts in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu along with her title in ONE. She has fought her entire career with ONE and the promotion recently became a mother. Lee improved her record to 11-2 with another finish win, this time against Nong Stamp.

9.) Nieky Holzken (Kickboxing: 94-17-1)
Former Glory Welterweight Champion – 2013, 2015 Glory Welterweight Tournament Champion, No.1 Ranked in ONE’s Lightweight Kickboxing division

As stated in the beginning, ONE is a full-on martial arts promotion that holds MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai matches. Holzken’s resume should speak for itself but if you have never seen kickboxing on the scale it is today, this Dutch stiker’s matches are must see events. The term “high level stiker” gets thrown around a lot in MMA but when it comes to kickboxing, there are levels to levels and Holzken is on that upper tier. He recently defeated another kickboxing legend at ONE on TNT 3, who is the next kickboxer on the list. His last fight did result in a loss against Sinsamut Klinmee.   

10.) John Wayne Parr (Kickboxing: 99-34-1)
10 time world champion, No. 4 ranked ONE Lightweight Kickboxer

The Australian striker known as“The Gunslinger” Parr may be at the end of his career in some people’s eyes but that does not mean he is looking to walk away without putting on a show. He had just signed a six-fight contract with ONE when he made his promotional debut against Holzken. While he did lose the fight, he put in a valiant effort that kept Holzken on his heels before the loss came. If you are a fan of knock outs, Parr should be on your radar.

11.) Timofey Nastyukhin (14-6)
Former Pankration World Champion, No. 5 ranked ONE Lightweight

The Russian born Nastyukhin handed Alvarez his first loss when he came to ONE from the UFC. Another moment fans found out how big the world is when it comes to the talent of competition in MMA on a global scale. He would eventually get a title shot against Christian Lee at ONE on TNT 2 where he would fall short losing by TKO. He most recently lost to Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev but he is still ranked at the top of the division so expect to see more from Nastyukhin in the future.

12.) Bibiano Fernandes (24-5)
Former DREAM bantamweight Champion, Former DREAM Featherweight Champion

Before there was MMA, there was Vale Tudo in Brazil, and Fernandes like many Brazilian fighters grew up around it. If ONE has proven anything, it’s that when a fight deserves a rematch, they usually happen.  Such is the case with Fernandes and his last three fights against the former champion, Kevin Belingnon. Fernandes recently lost to John Lineker by knockout in 2022. 

13.) John Lineker (35-9)
Former Jungle Fight Bantamweight Champion, Won multiple UFC bonuses for Fight/ Performance of the Night, Current ONE Bantamweight Champion

Another Brazilian on this list, Lineker was released from the UFC in 2019 and ONE signed him when that happened. Lineker’s following comes from the type of fights he won bonuses for so it should be no surprise that he is on a three-fight win streak with ONE, the last two being my way of knockout. Lineker last defeated Bibiano Fernandes in March of 2022 by knockout.

14.) Christian Lee (15-4)
Former ONE Lightweight Champion, 2019 ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Champion

Are there many brother and sister champions in combat sports? If it’s something you have never seen before, ONE has that with Christian, who keeps his sister Angela company on this list. He got some airtime with U.S. fans when he scored his win over Nastyukhin at ONE on TNT 2 but he unfortunately lost his next fight to current champion, Rae Yoon Ok via decision this past September. There was some controversy, so a rematch might be coming.

15.) Xiong Jing Nan (17-2)
Inaugural and current ONE Strawweight Champion, Handed Angela Lee her first loss

Since winning the title she has successfully defended it four times and is the first Chinese MMA champion in a major promotion. She and Lee are 1-1 against each other since Xiong attempted to take Lee’s Atomweight title, but it’s clear that these two women are the queens in the weight classes they hold titles in. It’s reminiscent of Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko in the UFC, sure they have fought each other but is there something more to see if they fight again after time has passed? Maybe.

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Sports Strength

2022 World Cup Predictions

We’re still over seven months away from the 2022 World Cup, but it’s never too early to start analyzing the most prestigious football tournament in the world.

32 nations will meet in Qatar this November with the aim of being named world champions after France took home those honors at the tournament’s previous edition in 2018.

For nations like the United States, 2022 marks a return to the World Cup for the first time since 2014, while traditional powers like Brazil and Germany aim to engrave their names in history once again with a title.

Below, ONE37pm hands out its 2022 World Cup predictions ahead of November’s competition in Qatar.

Group Stage

Group A

Hosts Qatar weren’t presented with the most desirable group, and it definitely won’t be an easy task getting past pool play with three quality sides.

African champions Senegal will be led by a core of quality Premier League players, including Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy, as well as Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly.

Meanwhile, Netherlands breezed through qualifying with Memphis Depay’s goal scoring run and defensively they have a very talented group with Virgil van Dijk and Mathijs de Ligt manning the back line.

