Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marquardt not heading to Bellator as he fights off criticism from B.J. Penn

Marquardt not heading to Bellator as he fights off criticism from B.J. Penn

Apparently the "Nate Marquardt's a nice guy" stuff is long gone. The former UFC middleweight contender, who had run ins with both Pennsylvania and New Jersey over his testosterone replacement therapy use, is getting battered from all sides. Bellator's Hector Lombard called him a cheater earlier this week and now B.J. Penn has jumped on board the "Slam Nate Express."

@BJPenndontcom and @NathanMarquardt engaged in a little Twitter throw down yesterday.

Marquardt not heading to Bellator as he fights off criticism from B.J. Penn

MMA fans on Twitter are choosing sides. A newly combative Marquardt is getting blasted by some followers and spoke with MMAjunkie to defend himself.

"Some of the fighters that think they're so cool and tough by kicking a guy when he's down ? as far as my career, this has been one of the worst times of my life, and these guys are calling me a cheater and talking crap ? I've taken note as to who those guys are, and I'm going to come for them. Eventually, I'll get them. I don't care if it's in a superfight or if they want to come down to my gym. I'll beat them up for free," Marquardt said.

"I think you know who these guys are ? Ben Askren, B.J. Penn, Paul Daley, Hector Lombard, cowards talking crap about a guy when he's in such a situation. They're trying to take advantage of the situation. They're bullies. Those are the guys I want to beat up."

Not everyone is slamming Marquardt. Others on Twitter have started a #bringnateback hash tag. They're including UFC president Dana White on many of those tweets.

Marquardt and his management team must be banking on White eventually softening his stance. Bellator made an offer to Marquardt, but the two sides couldn't come to terms. It sounds like Marquardt wanted an immediate title shot against Lombard, but Bellator wouldn't back off it's standard tournament format. All new fighters are usually put into a tournament and have to earn a title shot against the reigning champ.

"The reality is that it's not often that a top-10 guy is available... especially when he's coming off a win. Nate's situation was pretty unique. It's an anomaly for a guy like that to become available, so we had discussions. But it just became pretty clear it wasn't the right fit," Rebney told MMAjunkie.

Who's making the mistake in that case? Wouldn't it benefit Bellator to steal away a high profile fighter? Or is it Marquardt, for not taking the only major opportunity that may come his way?

Ehrinn Cummings Sienna Miller Cindy Taylor Halle Berry Catherine Bell

Warren interview: Disappointed Bellator champ just wants fights

Joe Warren's rapid ascent to world champion has been fun to watch. Now the question is whether he can retain his Bellator featherweight world title and eventually add UFC hardware to his mantle.

To beat the best in the world, he knows he's got to log cage time. Real cage time. Warren is angry that his latest fight went by the wayside. Warren was set to face Patricio "Pitbull" Freire at Bellator 47 next week in Canada. Freire suffered a hand injury and the fight was canceled. Now he has to wait until September for his next fight.

Warren joined ESPNRadio1100's "The MMA Insiders" to talk about his career and what could be a bright future. Now, how will he handle another two months before he has to peak?

"I train full-time man. Since I can remember, I've been in the wrestling room training," Warren said. "As young as I am in fighting, I need to be in there training hard like that. My whole concern is the layoff time between fights."

Warren would love to be fighting 5-6 times a year. He already holds Bellator's 145-pound title and will work towards adding the 135 title with a tournament starting in the fall.

"I'm new at it, so I need to be in there. I can't simulate a live fighting match like I can a live wrestling match. It doesn't go down the way you ever expect it to. I feel like the only way I'm learning is in the ring," said Warren.

Warren's sense of urgency is due to his age. He's going to be 35 later this fall. He spent his 20's and early 30's on the international wrestling scene. He's rolled up a 7-1 record since making his MMA debut in March of 2009.

Warren said he plans on making one more run at the Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling. He'll compete in the U.S. Open in December, with an eye on the U.S. Olympic trials in February.

In the meantime, he'll continue training with guys like Scott Jorgensen and Kit Cope. He'll also mix in more time with Team Alpha Male and Urijah Faber. Warren is slated to face Alexis Vila at Bellator 51 in his opening fight of the bantamweight tournament.

