Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS sets impressive ‘Ring time ahead of November debut

The RS is more than 23 seconds quicker around the Nurburgring than the standard Cayman GT4.

What’s hotter than GT4? GT4 RS.

How awesome? Well, ahead of the GT4 RS’ official debut, Porsche took a nearly completed prototype to Germany’s infamous Nurburgring to set a lap time. In the hands of Porsche development driver Jörg Bergmeister, the GT4 RS lapped the ‘Ring in 7 minutes and 9.3 seconds. That’s on the track’s new, longer configuration; the time for the shorter, more familiar ‘Ring setup is 7:04.511. That makes the GT4 RS a full 23.6 seconds quicker than the regular GT4, which is a super impressive feat.

The prototype used for lapping was fitted with a racing seat in order to protect the driver, but was otherwise stock. The GT4 RS ran on ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, which Porsche says will be optionally available on the production car.

It’s unclear exactly when in November we’ll see the GT4 RS, though the Los Angeles Auto Show is one possibility. In any case, we’re pretty darn stoked to get behind the wheel of one of these. After all, if the normal GT4 is already so good, the RS is going to be a total chef’s kiss.

White House confirms diplomatic boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

The move is in response to China’s human rights abuses. American athletes will still be allowed to compete in the Games.

The Biden administration says the diplomatic boycott is a response to China’s “genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.” Above, a Games-themed sculpture is featured at Beijing Winter Olympic Park.

Psaki said the US doesn’t intend to stage a full boycott, which would prevent American athletes from attending. The last time the US staged a full boycott was during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow during the Cold War.

On Jan. 19, the US State Department under the Trump administration declared that the Chinese government is committing genocide against Uighur people and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. This is just the latest action the US has taken against the Chinese government, intensifying an already strained relationship due to years of tensions over human rights abuses and trade.

Monday’s announcement comes two months before the Games are set to begin. “We feel this sends a clear message,” Psaki said during the press briefing.

In response to the boycott, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday said, “I want to stress that the Winter Olympic Games is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation. This wishful thinking and pure grandstanding is aimed at political manipulation. It is a grave travesty of the spirit of the Olympic Charter, a blatant political provocation and a serious affront to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

NHL in 2021: How to watch and stream hockey without cable

The season may be young, but some of the goals have already been highlight-worthy. Pull on your team’s sweater and we’ll show you how to stream all the action.

Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate their astonishing goal.

TNT will broadcast 50 NHL games, including the outdoor Winter Classic, Stadium Series and Heritage Classic. TNT will also air half of the Stanley Cup playoffs. ESPN or ABC will air 25 games along with half of the playoffs and all of the Stanley Cup Finals, while ESPN Plus and Hulu will stream 75 exclusive matchups. The NHL’s out-of-market streaming service, formerly known as NHL.TV, moves to ESPN Plus for no extra charge.

So what does all this mean for hockey fans desperately looking to stream their team’s games? The good news is that you don’t need cable to watch hockey this year, but it still might be the easiest and cheapest choice depending on where you live.

Read more: NFL 2021: How to watch and stream football, RedZone this season without cable

Die-hard sports fans are beholden to regional sports networks, or RSNs, that carry the majority of the games for their local team. These RSNs are usually included in local cable packages, so most cable subscribers never have to worry about gaining access to the broadcasts on these channels: They can simply turn on the TV and watch the game.

Cord-cutting hockey fans have a tougher path. Because of rights agreements, most live TV streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV don’t carry many RSNs. DirecTV Stream is the exception. It has nearly every RSN, particularly the Bally Sports channels (formerly Fox Sports) offered by Sinclair, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan.

Read more: DirecTV Stream review: Expensive, but the best option for streaming NBA and NHL

Ultimately, depending on location, getting a cable subscription that includes ESPN, TNT and the local RSN might actually be cheaper and easier for you than streaming — especially if it’s bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.

Whether or not you have cable, ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service is great for casual fans and is a must-have accessory for the zealots. It costs $7 a month or $70 a year and shows all out-of-market games along with up to 75 exclusive ESPN-produced telecasts per year. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus. Nevertheless, this is a huge savings for long-time NHL.TV users, as the all-access package used to cost subscribers $145 a year.

Even better for hockey fans, ESPN Plus just reached a deal to show 130 Kontinental Hockey League games — Russia’s top hockey league — including the playoffs and the Gagarin Cup finals. This is on top of ESPN’s NCAA college hockey coverage. That’s a lot of hockey for a little more than half the price of the old NHL.TV package.

Disney is also planning to show exclusive games on Hulu, so the $14-a-month Disney bundle might end up being an even better buy for hockey fans who also love TV and Disney/Marvel/Star Wars.

Those looking to just get ESPN Plus to watch their local team’s games will be out of luck, however. Most fans are in-market, meaning they follow the local team, and RSNs have broadcast exclusivity in the region that they cover. That means local NHL games are blacked out on ESPN Plus.

If you’re living in Philadelphia for example, you won’t be able to watch Flyers games on ESPN Plus. The same goes for Rangers fans in New York, Bruins fans in Boston and so on. The only way to watch most of those home team games in your home market is to get a service that has the local RSN, respectively NBC Sports Philadelphia, MSG or NESN.

Services like ESPN Plus use IP addresses to block out games in viewers’ regions — you’ll just get a black screen if you try to watch those games. That’s why ESPN Plus is ideal for casual fans who just love a good game, or superfans who want to follow one or more of the teams based in cities other than their own, aka out-of-market teams, but is less useful for fans of the local team.

