Euro 2020: England loses to Italy, but it’s memes and jokes for the win

It’s not coming home, it’s going to Rome, as you can see on little Prince George’s face.

But instead of coming home, the win is coming to Rome, as Italian fans were quick to note on social media. Even Italian player Leonardo Bonucci got in the “coming to Rome” taunt.

The loss means England will continue on for at least awhile in its pop-culture role as an eternal underdog, one of the globe’s most cursed programs, apparently. And don’t think non-fans didn’t remind them.

“Honestly the best part of Italy’s win was that shot of the royal family looking sad,” tweeted Kristin Chirico.

Two Italian fans caught viewers’ eyes with their costumes–she’s dressed as a slice of pizza, while he’s SuperMario. They were probably happy after the penalty kicks, but the cameras caught them in an uncertain moment many people rushed to caption and joke about.

“You’re still going to dress as a pizza, right?” joked one Twitter user. “What do you mean? We talked about this weeks ago!”

Said another, “Italy’s had all the momentum since they showed Pizza Girl and Super Mario Boyfriend.”

Many viewers were entertained by young Prince George’s reactions, mainly to England’s goal and then later to the team’s loss. The future king of England, who’s just 7 now, might want to get used to disappointing England matches.

“Prince George is perhaps every England football fan right now – from sheer ecstasy of Luke Shaw goal to heartbreak of watching Rashford, Sancho and Saka miss penalties!” wrote one Twitter user. “Football will come home, not today but someday! Congratulations Italy.”

For England fans — well, there’s always the next World Cup, which will be held in Qatar in the fall of 2022 to avoid the intense heat of the Middle Eastern country.

Before the billionaires and oligarchs, the unlikely story of football’s first foreign owner

Way before international money flooded in, the first American owner in English soccer came to the rescue of a dying club.

Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

This international spending spree started when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003, but the largely forgotten first step toward today’s globalized era occurred way back in 1984. Football clubs were traditionally owned by local businessmen until California lawyer Bruce Osterman bought Tranmere Rovers, a proud but impoverished team in the unemployment-lashed north of England. It was the beginning of a new era — but you wouldn’t have known it at the time.

“The game as a whole was at its nadir,” remembers Mark Palios, a former footballer turned businessman who played for Tranmere in those dark days of the 1980s. “Gates were low, there was hooliganism, there was a complete lack of investment. It was a sick industry.”

What followed is more than a quirky footnote in sporting history — it’s a story of conflict between passion and business that any fan of any team in any country will recognize. Palios played an unexpected secret role in the ensuing drama, only to face a horribly familiar crisis threatening the club three decades later.

Mark Palios played for Tranmere in the 1970s and 1980s, taking an unexpected role in the drama behind the scenes — before returning to the club 30 years later.

Former Tranmere player Ken Bracewell was coaching a professional team in San Francisco in the early 1980s when he was approached by attorney and keen amateur goalkeeper Bruce Osterman. The glamour had faded from The National American Soccer League’s 1970s heyday, so Bracewell was surprised when Osterman wanted more than a chat about soccer teams — he wanted to buy one.

Why would a Californian lawyer want to invest in an impoverished sports team on the far side of the Atlantic?

“I was young and it seemed like a good idea,” says Osterman, now in his late 70s. “I had some extra money as I’d done well in my law practice,” he remembers in his unhurried California drawl over the phone from his home near San Francisco. “Tranmere was in real trouble so it was a number to purchase the team that I could afford.”

Tranmere chairman Bruce Osterman filmed at Prenton Park for a TV documentary.

Tranmere’s stadium Prenton Park is only a brief ferry ride away from footballing titans Liverpool and Everton, but in 1984 it might as well have been on a different planet. Barely clinging to professional status at the wrong end of the English leagues, with no money and plummeting attendances, Tranmere had special permission to hold matches on Friday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons so locals wouldn’t disappear to watch the team’s more glamorous neighbors.

“Tranmere will never compete with Liverpool and Everton,” one of the club’s managers later said. “They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere as a deadly submarine.”

In 1984 Tranmere was about to emulate a submarine in the worst possible way: by going under.

Osterman took advantage of the strife and a disastrously weak pound to buy the club, installing Ken Bracewell in charge. “I relied on Kenny for the day-to-day things,” Osterman recalls, “because frankly what the hell did I know?”

