Next fights for Sean O’Malley, Aljamain Sterling, Zhang Weili and Ian Machado Garry

Sean O’Malley is the new UFC bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling is reconsidering a planned move to featherweight, Zhang Weili dominated and Ian Machado Garry is a rising star. So much happened at UFC 292 in Boston and that makes for exciting opportunities.

O’Malley completed his rise from “Contender Series” prospect to UFC champion with a second-round TKO of Sterling in the main event. O’Malley was one of UFC’s most marketable fighters and can now start to build his legacy as a superstar. O’Malley called out rival Marlon Vera on Saturday night, but there’s another challenger waiting in the wings to avenge Sterling.

Zhang looks like a nightmare to beat after a record-setting performance against Lemos. Garry completely immobilized veteran Neil Magny over three rounds. Vera also emerged victorious on Saturday and earned himself a call-out from the champ.

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With so many moving parts, let’s examine the best fights to make in the aftermath of UFC 292.

Bantamweight division
UFC bantamweight championship — Sean O’Malley vs. Merab Dvalishvili: There are three great fights you can make with O’Malley as champion: Dvalishvili, Vera and Cory Sandhagen. While Vera and Sandhagen are worthy opponents, they have their own issues to sort out first. Sandhagen requires six months of recovery after undergoing surgery for a fully torn tricep. Vera is the only person to beat O’Malley and was gifted a call-out by the new champ, but he is too far down the pecking order after a split decision loss to Sandhagen in March. The fight that needs to be made is between O’Malley and Dvalishvili. Sterling’s training partner will be foaming at the mouth to avenge his dear friend’s loss. His status as the No. 1 contender in UFC’s official rankings makes him the rightful challenger. Add the fact that Dvalishvili is still walking around with the red jacket he stole from O’Malley and there is a ton of ammunition to promote this epic clash.

Petr Yan vs. Marlon Vera: Put two of the UFC’s most violent bantamweights in the cage and let them do their thing. Both men are traditionally slow starters but hopefully, they cancel each other out. Yan is desperate for a bounce back after going from UFC champion to a three-fight losing streak. You could argue that Yan should take a larger step down in competition following his first career losing streak, but “Chito” barely scraped by Pedro Munhoz and still appears to be missing something at the championship level. Yan is fighting down the division as Vera will attempt to climb the rankings. You could alternatively book Vera vs. Henry Cejudo.

There’s no better view of THAT @SugaSeanMMA knockout 😮‍💨 #UFC292

— UFC (@ufc) August 20, 2023
Featherweight division
Brian Ortega vs. Aljamain Sterling: Sterling may be spurred to stick around at bantamweight a little longer, but he’s been talking about a move to featherweight for so long that I’d like to see him forge ahead. At least for a test run. Ortega vs. Sterling would be a sick matchup. Sterling is right to be concerned with how much harder featherweights hit. Ortega can certainly crack but he doesn’t have nearly the accuracy that O’Malley possesses. The grappling exchanged between Ortega and Sterling could be wicked. It’ll also verify if Sterling is truly capable of making a run at 145 pounds.

Women’s strawweight division
Zhang Weili vs. Yan Xioanan: Take this fight to China, pronto. Many were surprised when UFC announced that Zhang would defend her title against Lemos. Yan appeared to be the most obvious top contender. Since then, Tatiana Suarez has emerged as another realistic challenge for Zhang. You could pair either woman against the champ or against each other in a title eliminator. But if Zhang wants to remain active then someone needs to step up to the plate. Zhang vs. Yan would mark the first time that two Chinese fighters would compete against each other for a UFC title. It’s historic, it makes sense competitively and it’s the fight we should see next. UFC president Dana White said during Saturday’s post-fight press conference that the promotion is “probably” heading to China soon with Zhang on the card.

Amanda Lemos vs. Tatiana Suarez: It’s very much a 1A, 1B situation with Yan and Suarez at the moment. Suarez is in a groove right now, but she only recently came back from injuries that shaved years off her career. She looked great against Andrade, but I’d like to see Suarez get one more rep before taking on a fighter the caliber of Zhang. Lemos just fought for a title and is a perfect final test for Suarez before she tries to make good on expectations as a future world champ.

Doesn’t get more dominant than that 👏 #UFC292

— UFC (@ufc) August 20, 2023
Welterweight division
Stephen Thompson vs. Ian Machado Garry: The cocky young Irishman called out “Wonderboy” on Saturday night. Let’s give it to him. Thompson declined to fight Michel Pereira after the latter missed weight so he should be available for a fast turnaround. Garry appeared to take no damage against Magny so this fight could be made rather soon. Thompson proved that he can be a fun fighter when paired with the correct opponent. Welterweight has an influx of exciting new contenders such as Garry, Shavkat Rakhmonov, and Jack Della Maddalena. It’s best to avoid killing off future contenders by pitting them against each other. Thompson vs. Garry is a solid Fight Night headliner or pay-per-view main card addition. It’s got the right combination of styles, name value and star-building potential. Alternatively, you could rebook the Geoff Neal fight originally scheduled for UFC 292 but I’m not sure about his condition.

Former Pro Bowl pass-rusher joining Chicago on one-year, $10.5 million deal

Yannick Ngakoue has finally found his next NFL home. The former Pro Bowl pass rusher is signing a one-year, $10.5 million deal that includes $10 million guaranteed, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. ESPN reported the signing Thursday night.