Ecuador will be a threat, but slowed down towards the end of CONMEBOL qualifying. Qatar can put up a fight after competing in various North and South American competitions over recent years, but it’s likely one-and-done for the host nation.

Who Advances? Netherlands + Senegal

Group B

The USMNT won’t be upset with their group, but England obviously presents a significant challenge for the Americans.

The Three Lions have been on the brink of a major title after finishing fourth at the previous World Cup and runners up to Italy at Euro 2020.

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The U.S. should be able to get past Iran and whichever team ends up qualifying from Europe, but it’s certainl

Who Advances? England + USA

Group C

El Tri will feel fortunate to have their group despite being pitted up against Lionel Messi and Argentina. Mexico finished second in CONCACAF qualifying, but they have a very strong chance of reaching the knockout phase.

Argentina will definitely be the favorites to advance after finishing unbeaten in qualifying and riding a 31-match unbeaten streak to this point.

Saudi Arabia likely won’t have much luck on their side, while Poland can be heavily reliant on one of the top strikers in football; Robert Lewandowski.

Who Advances? Argentina + Mexico

Group D

Defending champions France should have a comfortable road to the knockout phase with one of the deepest squads at the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Euro 2020 darlings Denmark have star Christian Eriksen back and they’ll be looking to build off of last year’s success on the biggest European stage.

If Peru gets through qualifying they can certainly present a threat, but their path to the Round of 16, along with Tunisia, will be quite challenging.

Who Advances? France + Denmark

Group E

Many will have their attention on Group E with two powerhouses battling it out in Spain and Germany.

Both sides have largely young cores and will be hoping to take that next major leap on the international stage with players like Pedri and Kai Havertz leading the way.

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Japan is always a consistent threat in group play, but this isn’t the same team we’ve seen in previous cycles. Meanwhile, Costa Rica will aim to get past New Zealand in order to solidify their spot and the Ticos are an aging team that does have one of the best goalkeepers in the competition with Keylor Navas.

Who Advances? Spain + Germany

Group F

This could be the last time we see the ‘Golden Age’ of Belgium with Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, but this side is still good enough to reach the knockout phase and potentially go further.

Meanwhile, Canada could be one of the most exciting newcomers at this year’s World Cup with Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David aiming to take the North American side to the Round of 16.

They’ll have a serious challenge from Croatia – who finished second in 2018 – and Morocco, who battled valiantly at AFCON 2021.

Who Advances? Belgium + Canada

Group G

Brazil will certainly be favorites to advance after an unbeaten qualifying run and only two major losses in all competitions since 2019.

However, Neymar and Co. will have a battle in terms of which nation finishes second in Group G.

Serbia boasts one of the top young strikers in football with Dušan Vlahovič while Cameroon has a sneaky good squad that is going to look to speed the game up.

Switzerland has been to many knockout rounds with a veteran core led by Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, so don’t be surprised if they ruin someone’s party.

Who Advances? Brazil + Serbia

Group H

Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. had their troubles getting to Qatar, but now that Portugal has qualified Portugal are certainly one of the favorites to win the World Cup.

The European nation boasts an incredible amount of attacking talent, while Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias man the defense.

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Meanwhile, a rematch of a 2010 knockout round game ensues with Ghana and Uruguay meeting. Luis Suarez was the famous figure sent off after handling the ball on the goal line, but Uruguay still advanced on penalty kicks.

Expect the South Americans to advance again with a veteran squad looking to make a lasting run to the knockout stage.

Who Advances? Portugal + Uruguay

Round of 16

This is where the competition begins to get serious and the fun truly begins for teams that expect to go all the way at the World Cup.

Although the hosts may not make it to the knockout phase, there’s a ton of star power left in the tournament, including favorites Brazil, France and England.

Who Advances? Netherlands + Argentina + Spain + Brazil + England + France + Germany + Portugal

Quarterfinals

It’s not rare to see group winners in these latter stages of the World Cup and with so many top teams boasting immense talent this year, there are a lot of European powers at the top.

By this point, we could have all teams ranked inside the top 12 in FIFA’s World Rankings, which would make for some incredible drama in the quarterfinals.

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Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and Mbappe would all still be in the competition as well, which would be great for casual fans of the sport.

Who Advances? Argentina + Brazil + France + Germany

Semifinals

We could get a dream semifinals with Lionel Messi and Neymar facing off once again in a rematch of many South American battles previously seen.

Meanwhile, France and Germany have had many great encounters in Europe previously. Les Bleus continue to boast a strong squad with N’Golo Kante and Kylian Mbappe leading the way.

Who Advances? Brazil + France

Third-place Match

Messi and Co. fall short of an elusive World Cup, but a third-place finish in Qatar would still be quite good for the legacy of the Barcelona & PSG superstar.

