Brandon Moreno to Defend UFC Flyweight Title Against Familiar Foe, Deiveson Figueiredo

It’s a case of tres-jà vu for Brandon Moreno.

The 27-year-old Mexican professional mixed martial artist and reigning UFC flyweight champion‘s first title defense will come against a familiar foe — former champion Deiveson Figueiredo.

Brandon Moreno, Deiveson Figueiredo

Moreno (19-5-2) has agreed to defend his 125-pound championship against Figueiredo (20-2-1) at UFC 269 on December 11 at a site to be determined. Contracts for the matchup should be finalized soon. It will mark the third meeting between the two flyweights.

The UFC initially looked into booking Moreno against Brazilian title challenger Alexandre Pantoja. But Pantoja will not be ready to compete before the end of the year due to a knee injury.

Moreno’s team told ESPN the he wanted to fight again before the end of 2021 and was open to any challenger. Moreno is also committed to keeping the flyweight division moving. Thus far, there has been only one 125-pound title fight this year.

Moreno, of Tijuana, Mexico, claimed the title in a third-round submission victory over Figueiredo at UFC 263 in June. Prior to that, the two fought to a majority draw in November 2020, a bout many considered to be the fight of that year.

Figueiredo, of Belem, Brazil, has campaigned for an immediate rematch ever since his loss to Moreno. He struggled with his health prior to the first fight and was adamant Moreno owed him a rematch since he granted Moreno a second fight after their draw.

A female bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena is set to headline UFC 269.

Salvador Perez Ties Johnny Bench’s Record for Homers in a Season by a Catcher

Salvador Perez is rewriting history…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher and Kansas City Royals slugger has tied Johnny Bench‘s record for homers in a season by a catcher with his 45th in a 7-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

Salvador Perez

Perez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, matching Bench’s total from 1970 for the most by a player who played at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher.

Perez is tied with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Major League Baseball lead in homers and also leads the MLB with 112 RBIs.

“We’re witnessing a special season,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re witnessing a special player. To be able to be put in the conversation with one most would say is the best ever is pretty rare.”

His talent is not lost on the opposition.

“Salvador, it seems like he’s hitting a home run a day against everybody,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “You can’t miss against him right now.”

Perez is three homers away from matching Jorge Soler‘s team record from 2019. Soler extended the Royals’ record by 10. Perez also tied Mike Sweeney for second on the club’s all-time list with 197 home runs. George Brett holds the club record with 317.

After bouncing back from an elbow injury that caused him to miss all of the 2019 season with an elbow injury, Perez has been on a tear. His 56 home runs in 2020 and 2021 are the most in MLB over that span, while his 144 RBIs rank third.

If Perez, Guerrero and Shohei Ohtani (44) — from Venezuela, Canada and Japan, respectively — are atop the home run leaderboard until the season’s end, it will be the first time in MLB history that the top three leaders were all born outside the United States, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Anderson Silva Knocks Out Tito Ortiz in First Round

Anderson Silva has knocked out a fellow MMA legend…

The 46-year-old Brazilian mixed martial-artist-turned-boxer stopped fellow MMA legend Tito Ortiz via knockout at 1:21 of the first round on Saturday night in Hollywood, Florida.

Anderson Silva

Ortiz had Silva trapped in the corner, throwing punches. But Silva ducked an Ortiz shot and landed a huge counter right hook. Silva followed up with a left as Ortiz slumped against the corner to put him down for good. Ortiz appeared to be completely unconscious.

Silva defeated former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. via split decision on June 19 in Guadalajara, Mexico. That was Silva’s first pro boxing match in 16 years.

The Silva-Ortiz bout — Ortiz’s pro boxing debut — took place on the undercard of the Evander HolyfieldVitor Belfort boxing match under the Triller Fight Club banner at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

“I trained hard to show my respect for boxing,” Silva said in his post-fight interview. “I continue to work every day to prove my respect for the martial arts and for Wing Chun  and for Bruce Lee.

“The grandmaster Bruce Lee said, ‘Be water, my friend.’ That’s what I do today.”