Penélope Cruz Kristen Bell The Pussycat Dolls Isla Fisher Sophia Bush

Monday, July 18, 2011

Puck Headlines: Vokoun Capitals? starter; Miss USA, Canucks fan

Puck Headlines: Vokoun Capitals? starter; Miss USA, Canucks fanHere are your Puck Headlines: a glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

? Miss USA Alyssa Campanella, shown here preparing in case Lil' Wayne is a judge at the Miss Universe pageant, tells Fox Sports West that she's a huge hockey fan ? of the Vancouver Canucks. "I don't have a favorite player, but I do like watching the Sedins score. I think I like Henrik, but I don't exactly have a particular favorite." Sorry, Daniel. [Fox Sports West]

? Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on talks with Brad Marchand, a restricted free agent: "We've continued to talk. We've had some discussion, and we'll leave it at that." [Big Bad Blog]

? The Washington Capitals rode Michal Neuvirth through their (brief) playoff run last postseason, but Coach Bruce Boudreau says it's free-agent signee Tomas Vokoun's job: "If you're looking at a guy that's had the experience and done everything and if they're a No. 1 goalie... You've got to give Vokoun the respect that he's coming in and he's going to be the No. 1 guy. We'll see where it goes from there." [Capitals Insider]

? The 10 best free agent signings of the off-season so far. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]

? BREAKING: NATO commander from New England is a Bruins fan. [CP]

? Great look at the Dallas Stars post Brad Richards from Mike Heika: "Could new coach Glen Gulutzan better use Richards on the power play now that Souray is there to take some pressure off?� On paper, that would have been the best answer.� Too bad it was never an option." [Dallas Stars Blog]

? Why the NHL turned over its ad sales to NBC Universal. [Ad Age]

? The many financial headaches for Gary Bettman this summer. [Globe & Mail]

? Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman on trade offers for Steven Stamkos from other teams: "I'm not interested in discussing a possible trade. I'm committed to re-signing Steven." [Lightning Strikes]

? Please to be welcoming Rodriguez and Granderson Are Dead to the hockey blogosphere. If this post on the salary cap is any indication, it's a great addition to the debates. [R&GAD]

? Looking at the current career arc of former top prospect Angelo Esposito, now a member of the Florida Panthers. [HOTH]

? Jaroslav Jirik, the first Czech allowed to play in the NHL during the country's communist era, died Monday in a plane crash. He was 71. [CP]

? The Phoenix Coyotes are vital to the survival of the potentially foreclosed-upon Westgate City Center, though perhaps not as vital as a Target Outlet Store would be. [Arizona Republic]

Puck Headlines: Vokoun Capitals? starter; Miss USA, Canucks fan

? Wayne Gretzky is selling some kind of muscle supplement miracle bill. Is the science real? Better question: Why the [expletive] is he wearing purple and silver? [Singularity Hub]

? The Anaheim Ducks sign Dan Sexton to a two-year deal that's "two-way in nature in the�first year and�one-way in 2012-13." [Ducks Blog]

? Breaking down the specifics on a Blake Comeau arbitration with the New York Islanders. [Lighthouse Hockey]

? Looking back at the early harbingers of doom on long-term player contracts in the NHL. [The Good Point]

? Interesting piece by Tyler Dellow on the value of winning faceoffs on the penalty kill, as his statistic evaluation of the season's power plays finds a small difference in effectiveness for teams that win or lose the opening draw of a kill. [mc79hockey]

? With Nicklas Lidstrom bringing up the mean, the Detroit Red Wings had the oldest defense among NHL playoff teams. The youngest on average? The Nashville Predators. [The Ruff Writers]

? Interesting analysis of Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya and their numbers playing together. [Battle of Cali]

? Lee Sweatt to the Ottawa Senators. [TSN]

The Chief offers the expected response to our Commodore 64 post. We've done this dance with him for so long that we've worn out the hardwood. That said, the editor of 'Tin Foil-To-Persecution Complex' accusing someone else of an "effort at martyrdom" ranks among the most unintentionally hilarious moments of the young offseason. Kudos. [Abel To Yzerman]

? Ryan Batty on the low expectations for the Edmonton Oilers. Congrats for a nice tie-in with a personal story about his wife, and for not using "Lowe" in the headline like NHL.com would. [Copper & Blue]

? There is no offseason for NHL.com Pundays! How many ways can one site use "Brad" in headlines? [The Royal Half]

? The wife of Adam Pineault, a Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick in 2004, has been diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, a rare form of cancer. Puck-Rakers is asking for some help, either in funds or good vibes for them. [Puck-Rakers]

? Finally, Lambert mentioned this in What We Learned, but here's Episode 1 of a behind the scenes documentary (6 part series) on the Minnesota Wild off-season. In runs about 22 minutes.