Meanwhile, Germany has been building properly under Hansi Flick and could very well be in the running to win the 2026 World Cup.

Who wins? Argentina

Final

In a battle of Europe and South America, we get a similar result to what we’ve seen in previous World Cups over recent years. Europe continues to reign supreme on the global stage and France does something quite impressive by repeating as champions.

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Brazil have all the quality to go deep in this competition and they’ll give France a very good game, especially with a midfield led by Casemiro and Fabinho.

Who wins? France

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Sports Strength

The Best NCAA Basketball Players in the Transfer Portal

The 2022 NCAA Tournament may have just ended, but the arms race to prepare for the 2023 iteration is already in full swing. With the NCAA allowing transferring players to play immediately and granting an extra year of eligibility across the board starting last year, nearly 1100 players are looking to switch teams. Increasingly, transfers are becoming an integral part of team building—it’s hard to imagine Kansas winning the title without Remy Martin or North Carolina making the championship game without Brady Manek. Here is a sampling of the best players that the portal has to offer.

Johni Broome, Center, Morehead State:
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Last season, the 6’10 sophomore was the third best shot-blocker in the country, rejecting 3.9 shots per game. To wit, Broome is no clumsy defensive specialist—his 16.8 points per game led his team. An unheralded three-star recruit in high school, Broome is now one of the most coveted players in college basketball as Gonzaga, Auburn, Texas Tech, Alabama and Indiana are all in pursuit. 

Fardaws Aimaq, Center, Utah Valley:
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Last year, a rebound-vacuuming big man entered the portal and then proceeded to win every major National Player of the Year award at his new school. Could Aimaq do the same this year? Although Aimaq lacks the pedigree that Oscar Tshiebwe had at West Virginia, the 6’11, 245-pound Aimaq was startlingly productive last year for the Utah Valley Wolverines. A two-time Western Athletic Conference first-teamer and defensive player of the year, Aimaq averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per game last season. Unsurprisingly, he’s a top target for nearly every major school, with Arizona, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Kentucky, Houston and Texas all interested in him. 

Nijel Pack, Shooting Guard, Kansas State:
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While there are 1088 players in the portal and counting, Nijel Pack might have the most impressive resume of them all. A Big 12 first-team selection last year, Pack is a fearsome scorer and playmaker—his 17.4 points per game ranked third in the conference and were the most of any underclassman. In addition to entering the portal, Pack also declared for the NBA Draft, but it’s unlikely that he will be selected. 

Andre Curbelo, Point Guard, Illinois:
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At his best, Curbelo might be on the shortlist of the best returning point guard in college basketball. The 2020-2021 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman, Curbelo is a dazzling playmaker, able to manifest his own imagination onto the court so thoroughly that even the most outrageous passes seem preordained. As a sophomore, though, injuries limited Curbelo to just 19 games, in which he may have been the most destructive player in the Big 10. Still, Curbelo has a litany of power conference suitors because of his immense natural talent as well as the possibility that he will be more productive once he’s untethered from a high-usage big man like Kofi Cockburn.

Terrence Shannon Jr, Shooting Guard, Texas Tech:
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Everybody on this list is a great college basketball player; Terrence Shannon Jr. has the distinction of potentially being a great NBA one too. After emerging as one of the star players for Texas Tech in 2020-2021, Shannon was shunted more towards the periphery last year, sacrificing shots to accommodate an influx of transfers. In a new setting, Shannon should be able to showcase the athleticism and budding ball skills that have made him such a productive college player and NBA prospect.

Doug Edert and Daryl Banks, Guards, St. Peter’s:
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You know these guys—Edert was the breakout star of the NCAA Tournament, thanks to his clutch shooting and glorious ‘stache; Daryl Banks catalyzed the Peacocks’ first round upset by dropping 27 points against Kentucky. Interestingly, Edert and Banks have entered the portal just a week after head coach Shaheen Holloway left St. Peter’s to take the Seton Hall job. Makes you think. 

LSU Basketball
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As of right now, the LSU Tigers are more of a zen koan than a real squad—if a basketball team has no basketball players, are they still a basketball team? Facing potential sanctions, LSU saw all 13 of their players from last season opt not to return to Baton Rouge. As part of this mass exodus, highly regarded players like SEC All-Freshman team guard Brandon Murray (10 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game), former five-star recruits Efton Reid (6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 19.6 minutes per game), Adam Miller (missed last year with an injury), and Giannis Antetokounmpo with a jump shot Shareef O’Neal are all leaving the program. 

Antonio Reeves, Shooting Guard, Illinois State:
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More than just about anybody in the portal, Reeves is a bucket; he’s the only potential transfer who averaged more than 20 points per game last year. Upon entering the portal, Reeves received immediate interest from big programs such as Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Texas Tech and Nebraska.