Bruce Osterman (crouching third from left, wearing glasses), lines up with a team of sports journalists playing a friendly at Prenton Park in August 1986. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the chap on the far left: popular TV and radio pundit Ray Stubbs, who played and worked at Tranmere.

Today’s game is full of players, managers and owners from other countries. In the 1980s it was more insular. English clubs were banned from European competition throughout the second half of the 1980s, foreign players like Tottenham’s Argentine duo Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were still a novelty, and there wouldn’t be a foreign manager until Jozef Vengloš arrived from Czechoslovakia to join Aston Villa in 1990.

Having staved off the club’s short-term woes, Bruce Osterman showed up at Tranmere for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. There was occasionally a language barrier with the distinctive Merseyside accent. “I used to go to sportsman’s dinners for people who had shares in the club, and I was usually the brunt of the after-dinner comedian,” Osterman remembers. “I know he was speaking English but I couldn’t understand a word!” Osterman’s family came too, although his wife found herself excluded from men-only areas such as the boardroom and team coach. “She tolerated my doing this, but it wasn’t a pleasant time for her,” Osterman admits.

Journalists were delighted by the sight of the bespectacled 43-year-old chairman diving around in the training field mud, while players mischievously blasted balls at him. This was all highly unusual, but still — Tranmere were saved.

In the days before television revenue, a lesser club’s main income was ticket sales. Larger-than-life characters attracted paying fans through the turnstiles, so Osterman made the unexpected choice to appoint Frank Worthington as the team’s player-manager.

Worthington, who died in March 2021, had two decades of experience on the field but had never managed a team. The mulleted Elvis fan was certainly an entertainer, a prodigious goalscorer and even more prodigious playboy. His autobiography, suggestively titled “One Hump Or Two,” lists more nightclubs than football clubs. Worthington joked that when he took charge at Tranmere the players thought they’d be in trouble if they got home before 2 a.m.

Larger-than-life character Frank Worthington playing for England.

In his first game before the Prenton Park faithful the dashing player-manager bagged three goals in a 6-2 victory, and he ended up scoring 20 that season. He also made shrewd use of Osterman’s limited budget — one of Worthington’s acquisitions, Ian Muir, remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer. But defence was poor and Tranmere couldn’t afford new blood.

“We didn’t have the players or the money,” Osterman admits. “I had no idea of the difficulty of handling a team even in the fourth division.”

One player understood the economics of Osterman’s situation more than most. Tenacious midfielder Mark Palios was a local lad in his second stint at Tranmere when Osterman arrived. Unlike most footballers, who typically spend their time between matches wasting money, Palios worked a unique parallel career managing money as he trained to be an accountant.

Mark Palios playing for Tranmere the night they beat Arsenal in 1973.

One day Tranmere’s directors walked into Palios’ office looking for advice. They wanted to push Osterman out. The surprised player found himself in the awkward situation of offering advice on the club’s financial future mere hours before pulling on his team shirt and running onto the pitch.

Tranmere’s cash flow crisis came to a head when the well-intentioned but overstretched Osterman tried to sell Prenton Park to make way for a supermarket. Fans, directors and local authorities turned against him.

The American dream had soured.

Thirty years later, in 2015, history repeated for Tranmere Rovers — and for Mark Palios. The club was again in dire straits on and off the field. And just like in the 1980s, a new owner stepped in. But this time, it was Palios who bought the club.

After combining his playing days with a successful accounting career, Palios had been CEO of the Football Association. A specialist in turning around failing businesses, he and his wife Nicola now tackled Tranmere’s turmoil.

Palios began a three-step process he’d applied to many dying companies: Find cash for breathing space. Use that breathing space to fix the business. And finally, bring in new investment.

Most important, the club had to break the cycle of lurching from savior to savior. Palios compares football clubs to gamblers gifted more chips who continue betting on the same old numbers. To really fix the ailing business, Mark and Nicola had to make new bets.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios and vice chair Nicola Palios took charge in 2014.

Back in 1985, Palios quit Tranmere and distanced himself from the boardroom shenanigans to avoid a conflict of interest. Ultimately the directors exploited changes to insolvency legislation to get rid of Osterman, Bracewell and Worthington, earning Tranmere another dubious distinction as the first football club to go into administration under the new laws.

