A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part Two)

Yesterday was the release of the first of a three part blog about the magnificent summer that awaits English sport’s fans. If you missed it then don’t worry, it’s never too late to read it. A Good Summer Ahead for the English! (Part One)

So today marks the start of another huge tournament with the first match played between favourites England and perennial “chokers” South Africa.

Icc_cricket_world_cup_trophy
ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy (Via WikiCommons)

 

Cricket World Cup 2019 (May 30th – July 14th)

The blue ribbon event of the cricketing world is upon us again. Originally contested by eight nations in 1975, this year’s event will witness the top ten cricketing nations fighting it out to be crowned world champions. All of the partaking nations will play each other in a round robin tournament, with the top four going on to contest the semifinals. The cricket fest will come to an end on July 14th at the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London.

The nations in order of world ranking:

  1. ENGLAND
  2. India
  3. South Africa
  4. New Zealand
  5. Australia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Bangladesh
  8. West Indies
  9. Sri Lanka
  10. Afghanistan

The main pavilion (left), and the media centre at the home of cricket. (Via WikiCommons)

Do England deserve to be the favourite?

England are easily the best ODI (one day international) team in the world. A combination of aggressive batting, and above average bowling has helped the creators of the sport become the best at it. Since the last World Cup in 2015, England have won around 70% of all ODI’s played. A feat that no other nation can surpass. In the meantime, they have also accumulated four of the largest run totals with the relentless stroke making abilities of their top order batsmen. In the likes of Jason Roy, and Johnny Bairstow, England has the most destructive opening partnership in world cricket. Follow that up with Jos Buttler, a man on a mission to demolish every bowler’s self-confidence. Buttler scores big and scores fast, an important asset when it comes to limited overs cricket. In fact, only on five occasions has a nation scored over 400 runs in an innings since the last World Cup. South Africa once and England four times (Usually a score over 300 is deemed good, depending on the conditions).

Jos_Buttler_2017
Jos Buttler (Via WikiCommons)

However, that same aggression when batting can lead to a massive collapse on the wrong day, which is where the bowlers need to step up. Something that they are more than capable of doing with the likes of Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and the recent addition to the squad of Joffrey Archer. The latter has made a name for himself in recent years as a specialist of the short-game (T20/ODI).

With all this firepower, a smart leader is necessary. Enter Eoin Morgan. Ironically, Morgan is Irish-born, but captains the three-lions after switching allegiances in 2009. He is one of only two players to score a century – 100 runs in an innings – for two different nations. The other being Ed Joyce, who went from England to Ireland. Eoin Morgan is labelled as a “finisher” thanks to his hitting ability towards the end of a game, and that nickname may get put to the test on many occasions during this tournament.

Who are the other possible champions?

Australia:

Most final appearances (7), most wins (5) and the reigning champions. Australia have won four of the last five tournaments and have long been a force in all formats of the game. However,  in recent years, this cricketing nation has been hit with major issues. Most recently, Steve Smith, who captained the Aussies in all forms of the game, and vice-captain David Warner, both received lengthy suspensions for ball-tampering. This is basically the equivalent of when Tom Brady may or may not have reduced the air in the football’s being used when playing for the New England Patriots.

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David Warner (Via WikiCommons)

Both Warner and Smith have served their suspensions and are back in the squad, which could prove a huge factor as they both come into the tournament on the back of some great individual performances. I expect Warner to be one of the leading run scorers in the tournament, and Smith to aid current captain Aaron Finch in making the right decisions.

India:

The only country to snatch a World Cup from the Aussies when they won on home soil eight years ago. The chances of another success seems unlikely. However, any team with Virat Kohli in their ranks, has a chance. He is a messiah in the world of cricket. He is Ronaldo and Messi combined when it comes to hitting a ball with a bat. Backed up by the enigmatic MS Dhoni, India always have a chance. Unfortunately for Indian fans, this team are definitely much better in the kind of conditions expected in the sub-continent. England and Wales don’t really fit that bill. Nonetheless, you can never count them out.

