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UFC Knows How To Bring In Casual Fan, Evan Beats Rampage In Unanimous Decision

When UFC has a big fight on its hands, there is nothing quite like it. The MMA organization knows how to promote an event and bring in the casual fan ... which is exactly what I am. What they do best is make you care about a fight in a matter of minutes, and they did it perfectly again tonight. So, they got me hooked again. And the main event Saturday night did not disappoint.

Rashad Evans defeated Rampage Jackson, the fan favorite, in a unanimous decision. I had the fight two rounds to one in favor of Evans, with Rampage winning the final round in desperation mode. Rampage lost confidence early when Evans nailed him early in the first and didn't recover until the final seconds in Round 1, when he connected on a flurry of blows. But Evans easily had the round. The second round didn't have much action, but Evans was the aggressor and took the round. In Round 3, needing a knockout to win, Rampage did have one big moment, knocking Evans to the ground and taking position on top. But Evans survived and turned the tide at the end of the round, bringing Rampage to the ground twice.

I know a lot is made of the MMA vs. boxing argument, but to me it isn't even close. MMA is on a whole other level than boxing, so the argument shouldn't even be made. Boxing used to have the buzz that MMA has now, way back in the Mike Tyson days. Since then, boxing has been a joke. MMA has taken the fighting mantel and has run with it. Anyone still holding the flame for boxing needs to put that out quickly because it's all MMA now and in the foreseeable future.

Former Bristol Central And UConn Star D.J. Hernandez Named Southington High Football Coach

Bristol's D.J. Hernandez was named the new head football coach at Southington High School today. He replaces former coach Bill Mella, who left for a position at Wesleyan University. Hernandez was a standout athlete at Bristol Central High School and was captain of the UConn football team. He played quarterback before switching to wide receiver for the Huskies. He was an assistant coach last year with the Blue Knights. He is also a head coach and player for a professional football team in Austria.

"D.J. exemplifies the qualities of character, leadership and has focus and direction to take on this role as head football coach at Southington High School," the school said in a release.

The school also said that Hernandez will serve as an intern in the Guidance Department to complete his masters degree program.

Hernandez will officially be introduced at a telepress conference Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Southington High School athletic office.

(Mike Orazzi photo)

Bristol's Aaron Hernandez Switches Number From 46 To 85 With Patriots

Hopefully no one in Bristol picked up an original Aaron Hernandez Patriots jersey. Hernandez, the rookie tight end and Bristol native, has already made a switch in his young NFL career. The fourth-round draft pick will wear No. 85 this season, switching from his original No. 46.

Hernandez, as everyone here knows, wore No. 81 at Florida. But that number is worn by Randy Moss. Jersey No. 85 became available for Hernandez when tight end Robbie Agnone was released.

New Britain's Thibodeau Jumps To Top Of List To Coach NBA's Hornets

New Britain native and current Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau is about to take the ultimate step in his coaching career. The Associated Press is reporting Monday night that the New Orleans Hornets are working on a contract with Thibodeau that will make him the team's next head coach. The former Hurricane was one of eight candidates interviewed for the job, joining Portland assistant Monty Williams, former Dallas coach Avery Johnson, Dallas assistant Dwane Casey, former NBA coach and current television analyst Mike Fratello, former Nets coach Lawrence Frank, former Knicks star Mark Jackson and Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin.

Thibodeau is known as a defensive strategist, something the Hornets desperately need. New Orleans was horrible on defense this season, allowing over 102 points per game.

The New Britain native has been an assistant coach in the NBA for almost 20 years. He started as an assistant with Minnesota in 1989, worked as an advance scout with the Seattle SuperSonics, then worked as an assistant coach with the Spurs, 76ers, Knicks, Rockets and the Celtics.

With Thibodeau's stock rising by the second, he could end up with his choice of jobs. Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, New Jersey and the Los Angeles Clippers are looking for a new head coach.

Also, reports have the Chicago Bulls reaching out to Phil Jackson to return as head coach, so the Lakers could turn out to be an option as well.

