UFC 294 card gets dream upgrade as Volkanovski and Usman join the action

UFC 294 card gets dream upgrade as Volkanovski and Usman join the action
UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski prepares for his fight against interim champion Yair Rodriguez during UFC 290. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 October 2023
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UFC 294 card gets dream upgrade as Volkanovski and Usman join the action

UFC 294 card gets dream upgrade as Volkanovski and Usman join the action
  • With the Abu Dhabi main and co-main bouts in jeopardy, the UFC has turned a bad situation into one of the greatest cards of the year

UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi has just received an upgrade that fight fans could only dream of — counterintuitively after the main and co-main events suffered withdrawals.

Brazilian Charles Oliveira suffered a gory eyebrow injury in sparring that has ruled him out of his headline rematch against Russia’s Islam Makhachev. Middleweight contender Paulo Costa’s recent elbow surgery, meanwhile, has not repaired in time to face crowd favourite Khamzat Chimaev.

Any follower of the UFC will tell you this usually spells disaster for the overall card. However, those lucky enough to bag tickets to the Oct. 21 showdown in Abu Dhabi will be salivating at the prospect of flyweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and former welterweight title-holder Kamaru Usman joining the card.

Aussie Volkanovski will meet Makhachev in a rerun of the closely contested super fight in February 2023. The Russian claimed a unanimous points victory on the night as Alex “The Great” attempted to become a two-weight champion, but the fight was anything but one-sided. Volkanovski pushed Makhachev across five rounds. By comparison, Oliveira melted before Makhachev the last time out and succumbed to a second-round submission.

The verbal sparring has already begun between the pair, with Makhachev taking to social media platform X to say: “Respect for taking this fight on short notice, Alex, but don’t use it as an excuse after the fight.” Volkanovski responded with mind games via his YouTube channel. “All the pressure’s on him. I’m coming off the couch. You better do something about it.”

The second switch on the card is even more intriguing. Costa’s UFC career has been plagued by injuries. This bad luck has been a theme for the No.6 ranked middleweight in the world throughout 2023 — he has been booked and pulled from three fights this year alone.

Rumours of Costa missing out on UFC 294 started to swirl in recent weeks, and on Wednesday, Oct. 11, they were confirmed by UFC president, Dana White. But the disastrous news was quickly followed by the unexpected announcement of the return of Kamaru Usman and left fans in a spin.

Having come up short in a pair of bouts against current welterweight champion Leon Edwards, the “Nigerian Nightmare” is stepping up in weight to meet Chimaev.

A fight between the pair has long been mooted. They have traded barbs and insults on social media for the last few years — each goading the other into meeting inside the octagon with zero success. Nobody could have guessed that the fight would finally happen at such short notice. But even without the fanfare and build-up, Usman vs. Chimaev has the fans pumped. It is not hyperbole to claim it one of the biggest non-title fights of the year.

Chimaev, the Swedish-Russian fighter, has achieved bogeyman status within the UFC. He is the fighter who appears to have his opponents scared and dodging matchups. The top guys in the welterweight and middleweight ranks have yet to step up to the challenge. Only No.5 welterweight Gilbert Burns made it through three rounds with Chimaev and ultimately lost. Chimaev rag-dolled the promising Kevin Holland in a lopsided first-round victory in early 2022 to galvanize his position as a clear and present danger to anyone locked in the cage with him. So, Usman going up in weight class at such short notice was a huge surprise.

Usman has dominated the welterweight division since 2019. He only met his kryptonite in the shape of British fighter Leon Edwards in 2022. But one thing is certain: Usman presents Chimaev with his biggest challenge. Matchups of this calibre are usually saved for title fights, but the fact there is not a strap to put around the winner’s waist at the end makes it even more intriguing.

For Chimaev, it is a chance to show the world why he is one of the greatest in the sport by taking down a living legend and former champion. The true test that fans have long craved is finally about to be standing across from him in the octagon. In Usman’s case, he has already proved what a true warrior he is by coming in on short notice. His Hall of Fame status is all but guaranteed in the future, and if he shatters the bogeyman myth of Chimaev at UFC 294, he will only accelerate this.

White praised the four fighters on “The Pat McAfee Show,” saying: “Everybody involved in the main and co-main events in Abu Dhabi are absolute studs.”

White continued: “The mentality that these guys have is what makes this sport so great and why fans are going crazy.”

It is a win-win for everyone, but none more so than those with tickets for the showcase in the UAE capital on Oct. 21. The upgrade they just received is unheard of.


Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek

Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek
Updated 24 sec ago
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Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek

Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek

RIYADH: Riyadh will host the CAF Super Cup between two of Africa’s top teams in September, organizers announced on Friday.

