Nationals

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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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bolstered their forward depth and its penalty kill by re-signing two-time Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin before he hit unrestricted free agency next month. 

Washington has officially re-signed forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract extension, a move that goes a long way toward re-establishing a third line that had some openings entering the offseason. 

Hagelin, 30, was a pending unrestricted free agent. Washington acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 just four days before the NHL trade deadline. Hagelin played primarily on the third line – although injuries in the Stanley Cup playoffs pushed him onto the second line. 

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Hagelin had three goals and 11 assists in 20 regular-season games with the Capitals and became an instant staple on the penalty kill. His 47 minutes, six seconds on the PK in those 20 games were enough to rank sixth among all forwards on the team.

Traded twice last season, Hagelin had a total of five goals and 14 assists with the Capitals, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins in 58 games. He had a sprained knee (medial collateral ligament) with Los Angeles that kept him out for 20 games.  

"[Hagelin] was a good fit,” Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said on April 26. “I thought he fit seamlessly from day one. Really liked him on the third line, the way we used him, we bumped him up obviously with the [T.J.] Oshie injury. Our PK got a lot better. Fits in well with his teammates. It's a really good fit for us, yes." 

The Penguins traded Hagelin to the Kings on Nov. 14. He was a key part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in 2016 and 2017, which came at the expense of Washington in the playoffs each time. 

This was the last year of a four-year, $16 million deal that Hagelin signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015. He was always viewed as a likely trade chip for Los Angeles, which finished in last place in the Pacific Division and eventually flipped him to the Capitals. 

Even after the disappointing first-round Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Hagelin said he was open to re-signing with the Capitals before he hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. His signing follows the trade of defenseman Matt Niskanen on Friday. The NHL Draft is this coming weekend in Vancouver with more moves expected.   

“I liked the fact that I got a good look from the coaches,” Hagelin said on April 26 of his time with the Capitals. “I got to play with good players, I got to play in key situations. I felt comfortable here.”

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