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Diaz tops Miller on 2nd rd submission in UFC bout

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Diaz tops Miller on 2nd rd submission in UFC bout

By DAN GELSTON
, AP Sports Writer EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Nate Diaz locked in his choke hold and wouldn't let go. Another dominant victory his, Diaz now plans to keep the same taut grip on his impending title shot. Diaz continued to prove his return to the UFC lightweight division was the right one, and defeated Jim Miller by submission in the second round Saturday night to win the main event of the promotion's third major network card on Fox. "It was my time to shine, I guess," Diaz said. Diaz (16-7) stopped Miller (21-4) with a guillotine choke at 4:09 of the second round and earned an eventual. shot at the lightweight crown. Diaz dominated the short time they were in the octagon, using his range to land big strikes and force Miller to tap at the Izod Center. "Nate controlled the fight from bell to bell," Miller said. "He never let me get any significant shots in there."

Miller's face was already bloodied by the time the New Jersey crowd started a "Let's go Miller!" chant to rally the hometown fighter. The season five winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" taunted Miller moments before he rolled him over and locked in his submission hold in the finale of the four-bout prime-time card held by the world's top MMA circuit in front of 10,788 fans. UFC announced a 1.1 million gate. "It's free and they were great fights," UFC President Dana White said. Diaz returned to the lightweight division after a mixed run at 170 pounds. He could take another fight or wait out a scheduled title defense later this year by champion Benson Henderson. Henderson has a scheduled defense against Frankie Edgar. Diaz will keep his place in line and not take another fight. "If he wanted to wait, he could wait," White said. "He's going to wait." In a tight battle former NCAA wrestling champions, Johny Hendricks (13-1) likely became the No. 1 contender for the welterweight championship with a split-decision victory over Josh Koscheck. "If the title shot comes, it comes," Hendricks said. "If not, I'll stand in here with anyone they put in front of me." Hendricks won 29-28 on two cards and Koscheck took the other 29-28 in the three-round bout. Koscheck left the octagon with a battered and swollen right side of his face. He put his head down and shook it "no" as he trudged back to the locker room. "I should have finished the fight," he said. "If it goes to the judges, you have to have luck on your side." UFC fan and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino tweeted, "Disagree on that decision." He didn't have a say. The judges did and that's why Hendricks was the fighter jumping around the cage in celebration after several tense minutes waiting for a decision. Hendricks connected with a pair of stiff leg shots and a knee to the face in the third to give him an edge. But Koscheck (17-6) covered Hendricks in the final minute and seemed content to stay there and in control. He just dish out enough punishment. "That's one tough dude, man. I hit him with everything I got and I did everything I could," Hendricks said. Hendricks was two-time NCAA champion and four-time All-American for Oklahoma State. Koscheck also was a four-time All-American at Edinboro University and a 2001 NCAA champ. UFC kicked off the Fox show with a heavyweight bout that featured some of the stiffest shots of the night. Lavar Johnson (17-5) backed Pat Barry against the cage with a barrage of punishing lefts and rights to the head that left Barry (7-5) slumped on the mat. Johnson, fighting nearly three years after he was shot in the abdomen during a random drive-by, won via TKO in 4:38 of the first round. "With our styles, I knew it would end like this for one of us," Johnson said. For the casual fans attracted by the car-wreck nature of one man pummeling another, the sight of the 6-foot-4 Johnson simply assaulting Barry to start the show had to please UFC and Fox. Alan Belcher (18-6) initiated the ground game and continued the trend of early finishes when he flattened Rousimar Palhares (14-5) and fired repeated shots at the face to win a TKO decision at 4:18 of the first round. "I want to be the guy that takes the belt off Anderson Silva because I know I'm the one that can do it," Belcher said. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was in the crowd at the Izod Center to watch a card held just six miles across the river from New York. New York is one of the few states that has yet to legalize MMA. After showcasing UFC on Fox with two big bouts that featured Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez and Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis, none of the fighters on Saturdays' card were huge names known to a wide network audience. "It's the best talent in UFC right now and we showcased them on Fox tonight," White said.

