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Ben Henderson retains title at UFC 150

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Ben Henderson retains title at UFC 150

DENVER (AP) -- Another five-round battle, another controversial decision for Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar. Henderson retained his lightweight title at UFC 150 on Saturday night, doing just enough to outpoint Frankie Edgar in a split decision. Henderson, born in Colorado Springs, received winning scores of 48-47 from two of the judges, while the third scored it 49-46 for Edgar. Henderson took the belt from Edgar on Feb. 25. Boos rained down on Henderson after the decision was announced to the crowd that increasingly gravitated to Edgar's corner as the 155-pound fight progressed. "I definitely thought I did enough to earn the victory," Henderson said. "Frankie has the heart of a champion and is a great fighter." The bout was action-packed, with both fighters landing damaging punches and kicks and nearly submitting each other with choke holds. The difference likely came because of Henderson's 89-62 advantage in significant punches landed. Despite earning the decision, Henderson believed there was more he could have done in the fight.

"The biggest thing I was disappointed in myself with is that I didn't push the pace enough," Henderson said. "I didn't do a good enough job of capitalizing and getting on top of him when he was off balance. My coaches were yelling at me to push the pace, but I was lethargic and didn't push it as much as I should have." UFC President Dana White declined to say how he would've scored the bout. "I'm not a judge," said White, who said he had the fight even going into the final round. "Ben Henderson won the fight, he retained his title, and that's the end of it. That's why I always say, if you don't want to be sitting in here going, I think I won that fight,' you cannot leave it in the hands of the judges." Henderson (17-2) will defend his title against Nate Diaz (16-7). Amid alternating chants of "Frankie!" and "Benson!" at Pepsi Center, the fighters exchanged right hands and leg kicks, with Edgar scoring a number of takedowns and dropping Henderson with a right hand in the second. Edgar bled from the nose after a Henderson right hand in the second, but never appeared to be affected by the blood. Edgar was visibly upset after the decision dropped him to 14-3-1. "I felt I improved from last time, and I think I did enough to win," Edgar said. "A lot of people told me they thought I'd won, but it doesn't matter. The judges didn't. The decision is not going to change, and it is what it is." Edgar said he isn't interested in asking for another shot at Henderson. "I'm moving on," Edgar said. "Dana's not going to give me another title shot, I know that much." The co-main event lasted only 1:16, but provided more action than most of the night's other bouts. Denver native Donald Cerrone recovered from a left hook from Melvin Guillard (47-12-3) that floored him early in the round and improved to 19-4 after connecting on a left kick to the head and a right hook that sealed the deal. Guillard's shot rocked Cerrone in the fight's opening seconds, but he was unable to connect with a flurry of knee strikes and punch combinations to end the matchup between the 29-year-old lightweights. Cerrone landed what initially appeared to be a glancing left kick to the top of Guillard's head, but the New Orleans fighter was virtually out on his feet and defenseless to Cerrone's finishing right hand. "Frankly, I thought I just grazed the top of him," said Cerrone, who earned 120,000 in bonuses for the knockout and fight of the night. "I didn't realize I connected as well as I did. Thankfully I did, and I followed it with a right hand." Cerrone, a Denver native who attended Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs, is 8-1 in his last nine fights. Two of the 155-pounder's losses have come at the hands of Henderson. Cerrone knew he was in big trouble early in the fight. "I was extremely hurt, especially the knee to the body," said Cerrone, who likely will next face Anthony Pettis (13-2) in a key lightweight bout. "It took everything in me to fight through it and keep going. It was probably the worst I've ever been injured in a fight." Guillard, who missed weight at Friday's weigh-in by 2 1-2 pounds, will be fined a portion of his purse. He is 6-3 in his last nine fights.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

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