Both Silva and Ortiz are 46 years old. The bout was contracted for eight, two-minute rounds and at 195 pounds. Ortiz weighed five pounds over that catchweight limit on Friday, coming in at 200 pounds.

Silva is the former longtime UFCmiddleweight champion and considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. He holds the longest winning streak in UFC history (16) and has the most knockouts ever in UFC title fights at seven. Silva asked for and was granted his release from the UFC in November. “The Spider” had just one win in his past nine UFC fights. Silva has said he is effectively retired now from MMA.

Ortiz, meanwhile, is one of the best UFC light heavyweight champions of all time. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” had five successful UFC 205-pound title defenses, the second-highest total in division history behind only all-time great Jon Jones. Ortiz, a California native, is also considered one of the biggest financial draws for the UFC over the years, with notable rivalries against Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock.

Ortiz most recently fought in December 2019, an MMA bout against former WWE champion Alberto Del Rio under the Combate Americas banner. Ortiz won that bout via first-round submission.

Oscar Valdez Defeats Robson Conceicao to Retain WBC Super-Featherweight Title

Oscar Valdez is keeping his title…

The 30-year-old Mexican boxer retained his WBC super-featherweight title with a unanimous points victory over Brazil’s Robson Conceicao.

Oscar Valdez

Valdez had been cleared to fight despite failing a drug test.

Judges at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona, awarded the fight to Valdez 117-110, 115-112, 115-112.

Former Olympic champion Conceicao, 32, took the fight to the man he had beaten as an amateur and started the stronger.

But as he tired, Valdez started to take the upper hand and judges decided he had done enough to win.

Some have questioned whether the fight should have gone ahead at all after Valdez failed a test for the banned substance phentermine, a weight-loss drug, but was cleared to fight by a gaming commission.

Valdez insisted he was a clean fighter and believed he had accidentally ingested it via an herbal tea, while WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said phentermine was not a performance enhancer.

Teofimo Lopez to Fight George Kambosos in October

Teofimo Lopez is officially ready to rumble…

The 24-year-old Honduran American boxer and George Kambosos have signed contracts for an undisputed lightweight title fight that will take place on October 4 at New York’s Hulu Theater at MSG, Triller COO Thorsten Meier tells ESPN.

Teofimo Lopez

The fight was set for October 5, but Triller moved the fight to avoid competing with a potential wild-card playoff game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in New York. If the MLB season ended today, that game would take place on October 5.

“We want to make sure the sporting fans can see both amazing events,” Meier said.

Lopez-Kambosos will be the rare Monday evening boxing match in a sport that usually — with rare exception — holds its notable events on Saturday. It’s yet another date change for the seemingly snakebitten event.

Triller won the rights to the fight at a February purse bid with $6.018 million. The fight was planned for June 5 before it was officially set for June 19 in Miami. In the days leading up to the bout, Lopez tested positive for COVID-19.

Triller announced a rescheduled date of August 14 before it looked to stage the fight on October 17 in Sydney, Australia. Lopez balked at the government-mandated 14-day quarantine, leading to a legal battle. The IBF ultimately ruled the fight couldn’t take place in a location that requires quarantine.

The bout between Lopez, a Brooklyn native, and Kambosos, a 28-year-old Australian, was then planned for October 5.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is ESPN‘s No. 1 lightweight and No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter. He won the undisputed championship in October with a unanimous-decision victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), ESPN’s No. 9 lightweight, earned the title shot with a split-decision win over Lee Selby later that month.

Lionel Messi Breaks Pele’s South American Men’s Record for International Career Goals

Lionel Messi continues making history…

The 34-year-old Argentine professional footballer has scored his 79th international career goal for Argentina, surpassing the South American men’s record held by Brazil legend Pele.

Lionel Messi

Messi scored all three goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Thursday in a World Cup qualifying match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, giving him two more than Pele, who had 77 career goals in international play.

Messi trails Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the overall record for most goals scored by any South American player at the international level.

Third on the men’s list is Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, who has 69 international goals for Brazil.

“I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this,” an emotional Messi said after the match. “We won the game [and] that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate.”