Read our full review of ESPN Plus.

For those determined to watch their local hockey team without a cable or satellite TV subscription, a live TV streaming service is the best bet. While it is pricey, DirecTV Stream is the best option for most people, particularly those where the local games air on Bally Sports networks.

Below is a chart of all of the NHL teams in the United States and their corresponding RSNs.

Note: None of the US-based services carries the RSNs for the Canadian hockey teams. That means fans of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks need to use ESPN Plus to watch all the games that are not either on your local RSN or on a US national broadcast.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: If you don’t recognize the name of some of these channels, don’t worry. The Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s and renamed them.

The NHL Network, run by the league, is still available as a stand-alone station. This season the network will air 90 games that will be considered national for those out-of-market. This means that you will still be able to watch your local team play on your RSN, but viewers around the country will need the NHL Network in order to watch the game as it will be blacked out on ESPN Plus. Fans might be able to save some money if they’re willing to miss out on the handful of games on the NHL Network.

The NHL Network is not included in many basic streaming services or cable packages and is not available at all on Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV. If you want it, chances are you are going to pay extra for it.

Many cable and streaming services group NHL Network into a multinetwork sports bundle. For example, Sling’s Sports Extra bundle costs $11 per month on top of a Sling Orange package and includes the NHL Network along with 13 other sports channels like NFL RedZone.

FuboTV includes the NHL Network in its $8-per-month Fubo Extra package. This can be purchased alongside any of Fubo’s subscription offerings, though Fubo Extra is included in the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier.

Lastly, Direct TV Stream users can only get the NHL Network if they subscribe to the $95-per-month Ultimate or the $140-a-month Premier package.

DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, ABC, TNT and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area. The NHL Network is available starting at the $95-a-month Ultimate package.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 12 RSNs for hockey. It also includes ESPN, but not TBS — which might be a problem for some hockey fans. But you can add the NHL Network for an extra $7 a month with the Fubo Extra Package or pay for the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier that includes Fubo Extra. Check out which local networks and RSNs FuboTV offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers four RSNs for hockey, along with all of the national broadcasts. However, it lacks the option to get the NHL Network. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu Plus Live TV costs $65 a month and carries four RSNs for hockey along with ESPN, ABC,TBS and TNT, but not NHL Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch hockey. You can, however, use Sling to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN and both plans offer TBS, but none of them gives you access to ABC. The NHL Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

Oh, Canadians, we know you love hockey and so does the NHL. But that means that you’re unable to participate in the league’s new deal with ESPN Plus. Instead, you’ll have to continue to pay more for a subscription to NHL Live for all of your out-of-market games. The service was offering early-bird pricing of CA$180, but that price jumped to CA$200 once the season started.

NHL Live has a nifty tool that will help you figure out exactly what games are available in your region with your subscription.

Cord-cutters in Canada might also need Sportsnet NOW at CA$15 per month and TSN Direct at CA$20 per month to get their local games.

European Super League: Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Man City all drop out

The controversial European Super League is crumbling.

Liverpool, among others, have left the proposed European Super League project.

The negativity was a direct response to a league that had the potential to wreak havoc on the traditional structures of European soccer, made up of domestic leagues like the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A. The European Super League was designed to protect up to 15 founding members — the most powerful teams across Europe’s most powerful domestic leagues — from the relegation/promotion pyramid structure that anchors all of European soccer. A structure that goes all the way from the lowest levels of domestic soccer, all the way through to the Champions League, the biggest prize in club soccer.

Real Madrid President Florentino Perez was named as the inaugural chairman of the European Super League. It was his intent, he stated, to secure the future of soccer, not undermine it.

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in a statement Sunday. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than 4 billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”

Read more: How to watch Premier League games live in the US without cable

But in the wake of the initial announcement, UEFA and FIFA — which runs the existing Champions League competition and the World Cup respectively — threatened clubs and players participating in the European Super League with removal from all other competitions, including the World Cup.

“I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against these disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said at a press conference Monday, as reported by the BBC. “Players who will play in the teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from the World Cup and Euros.”

“This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers. We will not allow them to take it away from us.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the European Super League.

Six teams from the English Premier League, three from La Liga and three clubs from Serie A all initially signed up, making for 12 clubs. In the wake of fan outrage, over half of these clubs have withdrawn.

The original list of the founding clubs was as follows…

Where are teams from the French and German leagues? Teams like Bayern Munich from Germany and Paris Saint-Germain from France are undoubtedly among the biggest and best teams in Europe. Bayern and its German rival Borussia Dortmund announced Monday they are committed to the existing Champions League, which unveiled reforms Monday for the 2024 season. PSG is owned by the royal family of Qatar, which is holding the next World Cup and therefore unlikely to go against the soccer establishment.

Following backlash in response to the announcement, all Premier League teams have announced plans to drop out. Manchester City has confirmed it has “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League,” with Chelsea to reportedly follow suit.

Manchester United’s controversial executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has also announced his resignation following the backlash. Manchester United has also officially dropped out of the European Super League.

Liverpool also stated that its “involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.”

Arsenal and Spurs have both officially announced they’re leaving.

“We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal,” said Daniel Levy, chairman of Tottenham Hotspur. “We felt it was important that our club participated in the development of a possible new structure that sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on the decision of English clubs to withdraw from the league.

“The decision by Chelsea and Manchester City is — if confirmed — absolutely the right one and I commend them for it,” he tweeted. “I hope the other clubs involved in the European Super League will follow their lead.”