Picking New York For 2014 Super Bowl Is A No-Brainer For True Fans

Getting back into the swing of things on the blog hasn't been so easy following my vacation, but hopefully we'll turn over a new leaf here at GameDay, starting today. (Sorry for all the cliches, but that's what happens when you, more or less, take a couple weeks off from the blog.) So, here we go.

History can and probably will be made tomorrow if New York is awarded the 2014 Super Bowl in a vote by NFL owners. It looks like New York has the votes, so it could be a formality. The positive about the choice would be to hold the biggest sporting event in the world on the world's biggest stage and, obviously, the brand new stadium the Jets and Giants will share next year gets its ultimate moment. The bad would be the potentially cold weather that could include snow.

And it turns out that critics are focusing on that one bad point in trying to shoot down the idea, which is the easy way out.

Me, I want New York to get the Super Bowl. And it's for the same reason why I wanted the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium. Everything is bigger in New York. And I'm sorry if that's the New Yorker in me coming out, but too bad, it's the truth.

To the critics, I say get a new strategy. You are worried about the fans watching the game in the stadium. Guess what, I'm one of those fans that has braved the cold weather, snow and rain and sleet, and have made it out alive. I just recently was at the Jets-Bengals season finale that was played in freezing conditions at night and guess what, I loved every minute of it. Why, because it was a football game played with huge playoff implications. And nothing has bigger implications than the Super Bowl.

So, the ones these critics are worried about isn't you and me, it's these pseudo celebrities and advertisers and executives who want to chill in the Florida sun and could care less who wins the game.

And I'm supposed to care about what they think? You're supposed to care about these people? Are you kidding me?

First, people at home watching on television could care less if the conditions were freezing or even snowing. In fact, a Super Bowl played in the snow would be awesome visually. So, we all know what this is about. The owners choosing New York automatically weeds out the non-football fans. If there was any reason to choose New York, that would be it. Return the game to the fans, and choosing New York does that.

Sorry Florida ... you and the Tampa Tribune, which ran this headline yesterday, "Super Bowl race appears to be rigged for N.Y," you lose.

Catholics Vs. Convicts Could Be Back

For anyone who watched the 30 for 30 ESPN movie on Miami Hurricanes football will love this news. Miami and Notre Dame are close to working out a deal to continue a college football rivalry that was known as the Catholics vs. the Convicts in the 1980s. I think you can figure out which is which.

Several outlets are reporting that the two teams will play at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2012, and then play two more home and home games, in 2014 and 2015. "It's a game that would be great for both universities," a person familiar with the talks told the Associated Press. "Everyone involved wants it to happen."

CCSU RB Mallory Not Among Five Players Signed By Buccaneers

It looks like CCSU running back James Mallory will have to make his professional football dream a reality with another NFL team. Mallory was not among the five players on tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that were signed to rookie free agent contracts at the end of mini-camp Monday.

The Bucs signed Georgia Southern cornerback Darrell Pasco, Nebraska wide receiver Chris Brooks, Texas A&M guard Lee Grimes, Rutgers defensive end George Johnson and Clemson fullback Rendrick Taylor. It's not over for Mallory, but he will need to put in major work now to get looked at by another team.

Yankees Will Skip Javier Vazquez's Next Start, Hughes Goes Instead

The Yankees will not pitch struggling starter Javier Vazquez in Boston Friday, as we originally thought here at GameDay. Phil Hughes instead will be on the mound at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. Manager Joe Girardi told Vazquez today that he will pitch next Monday against the Chicago White Sox.

"He wants to get back out there and pitch, and that's how I would expect him to be," Girardi said. "I just thought he could use a little time to catch his breath."

As has been well documented, Vazquez has struggled mightily in his second tour with the Yankees, as he holds a 1-3 record and an 9.78 ERA. That was enough for Girardi to skip pitching Vazquez in the high-pressure situation that comes with Yankees-Red Sox games. Only time will tell if the moves works or backfires on the Yankees.

(AP photo)

First Photos Of Bristol's Aaron Hernandez In Patriots Camp

Here are the first photos of Patriots tight end and Bristol native Aaron Hernandez. The fourth-round draft pick took part in the team's mini-camp this past weekend. In the bottom photo, Hernandez receives some instruction from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. (Photos sent to us by the New England Patriots)

Hofstra Basketball Coach Tim Welsh Resigns After Drunk Driving Arrest

Hofstra men's basketball coach Tim Welsh resigned today, the university said. The resignation comes three days after Welsh was arrested and charged with drunken driving on Long Island.