Three-time World Cup winner Pele remains in hospital due to surgery for a tumor on his colon on Monday, although the 80-year-old said the operation was a “great victory.”

Messi has had a memorable summer — changing clubs from Barcelona to PSG in August and winning his first senior international football title in July. He and La Albiceleste claimed the Copa America from Brazil in a 1-0 win at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

After Thursday’s result, Messi danced with his teammates and showed off the Copa trophy to the 21,000 supporters present.

“It was a unique moment [to win the Copa America] because of where and how we obtained the title,” Messi said.

“There was no better way to do it and be able to celebrate the title now, it’s incredible. My mother, my brothers are here in the stands. They have suffered a lot … I’m very happy.”

Thursday’s game also came days after Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Brazil — their first rematch since the Copa final — was controversially suspended. Brazilian health authorities entered the pitch at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena with the game in progress and accused four Argentina players of failing to follow Brazil’s COVID-19 protocols for entering the country.

With 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches following his hat-trick against Bolivia, Messi also passes Uruguay star Luis Suarez — his former teammate at Barcelona — for most among CONMEBOL players.

With eight career goals vs. Bolivia in 11 games, it is Messi’s most against a single opponent while donning the Argentina shirt.

Messi is also his country’s men’s all-time leading scorer, having moved past Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016. He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with Thursday’s match against Bolivia marking his 153rd international appearance.

Prior to the Copa America victory, Messi had lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior side. They were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had lost in the final at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

He had won the under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U23s in 2008.

Messi joined PSG over the summer on a shock free-agent move after two decades with Barcelona. Messi had been with Barcelona since 2001, joining the academy the year before.

Messi played 778 games at Barcelona, breaking Xavi Hernandez‘s appearance record in the 2020-21 season. In addition, he scored 672 goals, another club record, and helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

Leylah Fernandez Defeats Aryna Sabalenka to Reach US Open Final

Leylah Fernandez’s teenage dream run continues at the US Open

The 19-year-old half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player made it through a semifinal filled with momentum swings to edge No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4.

Leylah Fernandez

At the outset Thursday, Sabalenka looked in control, claiming 12 of the first 14 points for a 3-0 lead. Just eight minutes had elapsed, and most spectators were yet to reach their seats. Not until later did the 20,000-plus in the stands rally the fist-aloft Fernandez with chants of “Let’s go, Leylah! Let’s go!” accompanied by rhythmic clapping.

“I’m glad that whatever I’m doing on court, the fans are loving it — and I’m loving it, too,” Fernandez said. “We’ll say it’s magical.”

At the end of the first set and again the third, it was Sabalenka who let things get away from her. In the last game, she double-faulted twice in a row to set up match point, then sailed a forehand long.

“This,” Sabalenka said, “is what we call pressure.”

No matter what, seemingly, Fernandez did not feel it. Didn’t waver.

This was the left-handed Fernandez’s fourth consecutive three-set victory over a seeded opponent. First came No. 3 Naomi Osaka, the 2018 and 2020 US Open champion. Then came No. 16 Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champ. That was followed by No. 5 Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka.

“There’s no limit to what I can do. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going well,” said Fernandez, who could give Canada its second US Open women’s title in three years, following Bianca Andreescu‘s triumph in 2019.

She’ll next face Emma Raducanu in the final.

Fernandez was born in Montreal to a Filipino Canadian mother and Ecuadorian father; the family moved to Florida after Leylah had success as a junior at age 12. Her dad is also her coach, although he is not with her in New York, instead offering coaching tips in daily phone conversations.

Perhaps he told his daughter to let Sabalenka make all the mistakes in a tiebreaker, because that’s what happened at the conclusion of the first set. Sabalenka went up 2-0 and then lost her way. Every point won by Fernandez came courtesy of a miss by Sabalenka.

“I wouldn’t say that she did something,” Sabalenka said. “I would say that I [destroyed] myself.”

In the second set, Sabalenka regained her form and Fernandez took a step back. But by the third, it was Fernandez’s time to shine.

“Now she’s like [a] top-10 player,” Sabalenka said. “We’ll see how good she will be in the future.”

