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Bellator MMA predictions for 2022: Michael ‘Venom’ Page becomes champion; Kayla Harrison takes on Cris Cyborg




Bellator MMA made a significant push in 2021. The company’s long-term development of A.J. McKee paid off in the form of a featherweight champion that can carry the promotion forward. Bellator also acquired valuable names like Yoel Romero and Anthony Johnson, and hosted the coronation of Sergio Pettis as world champion.

2021 ushered in an important new era for Bellator. Heading into the company’s first full year under the Showtime banner, what should fans expect? That was a question the CBS Sports experts sat down to try to answer by offering our bold predictions for the next 12 months.

Read on to see what we feel will be three major stories coming out of a pivotal year for the promotion.


Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.

Michael Page wins the welterweight title

After years of teasing his bright potential, the 34-year-old “MVP” seems finally ready to fulfill it as he enters 2022 on the verge of his first Bellator MMA title shot. The sublime striker scored the biggest victory of his career in October when he edged former champion Douglas Lima in their rematch to avenge his lone pro loss. There’s little doubt Page is expected to have his hands full with unbeaten titleholder Yamosav Amosov and his grinding style. But Page has the kind of explosive finishing ability that makes it hard to count him out, even if he has had issues at times with wrestlers in the past. Page’s confidence is through the roof amid his current six-fight win streak and he remains the wrong type of striker to shoot for a takedown against that isn’t well disguised because of his quick-trigger ability to end the fight in any number of creative ways. — Brian Campbell

The Bantamweight World Grand Prix will be the best tournament yet

Bellator built itself up being a tournament-based company. That ended for a while but the introduction of their World Grand Prix tournaments have brought back big, interesting competitions. The bantamweight division is packed with talent and every potential matchup in the tournament will be exciting. In terms of pure action, the 135-pounders have the potential of delivering the best tournament-style mixed martial arts since the days of Pride FC. It won’t be done before 2022 is over, but every second of the Grand Prix should have fans glued to their television screens, and with good reason. — Brent Brookhouse

Kayla Harrison fights Cris Cyborg

Safe money suggests Harrison was UFC bound following UFC 269. The live broadcast captured her sitting front row for the UFC women’s bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena. An upset victory from Pena has severely damaged the stock for an immediate Nunes vs. Harrison fight. That may open the door for the Olympic gold medalist to test her mettle against Bellator women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. It serves as an intermediate step in competition between Harrison’s PFL opponents and the Nunes fight, albeit much closer to the Nunes end of the scale. Not to mention that it would also be Cyborg’s toughest test since her loss to Nunes in 2018. Additionally, Harrison may be able to angle for a co-promoted fight between Bellator and PFL to maximize earning potential, while leaving room for a UFC debut in 2023. Harrison claims legacy trumps money in her MMA run, and a match vs. Cyborg is far more likely to materialize before she signs with UFC. — Shakiel Mahjouri


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What’s happening to the Yankees? Plus, previewing Serie A



Happy Friday, everyone! Congrats on making it through another week. There’s a weekend full of football as your reward.

Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

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Welcome back, Serie A! The top Italian soccer league begins this weekend, and you can watch all season long on Paramount+.

Last year’s title race wasn’t decided until the last day, when AC Milan claimed their first league title since 2010-11. Our Serie A expert Francesco Porzio says they’ll be hard-pressed to defend that title; his pick to win the Scudetto is Juventus.

  • Porzio: “After a very solid transfer window, Juventus have to be considered as the leading candidates to win the Scudetto alongside Serie A title holders AC Milan and Inter Milan. [Coach Massimiliano] Allegri has explicitly told the press that Juventus’ main target of the season will be to win the domestic competition with the same ambition to go as far as possible in the UEFA Champions League and also try to win the Coppa Italia, which they lost last season in the final against Inter Milan.”

Be sure to check out Francesco’s outlooks for AC Milan, JuventusInter Milan and Roma.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…


Yes, they didn’t play last night, but the dog days of summer are here and they’re hitting the New York Yankees hard. Since the All-Star Break, the Yankees are:

  • 7-13 (tied for 23rd in MLB)
  • 2-6 in games decided by one run (down from 19-11 prior to the break)
  • Scoring 4.7 runs per game (down from 5.4 before the break, which was best in MLB)
  • Pitching to a 4.36 team ERA (24th in MLB).

Are the Bronx Bombers just slogging through the summer, or are there bigger issues? It’s that final bullet point that’s been a big issue, says MLB expert Mike Axisa.

  • Axisa: “The problem is obvious, right? New York’s rotation has gone from being an elite home run prevention unit to nearly the worst in baseball. Their walk rate is up a bit but still well below the MLB average (8.2 percent of batters faced), and the strikeout rate is unchanged. Basically, the rotation is pitching like it did before, only with way more balls leaving the yard. … Having a great rotation and then suddenly having an ineffective rotation is a surefire way to go from the sport’s best record to playing .500 ball for two months.”