"The university accepted the resignation in the best interests of the university and of the men's basketball program," Hofstra said in a statement.

It's just another embarrassment for a school and athletic department that has become a complete joke.

Javier Vazquez Takes Another Turn For The Worse, Yankees Could Skip His Next Start Against Red Sox

I wrote last week that the time was getting very close for the Yankees to admit they made a mistake in acquiring Javier Vazquez and start looking for a trade partner to stop the bleeding before it gets any worse. A week later, Saturday, Vazquez was back on the mound against the Chicago White Sox and I actually believed he would pitch well. I even thought he would be stellar in front of the home fans at Yankee Stadium. In fact, to take it one step further, I signed him off the free agency wire in the Herald Press fantasy baseball league and confidently put him in the starting lineup today.

Well, I was wrong. Things got much worse on Saturday. Vazquez was roughed up again, allowing five runs in just three innings. He didn't factor in the decision, but the Yankees lost the game. He now has a 1-3 record and an ERA of 9.78 in five starts.

After the game, the rumblings began that Yankees manager Joe Girardi may skip Vazquez's next start in the rotation. With an off day on Thursday, the Yankees could skip Vazquez and start Phil Hughes Friday instead on normal rest against the Red Sox. When Girardi was asked if Vazquez would make his next start at Fenway Park he said, "That's not a concern of mine right now. My thought process is how we get through tomorrow first.'

If there was no question as to whether or not Vazquez would start the game, Girardi would have simply said yes and the story would be over. But the door was left open, which means Vazquez could very well be skipped. If that happens, who knows how Vazquez will respond mentally. It could ruin him once and for all in the Bronx. The break could also give him an opportunity to clear his head and come back with a new approach, both mentally and physically.

Where the Yankees and Vazquez go from here is anybody's guess, but things took another turn for the worse on Saturday.

(AP photo)

Bristol's Aaron Hernandez Again Doesn't Meet With Media

For the second straight day, Patriots tight end and Bristol native Aaron Hernandez did not meet with the media following the team's first practice Saturday. Hernandez is the only player not to meet with the press.

I don't think it's a secret as to why Hernandez is skipping out on talking, as he would have to answer questions about his drug use. Hernandez did get one-on-one coaching from Bill Belichick, who worked with the tight end on his route-running.

Hernandez, Reed, Ware All Take Field For First Time As NFL Players

Three area players made their professional football debuts Friday. Aaron Hernandez (Bristol) practiced with the Patriots, David Reed (New Britain) with the Ravens and Sean Ware (Bristol) with the Panthers. All three players will continue their respective rookie mini-camps this weekend. Here's a quick update on the group.

Hernandez took part in two mini-camp practices with the Pats, both of which were closed to the public. The tight end was one of three players who weren't made available to the media. Obviously, Bill Belichick is protecting his rookie from what could be a media frenzy, as Hernandez would have to deal with a bevy of marijuana questions. He is wearing uniform No. 46. On a side, TE Ron Gronkowski, who was taken in the second round, looked good in practice, say those who were there. Hernandez will be fighting with Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler for playing time this season.

Reed, the newest Ravens wide receiver, has a shot to be the team's No. 3 pass catcher this season. The starting two are set in stone - Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason - but the two players ahead of Reed, Donte' Stallworth and Mark Clayton, can easily be jumped on the depth chart. Reed is wearing No. 16.

Ware, an undrafted free agent linebacker, is taking part in the Panthers rookie mini-camp. He is wearing No. 49. Everything in Charlotte this weekend is revolving around quarterback Jimmy Clausen, but hopefully we'll get some Ware news as the camp goes on. Ware is going to have to impress the coaching staff a great deal if he wants to gain a roster spot with the Panthers. He has more to prove than Hernandez and Reed, who were both drafted.

Check back throughout the weekend for the latest news on Hernandez, Reed and Ware.

(AP photo of Ware)