In 1987, a new buyer offered less than Osterman paid for the club. Luckily for the American, a strengthened pound took the sting out of the loss.

A new owner and manager took over, but Tranmere’s troubles weren’t over. To ensure survival they had to beat Exeter City on the last day of the season or be disastrously dumped out of the professional league.

Kickoff was delayed as 7,000 fans crammed into one of Prenton Park’s signature Friday night matches on May 8, 1987. Mark Palios was there, although in another bizarre twist he could have been on the field — for either side. Exeter previously tried to sign him, while injury-plagued Tranmere desperately searched for Palios to see if he could help out in the crucial match. “We didn’t have mobile phones in those days,” Palios jokes. “[Tranmere] should have asked the administrators — they knew where I was…”

As the sky darkened above the floodlights neither side could break the deadlock — until six minutes from time, when Ian Muir’s pinpoint cross was headed home by defender Gary Williams. At the final whistle, the delirious crowd poured onto the pitch.

After this fairytale escape, new manager John King — another former Tranmere player, who coined the “deadly submarine” nickname — kicked off a resurgence in the 1990s. The team went to multiple finals at Wembley, rising through the divisions and almost surfacing alongside Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Ian Muir (right), signed by Frank Worthington and still Tranmere’s top scorer, celebrates the first of Tranmere’s many trips to the hallowed Wembley Stadium in the 1990s.

Sadly the golden era didn’t last, and in 2015 a run-down Tranmere sank out of the professional league entirely. Under different leadership that could have destroyed the club, but Mark and Nicola Palios had a plan to stay afloat. They developed new revenue streams which didn’t rely on a benefactor’s deep pockets, earned money from the stadium not just on matchdays, and built on the club’s standing in the community with training schemes for vulnerable youth. “The business model I’ve tried to produce is football-agnostic,” Palios explains. “So if I go, the business stays.”

The club is into phase three of the Palios plan: tempting investors. Palios contemplates leveraging the local area’s rich footballing heritage for projects such as a hotel, and perhaps even leaving Prenton Park (an idea that backfired for Osterman). Palios has his eye on building a new stadium at the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters dockland regeneration scheme, one of the largest development projects in Europe.

Tranmere returned to Wembley in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019, when Connor Jennings scored another last-gasp goal to secure Tranmere a second successive promotion.

Palios notes these long-term plans are “embryonic” and depend on factors like promotion to higher leagues, millions added to the bottom line, and major investors.

“It’s a way off,” Palios says of his potential vision for the future, “but if somebody comes in with serious money, you have to have a business plan. And the one thing I won’t do is limit ambition.”

To bring things full circle in terms of foreign backers, the Palios’ have shared photos of themselves courting international investment since this interview. This time Tranmere’s seeking funding from soccer-mad Indonesian businessman Simon Nainggolan, also known as Simon N.

The chaos at Bury and Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows how precarious the football business can be even with TV money and global investment. At Tranmere, smart commercial decisions and dedicated supporters kept the club alive. To fans’ delight, under manager Micky Mellon — yet another former player — the team won promotion in 2018 and again in 2019 (only to be summarily relegated again when the Covid pandemic ended the next season early).

Devoted Tranmere Rovers fans celebrate.

Bruce Osterman still practices law, although he stopped playing soccer at 60. “If I had to do it all again I would,” he says of his experience with Tranmere. “No foreigner had ever done this before, and I met a lot of great people. It was an adventure for me.”

For today’s US-based investment consortiums, owning a sports team is all about profit. For Bruce Osterman, it was an adventure. And for Mark Palios, sport offers a unique combination of both business and passion. When fans tell him they’re proud of the club, he says, “that’s the reward.”

England storms into Euro 2020 final, memes say it’s coming home

Get a kick out of the reaction to the big win. Also, are we seeing double, or were there two balls on the pitch at the same time?

Liam Gallagher, lead singer of the band Oasis, was one of many to tweet the line after the victory.

Since England now moves on to play Italy, Italian fans had a twist on the slogan, arguing that, “It’s coming to Rome.”