Jon Rahm Wins PGA of America’s Points-Based Player of the Year Award

Jon Rahm is celebrating a points-tastic honor…

 The 26-year-old Spanish professional golfer has won the points-based player of the year award from the PGA of America, and it was a birdie putt on the 18th hole at the Tour Championship in East Lake that made all the difference.

Jon Rahm

Rahm finished with 75 points, with Bryson DeChambeau coming in second at 70 points.

Rahm received 30 points for his U.S. Open title this summer, along with 20 points for leading the PGA Tour money list and 20 points for winning the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average.

And although Rahm was runner-up to Patrick Cantlay in the Tour Championship, the PGA of America recognizes the actual score at East Lake. Cantlay started with a 2-shot lead at 10 under par because he was the No. 1 seed. Rahm started 4 shots behind as the No. 4 seed.

For the week, Rahm and Kevin Na finished at 14-under 266. That means they split the 10 points awarded for a regular PGA Tour win.

DeChambeau had 30 points for his U.S. Open win last September, 10 points for winning at Bay Hill, 14 points for being fourth in scoring average and 16 points for being third on the money list.

On the par-5 18th at the Tour Championship, Rahm hit a 5-iron that just ran through the back of the green. He needed to chip in to have any chance of forcing a playoff against Cantlay, who hit 6-iron to 12 feet. Rahm’s chip narrowly missed, leaving a short birdie putt.

That allowed him to tie Na at 14 under, giving him the five points that put him atop the points standing for the PGA of America award.

The PGA Tour award for player of the year is a vote of the membership. The ballot went out Tuesday and included Rahm, Cantlay, DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Harris English.

Justin Thomas won the PGA of America award last year, while Dustin Johnson was voted PGA Tour player of the year.

Rahm’s adjusted scoring average was 69.3. Johnson was second at 69.62.

Albert Pujols Hits First-Inning Home Run in St. Louis Return

It’s a memorable homecoming for Albert Pujols.

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball player hit a home run in his return to Busch Stadium, sending the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-2 win over his former St. Louis Cardinals team on Tuesday night.

Albert Pujols

The playoff-contending Dodgers won the sixth time in eight games. St. Louis has lost four in a row.

A star slugger who led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, Pujols made his second appearance at Busch Stadium after playing for St. Louis from 2001 to 2011.

Pujols drew a 40-second standing ovation when his name was announced prior to a first-inning at-bat, with catcher and longtime teammate Yadier Molina stepping in front of the plate to prolong the cheer. They had a short embrace before Pujols stepped in. Pujols promptly drilled the fourth pitch from J.A. Happ on a line over the wall in left. It was his 679th career home run and 17th of the season.

“It’s one of those things that you hope could happen,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “But the likelihood is very improbable. Getting a standing ovation and then homering in that first at-bat. Storybook. I’m a firm believer that the game honors you. The way Albert’s played the game for so long, the right way, that’s the way it was supposed to go.”

Pujols tried to downplay the moment.

“When it happens, you just let it happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Embrace the moment. But try not to get caught up too much.”

His teammates had no problem enjoying the special moment.

“It was pretty surreal,” Turner said. “Pretty cool for everyone in the stadium — not just Albert. Every time he hits a homer, you’re watching history.”

The 10-time MLB All-Star drew a similar fan reaction when he returned to St. Louis with the Los Angeles Angels for the first time in 2019. He was given a standing ovation in all 12 plate appearances that series, including a one-minute tribute in his first trip to the plate. He also homered in the first game of that series.

Pujols, who did not play in the series opener Monday night, went 1-for-4. The first baseman signed a 10-year deal with the Angels after the 2011 season, then joined the Dodgers last May.

Leylah Fernandez Advances to First Grand Slam Semifinal While Continuing Cinderella Run at US Open

It’s a birthday Leylah Fernandez will never forget…

The half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player, who just turned 19 on Monday, defeated No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) at the US Open to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

Leylah Fernandez

In the process, the unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova.

Fernandez had previously recorded wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her early career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the 2020 Tokyo Games bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists. Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test against a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 victory over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8.