Inter Milan has also become the first non-English team to officially remove itself from the European Super League.

In response, an official statement from the European Super League was sent out.

“The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change,” read the statement.

“We are proposing a new European competition because the existing system does not work.

“Our proposal is aimed at allowing the sport to evolve while generating resources and stability for the full football pyramid, including helping to overcome the financial difficulties experienced by the entire football community as a result of the pandemic.

“Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.”

According to original plans, the new competition was to feature 20 clubs made up of 15 founding clubs, with an option for five further clubs to qualify based on previous seasons’ achievements. (The details were currently murky on what those “achievements” actually mean.)

Each team was to continue to take part in domestic leagues, with European Super League matches taking place midweek. Two groups of 10 would take part in home and away matches, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for a knockout stage. Teams who placed fourth and fifth in each league would compete in a two-leg match to see who qualifies for knockout stages.

Then, those remaining eight teams were set to take part in two-leg knockout format to reach a single final, which would take place at a neutral stadium. A women’s version of this league was also apparently in the works.

At least, that’s how the founding teams hope things would work. Both UEFA and FIFA came out against the league. FIFA backed UEFA, which means participating players may potentially be banned from representing their countries at this summer’s European Championships and next year’s World Cup, competitions run by those international bodies.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations — will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said in a statement.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”

The teams involved were aiming for an August 2021 start.

Given the controversy and the reaction of FIFA, UEFA and the fact almost all of the teams have now removed themselves from the project, it would be surprising if the European Super League started at all.

Reaction to the announcement of the European Super League was almost universally negative. The hashtag #RIPfootball rapidly trended on Twitter as did the phrase #disgusting and #embarrassing. People were very angry about this.

Some wanted to organize protests. Ultimately, thousands went to protests at various stadiums across Europe.

Former players such as England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand were quick to condemn the clubs involved, including ones they played for.

High-profile current players spoke out, such as PSG’s Ander Herrera.

Liverpool’s James Milner also spoke out against the league after a recent match with Leeds United.

“I don’t like it and I hope it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Eventually that became the collective response of most Liverpool players as many posted the following message on social media platforms: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position.”

Jurgen Klopp, the current manager of Liverpool, had previously spoken out on opposition to a European Super League when it was first being talked about. “My opinion didn’t change,” he said in a post-match interview with Sky Sports.

The European Super League illustrates the money issues many believe continue to threaten soccer as a sport. Unlike sports leagues like the NBA, which operate with salary caps, clubs at the top of leagues like the EPL or La Liga have been allowed to spend with impunity. This means they can solidify a position at the top of the game and rule over smaller clubs with an iron fist. Clubs at the lower end of big leagues can’t compete.

Neither can top clubs in smaller European leagues in Holland, Scotland, Switzerland or Portugal. The evolution of football over the last 20 years has made it difficult for former giants of the sport like Ajax of Amsterdam or Celtic of Glasgow to compete for major prizes like the Champion’s League. Given the structure of the European Super League, even getting the chance to play would be next to impossible.

For perspective, each founding member of this club was expected to take home $400 million for taking part in this league. That’s roughly four times what a team would receive for winning the Champions League, currently the most prestigious tournament in world club soccer.

For many, including former player and current broadcaster Gary Neville, the whole thing felt anti-competitive. Unlike most other soccer leagues, the founding clubs of the European Super League would not face the threat of relegation if they sit at the bottom of the table.

There’s also the issue of team choice. Teams appear to have been chosen based on fan base and income, as opposed to performance. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, currently in seventh and ninth place respectively in the English Premier League, were two of the teams selected, despite the fact smaller clubs like Leicester City and West Ham have outperformed them this year.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden reportedly said the British government would do “whatever it takes” to stop the English teams from taking part in the European Super League Monday. Dowden also reportedly accused the six clubs of deciding to “put money before fans.”

Considering the longer game, many were worried about the potential impact on grassroots football. The current format of soccer, which favors teams in leagues with huge TV deals like the EPL and La Liga, have seen many teams decline. The European Super League would exacerbate that process. For fans of the sport, this feels like the culmination of soccer as a rich get richer, poor get poorer proposition.

“I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as [a] result of the coronavirus pandemic,” Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Monday, instead pushing solidarity from European football and the “reliable foundation” of the Champions League.

In the wake of the announcement, Jose Mourinho, the high-profile manager of Tottenham Hotspur, has been sacked alongside all of his coaching staff.

Mourinho has yet to release a statement on the reasons for his dismissal, and it’s possible the two decisions are unconnected, but he has spoken negatively on the idea of a “super league” in the past.

Facebook eyes sports for its next push in online events

A pay-per-view-like option for sports leagues wouldn’t be out of the question, apparently.

The next sports event you watch may be on Facebook.

The social network launched its paid online events product last summer, inviting some people running Facebook pages to use tools designed to create, promote, host and monetize virtual live events. Since launch, event hosts have received 100% of revenue from ticket sales through Facebook Pay. However, that is set to expire in August, after which Facebook may take a cut.

Facebook is reportedly targeting smaller leagues and sports events since the top sports leagues — such as the National Football League and National Basketball Association — are restricted by broadcast media rights. The social network sees potential for monetizing things outside of games, such as team practices or behind-the-scenes videos, Shaw told CNBC.

A Facebook spokesperson on Wednesday said the company’s paid online events feature is available to all publishers, and sports is one area where it’s being adopted.

Mint Mobile’s ‘Bobby Bonilla Day’ promotion offers 25 years of service for $2,500

Who knew Ryan Reynolds and his wireless company were such big baseball fans?