It wouldn’t be soccer (er, football) without controversy, and this game had some too. Raheem Sterling of England drew a penalty on a foul that, USA Today notes, “really didn’t look like a foul at all.” That led to the hashtag #DivingHome.

There also appeared to be two balls on the pitch at the time of the controversial penalty. Whoops. Some fans pointed out that when this same thing happened later in the match, play was stopped, but that didn’t happen earlier.

“England invented football so they can do what they want apparently,” said one Twitter user.

The game was played in London, and some tweets suggested that Queen Elizabeth II was working some royal magic with VAR, aka video assistant referees.

There’ll be plenty more social reaction come Sunday, when England meets Italy at noon PT at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Field of Dreams swings a TV reboot from The Good Place creator

The Kevin Costner classic gets another turn at the plate as Peacock greenlights a TV series written by Michael Schur.

Kevin Costner (left) in Field of Dreams.

Mike Schur seems like a safe pair of hands, although the material may be a little different from his usual speciality: As well as creating The Good Place, Schur co-created sitcoms Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The original Field of Dreams, meanwhile, was an emotional and fantasy-inflected story (with a bunch of funny lines). You can watch it on Peacock now if you need a reminder.

Based on the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, the Oscar-nominated Field of Dreams was written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Costner played a farmer who hears voices in his head telling him to plow his cornfield into a baseball diamond, attracting the spirits of baseball players involved in World Series match-fixing in the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Costner emerged from the cornfield to deliver a spine-tingling intro to the 2021 Field of Dreams game, below.

MLB has promised a return to Iowa in 2022. Reports say the Cincinnati Reds will play the Chicago Cubs.

NFL heads to Twitter Spaces to produce content for the 2021 season

The NFL is taking to Twitter Spaces to talk football throughout the 2021 season and beyond.

“The commitment to Twitter Spaces represents another innovative step forward in the longstanding partnership between the NFL and Twitter,” said Blake Stuchin, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development. “We’re excited to bring NFL fans a new way to engage with live audio ahead of our biggest events of the year and every week throughout the NFL season.”

The news comes on the heels of the NFL’s previous partnership with the Twitter Spaces rival Clubhouse, which saw the league host live audio content on the platform during the 2021 NFL draft in May. Moving forward, the league says to expect to see live audio content like that, including during upcoming drafts, exclusively on Twitter Spaces.

Wide-eyed kid from Popeye’s meme is now a state football champ

You might know Dieunerst Collin’s wide-eyed expression from a legendary meme, but he’s moved on to win a New Jersey high school football title.

Collin is a member of the East Orange High School team, which won the New Jersey state title in triple overtime on Sunday. Its meme-famous player didn’t go unnoticed.

“Dieunerst from the legendary meme is a state champion!” tweeted the official SportsCenter account.

Collin was just nine when the video of him was taken, and he didn’t ask for the viral fame.

“When it first happened, I kind of felt sad about it,” Collin told Sports Illustrated. “It was somebody randomly recording me, and I’ve never been viral before.”

The video shows someone mistaking Collin for another child who was then famous on Vine, TerRio. Collin’s confused and wary reaction struck a chord with many meme-makers, who snatched the image and captioned it with such phrases as, “When I see my teacher at a store.”

His viral fame led to bullying, Collin told Sports Illustrated, saying, “I did get to a place where it was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go out any more.'” But eventually things became easier.

“People in my class found it very funny, so then I just continued being myself,” he said. “I got over it once everybody who would randomly come up to me and call me Terio actually met me and learned my actual name and got to know me.”

And now he has a new claim to fame. On Sunday, Collin shared an Instagram photo of himself with the team’s new trophy, writing, “IMAGINE NOT BEING A STATE CHAMP:I CANT RELATE‼️”

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC 264: Start time, how to watch, fight card

UFC 264 is happening today! Here’s what you need to know about McGregor vs. Poirier.

McGregor and Poirier face off this Saturday for the third time.

This will be the third time the pair have faced off. The ledger currently stands at one a piece. McGregor defeated Poirier at Featherweight back in 2014, with a first round KO. Poirier returned the favour earlier this year at UFC 267 with a second round finish. The third contest will be the rubber match, and will almost certainly determine who fights the current UFC Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, next.

