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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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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.