Pepsi IPL 2015 - M37 CSK v RCB
Virat Kohli (left) and MS Dhoni facing off for their franchises during the 2015 IPL season. (Via WikiCommons)

New Zealand:

Now this is a fantastic team, built with a great foundation and the ability to destroy opposition batting line-ups. Every other nation is definitely better at batting than bowling. Same can’t be said about the Kiwis. New Zealand have named six specialist bowlers. Four of those are world class, two are good. Their opening bowlers Trent Boult – who I think will be the top wicket-taker in the tournament – and Tim Southee have on many occasions ripped through the batting line-up of the opposition.

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Trent Boult (Via WikiCommons)

Don’t get me wrong, they have decent batsman who can score big, too. The likes of captain Kane Williamson, opener Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro can all go big, but relying on them to consistently score heavy is not a smart move.

Other players to watch (Not included in the aforementioned nations):

Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn (South Africa): The pair have been the linchpin for the Proteas bowling attack. Two stars for a team that lacks the quality of previous generations.

Chris Gayle (West Indies): The phrase “fetch that” is perfect for this man. Chris Gayle has one of the heaviest bats in the game, and when he swings his wood, balls go flying.

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Watching Rashid Khan bowl is a joy. He is a spin bowler with the ability to spin the ball both ways, and that makes for some exciting viewing. I am a huge fan!

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh): Tamim has had to change his batting in recent years as his team relies on him to bat deep into the innings. Yet, he is still an exciting batsman who likes to smash the bowlers around.

On their day, any one of the teams could go a long way and essentially win the tournament. No matter what happens, an exciting five weeks awaits; full of runs, wickets and drama, as long as the British summer allows for it.

UFC 229: The Aftermath

I wish I could be waxing lyrical about the fight, writing about an incredible performance by Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov, and talking about how no one has ever dominated Conor “The Notorious” McGregor in such a way. (And no one ever will again, unless there’s a rematch … which is very likely in a sport where money talks as much as Conor does. Unlikely to be in Las Vegas, but I’m sure New York will jump at the opportunity of hosting.)

The funny part of it all is that I didn’t even get to see the fight – or the aftermath – until nine hours later. My partner and I went on a day trip to the neighbouring city of Tianjin, in China. I managed to avoid the result by doing the impossible: avoiding all social media, and then getting my aforementioned partner to find the highlights on YouTube. She kindly obliged, and I got to witness everything without any knowledge of what was about to happen.

The Fight

Khabib absolutely dominated the fight from the start. Very early on, he was able to exert his will over Conor. In rounds 1 and 2, Conor was unable to resist the take down attempts and found himself trapped under the Russian. Round 2 was especially brutal for the Irishman, as he took some hefty blows to the body and face. The most telling blow, though, came from the right fist of Khabib as he went toe-to-toe with Conor. It showed he was capable of beating McGregor in every way possible.

Round 3: Conor actually managed to defend against Khabib’s take-down attempts on a couple of occasions. The Irishman also landed a few hefty blows of his own in what was the most even round of the fight, so far. That “glass chin” that Khabib supposedly had was standing firmer than a bulletproof windshield, though. This windshield fired back, and fired back with menace.

Round 4: After a minute of circling and baby jabs, Conor was on his back, thanks to a bear hug and leg sweep from Khabib. Within seconds, the Irishman was on his side. Then he gave up his back to Khabib. People with any knowledge of UFC know that once you are in that position, you are seconds away from defeat. Khabib had Conor’s neck locked in tightly and started to choke him.

As predicted, Conor had to do what he loves to do best …

 

So, what actually happened?

The fight ended. Khabib won by submission. 27th win. And then the cries of, “NO KHABIB! What are you doing??? NO!!”

It was too late. Khabib had brushed aside one of the security personnel, jumped out of the cage and into Conor’s team. His target: Dillon Danis. That was the cue for the rest of Khabib’s team to attack Conor.