Who wins this time? Current odds have it almost exactly 50/50. Many expected McGregor to make short work of Poirier in the second fight given how conclusive the first was, but Poirier’s improved defence, along with an improved chin at Lightweight, allowed him to withstand early pressure in the first round before taking over the fight. An accumulation of calf kicks, and some sharp boxing, allowed Poirier to take McGregor out in the second round.

Can McGregor find an answer to those calf kicks? Will he switch his current boxing-heavy style for a return to the light-footed karate movement of his earlier fights? Can Poirier make lightning strike twice?

Make no mistake, there is extra heat on this fight. After McGregor promised a $500,000 donation to Poirier’s Good Fight Foundation, Poirier took to Twitter when the donation was delayed, which started a back-and-forth feud between the two. While their second fight had a cordial and respectful lead up, the third fight will no doubt be a far more personal affair.

In short: expect fireworks.

The UFC 264 main card starts at 10 p.m EDT (7 p.m. PDT) but here are all the details from multiple timezones.

The UFC now has a partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 264, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 264 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 264 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

The UFC press conference is done and dusted, but you can watch the event in its entirety above.

Unlike the last fight, a loss seems have brought Conor to his old, far more aggressive self. He seemed like a different person in there. How will the trash talk and tension affect the fight? It’s impossible to tell at this point, but this fight has a far more dangerous air about it.

Amazon’s NFL Thursday Night Football exclusive now starts in 2022

The technology giant and the NFL are bumping up the start date for their new agreement.

As per the earlier announcement, Amazon will carry 15 Thursday Night Football games as one well as one preseason NFL game. The deal runs through the 2032 NFL season.

Although Amazon has been streaming Thursday Night Football games on its Prime Video platform for the past few seasons, it was doing so in conjunction with a traditional broadcaster like Fox. The NFL’s new deal marked the first time a streaming platform would be the sole home for the games without a traditional TV partner, with Amazon saying Monday that additional production details will be shared “in the coming months.”

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3: Start time, how to watch or stream online

Fury and Wilder face off for the third time today.

Tyson Fury, wearing his “Undertaker” hat.

But in a strange twist, Joshua recently suffered and upset loss to Oleksandr Usyk, which brings much more gravitas to Fury vs. Wilder fight. Maybe this is a fight between the two best heavyweights in the world.

It’s a huge fight regardless, with a bit of drama attached. Wilder has accused Fury of cheating in their second fight, repeating his accusations again in the lead up to this fight, claims Fury has repeatedly rubbished.

Here’s everything you need to know.

The Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder main PPV card kicks off at 9pm EDT (6pm PDT) on Saturday Oct 9. For those of you in the UK that translates to 2am on Sunday Oct 10. In Australia that’s 12pm on Sunday Oct 10.

If you’re looking to tune into the main event between Fury and Wilder, it won’t take place before 11pm EDT (8pm PDT). So set your alarms for then. Depending on how fights on the undercard play out, it could be a little later.

In the US, your best bet is probably to order the PPV via Fox Sports.

But much like the UFC events, the Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder fight is also available on ESPN Plus. But you do need to be a subscriber to the service. This means you’ll not only have to pay $79.99 for the PPV event, you’ll also have to subscribe to the ESPN+ service.

If you’re already a subscriber, you just need to pay $79.99 for the event itself.

If you’re not a subscriber, your cheapest option is to buy a one month subscription at $6.99 plus the PPV at $79.99. But if you’re a sports fan it might make more sense to pick up the one year subscription at $69.99 to save some cash. Another option would be to pick up the Disney Bundle, which gets you access to ESPN+, Disney Plus and Hulu. That’s a deal worth grabbing.

In the UK the Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder fight is exclusive to BT Sport for £24.95.

In Australia the Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder fight is exclusive to Kayo for £24.95.

Here’s everyone fighting on the main card…

UFC 268 Usman vs. Covington: Results and reactions

All the results and round by round reactions.

Usman defeats Covington for the second time.

UFC 268 was an incredible card top to bottom, headlined by two title fights that lived up to the hype and more. In the main event, Kamaru Usman edged Colby Covington in another gruelling war. The co-main between Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili was another banger, with Namajunas defeating Weili via razor thin split decision.

Elsewhere on the card, Marlon Vera defeated the legendary Frankie Edgar via a crushing front kick. Justin Gaethje defeated Michael Chandler in an unforgettable fight of the year candidate.