Bobby Bonilla playing for the New York Mets in 1994.

You will need to pay $2,500 upfront to take advantage of the promotion. In the fine print, the carrier notes that it “reserves the right to buy back The Bobby Bonilla Plan under certain conditions,” adding that it is “mostly just impressed that you’re interested, honestly.”

Aron North, Mint’s chief marketing officer, says that you can upgrade higher data buckets, with the jump to unlimited running an extra $180 per year at Mint’s current rates. Mint sells its service in prorated three-, six- or 12-month plans. A caveat: You will need to make the change every year as at the end of 12 months the plan will revert back to the 4GB of data listed in the contract.

North notes the absurdity of that quirk and that his company is actually offering a 25-year plan. “We normally don’t have a 25-year plan so people normally pay every year, and then they’re given the opportunity to choose what level they want,” he says. “So it sort of puts a smile on my face now that I’m saying it out loud.”

While he says the company “didn’t really expect to sell any” of these plans, people are taking advantage of the offer. As of 11:15 a.m. PT, the company says that 23 people have signed up for the promotion.

North says the company is prepared to honor its end of the contract and provide service for 25 years. The carrier offers a seven-day return policy and recommends that those who do this plan contact its customer support about options if they decide later on that they don’t want to hang around for the remainder of the term.

Read more: Cheap phone plans compared: 8 affordable alternatives to Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T

Bonilla, who retired in 2001, has received a payment of $1,193,248.20 every year since July 1, 2011, and is set to continue to receive payments every July 1 until 2035. The unusual situation originated in 2000 when the Mets negotiated a buy-out with the one-time star for the $5.9 million he was still owed. Instead of paying a lump sum, the team agreed to make the annual payments for 25 years starting in 2011, with a negotiated 8% interest rate.

As noted by ESPN, the Mets ownership at the time had money invested with the fraudulent financier Bernie Madoff that “promised double-digit returns, and the Mets were poised to make a significant profit if the Madoff account delivered.”

That… didn’t happen, and in recent years Mets and baseball fans have turned July 1 into an internet holiday to mock the overly generous contract.

The virality of the day seems to have appealed to Mint Mobile and the wireless carrier’s owner, the actor and internet darling Ryan Reynolds. The company has even recruited Bonilla to star in an ad, with Reynolds taking to Twitter Thursday morning to note that the company has “actually sold 9 Bobby Bonilla Plans already!”

The deal, which can be found on Mint’s website, will be available until 11:59 p.m. PT Thursday (2:59 a.m. ET Friday).

Correction, 10 a.m. PT: Mint has clarified that customers taking advantage of the deal will have to pay $2,500 upfront, not $100 per year as we were previously told.

UFC 269: Amanda Nunes loses in shock upset, Oliveira defeats Poirier

Amanda Nunes lost in the most shocking of ways.

Our main event is on, with both fighters making championship weight.

UFC 269 is finished and, top to bottom, was one of the most intense night of fights in UFC history.

Headlines will almost certainly focus on Amanda Nunes’s shock defeat to Julianna Pena. It could be the biggest upset in UFC history. Pena tired Nunes out on the feet and choked her out on the ground. It was an unbelievable performance from Pena.

Dustin Poirier, fresh off two wins over Conor McGregor, lost via submission in a back and forth war with UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira.

You can read our live round-by-round coverage below.

Just overheard Poirier saying he’s donating $20,000 to a charity of Oliveira’s choice. Dude is a legend.

Dustin Poirier has a chance to finally become the undisputed lightweight champion.

I don’t think I can even settle down for this one, but I’ll try my best. Deep breaths…

This fight is the very definition of a coin toss.

Poirier’s mentality and will to win is unmatched in the lightweight division and he comes with great boxing and a solid gas tank. Will that be enough to defeat Oliveira and his unique skillset? I’m not sure. Oliveira has the best jiu jitsu, maybe in the entire UFC, and has made marked improvements in his striking.

This is gonna be a fantastic contest.

My prediction: Oliveira via submission

Still haven’t recovered from Nunes loss, but let’s go. This fight is gonna be great.

Man these guys are firing early. Poirier hits Oliveira clean but both are slinging here. Poirier seems to be landing cleaner though with big shots. Oliveira landing some big knees to the body though. 

Now Oliveira is shooting for the takedown. Poirier is surviving and appears to have the advantage on the feet.

This is a CRAZY first round with an insane pace. Poirier hits him clean and knocks Oliveira to the ground, but doesn’t follow him down for long.

Man, Poirier is landing BIG but Oliveira is also landing, but nothing like Poirier. 

WHAT.

A. 

ROUND.

My Score: 10-9 for Poirier

This is gonna be a war of attrition. Poirier is good at those.

Oliveira is going straight to the grappling here, which is very smart. 

Now Oliveira is on his back in a weird position. Now he sweeps and Poirier is on the bottom. This could be bad for Dustin.

Oliveira seems to just want to consolidate this position. Not really working for any submissions just yet. He lands a big elbow though. He’s grinding right now, just trying to do damage with short shots.

Now Oliveira is landing huge elbows. Dustin could be in trouble here. He’ll likely survive, but this could be a turning point in the fight.

My Score: 10-9 for Oliveira

Keen to see how Dustin fares here. Oliveira really beat him up in the last round.

Man Oliveira goes straight to the back in 20 seconds flat. Damn. This is really bad. Oliveira thrives in this position.

AND POIRIER TAPS TO A REAR NAKED CHOKE.