This is a really good look into the four biggest reasons the Yankees have cooled off as summer has heated up, and whether they can turn things around. As Mike points out, “it’s important to note they still have a 10-game lead in the AL East and also a 10-game lead for a Wild Card Series bye. At the start of this 22-25 stretch, they had a 12-game lead.”

This weekend could provide a perfect turnaround opportunity against the struggling Red Sox. Boston is running out of time to get into the playoff race. The Yankees could start their turnaround by pushing their arch rivals further out of things… or they could stay mired in their slump as the stretch run nears.


Not so honorable mentions

NBA retires No. 6 in honor of Bill Russell 🏀

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The NBA is giving Bill Russell‘s No. 6 special treatment: the number will be tired across the league ahead of the 2022-23 season. Russell, who died in late July at 88, is the first NBA player to have his number retired league-wide.

  • Other players to have their number retired in major North American sports include Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and Wayne Gretzky (No. 99).
  • Russell, an 11-time NBA champion, was also noted for his impact off the court. In 1966, he became the first Black head coach in major American sports, and he was known for his activism regarding social and racial issues throughout his life. On the court, his list of accomplishments is truly incredible.
  • Current NBA players wearing No. 6 — including LeBron James — do not need to change numbers if they don’t want to. However, no player will be issued a No. 6 jersey going forward.
  • The NBA also plans to add commemorative patches on the right shoulder of every jersey for the 2022-23 season, and every court will have a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 inside of it on the sideline.

James is the most notable of the active players who wear No. 6, but he’s far from the only one. The entire list is 16 players deep, and that includes five who were born in the 2000s and could end up being the last NBA player to wear No. 6 ever:

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr. (born Aug. 14, 2002)
  • Jaylin Williams (born June 29, 2002)
  • Keon Johnson (born March 10, 2002)
  • Kenyon Martin Jr. (Jan. 6, 2001)
  • Quentin Grimes (May 8, 2000)

There’s yet another team that’s caught Kevin Durant’s eye 👀

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Another day, another Kevin Durant rumor. The Nets superstar reportedly views the 76ers as a “welcome landing spot.” If you remember yesterday’s newsletter, this report comes on the heels of reports saying he also views the Celtics as a “desired landing spot.”

The Celtics actually made an offer for Durant; it’s not known if the 76ers have done the same, but there appears to be at least some mutual interest. Here’s what a possible offer could look like, according to our NBA reporter Michael Kaskey-Blomain.

  • Kaskey-Blomain: “In order to execute a deal, the Sixers would have to part with a huge haul that would likely include several draft picks, Tobias Harris and promising young guard Tyrese Maxey. Such a deal isn’t necessarily a no-brainer for the Sixers. Obviously, acquiring Durant would widen the team’s current championship window, but it may limit their long-term prospects. … It’s also fair to wonder if the Nets would even want to trade Durant to the Sixers after trading James Harden to them earlier this year. The two teams are in the same division, after all.”

Preseason bowl projections: Who’s making the College Football Playoff? 🏈

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Ah yes, the preseason. When hope springs eternal, every team’s loss column is blank, and bowl projections are the perfect thing to get us fans excited. That’s right, Jerry Palm’s preseason bowl projections have arrived, and I would love to see his prediction for the College Football Playoff field turn out to be true.

  • Peach Bowl: (1) Alabama vs. (4) Oklahoma
  • Fiesta Bowl: (2) Ohio State vs. (3) Georgia

Alabama looking to get back atop the college football mountain after melting down late in last year’s championship game? Ohio State back after a down year? Georgia trying to repeat? Oklahoma making it less than a year after Lincoln Riley departed for USC? Sign me up for that.

Speaking of USC, Jerry is bullish on the Trojans. He projects them to play Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. You can see Jerry’s CFP and New Year’s Six predictions here and his projections for every single bowl game here.

What we’re watching this weekend 📺

We’re watching Serie A and the NWSL all weekend on Paramount+.


🏈 Falcons at Lions, 6 p.m. on NFL Network
🏀 Liberty at Dream, 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏈 Packers at 49ers, 8:30 p.m. on NFL Network
🏀 Storm at Lynx, 9 p.m. on ESPN 2



🏈 Chiefs at Bears, 1 p.m. on NFL Network
🏈 Colts at Bills, 4 p.m. on NFL Network
🏈 Seahawks at Steelers, 7 p.m. on NFL Network
Yankees at Red Sox, 7:15 p.m. on FOX
🏈 Cowboys at Broncos, 9 p.m. on NFL Network


🏀 Lynx at Sun, 1 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Storm at Aces, 3 p.m. on ABC
🏈 Vikings at Raiders, 4:25 p.m. on NFL Network
Yankees at Red Sox, 7 p.m. on ESPN
St. Jude Championship Final Round, 3 p.m. on NBC

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Will Klay Thompson Return To Form This Coming Season?