You can find our live, blow-by-blow reactions to UFC 268 below.

Usman is fast becoming one of the best fighters on the planet.

Usman has looked unstoppable in the UFC, but the closest he ever looked to being vulnerable was against Colby Covington. This is a rematch and, in their first fight, the scorecards were incredibly close until Usman knocked Covington out in the fifth and final round.

Usman has looked much improved since that fight. Covington has been a little less active and it’s for that reason that I’m picking Usman in this rematch. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Quick note — regardless of your thoughts on Covington, you can’t deny coming out to Kurt Angle’s music is an all-time perfect heel move. I love it so much.

Alright… here we go!

Covington isn’t throwing much early, which is strange, because his best shot with this fight is volume. Maybe wrestling is the plan for him this time round and YEP! He goes for the shot, which is defended.

Covington looks a little shook by that exchange to be honest. Usman is pressuring and cutting the cage well here.

And whoa… Usman gets a quick takedown, but Covington gets up quickly.

I score this round 10-9 for Usman.

I think the power difference could be a huge factor here. Usman doesn’t really have to respect Covington’s shots, but the reverse isn’t true.

The pace of this fight is much slower which, again, suits Usman. This isn’t looking great for Covington and you can see the confidence draining. The body shots are big for Usman as well.

Already we’re seeing Covington running out of options here.

Whoa! Usman catches Covington clean and drops him! Then clips him straight away dropping him twice. Somehow Covington survives the round. That’s very close to a 10-8 round. One more minute in that round and Covington would have been toast.

I score this round 10-9 for Usman.

Covington seems to have recovered and actually lands a big shot on Usman. Still, he’s being stalked and pressured by Usman, who is landing his jab at will.

Colby shoots, but Usman is extremely wise to it. I don’t think a welterweight alive could take Usman down at this point.

This is easily Covington’s best round though. At the end of the round he lands some big shots and potentially steals the round. I’m still scoring it for Usman.

I score this round 10-9 for Usman.

Colby is switching up to the strategy he used in the first fight. Throwing more volume, throwing with mean intentions. He’s finding more success!

He is landing hard and clean here, but Usman seems unphased.

This fourth round looks a LOT like the first fight, which is good for Covington. He’s coming on strong here. This is getting really interesting.

I score this round 10-9 for Covington.

Oh man, Covington is landing here, but he shoots and has it stuffed, which may have actually saved Usman.

Usman now back in control it seems but this is a tight round. I think Covington really wants to secure this fight with a takedown, but it’s not there. He still hasn’t really hurt Usman yet.

Ah damn, there’s an eye poke right at the end there. That really takes the sting out of the last 30 seconds of the fight. Which is super weird.

Very tight round but…

I score this round 10-9 for Usman. (49-46 for Usman overall).

The judges have 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 for Usman.

Yes, that is Halle Berry in there. Randomly!

I think this is, personally, my most anticipated fight on the card. Mainly because I don’t feel like we really got to see this match-up play out in the first fight. It’s a real toss-up for me. Namajunas is the slickest striker in her division, but Weili has incredible power and physicality. Traditionally, that’s been tricky for Namajunas to navigate — and when you consider Weili seems to have been training her wrestling for this contest, we could have a real fight on our hands here.

I’m picking Weili. Just have a wee feeling she’ll take it. I’m so hyped for this one.

Loved Namajunas walking to the cage with the “I’m the best” mantra. Big Diego Sachez vibes there.

The crown booing Weili heavy. We know she doesn’t like that.

Let’s goooooooo!

Weili opens with three leg kicks. Bouncing on her toes. Weili seems tentative, but gets a takedown. Had a feeling this might happen since she’s been training with Henry Cejudo. Weili now on top and in control. She’s landing big shots from on top here.

Rose scrambles back to her feet. Weili lands a good headkick but Weili seems tentative in there.

I score it 10-9 for Weili.

Namajunas’ corner want her to wait for Weili to come to here, which is great advice to be honest. I get the feeling the Weili could potentially take Namajunas down at will with the strength advantage. Have to see how this plays out.

This is a tentative round for both fighters. Weili is throwing that leg kick a lot, Namajunas can’t take too many of those. Ooft, Weili cracks Namajunas clean and now she’s on her back after a takedown. Namajunas lands an upkick, but Weili is on top now and she’s — again — winning this round.

