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Rua, Machida post big UFC wins in Fox show

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Rua, Machida post big UFC wins in Fox show

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Former champion Lyoto Machida stopped Ryan Bader with one punch midway through the second round of the UFC's latest prime-time network show Saturday night, getting a knockout that might have earned him a chance to reclaim his title. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua stopped Brandon Vera in the main event with a flurry of strikes with 50 seconds left in the fourth round for another dramatic finish. After the fights, UFC President Dana White said Machida had earned another light heavyweight title shot with his sudden victory. White promised a shot at the winner of champion Jon "Bones" Jones' bout with veteran Dan Henderson next month to the fighter who was most impressive at Staples Center, although the date could be tough to keep immediately. Machida (18-3) had the light heavyweight belt until Rua took it from him with a first-round knockout in May 2010. Machida failed to reclaim the belt last December from Jones, who stopped him with a standing guillotine choke in Toronto for the formerly formidable Brazilian's third loss in four fights. Machida looked impressive again in flattening Bader (14-3), who also has lost to Jones. "I think it was a great performance, and I want to say, the Dragon is back," Machida shouted, citing his own nickname. Machida needed just one big right hand 90 seconds into the second round to knock out Bader, who spent the first round warily staying outside Machida's dangerous karate-based style. Machida picked apart Bader to win the opening round, and when Bader attempted to close the distance, the Brazilian star ducked slightly and apparently rendered Bader unconscious with a punch square to his face. White hyped up interest in the Los Angeles show by claiming he would choose the next title contender from this bunch of fighters with significant recent defeats on their records. The UFC could be more interested in matching Jones against welterweight star Georges St. Pierre next year, but Machida did everything possible to get back on a title track. Earlier, Joe Lauzon ended a thrilling bout with veteran Jamie Varner by securing a triangle choke midway through the third round. Mike Swick also returned from a 30-month octagon absence for a second-round knockout of DaMarques Johnson. Rua (21-6) survived a grueling fight with the veteran Vera (12-6), bouncing back from multiple spots of trouble and pushing through fatigue that slowed both fighters midway through the scheduled five-round bout. Rua finally got rid of Vera with a series of strikes that began with a precise right hook to Vera's jaw. Vera's mouthpiece apparently came loose, distracting him moments before Rua finished him with a few more strikes to celebrate his first victory in nearly a year. "I'll improve, but you'll see my best for sure in the future," Rua said. "The most important thing is a victory. I respect Brandon a lot. It was a good fight. I was a little tired from the second to the third round, more than I expected." Rua lost his light heavyweight title to Jones in his first defense in March 2011, and Rua lost again to Henderson last November in a five-round brawl.

Varner was a last-minute replacement opponent for Lauzon, a reliably entertaining Massachusetts fighter who still had lost three of his past six bouts. Varner is a former WEC champion who returned to the UFC with an upset victory over Edson Barboza in May. Although Varner controlled the entertaining first round, he couldn't keep up later with Lauzon, who rallied with strikes that set up superb ground work ending with his legs cinched around Varner's neck.

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.