Diaz tops Miller on 2nd rd submission in UFC bout

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Diaz tops Miller on 2nd rd submission in UFC bout

By DAN GELSTON
, AP Sports Writer EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Nate Diaz locked in his choke hold and wouldn't let go. Another dominant victory his, Diaz now plans to keep the same taut grip on his impending title shot. Diaz continued to prove his return to the UFC lightweight division was the right one, and defeated Jim Miller by submission in the second round Saturday night to win the main event of the promotion's third major network card on Fox. "It was my time to shine, I guess," Diaz said. Diaz (16-7) stopped Miller (21-4) with a guillotine choke at 4:09 of the second round and earned an eventual. shot at the lightweight crown. Diaz dominated the short time they were in the octagon, using his range to land big strikes and force Miller to tap at the Izod Center. "Nate controlled the fight from bell to bell," Miller said. "He never let me get any significant shots in there."

Miller's face was already bloodied by the time the New Jersey crowd started a "Let's go Miller!" chant to rally the hometown fighter. The season five winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" taunted Miller moments before he rolled him over and locked in his submission hold in the finale of the four-bout prime-time card held by the world's top MMA circuit in front of 10,788 fans. UFC announced a 1.1 million gate. "It's free and they were great fights," UFC President Dana White said. Diaz returned to the lightweight division after a mixed run at 170 pounds. He could take another fight or wait out a scheduled title defense later this year by champion Benson Henderson. Henderson has a scheduled defense against Frankie Edgar. Diaz will keep his place in line and not take another fight. "If he wanted to wait, he could wait," White said. "He's going to wait." In a tight battle former NCAA wrestling champions, Johny Hendricks (13-1) likely became the No. 1 contender for the welterweight championship with a split-decision victory over Josh Koscheck. "If the title shot comes, it comes," Hendricks said. "If not, I'll stand in here with anyone they put in front of me." Hendricks won 29-28 on two cards and Koscheck took the other 29-28 in the three-round bout. Koscheck left the octagon with a battered and swollen right side of his face. He put his head down and shook it "no" as he trudged back to the locker room. "I should have finished the fight," he said. "If it goes to the judges, you have to have luck on your side." UFC fan and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino tweeted, "Disagree on that decision." He didn't have a say. The judges did and that's why Hendricks was the fighter jumping around the cage in celebration after several tense minutes waiting for a decision. Hendricks connected with a pair of stiff leg shots and a knee to the face in the third to give him an edge. But Koscheck (17-6) covered Hendricks in the final minute and seemed content to stay there and in control. He just dish out enough punishment. "That's one tough dude, man. I hit him with everything I got and I did everything I could," Hendricks said. Hendricks was two-time NCAA champion and four-time All-American for Oklahoma State. Koscheck also was a four-time All-American at Edinboro University and a 2001 NCAA champ. UFC kicked off the Fox show with a heavyweight bout that featured some of the stiffest shots of the night. Lavar Johnson (17-5) backed Pat Barry against the cage with a barrage of punishing lefts and rights to the head that left Barry (7-5) slumped on the mat. Johnson, fighting nearly three years after he was shot in the abdomen during a random drive-by, won via TKO in 4:38 of the first round. "With our styles, I knew it would end like this for one of us," Johnson said. For the casual fans attracted by the car-wreck nature of one man pummeling another, the sight of the 6-foot-4 Johnson simply assaulting Barry to start the show had to please UFC and Fox. Alan Belcher (18-6) initiated the ground game and continued the trend of early finishes when he flattened Rousimar Palhares (14-5) and fired repeated shots at the face to win a TKO decision at 4:18 of the first round. "I want to be the guy that takes the belt off Anderson Silva because I know I'm the one that can do it," Belcher said. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was in the crowd at the Izod Center to watch a card held just six miles across the river from New York. New York is one of the few states that has yet to legalize MMA. After showcasing UFC on Fox with two big bouts that featured Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez and Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis, none of the fighters on Saturdays' card were huge names known to a wide network audience. "It's the best talent in UFC right now and we showcased them on Fox tonight," White said.