Now Rose gets the takedown! Fascinating contest.

I score it 10-9 for Weili.

Not much happening here, but Rose just looks much calmer in there. Tough to score this round, but the leg kicks are money for Weili. I think Rose should throw some her own. I think Weili slipped, but the crowd sold it. They’re in the clinch now.

They break and Namajunas is much more aggressive now but Weili cracks her with a left hook. Now she lands a takedown that’ll probably steal the round. She finishes in full mount.

I score it 10-9 for Weili.

Both fighters are opening up now, landing shots. Great start to the round for both fighters.

Now Weili has her back, trying to get hooks in for a rear naked choke. Namajunas reverses! Now she’s in Weili’s guard. Crazy scrambles here. This is the fight I was hoping to see. Amazing stuff.

Rose finishes the round on top. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out with more energy in the fifth and final round.

I score it 10-9 for Namajunas.

I have it 3-1 Weili, but there’s a real chance it’s 2-2. This is a high stakes round.

This is down to who wants it more. Cliche, but true in this case.

MASSSIIVE TAKEDOWN from Rose. With both fighters tired, Rose might be able to keep the fight here for the whole round. Weili absolutely needs to get up, she can’t accept this position.

But Weili looks like she doesn’t have the energy to get back up. The fight ends with Rose on top.

I score it 10-9 for Namajunas. (48-47 for Weili).

I reckon the judges will score this differently. Keen to see the cards…

The judges scored it 49-46, 48-47, 47-48.

Edgar vs. Vera is gonna be a great one.

This one is just great matchmaking. Former UFC lightweight champ Edgar is a legend of MMA and Vera is a star on the rise. This one is a real clash of styles: Vera is a technical slugger with an iron chin, Edgar is the type to mix slick takedowns in with his striking.

The safe money is on Edgar grinding this one out over three rounds, but we have seen Edgar suffer devastating knockouts in recent fights. This one’s a bit of a toss-up. I’m picking Edgar.

A stat popped up showing that Edgar has the most fight time of anyone in UFC history — almost 8 hours. Wild.

Being 40 years old in the lighter weight division is just such an achievement. What a legend Edgar is.

Good sign for Vera, who stuffs the first shot from Frankie. Wild that Edgar used to the champ two weight classes above, but looks so much smaller than Vera.

Edgar gets him down with a blast double, into a choke from Vera, but Edgar gets out quick. This is how he wins this fight, with top control and pressure. This could be bad for Vera. He’s bang in the middle of the cage and could be here for the rest of the round.

Vera is defending well from the bottom here, and lands a few nice upkicks, but he’s losing this round.

I score this 10-9 for Edgar.

The fight starts standing obviously, which favors Vera, but Edgar gets him down early. We’ve already seen he doesn’t have much for Edgar on the ground. He could — again — very well grind this round out from this position.

This is vintage Edgar here. You love to see it.

But wait — Vera scrambles to his feet. Great work by Vera. He’s marching forward now desperate to land shots and win this round. He lands a huge knee of Edgar. He lands another that has Edgar stumbling. Remember it was a knee from Cory Sandhagen that took Edgar clean out in his last fight. 

Vera is gathering confidence here. He’s winning this round.

Edgar looks in bad shape as he goes back to his corner.

I score this 10-9 for Vera

You get the sense that a takedown is very important for Edgar here. Vera has the advantage on the feet here, and Edgar’s chin isn’t what it used to be.

Edgar’s shots just aren’t hitting hard enough to earn respect here. He needs a shot ASAP. He almost gets him down at some point and then bam, Vera is straight back up.

Then BAM. A massive Anderson Silva-esque front kick straight up the middle takes Edgar out clean. This fight is over. Edgar is protesting the stoppage, but no way — he was out 100%. Incredible shot by Vera.

Vera wins by TKO.

This has to be a tough one for Edgar to take. At 40 years old, you have to imagine there’s not too many fights left for this guy. The chin isn’t what it used to be and it’s tough to keep facing down these young killers.

Alright, time to take a breather.

Lol whatever, Shane Burgos is fighting.

