Zhang Weili and Marlon Vera among top picks to consider this weekend

Two titles are on the line at UFC 292 in Boston on Saturday night. In the night’s main event, Aljamain Sterling defends his bantamweight championship against Sean O’Malley. Meanwhile, Zhang Weili will put her women’s strawweight belt on the line against Amanda Lemos in the co-main event.

Sterling has hinted that the fight with O’Malley is the end of his time at 135 pounds and he’s looking to close out that period of his career with a big title defense.

O’Malley, meanwhile, has built up a cult following with his brash style and flair for the dramatic, walk-off KO. Of his 10 UFC appearances, seven have ended in KO/TKO. One of those includes a no contest due to an eye poke. “Suga” has finished the likes of Raulian Paiva, Thomas Almeida, Eddie Wineland and Jose Alberto Quinonez. He’s coming off the biggest win of his career when he outpointed former titleholder Petr Yan by split decision in October.

In addition to the pair of title fights, there is plenty of action worth watching. The next Irish star on the rise gets his chance in the spotlight in front of a raucous Boston crowd when Ian Machado Garry takes on Neil Magny. Garry, 25, is undefeated at 5-0 so far in his UFC career with three knockouts. He’s coming off a brutal quick finish of Daniel Rodriguez in May and now gets his toughest test to date in the veteran Magny, who is getting the call on short notice after Geoff Neal was forced to withdraw.

With so many intriguing fights on the UFC 292 card, there will be plenty of action at sportsbooks around the country. As always, we are looking at each main card fight to identify the “best bet” for each bout. After a 1-3 result at UFC 291, our record for the year now stands at 21-21.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve identified as our choices for the best bets on the UFC 292 pay-per-view main card.

Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz
Marlon Vera to win via decision/technical decision (+100)

This is a tough, fairly evenly-matched bantamweight clash. It certainly is possible for Munhoz to take advantage of Vera’s tendency to get off to slow starts to edge out a win. That depends on Vera not stepping it up in Round 2, however, and he’s slightly more technically sound and does have the better power. While taking the Vera moneyline may be slightly safer, Munhoz is very durable and should be able to last the distance. As long as Vera doesn’t let Munhoz outwork him over the first two rounds, things should go Vera’s way on the final scorecards.

Mario Bautista vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
Mario Bautista moneyline (-210)

While it may not look like it provides a ton of inherent value, this fight is totally slanted in one direction. Blackshear scored a rare twister submission on last week’s card and now is stepping in for former champion Cody Garbrandt. While Blackshear deserves admiration for taking a tough opponent on short notice, this is probably a step too far at this point in his career. Bautista is coming into this fight on a full camp and ready to peak this weekend, while Blackshear is having to reset quickly. Bautista should get the job done, one way or another.

Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny
Total rounds: Under 2.5 (-130)

Garry has been confident to the point of cocky in his young UFC run. While three of Garry’s five UFC bouts have gone over 2.5 rounds, it’s hard to not notice how faded Magny has looked from his peak years in the UFC. He barely escaped his most recent fight with a win, edging Philip Rowe by split decision. Garry is peaking while Magny is fading. Garry can likely find the finish before the final 2:30 against the 2023 version of Magny and the under 2.5 rounds leaves a bit of space if Garry happens to get his chin checked by Magny.

Zhang Weili vs. Amanda Lemos
Zhang Weili via KO/TKO/DQ (+110)

Lemos is a very inconsistent fighter. At times she is very impressive and overwhelms her opponents, other times she gets outworked and struggles on the feet against fighters you’d expect her to clearly defeat. Weili, on the other hand is very consistent. Lemos has been stopped before and Weili has stopped some of the best the division has to offer. Ultimately, just look at how Lemos struggled on the feet against Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill to see why Weili getting the knockout is an enticing bet.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley
Under 3.5 rounds (-150)

Sterling’s bantamweight title defense against O’Malley feels like the kind of fight that will become clear very shortly after the opening bell. Either Sterling is going to use striking to find an opening and put O’Malley on the canvas with a takedown, or O’Malley is going to blast Sterling in the stand-up and show he can stay standing. Either way, once one man begins imposing his will, this fight likely ends quickly. O’Malley hasn’t consistently stopped opponents, but Sterling’s desperation if he can’t get takedowns will open him up more. And, if Sterling can put O’Malley down with any regularity, he’s likely to either score a submission or use ground and pound to end the fight.

Suns to retire jerseys of Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion during 2023-24 NBA season, team announces

Two Phoenix Suns greats will be inducted into the team’s coveted Ring of Honor. The team announced on Wednesday that Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire will join a select group comprised of the most impact individuals in the organization’s history during the 2023-24 season. Each payer will have their own jersey-retirement ceremony during a regular-season game.