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Stock watch: Sanford impresses in preseason debut

Stock watch: Sanford impresses in preseason debut

The Caps lost their second preseason game on Tuesday night to the Montreal Canadiens, but it's the preseason. The score doesn't matter. What does matter is how the players played. Here's who looked good and who needs to up their game.

3 players who impressed:

Madison Bowey: When Bowey is distributing the puck, it looks like his teammates have magnets on their tape. Every pass from him was crisp and on target. Defensively, he finished the game with a minus-2, but he was hardly the only player to struggle on the defensive end of the ice on Tuesday. He will continue to develop his defensive skills in Hershey, but for now Bowey looks every bit the puck-moving, offensive defenseman the Caps hoped they were getting when they drafted him. In today's NHL, having that type of defenseman on your team is a major plus.

Zach Sanford: The Caps want to keep a 14th forward on the roster this season and in his NHL (preseason) debut, Sanford did everything he could to lay claim to that spot. It took a few minutes for him to settle into the game, but he didn't look out of place at all. He simply looked like a rookie trying to adjust to his first NHL experience. As the game went along, he looked more and more comfortable. What is really impressive about Sanford is his positioning and what he does away from the puck. He always seems to be exactly where he is supposed to be. That positioning ultimately set up his goal late in the third period. Sanford fought off a few hits to maintain his position in front of the net, setting up a perfect screen on Montreal goalie Zachary Fucale. Because of his positioning, he was able to deflect a shot from Connor Hobbs into the net past the helpless netminder. It was not a perfect game for Sanford by any means. Late in the second, he gave up the puck on a bad turnover and compounded the mistake by tripping Michael McCarron, but those kinds of mistakes are to be expected from someone who went straight from college to the NHL preseason. Overall, it was a very impressive performance.

Nathan Walker: When Andrew Shaw boarded Connor Hobbs in the second period, the first player to go after the gritty veteran was Nathan Walker. It didn't matter that Shaw has played in four NHL seasons or has 13 NHL fights on his resume, it didn't matter that he was going to get his butt kicked — he was going to stand up for his teammate. The biggest strike against Walker is his size. He is very generously listed as 5-foot-8. I've seen him in the locker room and let me tell you, there is no way he is that tall. But any fear the team may have had about Walker's ability to handle the size of the NHL has been erased in just two preseason games. Clearly he is not going to let himself be pushed around. At this point, I would be surprised if he does not get his first NHL game at some point this season.

RELATED: PENALTIES DOOM CAPS IN 5-2 LOSS TO MONTREAL

3 players who need to show improvement:

Brett Connolly: Connolly's signing was a surprise move by the Caps in the offseason. He is a former first-round draft pick still trying to live up to his potential. He is going to make the roster, but as a new player, the Caps are still trying to determine just where he fits into the lineup. That means he has more at stake in this preseason than most of his NHL teammates. Connolly registered six hits, but zero shots on net and was completely unable to take advantage of the weaker preseason roster Montreal played. Connolly is a sniper trying to establish his skill and he looked like a fourth-line grinder. If this is how he will play, there's no reason to play him over someone like Stanislav Galiev.

Liam O'Brien: In 2014, Liam O'Brien made the Caps' roster after a strong camp and stuck around for 13 games before getting sent down to the AHL. Two years later, he doesn't look close to that level. O'Brien took an early interference penalty as he slid into goalie Al Montoya. He added a second penalty in the third period as he was upset with a no-call on Nathan Beaulieu and kept trying to draw a fight with him until the referee ultimately sent him to the box. The days when teams could carry enforcers on the fourth line who did little else but fight and take penalties are over. O'Brien has to establish that he has more to offer the Caps and he failed to do so.