This is the lowest profile fight on this stacked card, but both Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo are known for all action fights. Hard to expect this playing out any other way. This one is a real coin toss, but I’m taking Burgos. He hits harder and maintains a powerful pace.

Quarantillo comes out pressuring, trying to make this ugly with dirty boxing and tight uppercuts.

Burgos wrestles him to the cage, attempting to wear Quarantillo out.

On the feet this feels even, but Burgos is landing harder shots. They’re slugging it out in the pocket now and Quarantillo shoots for the takedown. Great round of action here. Everything pales in comparison to Gaethje vs. Chandler, but this is good stuff.

I score it 10-9 for Quarantillo

Both fighters come out trading big shots. Quarantillo will not stop marching forward. It’s clearly the gameplan to keep Burgos on the backfoot.

Quarantillo could very well win the fight on volume alone.

This round is so hard to score, they’re just landing on one another and not stopping. The leg kicks are starting to add up.

But Quarantillo gets hurt by a clean right hand shot by Burgos and now he’s getting swarmed. He makes it to the end, but that’s definitely a Burgos round.

I score it 10-9 for Burgos

As the commentary mentioned, Quarantillo’s leg is in bad shape. That’s making it easier for Burgos to land shots.

Damn the leg is worse than I thought. This could be bad for Quarantillo. He goes to the clinch to try and negate it, but  a couple of clean leg kicks and this fight could be over.

Quarantillo is surviving, trying to get close Burgos is fatiguing. This has been another tremendous fight.

I score it 10-9 for Burgos (29-28 Burgos overall)

Let’s see how the judges have it…

Yep, all three judges agree with me. Incredible fight with a ridiculous output from both men.

This one’s gonna be a banger, folks.

Apparently this fight was bumped to the card opener because Gaethje’s coach Trevor Wittman needed time between this fight and the fight of his other student Rose Namajunas.

Either way, what a way to open this card. I am beyond hyped for this fight. Two massive hitters who like to go forward. I favour Gaethje because he’s arguably the most effective leg kicker in MMA and Chandler has struggled historically with leg kicks. That said — Chandler can put your lights out anytime with that huge overhand he likes to wing.

Can’t wait for this one. The only guarantee is one of these guys is doing a backflip off the cage when they win. Chandler and Gaethje always do that!

Man, what a fight to open with. I am so ridiculously hyped for this. This is absolute car crash territory. The New York crowd is incredibly hot also. Let’s goooo.

Man, Chandler is marching forward with bombs here. Gaethje opened with that calf kick. These guys are winging with no defence to speak of and Chandler seems to be getting the best of it. Leg kicks are already appearing to compromise both fighters.

PHEW. Okay pace has slowed down. Breathe.

But Chandler lands HUGE and Gaethje staggers back. Somehow Gaethje recovers and starts throwing back. Now Chandler is struggling. These guys throwing nothing but huge loopy shots trying to kill one another. Wow this fight is exactly as advertised.

These guys are already exhausted but Gaethje looks like he could be fresher going into the 2nd round.

Wow. Just wow.

I score this 10-9 for Chandler

Slower pace here. Obviously. Chandler is fighting smart here with the jab and throwing out kicks. But Gaethje is marching forward now and has lost a bit of pop.

OOOFT. Gaethje lands a HUGE righty hand and Chandler is on his butt. He somehow survives, but Gaethje is on top landing shots from a headlock position. Chandler has survived this onslaught though. Incredible. They’re back on their feet. Wow.

How?

Chandler shoots for a takedown — can you blame him? He lands a big shot but Gaethje just smiles. Gaethje is taking over now.

Weird ending to the round where Chandler lands a huge shot but rakes Gaethje in the eyes.

I score this 10-9 for Gaethje

Those Gaethje leg kicks man. Chandler can’t take much more of them. But Chandler has caught a second wind here, he’s on his toes and landing shots to the body.

Chandler lands a HUGE takedown, but somehow in the scramble Gaethje got in the better position, landing shots. I cannot tell who is winning here, but in these exchanges Chandler is starting to wilt a little, but who’s landed the most shots? How are they scoring this? WHO KNOWS?

What an incredible fight.

I score this 10-9 for Gaethje (29-28 Gaethje overall)

Let’s see what the judges have to say…

Justin Gaethje takes it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.