Damn that was so fast, and so technical. Oliveira is so good man. He is so good. And guess what? He had to go through some real adversity, which was the knock on Oliveira. Incredible performance there. Feel for Poirier, but nice work by Oliveira

Oliveira wins via submission

Amanda Nunes: The greatest female fighter of all time.

Having conquered both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, Amanda Nunes has beaten almost every single high level female fighter ever. Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, Valentina Shevchenko — Nunes has beat them all, often in spectacular fashion.

Julianna Pena doesn’t have a chance here

Pena’s best opportunity here is in the grappling, perhaps in the clinch up against the cage, but I just can’t see a single way she doesn’t get obliterated here. Nunes isn’t just in a different league, she’s in a different plane of existence.

My prediction: Amanda Nunes via TKO/KO.

Shocking that Nunes is still only 32? Just saw that on the tale of the tape. She could be running this sport for another 5 years at this point. Terrifying.

Also, interesting:

Anyway, the fight!

A leg kick takes Pena down but Nunes allows her back up. Nunes tags her again with a jab and Pena is down. Pena takes a shot on the ground, gets back up, but Nunes is just too strong of a grappler and gets her back down again, she’s just full on big-sistering Pena right now.

Now Nunes has the back.

Pena survives though, gets into half guard and appears to be trying to get back to the feet, but yeah, Nunes is really controlling this fight. Julianna sort of has a kimura grip, but nothing was every gonna come of it.

My score: 10-9 for Nunes

Man Pena has landed some shots and the crowd is going nuts. This is getting sloppy and man… Nunes is losing this round!

Nunes is playing a dangerous game here and whoaa…. they’re just full on exchanging here! Cannot believe this is happening here.

Pena is getting the better of this and now Pena is on her back, what the hell!!!

Nunes has tapped to a choke. I cannot believe it. Holy shit. HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT. I am in shock here. Complete shock.

Julianna Pena wins via submission

I am in shock. This is honestly the biggest upset in UFC history in my opinion. Cannot believe it. Cannot believe what I just saw. Nunes was just too confident in her ability to steam roll and sloppily just KO Pena.

“I’m not surprised motherfuckers,” says Julianna Pena, in a throwback to Nate Diaz’s famous proclamation after beating Conor McGregor in their first fight.

Wow. Just wow.

Neal vs. Ponzinibbio is a fight between two high level welterweights. 

Bit of a strange turn of events with this fight: Geoff Neal was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and the unlawful carrying of a weapon on Thanksgiving Day. That’s put a bit of a weird cloud on this contest.

Will it impact how this fight plays out on the night? Hard to say. Either way it’s a close pick ’em of a fight. Geoff Neal is a hard hitter who rarely makes mistakes, but until very recently Ponzinibbio was a fighter very close to a title shot.

But Ponzinibbio has struggled a little as of late, so I’m favouring Neal in this one. 

My prediction: Geoff Neal via decision.

Can’t wait to try and spell Ponzinibbio a million times during this fight.

(Nah, jokes. Of course I have that copied ready to paste!)

This is great match making. High stakes fight here, will really decide which of these fighters has a future in the welterweight division.

Here we go…

Slow start to this one. A lot of lateral movement from Ponzinibbio as is his style, but low output in terms of strikes thrown. Neal lands a head kick, but didn’t seem to impact Ponzinibbio too much. Neal is turning it on a bit here though, has clearly landed the most strikes so far and appears to be winning this round.

Ponzinibbio coming on a little stronger towards the end there, but I’m still scoring this for Neal.

My score: 10-9 for Neal

Crazy this is the first time I’ve written the words “Round 2” in this liveblog.

Ponzinibbio seems to have a lot less caution in this round so far, seems to really be driving the action. 

Neal showed off some great takedown defence, was taken down but managed to scramble back up. Ponzinibbio appears to be winning this round though. Very close, ugly fight so far but Ponzinibbio is getting the better of these exchanges in round 2.

My score: 10-9 for Ponzinibbio

Man, Neal’s corner was very vocal there and they’re right. Neal needs to win this round.

Neal is responding, landing clean shots here. He’s winning the early exchanges in this round so far. Neal is landing great check hooks, coming over the top. This is a close, clumsy clash of styles and it’s tough to say how the judges will score this.

These guys are opening up in the latter half of this round, Neal cracks Ponzinibbio hard, repeatedly, taking over in the final minute. 

My score: 10-9 for Neal (29-28 for Neal)

Geoff Neal wins via split decision

Cody Garbrandt is making his 125 debut.

I am very hyped for this one. Garbrandt almost certainly had the fastest hands in the bantamweight division, where he once reigned as champ. He also has bricks for hands with some of the best highlight reel knockouts in UFC history.

But he’s making his flyweight debut here, against Kai Kara-France, another heavy hitter with a penchant for getting into firefights. Considering Garbrand’s storied history of getting into wars at bantamweight, you can expect a potential fight of the night contender here. At the very least, hard not to imagine someone going to sleep here. Don’t blink.

My prediction: Kai Kara-France by KO/TKO

Garbrandt looks big here. Massive compared to Kara-France. Very leg kick heavy attack early from Garbrandt as well and both seem respectful of one another’s power.

Ooft. Garbrandt gets melted by a huge shot from Kara-France but somehow survives, even inviting Kara-France in for more. He survives, but in another exchange Kara-France hits him clean again and damn… Garbrandt is clean out with a final huge shot.

Damn, this must be a tough one for Garbrandt to take. 

Kai Kara-France wins by KO/TKO.