Darren Dietz: For the most part, Darren Dietz actually played a decent game on Tuesday. He had six hits and skated well against his former team. There was one major mistake, however, that really stuck out. In the second period, the Caps were about to go on the power play as Jeremy Grégoire slashed Zach Sill in the wrist. At the end of the play, Grégoire really tried to press his luck by giving Sill a little push into the boards. Grégoire is a 21-year-old player trying to make an impression by taking on one of the toughest guys on the ice. Sill is a 28-year-old, 6-foot-1, 202-pound veteran with 32 fights in the last five years in the NHL and AHL. He can take care of himself. Dietz, however, skated in and landed a vicious cross-check to the back of Grégoire and was called for roughing, thus negating the Caps' power play. There was no reason for Dietz to get involved in that scrum. Sill doesn't need him to fight off Grégoire, he could have easily brushed him aside. The referees had already established that they are calling a very tight game so it was no surprise to see Dietz sent to the box. He needs to know better than to lay that kind of hit on the back of an opposing player and risk a penalty in order to protect someone who didn't really need it.

MORE CAPITALS: MARCUS JOHANSSON SCORES FROM STRAIGHT ON VS. CANADIENS

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Lobaton, others step up in Nats' 1st game without Wilson Ramos

Lobaton, others step up in Nats' 1st game without Wilson Ramos

If guys like Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon play to their capabilities, the Nationals could make do without Wilson Ramos this postseason, at least on offense.

But even those guys can't do it all by themselves. The much more likely scenario involves a collective effort, one in which contributions from all-around lift the Nationals as a team and help compensate for the loss of one of their best and most consistent players. Collective efforts like Tuesday night when both of Ramos' replacements - Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino - chipped in on offense, Rendon provided the big swing and other bench players like Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo made pivotal plays in their 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Lobaton called a strong game behind the dish, helping starter Max Scherzer adjust after allowing two runs in his first three innings to toss three scoreless after that. He then broke up Diamondbacks' starter Matt Koch's no-hitter in the sixth with a leadoff single. That ignited a four-run rally for the Nats, who took the lead and never relinquished it.

"I don't want to get a no-hitter," Lobaton said. "I got a good result and it was good for the team. We got a rally and we won."

"With [Ramos] going down for the year, that’s just heartbreaking," Scherzer said. "But Loby’s a guy that we need to step up and he’s the one who started off that inning."

Lobaton was replaced on the basepaths by Severino, who is faster than Lobaton, who happens to be dealing with a sore right ankle. Severino would later score after moving to third on walks drawn by Trea Turner and Difo. Severino came home on a sacrifice fly hit to left by Drew.

Lobaton and Severino will be a tag team partnership moving forward this season with Ramos out. They will need to spell each other and work together to try and recreate the production Ramos provided as a standout both at the plate and behind it.

On Tuesday, they pulled through.

"That's what they're going to have to do," manager Dusty Baker said. "That's what they're going to have to do to contribute."

Their night also involved a lot of communication once Severino replaced Lobaton. A veteran with more experience catching the Nationals' pitching staff, Lobaton advised Severino throughout the game about how to call it. That's something Ramos often does for Lobaton.

"That is good for a guy that is not playing every time. It's the same with me, I always talk to Wily about the pitchers and what they are doing," Lobaton said. "I try to communicate more, like what he's been doing and what he's working on. So, I try to do the same with Sevi. This is working in the game, this is not. It can be more easy for him when he goes out."

Severino scored the first run and later in the frame Rendon drove in three more on a homer to left field off Randall Delgado. Rendon was pleased to see the foundation laid ahead of him that inning.

"That’s a great example, first day, stepping up,” he said. "Definitely frustration [with Ramos' injury]. You never like to see a teammate get hurt… obviously he’s going to be missed. He’s a big part of this lineup. But we have a lot of good guys who can fill in. It’s going to be awesome to watch.”

The Nationals have five more games before the regular season is over. To capture a World Seires, they will need to win 11 more after that. It won't always be as smooth asTuesday night, but the Nationals demonstrated well to themselves what it will take to get by without their star catcher.

[RELATED: Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals]

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