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Leon Edwards Victory Highlights Intriguing UFC 286 Main Card 

Cedric Donaldson

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photo credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Over the weekend, MMA fans from around the world tuned in to watch UFC 286 play out at The O2 Arena in London. As always, the occasion’s final bout took center stage. In this case, it was a title fight and trilogy matchup between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman, which the former won by decision. Before getting to the details of the big fight though, here’s a quick look at the rest of the Main Card as well. 

Marvin Vettori defeats Roman Dolidze (Middleweight) 

This middleweight bout was expected by some to be a feisty one, given that it paired two former training partners together. It was also billed as a somewhat unpredictable fight, with Vettori taking to the octagon for the first time since September, and Dolidze coming in on a winning streak, but by no means in dominant form. There was some sense that this one could go any which way, despite the fact that Vettori was a clear betting favorite. 

As it turned out, it was a somewhat plodding fight, with Vettori –– “The Italian Dream” –– ultimately prevailing by unanimous decision. Dolidze did some damage early, but Vettori kept his composure and maintained a slight edge for the duration of the bout. 

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Jennifer Maia defeats Casey O’Neill (Flyweight) 

This flyweight fight was exciting on paper even before it got started. Casey O’Neill is one of the true up-and-comers in the women’s division, and entered UFC 286 at 9-0-0, having polished off a handful of veterans before being sidelined for most of 2022 with a torn ACL. Jennifer Maia, meanwhile, was to take on the role of the veteran hoping to interrupt O’Neill’s ascent. 

The odds favored the up-and-comer O’Neill despite the fact that it was her first bout back from injury. In the end however, it was Maia who prevailed by unanimous decision. The veteran Brazilian primarily utilized her kickboxing prowess to get the better of several frenzied exchanges. O’Neill put up a tremendous fight in the third round, but it wasn’t enough to sway the judges’ decision.   

Gunnar Nelson defeats Bryan Barberena (Welterweight

The welterweight bout between Gunnar Nelson and Bryan Barberena was perhaps the most anticlimactic of the night, though it still made for a fun watch. Nelson entered as a heavy favorite despite having become something of a part-time fighter. Sure enough however, not having fought for about a year didn’t seem to bother the Icelandic veteran. Nelson had Barberena down on the canvas early on, and earned a victory by submission moments later. 

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Justin Gaethje defeats Rafael Fiziev (Lightweight) 

This might have wound up being the most dramatic fight of the night. Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev were expected to have a tight contest, with the latter being a slight favorite heading in. True to this expectation, they seemed evenly matched throughout the early stages. Rather than being a more cautious back-and-forth (like, say, the Vettori-Dolidze bout earlier in the evening), this one was a slugfest. 

Simply put, both fighters did damage. Fiziev used his superior speed and general ferocity to gain what might have been the slightest of early edges. Gaethje withstood one barrage after another and responded in kind, however. The American then closed strong, with a thrilling flurry of offense that earned him a majority decision victory. 

Both fighters emerged from this one looking formidable moving forward. 

Leon Edwards defeats Kamaru Usman (Welterweight Title Fight) 

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Photo Credit Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

This headline title fight made for a lot of interesting analysis heading in. It was set up as the rubber match between two very capable fighters, with two factors having defined their previous meetings. The first was that Kamaru Usman had proven to be the superior fighter, essentially dominating both bouts. The second, however, was that when Edwards won the second fight with a shocking knockout kick (despite trailing to that point), he may have rattled the more veteran fighter. 

Edwards held the title coming in, but was perceived at most books as a slight (yet clear) underdog. The prevailing opinion was that if Usman could shake off the knockout and avoid the kind of late-fight complacency that might have led to it in the first place, his superior skill should make the difference. This time around however, Edwards would prove to be not just the winner, but by a slim margin, the better fighter. 

The first round belonged to the title holder, who managed to land one big punch and a few monster kicks early on. Usman held his ground, but it was something of a statement by Edwards –– as if to communicate that he hadn’t earned his split in the previous fights merely with one lucky kick. The second round, however, saw Usman coming back with a few big hits and a takedown that seemed to even up the fight. 

The third round was an even back-and-forth, with Edwards focused on landing big kicks while Usman used his fists and arms and aimed for takedowns. It was a tricky round to score, and one that didn’t provide an edge for either fighter. By the fourth round, however, it became clear that Edwards was establishing an advantage. Usman didn’t fade or fall, but the relentless kicking approach of the title holder began to take a visible toll. 

With Usman feeling the pain in the fifth, he did his best to take the fight to the canvas. Edwards proved slightly savvier, however, landing a few more punches and confirming, for the judges, which way this fight was going. In the end, he earned a 48-46, 48-46, 47-47 majority decision victory over his rival, retaining his title in the process. 

Leon Edwards emerged with his title in hand and a 2-1 advantage in the most important rivalry in his career. It was an exciting end to an excellent night of action at UFC 286. 

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs host 10th annual “Cut and Color Funds the Cure”

Robert Brumfield

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Photo Courtesy of: www.buccaneers.com

Thursday at AdventHealth Training Center saw some staff and players take part in one of the most fun yearly rituals here in Tampa, the “Cut and Color Funds the Cure” benefit. The event, held for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation (NPCF), is in it’s tenth year, and it brought out a huge group of Bucs legends.

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During the event, Buccaneers current and former players, staff, and even hall of famers have their heads or facial hair shaved or colored red by pediatric cancer patients . This year even brought out Buccaneers COO Brian Ford to take part in the festivities.

In the ten year tradition, the team has raised over $700,000 for the NPCF and created many more priceless memories. For the first time this year, the event was open to the public, with seating access and signed photos going to fans that donated at least $100 to the cause.