Sean O’Malley, one of the most unique fighters currently in the UFC.

Sean O’Malley looks like he was designed and built using the Saints Row 2 create-a-character mode, which I absolutely say as a compliment.

He’s also one of the most exciting up-and-coming fighters in the UFC’s stacked bantamweight division. Every time he fights it’s an event.

This contest, with Raulian Paiva, feels a bit like a lay-up for O’Malley, but I’m excited to watch it regardless.

My prediction: O’Malley by KO

O’Malley stabbing with those front kicks as per usual. Paiva seems to want to pressure. Ah looks like O’Malley caught the cup with one of those shots? Or maybe not? Hard to say.

O’Malley is landing the jab here, but this is quiet in the early goings. Paiva has landed a few legs kicks though, which O’Malley has struggled with historically.

And whoaaaaaaaa… O’Malley just crushed Paiva. He landed clean with a right over the top and had Paiva rocked. From that point he swarmed. Just a crazy output of huge shots to the body and then clean to the head. Damn…

Just crazy shot selection. O’Malley is so smooth man. Can’t be long until he faces someone high up the rankings now.

O’Malley wins by TKO

Hello everyone, UFC 269 is kicking off! We’ve already seen a number of great fights on the prelims, most notably a wild KO by Tai Tuivasa, and a great comeback win from Dominick Cruz over Pedro Munhoz. 

But the best is still to come. Let’s get cracking.

Tokyo Olympics to be held under state of emergency, won’t allow spectators

Rising COVID-19 cases in Japan’s capital have led to a third state of emergency for the city, one that will last throughout the Olympic Games.

The Olympics were postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“New cases in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area have been rising since June,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was reported as saying in the Japan Times. “Stronger measures have become necessary in those areas, but could be lifted early if we see evidence of the positive impact of the vaccine rollout.”

Tokyo’s COVID-19 cases peaked with the new year, with over 2,392 new cases on Jan. 8. Numbers have fallen since, but they’ve been rising since the middle of June. Tokyo recorded 337 new COVID-19 cases on June 15, but July has seen new cases fluctuate between 500 and 920. It’s the third state of emergency the city has endured since the pandemic’s onset, following similar precautions in April and January.

Around 15% of Japan’s 126 million citizens have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

A worldwide death toll from the virus had risen to more than 4 million as of Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In Japan, nearly 15,000 people have died of the virus.

After being postponed more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23 in Tokyo. They’ll run through to Aug. 8. Though many experts cautioned against holding the games, Japan’s government has pressed on — albeit with increasing restrictions as the games approached.

Officials last month said local fans would be allowed to physically attend the games, but with venues limited to 50% capacity or up to 10,000 spectators max. In March, officials banned overseas spectators from the Olympics.

Grab two pairs of NFL or MLB gloves for just $15 shipped

These logo-emblazoned utility gloves make an excellent (and useful) stocking stuffer.

Before you get too excited, be warned that not every NFL team is represented in the glove sale but 18 are, including the most storied franchises, such as the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Cowboys and ‘Niners. You have fewer options for MLB teams: just the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Tigers, Twins and Indians (who are soon to change their name).

You also can’t pair NFL gloves with MLB gloves, so you’ll have to pick two from the same sport. We haven’t gotten our hands in these gloves yet and so can’t speak to their quality, but they score high marks on Amazon, where the same gloves sell for $13 a pop.

UFC 268 Usman vs. Covington: Results and reactions

All the results and round by round reactions.

Usman defeats Covington for the second time.

UFC 268 was an incredible card top to bottom, headlined by two title fights that lived up to the hype and more. In the main event, Kamaru Usman edged Colby Covington in another gruelling war. The co-main between Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili was another banger, with Namajunas defeating Weili via razor thin split decision.

Elsewhere on the card, Marlon Vera defeated the legendary Frankie Edgar via a crushing front kick. Justin Gaethje defeated Michael Chandler in an unforgettable fight of the year candidate.

You can find our live, blow-by-blow reactions to UFC 268 below.

Usman is fast becoming one of the best fighters on the planet.

Usman has looked unstoppable in the UFC, but the closest he ever looked to being vulnerable was against Colby Covington. This is a rematch and, in their first fight, the scorecards were incredibly close until Usman knocked Covington out in the fifth and final round.

Usman has looked much improved since that fight. Covington has been a little less active and it’s for that reason that I’m picking Usman in this rematch. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Quick note — regardless of your thoughts on Covington, you can’t deny coming out to Kurt Angle’s music is an all-time perfect heel move. I love it so much.

Alright… here we go!

Covington isn’t throwing much early, which is strange, because his best shot with this fight is volume. Maybe wrestling is the plan for him this time round and YEP! He goes for the shot, which is defended.

Covington looks a little shook by that exchange to be honest. Usman is pressuring and cutting the cage well here.

And whoa… Usman gets a quick takedown, but Covington gets up quickly.

I score this round 10-9 for Usman.

I think the power difference could be a huge factor here. Usman doesn’t really have to respect Covington’s shots, but the reverse isn’t true.

The pace of this fight is much slower which, again, suits Usman. This isn’t looking great for Covington and you can see the confidence draining. The body shots are big for Usman as well.

Already we’re seeing Covington running out of options here.

Whoa! Usman catches Covington clean and drops him! Then clips him straight away dropping him twice. Somehow Covington survives the round. That’s very close to a 10-8 round. One more minute in that round and Covington would have been toast.

I score this round 10-9 for Usman.