Jessica Cauffiel Emmanuelle Vaugier Sarah Silverman Larissa Meek Gina Carano

The five best (and worst) Home Run Derby performances

The five best (and worst) Home Run Derby performances

Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux had it right: Chicks dig the longball. And there's no better night to cruise than the first night of the All-Star break, when the Home Run Derby is held.

Love it or loathe it (especially if you're listening to Chris Berman calling play-by-play), the Derby has become almost as anticipated as the All-Star game itself. That's largely due to some impressive displays of power from baseball's most famous sluggers. The Home Run Derby might go on too long for some, but almost every year, someone makes it worth watching. Inevitably, there are also some "sluggers" who make you wish you hadn't spent time watching.

With that in mind, here are five of the best performances in the event's history, followed by five of the worst.

Get All-Star game merchandise here!

The five best Home Run Derby performances

5. David Wright, 2006: The Mets' third baseman didn't win the Derby at PNC Park, but his first-round total of 16 is one of the highest in the event's history. That didn't leave him much for the semis and finals, however, and he eventually lost to Ryan Howard.

4. Mark McGwire, 1999: The Derby may have finally become a television event when the game's most famous slugger, coming off his then-record 70-homer season, took on the Green Monster. McGwire went deep 13 times in the first round, more than twice what any of his competitors managed. Yet he didn't even make the finals, �hitting only three homers in the second round.

3. Jason Giambi, 2001: Hitting home runs at Safeco Field is not easy, but that didn't stop Giambi from going deep 14 times, twice what the next closest slugger totaled. Once again, though, a strong start didn't guarantee a win, as Giambi finished third in the second round with six homers.

2. Bobby Abreu, 2005: Viva Venezuela! Representing his country in the first and only International Derby put some sting in Abreu's swing. He hit 24 first-round homers at Comerica Park, easily the highest total ever achieved. Abreu finished strong, too, hitting 11 to beat out hometown favorite Pudge Rodriguez for the trophy.

1. Josh Hamilton, 2008: Abreu's record only lasted three years, as Hamilton brought out the big bat on arguably the sport's biggest stage. The first-time All-Star put on a slugging show, launching 28 homers out of Yankee Stadium in the first round. No one else hit more than eight. But following a familiar theme among this top five, Hamilton didn't have much left for the subsequent rounds and lost out to Justin Morneau.

(The lesson seems clear. Slow but steady may win the competition when it comes to the Home Run Derby. But fast and furious win the hearts and minds of the fans.)

Watch highlights of Hamilton's slugfest here

The five worst Home Run Derby performances

The five best (and worst) Home Run Derby performances5. Brandon Inge, 2009: Inge had 14 homers in the season's first half, an effort that helped him win the AL Final Vote. But he was probably miscast as a slugger by whomever picked him for the competition: Inge failed to hit a single ball out of Busch Stadium.

4. Jim Thome, 1997: The '97 Derby was at Jacobs Field and Thome was the hometown favorite, playing for the Indians then. But he whiffed in front of the Cleveland fans, hitting zero homers.

3. Troy Glaus, 2001: As mentioned, hitting home runs at Safeco Field is not easy. But it's even worse for a right-handed hitter. Glaus hit 47 homers in 2000 and came into the Derby with 22 on the season. Yet he didn't hit a single ball over the wall.

2. Richie Sexson, 2003: U.S. Cellular Field is a launching pad. Sexson had 25 homers by the All-Star break and went on to hit 45 for the season. How did he only manage to hit one, measly home run in Chicago's notorious bandbox?

1. Jason Bay, 2005: Was it the burden of representing Canada, with the home country a mere four miles away from Comerica Park? Did some visitors from nearby Windsor turn up the pressure? Bay swung as if wrapped in a maple leaf flag, putting up a big, fat zero. Woe, Canada.

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Power Rankings: Nobody deserves to be No. 1

Time for our latest round of power rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. And just when we got things sorted out, those wacky drivers had to go and turn everything upside down. Oh, this one's going to make you mad...