Ngakoue, 28, broke into the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2017 after leading the NFL with six forced fumbles. He was part of a Jaguars defense that season that spearheaded the team’s run to the AFC title game.

Ngakoue played for four teams from 2020-22. He spent parts of the 2020 season with the Vikings and Ravens before recording 10 sacks during his lone season with the Ravens. As a member of the Cotls last season, Ngakoue tallied 9.5 sacks in 15 games.

Chargers’ Austin Ekeler reveals temporary solution to help fix issues surrounding NFL’s running back position

Once football’s glamour position, running back is currently under attack by a system that has diminished their monetary value. Austin Ekeler — with his and his peers’ livelihoods being challenged — has offered a temporarily solution that could lead to better days for him and the league’s other top-tier running backs.

The solution was formed during a private meeting between organized by Ekeler that included some of the league’s top backs, including Ekeler, Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey, Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, New York’s Saquon Barkley, Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs and Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris. The issue at hand was the financial hit that the running back position has taken recently, as many of the league’s best backs are playing well below their market value.

“All the running backs out there, what we can do in the short term is to continue to make an impact,” Ekeler said during a one-on-one interview with CBS Sports. “I’m going to go out there and try to score as many touchdowns as I can, play my game, be consistent, make a big impact. And also, when we get asked about it, have some type of narrative. For us, we need to have some consistent messaging when it comes to that. … That’s why we had to have those calls. Things like that are things we can do in the short term to help ourselves out.”

Ekeler is among the league’s top backs who are grossly underpaid. While his current market value is $12.82 million per season (via Spotrac), Ekeler’s 2023 salary includes a $6.5 million base salary and a $1.5 million signing bonus. He requested a trade this offseason over his salary before accepting the Chargers’ offer of an extra $1.75 million in incentives for what is his final year under his current contract.

Why Anthony Richardson, Jonathan Taylor could be historic if they remain teammates

Before the Colts potentially trade Jonathan Taylor, they should think about what they could be walking away from.

While rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson is a bit of a mystery, he has a sky-high ceiling. With Taylor, they could form one of the most dynamic QB/RB rushing attacks in NFL history.

Richardson blew up the NFL combine with a 4.43 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical and 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump at 244 pounds. He also ran for 654 yards and nine touchdowns while leading all FBS QBs in yards per rush (6.3) last year.

He can do this:


— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 16, 2022
Taylor won a rushing title in 2021 (1,811) while also leading the NFL in touchdown runs (18) before battling injuries in 2022.

He can make house calls too:


Jonathan Taylor makes a 67-yard house call to shut the door on the Patriots 🙌

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) December 19, 2021
Colts head coach Shane Steichen was the Eagles offensive coordinator last year when Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders helped Philadelphia finish fifth in rushing yards. Hurts led all quarterbacks in run-pass option (RPO) plays in each of the last two seasons, something you can expect a lot of from the Colts in 2023.

Those plays put defenders in conflict. Hypothetically, when Richardson sticks the football out to Taylor, defenders will be wondering at the mesh point whether Richardson is going to hand off, keep and run, or keep and throw.

All that would mean more running lanes for two of the most talented rushers at their respective positions.

Given the circumstances around Taylor and mystery around Richardson, it’s a big IF, but can you imagine the possibilities for this electric, rushing combo if both play to their potential?

Lucky for you I’ve been dreaming up benchmarks and comparisons for the Colts’ pair.

The ceiling for a rookie Richardson and Taylor this year is Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. The duo rode the zone-read option to a playoff appearance and combined for 2,428 rushing yards in both of their rookie seasons in 2012, the most combined rushing yardage by a QB-RB pair in a season in NFL history according to SportRadar. They are also the only duo in NFL history to feature a QB with 500 rushing yards and a RB with 1,500 rushing yards in a season.

That got me and my fellow CBS Sports researcher Brian Coyle thinking about other rushing “clubs” for QB-RB combos. And this doesn’t extend to just rookies.

Rays to call up top prospect to make MLB debut in push to regain first place in AL East

The Tampa Bay Rays will promote infield prospect Curtis Mead for his big-league debut ahead of Friday’s series-opening contest against the Detroit Tigers, the team announced Friday. Mead will be taking the roster spot of left-handed ace Shane McClanahan, who was placed on the injured list on Thursday night because of forearm soreness.

Mead, 22, has batted .291/.379/.453 with three home runs this season in 46 Triple-A games. He missed nearly two months earlier in the summer because of a wrist injury. Since returning to the Durham Bulls lineup in late June, he’s hit .355/.460/.538 in 113 trips to the plate. It is worth noting that Mead has homered just once over those 24 games, though he has recorded 12 other extra-base hits.

Mead’s ball-tracking statistics include an 89.3 average exit velocity, a 12.3 degree launch angle, and a 16.4% barrel rate. He was ranked by CBS Sports over the offseason as the No. 1 prospect in the Rays system. Here’s what we wrote:

Mead, who originally signed with the Phillies out of Australia, was acquired in exchange for lefty reliever Cristopher Sanchez in November 2019. He’s since ascended thanks to an above-average offensive projection. Mead split last season between Double- and Triple-A, batting .298/.390/.532 with 13 home runs in 76 games. He hits the ball hard and often, and he walked more frequently in 2022 than he had in past years. Mead’s best defensive position is in the batter’s box, since he lacks the arm to be good at third base and the range to excel at second. The Rays may try to play him all over the place anyway, but make no mistake: his bat is the selling point.

Mead has primarily played third base since coming back from injury.