Covington seems to have recovered and actually lands a big shot on Usman. Still, he’s being stalked and pressured by Usman, who is landing his jab at will.

Colby shoots, but Usman is extremely wise to it. I don’t think a welterweight alive could take Usman down at this point.

This is easily Covington’s best round though. At the end of the round he lands some big shots and potentially steals the round. I’m still scoring it for Usman.

I score this round 10-9 for Usman.

Colby is switching up to the strategy he used in the first fight. Throwing more volume, throwing with mean intentions. He’s finding more success!

He is landing hard and clean here, but Usman seems unphased.

This fourth round looks a LOT like the first fight, which is good for Covington. He’s coming on strong here. This is getting really interesting.

I score this round 10-9 for Covington.

Oh man, Covington is landing here, but he shoots and has it stuffed, which may have actually saved Usman.

Usman now back in control it seems but this is a tight round. I think Covington really wants to secure this fight with a takedown, but it’s not there. He still hasn’t really hurt Usman yet.

Ah damn, there’s an eye poke right at the end there. That really takes the sting out of the last 30 seconds of the fight. Which is super weird.

Very tight round but…

I score this round 10-9 for Usman. (49-46 for Usman overall).

The judges have 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 for Usman.

Yes, that is Halle Berry in there. Randomly!

I think this is, personally, my most anticipated fight on the card. Mainly because I don’t feel like we really got to see this match-up play out in the first fight. It’s a real toss-up for me. Namajunas is the slickest striker in her division, but Weili has incredible power and physicality. Traditionally, that’s been tricky for Namajunas to navigate — and when you consider Weili seems to have been training her wrestling for this contest, we could have a real fight on our hands here.

I’m picking Weili. Just have a wee feeling she’ll take it. I’m so hyped for this one.

Loved Namajunas walking to the cage with the “I’m the best” mantra. Big Diego Sachez vibes there.

The crown booing Weili heavy. We know she doesn’t like that.

Let’s goooooooo!

Weili opens with three leg kicks. Bouncing on her toes. Weili seems tentative, but gets a takedown. Had a feeling this might happen since she’s been training with Henry Cejudo. Weili now on top and in control. She’s landing big shots from on top here.

Rose scrambles back to her feet. Weili lands a good headkick but Weili seems tentative in there.

I score it 10-9 for Weili.

Namajunas’ corner want her to wait for Weili to come to here, which is great advice to be honest. I get the feeling the Weili could potentially take Namajunas down at will with the strength advantage. Have to see how this plays out.

This is a tentative round for both fighters. Weili is throwing that leg kick a lot, Namajunas can’t take too many of those. Ooft, Weili cracks Namajunas clean and now she’s on her back after a takedown. Namajunas lands an upkick, but Weili is on top now and she’s — again — winning this round.

Now Rose gets the takedown! Fascinating contest.

I score it 10-9 for Weili.

Not much happening here, but Rose just looks much calmer in there. Tough to score this round, but the leg kicks are money for Weili. I think Rose should throw some her own. I think Weili slipped, but the crowd sold it. They’re in the clinch now.

They break and Namajunas is much more aggressive now but Weili cracks her with a left hook. Now she lands a takedown that’ll probably steal the round. She finishes in full mount.

I score it 10-9 for Weili.

Both fighters are opening up now, landing shots. Great start to the round for both fighters.

Now Weili has her back, trying to get hooks in for a rear naked choke. Namajunas reverses! Now she’s in Weili’s guard. Crazy scrambles here. This is the fight I was hoping to see. Amazing stuff.

Rose finishes the round on top. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out with more energy in the fifth and final round.

I score it 10-9 for Namajunas.

I have it 3-1 Weili, but there’s a real chance it’s 2-2. This is a high stakes round.

This is down to who wants it more. Cliche, but true in this case.

MASSSIIVE TAKEDOWN from Rose. With both fighters tired, Rose might be able to keep the fight here for the whole round. Weili absolutely needs to get up, she can’t accept this position.

But Weili looks like she doesn’t have the energy to get back up. The fight ends with Rose on top.

I score it 10-9 for Namajunas. (48-47 for Weili).

I reckon the judges will score this differently. Keen to see the cards…

The judges scored it 49-46, 48-47, 47-48.

Edgar vs. Vera is gonna be a great one.

This one is just great matchmaking. Former UFC lightweight champ Edgar is a legend of MMA and Vera is a star on the rise. This one is a real clash of styles: Vera is a technical slugger with an iron chin, Edgar is the type to mix slick takedowns in with his striking.

The safe money is on Edgar grinding this one out over three rounds, but we have seen Edgar suffer devastating knockouts in recent fights. This one’s a bit of a toss-up. I’m picking Edgar.

A stat popped up showing that Edgar has the most fight time of anyone in UFC history — almost 8 hours. Wild.

Being 40 years old in the lighter weight division is just such an achievement. What a legend Edgar is.

Good sign for Vera, who stuffs the first shot from Frankie. Wild that Edgar used to the champ two weight classes above, but looks so much smaller than Vera.

Edgar gets him down with a blast double, into a choke from Vera, but Edgar gets out quick. This is how he wins this fight, with top control and pressure. This could be bad for Vera. He’s bang in the middle of the cage and could be here for the rest of the round.

Vera is defending well from the bottom here, and lands a few nice upkicks, but he’s losing this round.

I score this 10-9 for Edgar.

The fight starts standing obviously, which favors Vera, but Edgar gets him down early. We’ve already seen he doesn’t have much for Edgar on the ground. He could — again — very well grind this round out from this position.

