A.J. HOFFMAN

UFC 230 preview: Lewis vs. Cormier headlines piecemeal card

Derrick Lewis highlights the UFC 230 card. Harry How/Getty Images

This isn’t the UFC 230 we had all hoped for, but it will have to do. After several potential headliners fell apart, the UFC was able to convince Derrick Lewis to take on Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title, just a few weeks after Lewis came back from the brink of defeat to beat Alexander Volkov in one of the wildest fights of 2018. Dustin Poirier was supposed to take on Nate Diaz, but Poirier was injured. The rematch between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman was booked for this card, but Rockhold was injured. So we are left with a thrown together card that should make for a good night of fights, if not many that are particularly consequential. 

The main event is for the heavyweight title that Lewis himself said less than a month ago “he didn’t have the cardio” to fight for. Money talks, though, and here we are with a tired Lewis (21-5) fighting the two-division champion, Daniel Cormier (21-1). Cormier isn’t totally fresh himself, as he is still recovering from an injured hand from his starching of Stipe Miocic. Let’s be serious here. Daniel Cormier is a -700 favorite in this fight for a reason. He is one of the greatest fighters of all time, coming off a massive win. Lewis, though, is not a walk-through fight. You can never let your guard down against him, because he can end the fight with one shot. Cormier will also have a hard time holding down Lewis, who has made “get up” one of the most effective moves in his arsenal. Cormier will need to employ a game plan similar to Mark Hunt’s against Lewis, which involved lots of angles and footwork to exhaust the “Black Beast” before he really turned it on. Cormier is clearly the more skilled fighter, but avoiding the fight-ending power of Lewis is not an easy thing to do for 25 minutes.

The co-main event features two middleweights who are trying to make one last run at the 185 lb. title. Chris Weidman (14-3) became an overnight superstar with his knockout of Anderson Silva. He won the rematch, but his career has been a roller coaster ride ever since. He went on a 3-fight skid, getting finished violently in all three fights. He has dealt with multiple injuries and fight cancellations, but broke through for a big victory over Kelvin Gastelum last summer. His opponent, Jacare Souza (25-6) is 39 years old, and if he is going to get a UFC title shot, he has to start that path with this fight. He has lost three fights since coming to the UFC in 2013. Razor thin, split-decision losses to Gastelum and Yoel Romero, sandwiching a head kick knockout at the hands of Robert Whittaker. Jacare is a master on the ground, but his skills have declined in recent years, along with his ability to take big shots. Stylistically, this matchup is very intriguing and should make for one of the best of the night. 

David Branch (22-4) was supposed to be fighting Souza on this card, but the Rockhold injury forced Souza up, and left Branch with a much less exciting opponent. He gets Jared Cannonier (10-4) who has competed at both heavyweight and light heavyweight previously and will make his middleweight debut here. Branch has shaken the reputation of being a one-dimensional fighter, and his striking has markedly improved. Cannonier is a dynamic (albeit not incredibly skilled) striker, but has proven to struggle mightily with takedown defense. That could be a real issue for him in this one. 

The difference in styles between Derek Brunson (18-6) and Israel Adesanya (14-0) make this another intriguing bout. Adesanya is a world-class kickboxer, who has worked hard at improving his defensive wrestling. Brunson was once a lay and pray wrestler, but has evolved (that word used loosely here) into a pressure fighter who hunts for knockouts. It would be wise of Brunson to keep Adesanya on his back, because if he finds himself charging wildly at or counterstriking with Adesanya, it will likely be a quick night for him. 

The prelims feature Ben Saunders, Sheymon Maraes, Sijara Eubanks and a fun matchup of Jason Knight and Jordan Rinaldi.

Enjoy the fights! 

PREDICTIONS:

Cormier by TKO

Souza by submission

Branch by decision

Marshman by decision

Adesanya by KO

Rinaldi by decision

Eubanks by decision 

Moraes by decision

Good by KO

Vannata by TKO

Burgos by TKO

Jackson by decision

De Lima by KO

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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