See for yourselves …

In the famous words of Ron Burgundy:

I agree, Ron. That did escalate quickly.

As a good friend of mine, Ramaize, who traveled over from England, explained, “It genuinely didn’t feel safe, mini riots were breaking out everywhere and a lot of it stemmed from the fact that the Irish fans were super upset at Conor losing.”

Ramaize then went on to say: “They (McGregor fans) threw things at Khabib as he walked back through the tunnel. I literally exited the building as soon as they announced the winner because of the backlash.”

Who is to blame?

Easy answer: Khabib.

Honest answer: The UFC.

There comes a point when the governing body, Dana White (the general manager of the UFC) in particular, should have stepped in and had a word with Conor. In his post-match press conference, Dana White described the event as “not sport.”

I completely agree!

But I am not just referring to the brawl.

I dare anyone to go into their workplace and say the kinds of things that Conor has said to Khabib. Bringing up another man’s family, nation and religion are not necessary in any situation. These topics should never be used to attack another human being. Yet, Dana White can be seen laughing at the comments on many occasions, when instead he should have been putting a stop to it.

What happens now?

Unfortunately, the sports commissioner for the State of Nevada was among the people to leave the venue when everything kicked off. As a result, Khabib will undoubtedly face the risk of a lengthy ban, which could result in him having to give up the belts that he currently holds. Furthermore, Khabib faces the potential of losing his visa and having to leave his base in California. He is at risk of losing his purse for the fight – he may receive no money at all. After all, his post-match actions did almost lead to a full-arena brawl.

You know it’s bad when Mike Tyson comes out declaring, “(It was) crazier than my fight riot!”

As for Conor McGregor: He was interviewed after the fight, and then cleared by the authorities of any wrongdoing. He was then given his money for the fight and went on his merry way. Albeit, he was greatly humbled, and (hopefully) Conor left with a better understanding of where to draw the line with his insults.

As for the three men who attacked Conor McGregor: They were arrested and then later released after Conor opted not to press charges. Very noble of him. I’m not sure I would have done the same, but then again, I wouldn’t have done any of the things that Conor did in the first place.

Whatever way you look at it, the lasting memories from the fight will be the demolition of Conor McGregor, a dominant win by Khabib Nurmagomedov, and the collective outcry of, “No Khabib, what are you doing? No!”


For those of you interested in a closer look at what happened, here’s a first-hand account from my aforementioned friend, Ramaize:

Ramaize’s full account of the night, in his own words:

  • It was a great fight, Khabib obviously answered all the critics…his chin, his striking and his ability to deal with the spotlight. Was impressed with Conor’s ability to defend a couple takedowns, but overall Khabib enforced his gamelan and made Conor quit. 
  • It genuinely didn’t feel safe, mini riots were breaking out everywhere and a lot of it stemmed from the fact that the Irish fans were super upset at Conor losing. They threw things at Khabib as he walked back through the tunnel. I literally exited the building as soon as they announced the winner because of the backlash. 
  • As a massive Khabib fan, it was great to see him living up to what he said he was going to do, but he shouldn’t have jumped over the cage (even though Dillon Danis was shouting things at him). They should’ve embraced each other and buried the rivalry.
  • Also Conor with the bus, the Bellator incident where he assaulted a refereee…all is forgiven because it’s Conor and now they’re saying Khabib could face all types of consequences due to his behaviour.

UFC 229: Khabib vs Conor

It’s no surprise, on a night out, to see the occasional bunch of men firing off empty threats, trying to intimidate one another. Sometimes, it ends up in some minor handbags. And then, somehow, these “tough” men are separated by a bunch of their tiny friends, or even a girlfriend who is minuscule in comparison.

Well, that’s how it usually goes, unless you are a trained killing machine.

Welcome to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

This weekend, Saturday 6th October, sees the much-anticipated fight between Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov, and Conor “The Notorious” McGregor. Unless you’re a fight fan, I highly doubt you have heard of the prior. But the latter is a celebrity in his own right, (if a very annoying one).