Kurt Busch1. Kurt Busch. This is a case where everybody deserves to be ranked about, I dunno, third through eighth or something. Nobody who was up at the top of the charts was particularly dominant; nobody who was dominant was high enough to charge all the way to the top spot. Anyway, Kurt led the second-most laps in Sunday's race, and briefly let Evil Kurt out to play when he screamed about his car being "junk." Last week's ranking: 3.

Carl Edwards2. Carl Edwards. Another lurktastic week for Carl, who hung around within sight of the lead pack for a long time before eventually fading to 13th. (A top 10 probably would've gotten you the top spot, Carl.) Aside: I gotta say, I dig the fact that Carl jumps from the car to the broadcast booth when he wrecks out, as happened in the Nationwide series. I would love to see the NFL do this any time a quarterback gets knocked out of the game with a concussion. It'd be more fascinating commentary than Joe Buck, that's for sure.� Last week's ranking: 2.

Jeff Gordon3. Jeff Gordon. A few weeks back, we indicated that Gordon's main problem was consistency. Now, he's posted a strong run of top-10 (or just outside) finishes, and while I'm not yet convinced he's a legit championship contender, I'm convinced he's on the right path. A good break here, an avoided wreck there, and Gordon could indeed be hoisting No. 5 this fall.� Last week's ranking: 7.

Kyle Busch4. Kyle Busch. It's probably not fair for Kyle to get so dinged for mechanical failure, but you know what? So be it. Stuff happens. Best moment of Kyle's Sunday was his declaration that he didn't want to participate in the manufacturing of a story by blaming the 88 for knocking him out of the race. You want a sign that he's starting to focus more on the track than creating drama off it, there it is. Last week's ranking: 1.

Jimmie Johnson5. Jimmie Johnson. Johnson's crew screwed him with a missed lug nut in one of the late pit stops, and he still managed a fifth-place finish. That's pretty good. In totally unrelated news, I sincerely hope that Johnson's nice-guy act to Golden Tate is a total act, and he'll get the mouthy Seahawks wide receiver in� a car at Bristol and run him till he pukes. Athletically.� Last week's ranking: 4.

Ryan Newman6. Ryan Newman. Oh, how the Rocket Man needed this. After such a strong start, he was fading, fading fast. Now, he's pretty much locked himself into the Chase. His killer qualifying efforts will help him out in the Chase, and if he can work out some kind of "free burritos for a win" promotion, he'll become America's sweetheart.� Last week's ranking: 10.

Tony Stewart7. Tony Stewart. Smoke apparently got into some kind of a snit with a media member after last night's race over some kind of botched joke. As a veteran of a thousand press conferences, I can tell you this: it takes a special cat to pull off a good joke in a press conference (or a shareholders' meeting, or a funeral). It can be done, but you need somebody to give you that courtesy laugh to get you started. Smoke will not give you that courtesy laugh. Ever.� Last week's ranking: 9.

Denny Hamlin8. Denny Hamlin. Great finish for Hamlin, and strangely he's still sitting right on the edge of the top 10. Huh. He should be in regardless, but whatever. Anybody switch over and watch the end of that women's soccer game Sunday? Great stuff, huh? Tense and throat-clutching. How about a NASCAR equivalent? One lap, head-to-head, hit the start line side by side at full speed and go? I could get behind that.� Last week's ranking: 8.

Matt Kenseth9. Matt Kenseth. Not much to say about Kenseth's run; he was never higher than 8th, and finished 20th. He's in fine shape for the Chase; let's move on to another quick topic. I learned about this new iPad app called "Pit Crew Titans" from Brad Keselowski; you actually run a whole four-tire pit stop and try to get your car out of the pits as fast as possible. I've gotten out in 12.009 seconds; I forwarded my high score to Chad Knaus. � Last week's ranking: 6.

Kevin Harvick10. Kevin Harvick. Here's a great case of how a ranking can look much worse than it really is. Harvick is easily one of the best drivers in NASCAR, but right now he's not running particularly well; just two top-10s in his last five races. Plus, he's got to drive with those handcuffs on his hand around Kyle Busch. I feel a little sorry for him, don't you?� Last week's ranking: 5.

