Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The groundhogs agree!Long Island’s pair of weather-predicting woodchucks did not see their shadows Tuesday, meaning Holtsville Hal and Malverne Mel each forecast an early spring on Groundhog Day, according to local lore.This year, Hal and Mel also made the same prognostication as New York City’s Staten Island Chuck, Connecticut’s Chuckles and the most famous groundhog of all, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil.“Is this current warm weather more than a trend?” Phil’s handlers, dubbed the Inner Circle, told the crowd. “Per chance this winter has come to an end? There is no shadow to be cast, An early Spring is my forecast!”The news came as little surprise amid the warmer-than-usual winter. LI’s first major snow storm arrived just last week, which meteorologists have said was later than usual.Hal—who was ominously snowed in last year—and Mel agreed in 2015, when they both saw their shadows, predicting six more weeks of winter, which was also Phil’s forecast. LI’s groundhogs were last in disagreement in 2014.Not all of the groundhogs in the tri-state area concurred this year. Dunkirk Dave, in an upstate city south of Buffalo, saw his shadow. So did New Jersey’s two groundhogs, Milltown Mel and Essex Ed. The Garden State’s third groundhog, Jackson, died several days ago.
Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearWhile he hasn’t faced a ton of familiar names, “Tank” has finished inside the distance in nine of his 10 appearances, showing no real preference between strikes (four) and submissions (five). Plus, he has tremendous size for the division and only turns 24 in February, so there is still a ton of time for Shore to continue gaining experience and improving.He’s a perfect 22-0 inside the cage, having gone 12-0 as an amateur before turning pro, so clearly, Shore isn’t just some upstart on a little hot streak. He’s a legitimate talent with serious upside and someone all fight fans should be paying attention to from here on out. Watching the featherweight champion successfully retain his title Saturday night in Toronto in a blistering performance against the previously-unbeaten — and favored — Brian Ortega, it became clear that the UFC’s search for the next superstar champion to build around has ended and should have ended a year ago.Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearPrior to his rematch with Jose Aldo last year in Detroit, I questioned why Holloway wasn’t getting the same “future superstar treatment” that had been afforded to Cody Garbrandt in advance of his title defense against TJ Dillashaw a month earlier. A year later, the miscalculation feels even more pronounced, as Garbrandt has subsequently dropped a second consecutive fight to Dillashaw and Holloway has cemented his status as one of the best fighters on the planet.Although this year has been a trying one for the Hawaiian champion, his performance on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena extended his winning streak to a baker’s dozen and put any concerns about his health to bed by taking the best Ortega had to offer and firing back with two-, three- and four-punch combinations.He spent the entire fight talking to the challenger and playing to the crowd before calling his shot at the start of the fourth round and forcing the fight to be stopped before the final round could begin. Along the way, he set a record for the most significant strikes landed in a single fight and made a dangerous, undefeated Ortega look like he had no business being in the Octagon with him at times.Holloway is an all-time talent who remains more interested in facing the toughest challenges possible and proving himself rather than cherry-picking names and transitioning into the whiskey business.He’s an electric competitor inside the cage, charming outside of the cage and universally respected by his contemporaries and the hardcore fan base… and he just turned 27 a couple days ago.Holloway once again showed on Saturday night that when it matters most, he’s everything you could possibly want in a cornerstone talent. He wasn’t preordained as a potential superstar — he turned himself into one through hard work, tough fights, and an unwavering belief in his skills — and just because he doesn’t have grown men living their lives as Max Holloway cosplayers doesn’t mean the dominant, entertaining featherweight champion doesn’t deserve the superstar treatment from fans, media and the promotion going forward.Regardless of how many units UFC 231 wound up moving or how few casual fans know his name, Holloway has proven himself to be a superstar inside the Octagon and if you’re not all-in on the Hawaiian standout at this point, you’re really missing out.Speaking of fighters who have earned greater acclaim and recognition…How good is Valentina Shevchenko?Saturday night, “Bullet” dominated Joanna Jedrzejczyk to claim the vacant flyweight title, outworking the Polish superstar from the outset to finally bring her yearlong pursuit of UFC gold to a close. After mauling an overmatched Priscila Cachoeira in her divisional debut, the Kyrgyzstani standout showcased her fluid technique and fully-stocked arsenal of skills to capture the belt, getting the better of Jedrzejczyk in every frame, despite what that commentary team might have led you to believe.The 30-year-old is now 5-2 in the UFC with victories over two former champions, the current Invicta FC bantamweight champ and a top contender who had been on a nice run of success. Both of her setbacks came against reigning bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes — the first in a three-round fight where Shevchenko was rallying back in the final frame and the second in a five-round championship affair that could have gone either way.Though she throws beautiful spinning kicks, there isn’t anything particularly flashy about Shevchenko’s game. She’s a tactician and a life-long martial artist who travels the world training, shooting guns and detailing her adventures on Instagram. While English isn’t her first language, her trash talk game is subtle and smooth.The UFC has struggled to promote women who aren’t Ronda Rousey or Paige VanZant, but like Holloway, Shevchenko’s accomplishments and abilities in the cage should be leveraged as a major selling point going forward. She’s a phenomenal talent with the potential to reign over the flyweight division for an extended period of time and unfinished business with Nunes as bantamweight.While Jedrzejczyk envisioned establishing herself as the greatest fighter of all-time on the women’s side of the sport at UFC 231, it turned into an opportunity for Shevchenko to take another step towards that same destination instead.Stop trying to mess with divisionsLast week, Dana White took yet another shot at welterweight champ Tyron Woodley, suggesting “The Chosen One” is never available