(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)


It has been a very rough three years for Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson.

Not only did the team lose the 2019 NBA championship to the Toronto Raptors, but it also lost Thompson to an ACL injury during the series.


He missed all of the following season while rehabbing, only to tear his Achilles just prior to the 2020-21 campaign, forcing him to miss all of that season as well.

Thompson finally returned to game action on January 9, and for a while, he was hit-and-miss as far as his effectiveness.

But he stepped things up in the playoffs, playing a key role in the Warriors winning their fourth championship in the past eight seasons.

If they are to make it five rings in nine years and take their dynasty to a rarefied level, Thompson will have to revert to the Thompson of old.

How realistic is that?



A Look At Thompson’s 2021-22 Season

Everyone knew that for a while, Thompson would be rusty as he not only looked to regain his lower-body strength and fitness, but also his game rhythm.

It took him seven games to shoot at least 50 percent for an entire contest and 14 games for him to have his first 30-plus-point outing.

Along the way, he had some clunkers, such as his 3-of-11 outing versus the Milwaukee Bucks on January 13 and and a 3-of-13 night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in March.

Thompson showed signs of bouncing back in February when he shot 44.8 percent overall and 45.6 percent from 3-point range, but those numbers fell to 40.2 percent and 34.4 percent, respectively, in March.


But then he finished the season with a bang.

In his final six contests of the schedule, Thompson averaged 30.8 points on 48.0 percent shooting from the field and 45.0 percent from downtown.

Although he was somewhat inconsistent early in the playoffs, he started to really get going by scoring 30 points and going 8-of-14 from deep in Golden State’s Game 6 clincher over the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round.

Then in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Thompson dropped 32 points while shooting 8-of-16 from downtown as his team knocked the Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs.


With the NBA Finals versus the Boston Celtics tied at two games apiece, he had 21 points while making 5-of-11 from beyond the arc in the Warriors’ 104-94 Game 5 victory.

For the postseason, he shot 42.9 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point land, which wasn’t too far off his career playoffs percentages.


This Offseason Will Be Key

Thompson is enjoying the benefit of being able to fully focus on training and conditioning this summer, rather than rehab and recovery.

The result should be an athlete who is better conditioned to start the season and one who won’t have to spend a good portion of the schedule getting up to speed and getting his sea legs back.


In addition, Stephen Curry and company won’t have to take their time rebuilding chemistry with Thompson and getting used to playing with him again.

On the East Coast, Kevin Durant has looked like the same player, especially offensively, following his own Achilles injury, and he is around the same age as Thompson.

A back-to-his-old-self Thompson could very well result in yet another world championship for the Warriors next summer.

The post Will Klay Thompson Return To Form This Coming Season? appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Discussing Carson Wentz’s potential, Sam Howell’s development with Commanders QBs coach Ken Zampese



Ken Zampese oversees an intriguing quarterbacks room with the Washington Commanders entering the 2022 season. There’s Carson Wentz, the former No. 2 overall pick traded by the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts in consecutive seasons after failing to live up to expectations; Taylor Heinicke, the Old Dominion student-turned almost Tom Brady slayer (within a month!) and then the team’s full-time starter last season; and finally Sam Howell, a projected top-five draft pick before an underwhelming 2021 dropped him all the way to the fifth round.

Wentz’s seemingly final chance to be an NFL starter will unfold in Washington, while Heinicke will be anxiously waiting to be called upon if necessary and Howell will look to rediscover his 2020 magic as he acclimates himself to the NFL. Guiding all of these players is Zampese, 55, who enters his 19th season as an NFL quarterbacks coach.

Ahead of the Commanders’ preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday afternoon, Zampese spoke with CBS Sports about Wentz’s potential, Howell’s continuing development and more.


The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What was your initial reaction when you found out Carson Wentz was joining the team?

“I was so excited I could hardly stand myself. My hope went through the roof, my confidence went through the roof. I just know when you add talent and you get a guy that’s accountable and you hold him accountable, good things are going to happen. When? Who knows. But we’re going to be moving in a positive direction all the time, and I knew that was a good deal. … I just know that he is a very capable NFL passer, and I’m very happy we got him here.”

What have been your impressions of Wentz since you started working with him?

“He’s locked into details. He wants to know and he wants to communicate it so that we’re all on the same page. That’s obvious from the time we started when it was just he and I. And then as we get the players into the building, you see the communication and going back to talk through a rep after it’s already been done, to come to a greater understanding so that when we go to the next time, you can anticipate it a little bit more, and you get better balls, better looks, better spots.”


Is that the main thing that has stood out about Wentz so far? Or have other things also caught your attention?