Current or former staff members in attendance this year were GM Jason Licht, Head Coach Todd Bowles, former coach Bruce Arians, Assistant General Managers Mike Greenberg and John Spytek, and others. Players like Mike Evans, Jamel Dean, Antoine Winfield Jr., Cade Otton, and Yaya Diaby sat while patients sheared or died their hair while the press took photos and fans interacted with staff and members of the NPCF.

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Former players notably involved this year included Rob Gronkowski (of course), Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, Barry Smith, Dave Moore, Richard “Batman” Wood, Jimmie Giles, Martin Gramatica, Michael Clayton, and Dexter Jackson.

Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford was quoted, “Every year we try to give an afternoon to some very courageous children and their families to forget about what they are up against, and you just see smiles all around.”

The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation is a non-profit based right here in Tampa. The purpose of the organization is to raise awareness and fund research to try to eliminate childhood cancer. It uses research initiatives to combat cancer early on in some cases and fund targeted treatments in collaboration with the nation’s leading hospitals. Cancer is the number one disease based cause of death to children in the U.S. and everyday, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer in this country.

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More than 95 percent of childhood cancer survivors experience significant health-related issues by age 45 due to the current treatment options, something the NPCF is trying to change. Sadly, only 4% of the billions of dollars allocated for cancer research by the federal government is specifically for treating childhood cancer.

Thanks for reading and getting your Bucs news here at Sports Club Florida! Make sure to follow us and go check out some of our other great contributors for more on your favorite Florida sports teams.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers officially add Ryan Jensen to the Retired/Reserve list, marking end of an era

Robert Brumfield

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Photo Courtesy of: www.buccaneers.com

This week marked the official end of an era for former Buccaneers Center, Ryan Jensen, though it was mostly a formality at this point. Jensen had announced his intent to retire back on February 2nd after playing nine seasons as a professional.

Jensen was the centerpiece of an offensive line that dominated for most of his tenture in the Bay. Notably, the team’s four highest scoring seasons were from 2018 to 2021 with Jensen snapping the ball. He also anchored the line for Tom Brady in Super Bowl LV.

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The Baltimore Ravens drafted Ryan Jensen in the 2013 NFL Draft with the 203rd overall pick (Sixth Round) out of Colorado State (Pueblo). Jensen played four seasons as a Raven, with 2017 being his final season after starting all 16 games and being noticed by other teams around the League. That is when Tampa Bay entered the picture.

Jensen was signed by the Buccaneers entering the 2018 campaign. He immediately became the starter and one of the most dominant centers in the NFL. Throughout his five years played in red and pewter, Jensen was the linchpin for an offensive line that led the NFL in passing yards per game (305.0), as well as second ranked overall in third down conversion rate (44.5%), yards per play (6.1), first downs per game (23.2), points scored per game (28.6), and total yards per game (400.9). His offensive lines also yielded sacks at the fifth lowest rate of any team during this span.

Sadly, in a painfully ironic twist of fate, Jensen suffered a season ending knee injury during the Buccaneers last preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens of all teams. General Manager Jason Licht announced shortly after that Jensen would miss the entirety of the season. While the February announcement makes the retirement itself merely a formality, seeing Jensen’s name officially added to the retired list marks the end of a proud era for this offensive line that powered the Greatest QB of All-Time to a Super Bowl just a few short years ago.

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Jensen finishes his career with 100 games under his belt, including 90 starts. His 5,307 snaps played between the 2017 and 2021 seasons are the most played by any player. We as fans will now wait the mandatory five years and hope that in the distant future, Jensen will be named to the Hall of Fame in Canton. He sure has earned it.

Thanks for reading and getting your Bucs news here at Sports Club Florida! Make sure to follow us and go check out some of our other great contributors for more on your favorite Florida sports teams.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

All-Pro Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. signs record breaking new deal

Robert Brumfield

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Photo Courtesy of: www.buccaneers.com

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht placed the Franchise tag on Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. almost immediately during this off-season. Winfield Jr. had been voted First Team All-Pro after a stellar season and was as much of a priority to keep on the roster as Baker Mayfield or Mike Evans were. Franchise tagging a player doesn’t necessarily guarantee an extended stay, however. Ideally, a tag is a stop-gap measure to keep the player on until a contract agreement can be reached.

Bucs Nation can breathe a collective sigh of relief now after the team and Winfield Jr. reached an agreement this week to a four-year, $84.1 million contract that makes the 25 year old the highest paid defensive back in NFL history. This marks the first time a safety has held the highest paid slot at DB, usually reserved for cornerbacks. The deal includes a $20 million signing bonus with $45 million guaranteed, keeping Winfield Jr. in Tampa Bay through 2027. When he spoke to the media after the signing, Winfield said his best football was yet to come.

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The Buccaneers in recent years have a seemingly great rapport with their players when contract time comes up, due alot in part with the excellent management of Jason Licht and his staff. Twice in the past three years a franchise tagged player has signed a long-term extension with the Buccaneers, with the most recent example being in 2022 with wide receiver Chris Godwin.

Winfield Jr. was selected with the 45th overall pick during the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. After winning a Super Bowl during his standout rookie season, his play has continually improved and the statistics back it up.

In 2023, Winfield Jr. set new personal season records in tackles (122), sacks (6), forced fumbles (6), fumble recoveries (4), AND interceptions (3). Social media absolutely caught fire when Winfield was initially not chosen for the Pro Bowl, yet that was ultimately overshadowed by his First Team All-Pro selection, which is the gold standard of NFL personal season achievements. As he begins his fifth season as the star safety for the defending NFC South Champion Bucs, look for plenty of highlights from #31 in 2024.

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Thanks for getting your Buccaneers news here at Sports Club Florida! Make sure to go check out some of our other great contributors for more on your favorite Florida sports teams.

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