Marion, also known as “The Matrix,” spent nine seasons with Phoenix and made four All-Star teams during that span. The two-way forward averaged 18.4 points and 10 rebounds per game as a Sun before stints with the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, and Cleveland Cavaliers. Needless to say, his best years were spent in Arizona.

“This is amazing to be recognized by the Suns family in this way,” said Marion. “The fans in Phoenix are one-of-a-kind and this city will always be a part of me. My time with the Suns was special and I am looking forward to being inducted into the Ring of Honor.”

Stoudemire, like Marion, was drafted by the Suns. The big man kicked off his pro career on a high note by winning Rookie of the Year in 2003. He went on to make six All-Star teams. Stoudemire averaged 21.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game with Phoenix before leaving for New York as a free agent in 2010. He credits the Suns for giving him his best NBA seasons.

“I bleed purple and orange, making this a tremendous honor to be inducted,” said Stoudemire. “My best and most transformative years came in Phoenix with the Suns. I have so much love for Suns fans and appreciation for the love they have always shown me.

How to watch World Cup warm-up online, TV channel, live stream info, start time, roster

The 2023 FIBA World Cup is now just a few weeks away, and Team USA will be looking to get back on the podium after a disappointing seventh-place finish in the tournament in 2019. Ahead of the event, the Americans will play a series of warm-up games in Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

The first of these pre-World Cup friendlies will be against Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Saturday, and will provide the Americans with their first real test of the summer. This will be an important opportunity for the new teammates to get some minutes under together and build chemistry.

Team USA cruised to a 117-74 victory over Puerto Rico in their first warm-up game for the World Cup, but that was thanks in large part to a massive talent advantage. That won’t be the case this time around, and Slovenia will actually have the best player on the floor in Doncic. While the result of this game doesn’t matter, it will be a big indication of where this team is at heading into the tournament.

There are a lot of young players on this team who will be getting their first taste of serious international basketball, which is a different game from the NBA. It will be interesting to see how they handle that environment against a Slovenian side that has far more experience playing together.

Furthermore, it will be worth watching how the minutes distribution starts to shake out as the contests get more competitive. Save for Josh Hart and Walker Kessler, everyone on the roster played between 10-23 minutes against Puerto Rico. That won’t remain the same as we get closer to the real tournament, and we’ll soon find out who head coach Steve Kerr actually trusts.

This is only an exhibition, so it feels funny making a serious prediction. In any case, we’ll take the Americans to get a narrow win. Doncic can control the action, but at the end of the day the Americans have a deeper, more talented roster than the Slovenians.

NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki says he didn’t know how to use air conditioner in rental car he drove as a rookie

Dirk Nowitzki had an illustrious career that included an NBA championship and 14 All-Star appearances with the Dallas Mavericks. He will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, and he recently told a story about how when he was a rookie he was sweating unnecessarily — in a very literal sense.

In a recent interview with Rachel Nichols, Nowitzki admitted one of the biggest lessons he learned in the United States was about car air conditioning.

Nowitzki in his rookie year he was only going to be in the country for a few months — due to a lockout shortening the 1998-99 NBA season to 50 games — and leave right after the season was over. He decided it was not worth it to buy a car until his second season in the league, so he opted for a rental instead.

“I was driving it around, it worked great. And of course, the players were always killing me when I drove up to practice or the plane,” he said.

“They all had their fancy cars, their SUVs, and the Hummer was big at the time and I had my little rental car.”

It worked fine for him, until things started heating up off the court.

“And so, we’re getting into April and May because the season was shifted and it was getting hot out,” he said. “It was getting warm already and I’ll come to the games and I’ll be in the lobby sweating… I’m walking in the locker room and I’m sweating a bit and they’re like, ‘Why are you sweating?'”

Nowitzki explained to his teammates that it was really hot outside and the inside of his car was really hot even though he drove with the windows down. At that point, someone went to his car and showed him the A/C button and explained he has to press it in order for cool air to come out.

“I was like, ‘Oh I was wondering how that worked.’ Growing up, the car I had at 18, I didn’t have A/C. Germany doesn’t get that hot, so I did not know about the A/C button. So that was a valuable lesson for sure,” Nowitzki said.

This story Dirk Nowitzki told me on Headliners about his rookie year CRACKED ME UP 😂😂😂 Dirk gets inducted to the @HoopHall this weekend – can’t wait. pic.twitter.com/Cd2H8cs4F3

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) August 10, 2023
The 7-footer from Germany was the ninth overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft selected by the Milwaukee Bucks and then traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He made his debut on Feb. 5, 1999, and wrapped up his first season in the league averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 47 games.

Not the worst for a rookie, but Nowitzki would go on to become a Mavericks legend and one of the greatest international stars in NBA history. He finished his career of 21 seasons averaging 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 1,522 regular-season games.

Nowitzki will be a headliner for the Class of 2023, along with other basketball legends such as Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Becky Hammon and Gregg Popovich. The Hall of Fame ceremonies will take place Aug. 11 and 12..