This is vintage Edgar here. You love to see it.

But wait — Vera scrambles to his feet. Great work by Vera. He’s marching forward now desperate to land shots and win this round. He lands a huge knee of Edgar. He lands another that has Edgar stumbling. Remember it was a knee from Cory Sandhagen that took Edgar clean out in his last fight. 

Vera is gathering confidence here. He’s winning this round.

Edgar looks in bad shape as he goes back to his corner.

I score this 10-9 for Vera

You get the sense that a takedown is very important for Edgar here. Vera has the advantage on the feet here, and Edgar’s chin isn’t what it used to be.

Edgar’s shots just aren’t hitting hard enough to earn respect here. He needs a shot ASAP. He almost gets him down at some point and then bam, Vera is straight back up.

Then BAM. A massive Anderson Silva-esque front kick straight up the middle takes Edgar out clean. This fight is over. Edgar is protesting the stoppage, but no way — he was out 100%. Incredible shot by Vera.

Vera wins by TKO.

This has to be a tough one for Edgar to take. At 40 years old, you have to imagine there’s not too many fights left for this guy. The chin isn’t what it used to be and it’s tough to keep facing down these young killers.

Alright, time to take a breather.

Lol whatever, Shane Burgos is fighting.

This is the lowest profile fight on this stacked card, but both Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo are known for all action fights. Hard to expect this playing out any other way. This one is a real coin toss, but I’m taking Burgos. He hits harder and maintains a powerful pace.

Quarantillo comes out pressuring, trying to make this ugly with dirty boxing and tight uppercuts.

Burgos wrestles him to the cage, attempting to wear Quarantillo out.

On the feet this feels even, but Burgos is landing harder shots. They’re slugging it out in the pocket now and Quarantillo shoots for the takedown. Great round of action here. Everything pales in comparison to Gaethje vs. Chandler, but this is good stuff.

I score it 10-9 for Quarantillo

Both fighters come out trading big shots. Quarantillo will not stop marching forward. It’s clearly the gameplan to keep Burgos on the backfoot.

Quarantillo could very well win the fight on volume alone.

This round is so hard to score, they’re just landing on one another and not stopping. The leg kicks are starting to add up.

But Quarantillo gets hurt by a clean right hand shot by Burgos and now he’s getting swarmed. He makes it to the end, but that’s definitely a Burgos round.

I score it 10-9 for Burgos

As the commentary mentioned, Quarantillo’s leg is in bad shape. That’s making it easier for Burgos to land shots.

Damn the leg is worse than I thought. This could be bad for Quarantillo. He goes to the clinch to try and negate it, but  a couple of clean leg kicks and this fight could be over.

Quarantillo is surviving, trying to get close Burgos is fatiguing. This has been another tremendous fight.

I score it 10-9 for Burgos (29-28 Burgos overall)

Let’s see how the judges have it…

Yep, all three judges agree with me. Incredible fight with a ridiculous output from both men.

This one’s gonna be a banger, folks.

Apparently this fight was bumped to the card opener because Gaethje’s coach Trevor Wittman needed time between this fight and the fight of his other student Rose Namajunas.

Either way, what a way to open this card. I am beyond hyped for this fight. Two massive hitters who like to go forward. I favour Gaethje because he’s arguably the most effective leg kicker in MMA and Chandler has struggled historically with leg kicks. That said — Chandler can put your lights out anytime with that huge overhand he likes to wing.

Can’t wait for this one. The only guarantee is one of these guys is doing a backflip off the cage when they win. Chandler and Gaethje always do that!

Man, what a fight to open with. I am so ridiculously hyped for this. This is absolute car crash territory. The New York crowd is incredibly hot also. Let’s goooo.

Man, Chandler is marching forward with bombs here. Gaethje opened with that calf kick. These guys are winging with no defence to speak of and Chandler seems to be getting the best of it. Leg kicks are already appearing to compromise both fighters.

PHEW. Okay pace has slowed down. Breathe.

But Chandler lands HUGE and Gaethje staggers back. Somehow Gaethje recovers and starts throwing back. Now Chandler is struggling. These guys throwing nothing but huge loopy shots trying to kill one another. Wow this fight is exactly as advertised.

These guys are already exhausted but Gaethje looks like he could be fresher going into the 2nd round.

Wow. Just wow.

I score this 10-9 for Chandler

Slower pace here. Obviously. Chandler is fighting smart here with the jab and throwing out kicks. But Gaethje is marching forward now and has lost a bit of pop.

OOOFT. Gaethje lands a HUGE righty hand and Chandler is on his butt. He somehow survives, but Gaethje is on top landing shots from a headlock position. Chandler has survived this onslaught though. Incredible. They’re back on their feet. Wow.

How?

Chandler shoots for a takedown — can you blame him? He lands a big shot but Gaethje just smiles. Gaethje is taking over now.

Weird ending to the round where Chandler lands a huge shot but rakes Gaethje in the eyes.

I score this 10-9 for Gaethje

Those Gaethje leg kicks man. Chandler can’t take much more of them. But Chandler has caught a second wind here, he’s on his toes and landing shots to the body.

Chandler lands a HUGE takedown, but somehow in the scramble Gaethje got in the better position, landing shots. I cannot tell who is winning here, but in these exchanges Chandler is starting to wilt a little, but who’s landed the most shots? How are they scoring this? WHO KNOWS?

What an incredible fight.

I score this 10-9 for Gaethje (29-28 Gaethje overall)

Let’s see what the judges have to say…

Justin Gaethje takes it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.