David Ragan11. David Ragan. It's looking more and more likely that The Thrilla from Unadilla (can you tell I love that nickname?) is going to make the Chase. Look, Ragan has been a punch line for so long it's tough to recalibrate our smartass meter and take him seriously, but if you aren't at least a little happy for this long-suffering guy finally seeing some sustained success, you, my friend, have no soul. Last week's ranking: 12.

Joey Logano12. Joey Logano. One pole, two top fives, three top 10s in the last five races. That's not so bad for everyone's favorite lil' pup. Funny how both Logano and Ragan are getting hot just as the seats beneath them are starting to warm up. I'm thinking that if we put drivers on race-to-race (or pit stop-to-pit stop) contracts, we'd see some great racing.� Last week's ranking: NR.

Lucky Dog: Bobby Labonte. A seventh-place finish for BLab? Impressive for a guy whom everyone had written off. One of the real shames of the contraction of teams is the fact that a guy like Labonte, who obviously still has some skill, can't get access to top-flight equipment.

DNF: Brad Keselowski. He needed a good finish to get into the top 20 and put himself into a Chase position. He got exactly the opposite, and now sits 25 points out of 20th.

Dropping out of the rankings: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who posted a fifth straight disappointing finish. Yes, he could have nailed down a top 10 had his tire changer gotten the tire out of the pits in time; yes, he fought his way from 33rd to 15th in impressive fashion at the end of the race. Doesn't matter; he's in free-fall now and desperately needs something good to happen, now.

Charging upward: Great effort by Kasey Kahne to post another top-10 finish. Logano beat him out for the 12th spot by a hairsbreadth, but Kahne is on the way up.

Next up: nothing! It's an off weekend, and nobody's going to lose points then, not even [insert driver here]. Send comments to us via Twitter at @jaybusbee, email by clicking here, and via Facebook at The Marbles page.

Julie Benz Saira Mohan Brittny Gastineau Ashley Tisdale Rachel Blanchard

Oops! Tony La Russa turns in wrong lineup card on Friday

Oops! Tony La Russa turns in wrong lineup card on FridayLook, don't try to talk to Tony La Russa when he's making out the lineup card, OK?

If you do happen to shoot the bull with the St. Louis Cardinals manager while he's doing something pertaining to the game, you're liable to distract him. And if you take his focus away from the task at hand, he could end up doing something that he claims he's never done in his 33 seasons of managing in the major leagues.

As detailed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel, La Russa handed the wrong lineup card to the umpiring crew before Friday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He intended to give catcher Yadier Molina the night off, but accidentally wrote him on the lineup card he made out a day earlier. La Russa caught the mistake on Friday afternoon and had backup catcher Gerald Laird on the lineup card he sent to the Arizona coaches. But Molina's name was still on the card he gave to the umpires ? which was then given to the D-Backs ? at home plate.

D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson noticed the differences between the two lineup cards and brought it to home plate umpire Ed Rapuano's attention after the first inning, when Laird had taken the field. Rapuano informed La Russa that he'd effectively made a substitution, so Molina couldn't come into the game.

"No excuse," La Russa said Saturday. "Messed up, and it could have been significant."

Did the mistake end up costing the Cardinals a win?

In the ninth inning, La Russa used outfielder Jon Jay to pinch hit for Laird, which seemed like the smart move ? bringing in a left-handed batter to face right-hander David Hernandez.

The Cards were down to their last out with two runners on. And Jay (batting .295 overall, though .133 as a pinch hitter) looked like a much better option to drive in a run than Laird (batting .217).

Jay grounded out to second, closing out a 7-6 loss. But if Molina had been available, would La Russa have pinch-hit for Laird earlier, in the eighth, with a runner on? Perhaps the Cardinals would have tied the game then, and Molina would've batted in the ninth. Or, if Jay had driven in the tying run in the ninth, third-string catcher Tony Cruz would have taken the field in the 10th.

Oops! Tony La Russa turns in wrong lineup card on Friday

(Or maybe La Russa had the wrong catcher in there all along; Cruz hit a game-winning RBI double as a pinch hitter Saturday night.)

No outcome was assured, regardless of whether La Russa had filled out his lineup card correctly. But in a tight, four-team race at the top of the NL Central, one game ? even one at-bat ? ultimately could make a huge difference.

La Russa will surely remember that and ask for silence each time he makes out his lineup from here on out.

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