to defend his title and that he was considering an interim title fight between Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman.It was an odd statement given that Woodley successfully defend the belt in September and has been one of the most active champions in the organization since ascending to the welterweight throne at UFC 201 and that Covington was just stripped on an interim title not that long ago for no real reason whatsoever.Following Saturday’s event, the UFC president stated he wanted to see Holloway move up to lightweight, saying there are a lot of interesting fights available to him in the Top 5.You know who else there are a lot of interesting matchups for in the lightweight Top 5? The actual fighters in the lightweight Top 5!One of the many things people should take away from Saturday’s epic featherweight title bout is that you don’t have to have fighters changing divisions and cobble together fights between major names in order to have something special happen inside the Octagon. Holloway and Ortega worked their way to the top of the featherweight division organically and then paired up to put on a show.Would it be cool to eventually see the Hawaiian fighting in a higher weight class and running it back with Dustin Poirier or Conor McGregor or taking on the likes of Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmagomedov?Absolutely, but there are contenders at featherweight who surely want their chance to dethrone the current champion and tenured lightweights who don’t want to get bumped out of position in the title chase in order to accommodate Holloway. The same goes for welterweight, where Woodley has proven himself as the top fighter in the division and shouldn’t get treated like a long-term holdout who never defends his belt.As I wrote last week, the UFC needs to stop trying to mix and match champions and shuffling names into and out of different divisions. Just let things progress naturally. Even if there are positive short-term returns, there is a greater negative impact in the long run and that should be the company’s chief concern.Let these divisions bend and move and shift without interference.Don’t be in such a rush to throw something random together; just make the fights that make sense, see how things shake out and go from there.Fight of the Weekend: Max Holloway def. Brian Ortega at UFC 231Thiago Santos’ win over Jimi Manuwa was sloppy fun, but there is no doubt that the best bout of the weekend was Holloway’s systematic destruction of the gutsy, game and tough-as-all-get-out Ortega in Saturday’s UFC 231 main event.This was Holloway at his punch-taking, combo-throwing, trash-talking, high-volume best and while Ortega never backed down and had some moments of his own, this was ultimately “The Blessed Show” and we were all witness. What year layoff?🏆 @BlessedMMA is going to work. #UFC231 pic.twitter.com/kWbH7uAphR— UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018 Holloway’s ability to switch stances and maintain his flow whether working from orthodox or southpaw is a piece of his brilliance that doesn’t get talked about enough.Imagine how difficult it is to prepare for him fighting out of one stance, but then he can do all the same things at the same pace with the same impact from another stance as well. He confuses you with his looks and buries you with volume, plus he’s got that Robbie Lawler thing where he takes your best shots, smiles and keeps pressing forward working for him and you know that messes with fighters when they’re in there.This was a truly masterful performance.Submission of the Weekend: Vitaly Bigdash by Submission Combo Platter at ONE: Destiny of ChampionsThe former middleweight champion got back into the win column for the first time in nearly two years by hitting a three-piece meal on Yuki Niimura near the end of the first round of their main card clash on Friday in Kuala Lumpur.Bigdash connected on an inverted triangle and armbar, with a little bit of a shoulder lock mixed in there for good measure, and after some diligent defending and trying to survive — plus a few elbows to the dome — Niimura had no choice but to tap. Vitaly Bigdasharmbar/ reverse triangle/shoulder lock (ONE) pic.twitter.com/TpwQqX7tlh— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) December 7, 2018 The 34-year-old Russian lost the middleweight strap to Aung La Nsang in June 2016 after beating him by split decision five months earlier, but a rubber match between the two has yet to come together. Perhaps now with Bigdash coming off a key win and “The Burmese Python” short on challengers, they’ll run it back for a third time in 2019.Knockout of the Weekend: Dhiego Lima def. Chad Laprise by KO (left hook) at UFC 231Walk-off knockouts are great and they’re even better when they’re of the “one shot, one kill” variety like this one. WALK OFF!On the button, @DhLimaMMA! #UFC231 pic.twitter.com/xc8kyNePbt— UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018 Laprise was controlling the action through the opening 90 seconds, pressuring Lima, landing some good shots and finding his rhythm. But the Canadian veteran dropped his hands and elevated his chin and the Georgia-based Brazilian found the mark with a no-doubt-about-it shot that required no follow-up.A two-time TUF finalist who lives in the shadow of his older brother, Bellator standout Douglas Lima, this was a job-saving win for the 29-year-old, who improved to 2-5 in the Octagon and snapped a three-fight skid overall with the victory.Prospect to Watch after this Weekend: Jack ShoreBantamweight is a division on the rise in MMA at the moment and one name to watch going forward is Jack Shore.The 23-year-old Welshman moved to 10-0 on Saturday with a third-round stoppage victory over the previously-unbeaten Mike Ekundayo to claim the Cage Warriors bantamweight title. [email protected] wins world gold for Wales! 🏴🌎#CW100 will go down in Welsh fighting history 👏 pic.twitter.com/P9xNXExc1V— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) December 9, 2018 The British promotion has been a pipeline to the major North American organizations over the years, especially for its champions, and with the 135-pound ranks gaining steam, seeing Shore get tabbed to compete in Bellator MMA or the UFC in 2019 seems like a sure thing. In fact, with both the UFC and Bellator primed to hold shows in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe next year, don’t be surprised if Shore gets scooped up sooner than later. Every week, we’ll release a new MMA mix tape entitled “The Remix” that looks back at not only the biggest stories of the last seven days, but some of the ones that aren’t getting enough attention too, with some weekly awards and a prospect to watch going forward added in for good measure.“Blessed” is bestMax Holloway is a superstar, regardless of what the pay-per-view buy rates and Fight Week traffic suggests.