The head-to-head will see the current African Champion League holders Al Ahly take on fellow Egyptian side Zamalek, who are the current African Confederation champions.

Confédération Africaine de Football President Patrice  Motsepe said: “The partnership between CAF and Saudi Arabia is based on the excellent relationship and mutual commitment of both parties.”

Turki Alalshikh said: "We are delighted to host the African Super Cup at Riyadh Season, which represents one of the most important tournaments on the African continent.”

The match will take place on Sept. 27, but the venue and kick-off time are yet to be announced.

Both teams clashed in the Egypt Cup in the Saudi capital in March, with Al Ahly beating their city rivals 2-0 and winning the trophy for the 39th time.

Al Ahly finished third in the Saudi-hosted FIFA Club World Cup in December, with English champions Manchester City defeating Brazil’s Fluminense in the final.


Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs

Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs
Updated 12 min 59 sec ago
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Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs

Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs
  • The Public Investment Fund’s stake in the English Premier League club increases from 80% to 85%, while co-owner RB Sports and Media holds the remaining 15%
  • Club chairperson Yasir Al-Rumayyan says: ‘The ownership group … will continue to build on these foundations for long-term sustainable success for the team and our amazing fans”

NEWCASTLE: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has increased its ownership stake in English Premier League football club Newcastle United from 80 to 85 percent.
The agreement, confirmed by the club on Friday, marks the departure of husband-and-wife co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi. As part of the consortium that took over the club almost three years ago, Staveley’s company PCP Capital Partners initially held a 10 percent ownership stake, though this was reduced to 6 percent last year when co-owner RB Sports and Media increased its stake from 10 to 14 percent; it will now rise to 15 percent.
The deal is expected to be completed this month, with the PIF and RB saying it is part of their long-term plans to develop the club and ensure it can be a consistently credible competitor in domestic and European competitions.
The PIF, RB and the Newcastle United board thanked Staveley and Ghodoussi for the key role they played in the acquisition of the club from former owner Mike Ashley, and for their dedication to the development of a framework for long-term success over the past two-and-a-half years.
Newcastle’s chairperson, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, said: “Amanda and Mehrdad will forever have our tremendous thanks and well-wishes as they move on to focus on their other business interests. We have achieved so much together since 2021, including achieving Champions League football in our first full season as stewards of this incredible club.
“The ownership group, together with CEO Darren Eales and the club’s executive team, will continue to build on these foundations for long-term, sustainable success for the team and our amazing fans, and we are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United.”
Staveley described Newcastle as a special, unique club and said being its co-owner has been an honor.
“Mehrdad and I have loved being part of this club and community and are extremely proud of the progress Newcastle United has made in recent years,” she added.
“Our ambition has always been aligned to the brilliant fans of this club: to create consistently successful teams that regularly compete for major trophies and generate pride across the globe.
“We are grateful to have played our part in setting up the club for even more future success. We will remain fans for life.”


Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final
Updated 12 July 2024
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Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final
  • World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
  • He will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti

LONDON: Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz reached his fourth Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Friday when he recovered from a set down to defeat Daniil Medvedev.
World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti for the title on Sunday.
Twice Medvedev led with breaks in the first set only to be pinned back by Alcaraz.
Such was his frustration that he was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by umpire Eva Asderaki for an apparent foul-mouthed reaction to a ball called for bouncing twice as he was broken in the ninth game.
The tournament referee was even summoned to Center Court by Asderaki, but Medvedev shrugged off the incident to sweep through the tie-break and take the opening set in which he committed only eight unforced errors to the Spaniard’s 15.
It was the third time at this year’s Wimbledon that Alcaraz had dropped the first set.
Alcaraz recovered impressively, breaking Medvedev for a 3-1 lead in the second having come out on top in the previous game on the back of a 27-shot rally.
The 21-year-old then hit 14 winners in the third set, pocketing the only break in the third game.
Medvedev, who had knocked out world number one Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, retrieved a break early in the fourth set.
But Alcaraz kept up his assault, edging ahead again for 4-3 on his way to victory.


England great Anderson retires with one final flourish

England great Anderson retires with one final flourish
Updated 12 July 2024
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England great Anderson retires with one final flourish

England great Anderson retires with one final flourish
  • Anderson signed off from international cricket with his 704th and final wicket on Friday, ending a glittering 21-year career
  • West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite said he was a “legend of the game,” but understandably would not miss facing him

LONDON: James Anderson signed off from international cricket with his 704th and final wicket on Friday, ending a glittering 21-year career during England’s emphatic win over West Indies and prompting tributes from teammates and fellow greats.