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Wizards pick up Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s contract option with bright future ahead

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Wizards pick up Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s contract option with bright future ahead

The play of Kelly Oubre, Jr. over the past calendar year had made the Wizards picking up his contract option an increasingly easy decision. On Saturday, they opted to keep him for the fourth year of his rookie contract, the 2018-19 season, and did so with a week to spare before the deadline.

Oubre, 21, has emerged as a key contributor for a Wizards team with expectations of a deep playoff run. He is still finding his trule role in the NBA, but with his youth and potential, and the fact he's still on a rookie deal, Oubre has a unique place on their roster.

John Wall and Bradley Beal have already emerged as stars. Otto Porter still has room to get much better, but has already arrived and earned a max contract. Oubre, though already established in their rotation, has plenty of room to grow.

Oubre, the 15th overall pick in 2015, doubled his minutes last season to 20.3 per game under head coach Scott Brooks with averages of 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game. He earned Brooks' trust mainly on the defensive end with his versatility and high motor.

Consistency is where Oubre needs to improve, but through two games this season he appears to have taken another step. Oubre added two inches to his vertical leap over the summer despite rehabbing from platelet-rich plasma treatment on his right knee. He also gained some muscle, allowing him to make strides as a rebounder. Oubre has 15 rebounds through two games and said it's specific focus of his.

[RELATED: WALL TALKS LONZO AND LAVAR BALL]

The Wizards are a good enough offensive team currently to where Oubre can focus on defense and rebounding. But his growing confidence on offense has been evident so far this year and especially in the preseason. He has worked on dribbling with his right hand and the result is more aggression attacking the rim. Though still not a polished product, Oubre is taking small steps to emerge as a more dangerous scoring threat.

The Wizards will have another decision to make on Oubre this time next year. One day before the 2018-19 regular season begins, they will have to choose whether to hand Oubre a rookie scale contract extension. They weren't able to beat that deadline with Porter and the next summer he received a $106.5 million max deal after hitting the market as a restricted free agent. 

Oubre at this very moment wouldn't command that type of money in free agency, but the same was said about Porter at this point in his career. Porter was able to improve significantly in his fourth season.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis said this summer that he would love to have Oubre force the issue with his performance on the court.

"He's going to come back and work really, really hard and challenge us to pay him a lot of money, too, which I'm glad to do," Leonsis said. 

It's early in the season, but Oubre may be on his way towards making the Wizards ponder his long-term future.

The Washington Post first reported Oubre's contract option getting picked up.

[RELATED: WALL EXPLAINS WOLF SEASON]

 

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John Wall doesn't hold LaVar Ball's talking against Lonzo, but knows 'he'll be targeted'

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John Wall doesn't hold LaVar Ball's talking against Lonzo, but knows 'he'll be targeted'

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley made a point to embarrass Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball in the latter's NBA debut. After dominating him on the court, Beverley said he had to "set the tone." 

On Wednesday, Wizards point guard John Wall will get a crack at Ball when Washington plays the Lakers at the Staples Center. Wall knows why Beverley went after Ball like that, but says he doesn't blame Ball himself.

"I think his dad put him in a situation where guys are going to target him," Wall said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast, referencing LaVar Ball. "Lonzo is one of those kids that is very talented. He's been a good player for years, he just don't say much. I think his dad does all the talking for him."

Ball, 19, was the second overall pick in this June's NBA Draft. He had just three points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Clippers on Wednesday, but bounced back for 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against the Suns on Friday. 

Wall thinks Ball will be fine as long as he can keep up his production on the court to back up his dad's trash-talking.

"He's a great kid from what I've seen on the outside looking in," Wall said. "A lot of people in this league are going to take it personally. It's not the son's fault. He went back and had a better game [vs. the Suns]. That's all he's gotta do is go out there and play. He's not gonna do any talking anyways. If he gets killed or don't get killed or kills somebody, he's not going to be the guy talking."

Wall is as competitive as they come and will give Ball a tough challenge on Wednesday night, but it doesn't sound like he plans to pull a Beverley and overtly embarrass him.

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

[RELATED: WALL SAYS HE'S THE BEST SHOT-BLOCKING PG EVER]