But before we go into too much detail, let’s have a look at the fighters.

Khabib Nurmagomedov (at left)

  • Russian
  • 5 ft 10 in
  • 26 fights
  • 26 wins (8 by knockout, 8 by submission)

Conor McGregor (at right)

  • Irish
  • 5 ft 9 in
  • 24 fights
  • 21 wins (18 by knockout, 1 by submission)

So, why is this fight so special?

Well, both of these men are incredible fighters. Khabib is a master at getting his opponents into difficult positions, and pushing them to the brink of a bone break, leaving them no alternative other than to tap out. Conor, on the other hand, is more of a stand-up fighter who prefers to use powerful strikes from distance.

This will be Conor’s first fight in two years, ever since he knocked out Eddie Alvarez in New York. In those two years, he did manage to convince Floyd “Money” Mayweather to come out of retirement for a boxing match. (A match that was designed to line both these money-grabbing so-and-so’s pockets.) They were successful in doing that. The result was an expected 50th win for Floyd, lots of champagne for all involved, and a pair of athletes who were much better off by the end of the night.

As he puts it, “When I hit you, you stay hit.”

Even though this fight will not be able to generate the same amount of revenue, it is expected to break the record for a UFC fight, beating the previous record set at UFC 202 – Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor rematch.

Having said all of that, Khabib vs Conor isn’t all about the money. It’s more about a pure hatred they seem to have for one another. Conor has outright insulted Khabib in every way possible, even targeting his father (who is also his manager) by labelling him a terrorist and snitch. Conor’s also talked about Khabib’s “glass” chin, how Khabib always fails to make weight – he even offered the Russian, a devout Muslim, some of his own brand of whiskey.

They clearly don’t hide their disdain for each other.

This is all normal behaviour for The Notorious, but he did take it a step too far by attacking Khabib’s team bus after a UFC event.

This wasn’t the only time Conor’s bad behavior went too far …

Recently, while watching a teammate compete, he tried to jump into the cage on a couple of occasions, which ended up with the referee intervening. Obviously Conor, the guy who does what he wants, wasn’t happy about it.

Yet, somehow, he has avoided prison.

Why behave like an idiot?

Well, this post is a great example of why! Conor wants to remain relevant. The guy loves himself and wants everything to be about him. He knows that people will continue to talk about him while he does outrageous things, whether it be attacking a referee or referring to Vladimir Putin as a “friend and one of the greatest leaders of our time.” (Yeah, sure he is Conor! Seems like someone landed a hook to his own head.)

In contrast, Khabib doesn’t like to be in the limelight as much. He does most of his talking in the ring, and so far no one has been able to shut him up. He currently holds the longest unbeaten streak in all of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) with 26 wins. His wrestling and grappling skills are the best of any fighter I have seen. When you combine that with his relentlessness, you can begin to understand why he is deemed unbeatable.

So what will happen in the fight?

Khabib will go into it as favourite, partly because Conor has been out of The Octagon – the name of the ring as it is an octagon shape – for two years. He is also the more resilient fighter and able to slug it out for the full five rounds if needed. In doing so, he needs to make sure that he doesn’t allow too many strikes to his weak knees. But Conor is incredible. He has lethal punches that are too much for any fighter to handle, and accurate kicks that can end any fight in an instant. That said, the last time Conor fought a grappler was in 2015, and Chad Mendes threw him around like a rag doll, before eventually losing to The Notorious one.

Khabib will go for the take-down and Conor will try to outbox his opponent. It’s as simple as that. If the fight goes to the floor, which I am expecting to happen, it won’t last very long.

Either way, it will be an intriguing fight ,and as always Conor “The Notorious” McGregor will come out of it bragging about his pay-check more that what happened in the fight.  After all, he will still be the biggest star in the UFC no matter the result. Whereas a defeat from the fists of Conor will turn Khabib into a nobody. Just like it did to Eddie … what was his name again?