“That’s the one you want to have, because then the guy’s locked into what you’re doing and is trying to do it the way that we’re talking about doing it. And then he brings his own stuff from where he’s been to where there’s (additions) and there’s things that we subtracted, and we’re just making it our offense this year. It’s our 2022 Commanders offense.”

Any specific examples of his attention to detail?

“There are certain routes where we talk about, ‘Oh, our focus is over here,’ and he says, ‘Hey, if I can get this look on the backside, can we put this on it?’ So you know he’s seeing the whole field. And if we can do that and it works out and we can get another shot to throw it to Terry McLaurin), that’s a hell of a deal. It’s something where you’re seeing the whole field, how we’re using all the pieces, and he sees all the pieces and what we can do with them. That’s the fun part.”

What’s the biggest thing that’s going to change for the offense this year with Wentz at quarterback?


“Well he’s got his own unique style, which is different than the rest of them. He can reach the whole field easily. He’s really good at quick game. The usual things that have stood out. I mean I think he was in the top 10 in plus-20 air yard passes, something like that, so there’s some downfield elements that he brings; it’s natural to him. And then his style of leadership and communication in the building. He’s very personable, 1-on-1, being deliberate to get to each guy.”

Wentz’s accuracy has been inconsistent at times throughout camp, and coach Ron Rivera has attributed that to learning a new system and getting the rhythm and timing down with his speedy receivers. How long does it typically take for a quarterback in a new system to gain that baseline of comfortability?

“There’s no threshold. You just know it when you see it over time. The easy things stay easy. You don’t see the wheels spinning on an easy concept and it’s hard to get. Guys are getting it, it’s getting to the right spot. It’s also the quickness from one read to another, ‘Oh, shoot, OK, he’s got that one. We feel good about this concept. Let’s try and do more.’ There’s no kind of magic moment, but you kind of know it when you see it.”

Have you seen it so far during training camp?

“We’re in the process. Some days are better than other days, and that’s how training camp goes. … It’s no different than anybody else who walks into the building new. We’re not six years in with somebody. We are six months in with somebody, and even though some other guys have been here, we haven’t done it together. So we’re trying to build our sustainable winning culture within our offense.”


Wentz will start the preseason opener Saturday against the Panthers, and Rivera said he wants to see the starters get 15-20 snaps. What do you want to see from Wentz during that time?

“I just want to see the ball move down the field. It doesn’t matter to me how it works; just that it works and it’s smooth and we’re happy with the decisions and we’re finding ways to protect the football and take advantage of the defense and big plays when we get them. So yeah, just move the ball, convert some first downs, score — of course — and then just see the offense flow the way it’s supposed to, the way we’ve talked about it. And then we can come back with a greater confidence later because we actually did it on another level other than practice; we did it live.”

This is Wentz’s third team in as many years. What makes you think Washington can be a long-term fit for him?

“We’ve seen it on Sunday, him be productive on Sunday. And we have pretty good skill guys, and I think as you compare that with other spots he’s been in over time, it gives me hope that if we can get the ball out to these guys, we’ll be able to make some very, very productive plays — short range and down the field.”

Switching gears to Sam Howell: You’ve coached a lot of rookie quarterbacks who have gone on to be long-term starters (Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Baker Mayfield, etc.) What stands out about Howell in terms of what he brings to the NFL?

“He’s humble, he’s got a live arm, and he likes to be coached. That’s kind of Sam in a nutshell. He really gleans everything off of every meeting and wants to know, and anytime I say, ‘Hey Sam, let’s get together before or after practice,’ he says, ‘Yes sir,’ and we’re on it, we’re doing it. And that’s going to go a long way to his development toward being fast, not slow. He’s very coachable, he’s got a high motor for work and his focus is good, and he has a lot of pride. That’s the other thing that sticks out: he’s got a lot of pride. He sees himself in a very upwardly-mobile-in-this-profession way, and he should, because he can.


“He doesn’t give himself a crutch if he misses a throw. He knows he can make it because it should be easy for him in his mind because ‘I can do all of these things, and when I don’t, I’m very disappointed,’ as opposed to, ‘Yeah, you know I just missed one. Whatever.’ It’s not like that for him. He holds himself accountable very well.

“He’s not happy about it. Those things happen because guys are rookies, but when you don’t get something that doesn’t happen right, there’s a sting that goes along with it. And if you don’t use it for fuel, you don’t gain from the experience. He uses all the stings as fuel, and that’s the important part, no matter what year you are but particularly as a rookie because you get so many of them.”


What are the biggest areas you want to see him improve throughout his rookie campaign?

“I want to see his pocket moving and sliding to make a play. And then knowing when to cut your losses and run; just the natural feel of that part of the game, like to see that. We’ve seen him out here on one-hitch fire the ball around. He’s been very productive, and now we’ll get to see it in the game. I want to see the improvisational skills.”

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