The seamer, aged 41 years and 348 days, had Joshua Da Silva caught behind on his final day of test cricket. He spurned a golden opportunity to make it 705 wickets, shelling a simple catch from Gudakesh Motie and smiled ruefully at the miss.

“I am still gutted I dropped that catch,” he told Sky Sports as he sat in the England dressing room with a pint.

It was the only negative for Anderson on a day in which he demonstrated his skill one final time for an appreciative Lord’s crowd, repeatedly beating the outside edge with seam and swing.

Anderson, who finished with match figures of 4-58, said he would miss competing at the highest level, adding that there was “no better feeling” than winning a test match.

Asked what he was going to do next, Anderson – who is joining the England coaching set-up – added: “I’ve not really thought that far ahead.

“I’m going to stick around with these guys for the rest of the summer, try and help the bowling group out as much as I can and we’ll see where life takes us after that.”

Anderson has certainly earned a rest, having sent down his 40,000th delivery in test cricket late on day two, more than any other seam bowler and putting him fourth on the all-time list.

England captain Ben Stokes described Anderson as “an incredible inspiration for so many people,” adding: “He’s really keen to help the fast bowlers (in his coaching role). I don’t think I could think of a better person to be able to do that.”

West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite said he was a “legend of the game,” but understandably would not miss facing him.

England & Wales Cricket Board chief executive Richard Gould said in a statement: “Jimmy has rightly earned a place as one of the all-time iconic names from world cricket.

“It is testament to the way he has combined his rare talent with outstanding professionalism and work ethic that he bows out still bowling so well more than 20 years after his Test debut.”

India great Sachin Tendulkar said on X: “It has been a joy to watch you bowl — with that action, speed, accuracy, swing and fitness. You’ve inspired generations with your game.”

While Anderson leaves big shoes to fill, Gus Atkinson took 12 wickets in an impressive performance on debut as England cruised to victory by an innings and 114 runs.

Anderson was full of praise for Atkinson, despite the paceman’s wickets denying him a chance to catch Shane Warne (708) in second on the list of all-time test wicket takers.

“He’s going to be an amazing cricketer for England,” Anderson said.

And Stokes told reporters that Atkinson had even apologized to Anderson for taking the final wicket, which led to one last example of the 41-year-old’s competitive spirit.

“Jimmy told him to eff off,” Stokes said.
 


Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo

Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo
Updated 12 July 2024
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Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo

Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo
  • Olmo and Kane are tied on three goals with four other players and if either score in the final on Sunday in Berlin they will likely claim the prize
  • However, with Spain angling for a record fourth European Championship, Olmo said the team’s target was far more important than his own individual glory

DONAUESCHINGEN, Germany: Spain playmaker Dani Olmo is vying for the Euro 2024 golden boot with England’s Harry Kane, but said Friday he doesn’t care about winning it as long as his team lifts the trophy.
Olmo and Kane are tied on three goals with four other players and if either score in the final on Sunday in Berlin they will likely claim the prize.
However, with Spain angling for a record fourth European Championship, Olmo said the team’s target was far more important than his own individual glory.
“It’s an extra motivation, if there’s even room for that, but look, as long as we win, I don’t care if I score or if (Spain goalkeeper) Unai Simon does,” Olmo told reporters.
“I don’t care at all, the important thing is winning the game, but I always have the objective of helping to chip in.”
Olmo has also created two goals for his team-mates but unlike in the past when that was used as a tie-breaker, the award will be shared by any players joint-top of the charts.
The RB Leipzig midfielder did not start the tournament as part of Spain coach Luis de la Fuente’s first choice side but made a strong impact off the bench when given the chance.
Olmo replaced the injured Pedri in the quarter-final win over hosts Germany, scoring and setting up the winner for Mikel Merino.
The midfielder also struck against France in the semifinal and has scored in all three knock-out rounds Spain have played.
“In this tournament I feel very good, in a great moment of form, so I have to keep taking advantage of it,” continued the 26-year-old.
“It’s true (Kane and I) are tied, but there are other players too who have helped us get here, with goals and good play.
“Speaking of goals, Fabian (Ruiz) has two goals, Alvaro (Morata) has one — if he scores a hat-trick then he will win it, and we’d be just as happy — it doesn’t matter who scores, the main thing is the team.”
Olmo scored a hat-trick for Leipzig as they beat Bayern Munich 3-0 in the German Supercup final on Kane’s debut for the Bavarian giants last August.
The England captain has still not won a trophy in his career at club or international level, finishing a runner-up with England in the Euro 2020 final.
Kane, 30, has struggled for form and peak fitness at the Euros despite managing three goals.
“Of course it would be a dream to score a hat-trick (again) and win it,” added Olmo.
“But I repeat, the goal is just to win it.”