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Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 4 College Football Poll - Stewart Wins Again - Rampage No More -

Jones outclasses Rampage, retains UFC light heavyweight title

"He's great, guys. I thought it was hype. The kid is good."
The gushing over Jon Jones came from someone who, based on several weeks of back-and-forth barbs, had to be considered an unlikely source. But there was Quinton Jackson standing in the Octagon being interviewed following the main event of UFC 135 in Denver, his face nicked up and puffy, a cavernous wound over his right eye slathered with a cut man's futile best try, a proud man humbled and deferential.
Any concern that Saturday night's beating at the hands (and feet ... and knees ... and elbows) of the light heavyweight champion had left Jackson in something other than sound mind, however, was dispelled by his next words. "I have to take my hat off to him," Jackson said of the 24-year-old, the slightest smile creeping onto his face as he lifted a hand holding a ball cap. "See? My hat is in my hand right now." That's Quinton being Quinton, even after having had the "Rampage" beaten out of him.
What else could he say? In a fight that lasted over 16 minutes, there wasn't a second in which Jackson (32-9) was anything but thoroughly outclassed. The end came officially at 1:14 of the fourth round, when "Bones" Jones (14-1) became the first UFC fighter to finish Ramage, after clamping on a rear-naked choke that induced a quick tap-out. But, really, the fight was over much earlier, as soon as it became clear that Rampage was unable to penetrate Jones' 84½-inch reach, which the champ had used to his advantage even before the fight began, slapping hands with fans on both sides of the aisle at the same time as he made his way to the Octagon.
Incapable of reaching Bones with his heavy hands (14 career KOs), Jackson could do nothing more than stand at the end of Jones' array of punches and kicks, which came from all angles and landed with regularity ... and with cumulatively damaging effect.
"The game plan was to prove that we could strike with Quinton Jackson," Jones said afterward. "You know, he kind of insulted me, saying I had no punching power. He insulted my striking. So me and [striking coach] Mike Winkeljohn, we got together and we really cleaned up my striking to prove a point. And I think we did that."
You think? According to CompuStrike stats, Jones outstruck Jackson by about a 3-1 margin, landing 66 total strikes, 48 of them kicks and knees. Those numbers actually aren't nearly as lopsided as the fighting appeared as it unfolded. There were long stretches when Jackson was unable to touch Jones with a fist, his puncher's chance dwindling as he stood in front of Jones but didn't throw down. Rampage launched only 37 punches all fight, and landed but 10. He was busy playing defense.
In that part of the game, Rampage actually did better than anyone else who's been in the cage with Jones. He fended off four of Jones' six takedown attempts. He did eat a few of the champ's spinning punches, elbows and knees, but he ducked under several that could have done him in.
"This is the best I've ever been," said Jackson, who held the light heavyweight title for a little over a year before losing it to Forrest Griffin in the summer of 2008. "Jon Jones, I'm telling you, the kid is here to stay, guys. Whoever fights him next, I don't know, man."
Standing not far away in the cage was that very man, Rashad Evans, another former champion. He and Bones have been circling each other menacingly for much of this year, after Jones replaced an injured Evans in the title bout and let it be known that he wouldn't be averse to fighting his then-training partner. When Rashad was shown on the arena video screens, the crowd booed. And after a microphone was put in his face and he said a few nice things about the efforts of both Rampage and Bones, Evans just stood there as Jones came over and proclaimed to the crowd, "He's going to be doing a lot of talking. I'm not going to say anything, I promise you guys, leading up to this fight. I'm not going to say much. I'm just going to prove that he's ruined my special night twice now, and the time will come."
Oh, please. Evans didn't ruin this night for Jones any more than he ruined things last March when he was ushered into the cage following the Bones win over Shogun. Once again, Rashad was in the Octagon not of his choosing but because the UFC had put him there -- to be booed by the fans -- to hype up the next step in Bones's ascension.
That is, if there's even any more rising for Jon Jones to do. When he dominated the first dozen professional fighters he faced, an ear-piercing buzz arose but it was met head on by a who's-he-fought skepticism. Then Bones crushed a previously unbeaten Ryan Bader, and six weeks later he was thrashing "Shogun" for the belt. The doubters were fewer, but there still were some -- such as Rampage, who saw Rua as a rusty sitting duck for Jones and also dusted off the old fight game adage: You can win a title, but you're not a champion until you've defended the belt.
Jon Jones has done all of that now. And no one -- not even Quinton Jackson -- is doubting him now.

Tony Stewart wins at New Hampshire
LOUDON, N.H. -- Tony Stewart's season has gone from winless to winning streak at crunch time.
Don't ask Smoke to explain it.
While Chase drivers around him run out of gas, Stewart has the fuel to go the distance and inject the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with a dose of dominance that has him a formidable front-runner for a third title.
Stewart smoked 'em again and made it 2 for 2 in the Chase, pulling ahead when Clint Bowyer ran out of gas with two laps left to win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.
"You don't see it coming," Stewart said.
Only a few weeks ago, Stewart considered his car in the Chase a waste of a spot. Bad runs, bad luck, bad everything.
Seems like a different a season.
Stewart is on a roll with eight races left, building on last week's Chase-opening victory at Chicagoland Speedway with another strong late-race surge at New Hampshire. Both of his victories this season have come in the Chase and have propelled him to the top of the points standings.
The outcome was a complete reversal of the race at New Hampshire last fall, when Stewart's tank ran dry a lap from the checkered flag and Bowyer pounced for the victory.
"If that's not a flip-flop from last year, I don't know what is," Stewart said over the radio as he crossed the finish line.
Stewart had called this season a "miserable year" before getting hot in the final two races before the Chase. He was third at Atlanta and seventh at Richmond -- just a little sneak preview of what was to come in a Chase he has absolutely owned, this one on a track he loves. In 26 career starts at Loudon, Stewart has three wins and 16 top-10s.
Stewart overtook Kevin Harvick for the points lead and made himself the car to beat after a rather pedestrian regular season. Even Stewart counted himself out him before the Chase, declaring he would call himself, "a total bumbling idiot," if he won the championship. He might win his third title -- but don't expect Smoke to call himself a favorite.
"Got eight long weeks still, man," Stewart said. "It's way too early to start counting chickens."
How about counting wins?
Stewart, who won Cup titles in 2002 and 2005, is the second driver to ever open the Chase with consecutive victories.
"The potential's been there all year," he said. "You wonder when the bad luck string is going to stop. You hope (good luck) happens another eight weeks now. We hope we're through with it and we can keep clicking off top-fives, top-10s. If we could get a couple of more wins, that would be awesome."
Stewart led a pack that included four other Chase drivers in the top 10.
Brad Keselowski was second, Jeff Gordon was fourth, Matt Kenseth was sixth and Carl Edwards finished eighth. Gordon rocketed from 11th to sixth in the standings and is still a legitimate contender for his fifth championship.
Gordon ran out of gas last week and was forced to conserve fuel over the waning laps at New Hampshire.
"It's something that we need to be better at," he said.
For at least one Chase driver, it's time to start planning for next season.
Denny Hamlin, who entered in 12th and a whopping 41 points out, finished 29th and was the worst Chase finisher. A year after he went into the finale with the points lead, Hamlin's shot at his first championship is over. While the nine drivers behind Stewart range from seven to 29 points behind him, Hamlin is 66 points back and 32 out of 11th.
"We're just figuring out what we need to do to be a little bit more competitive," Hamlin said.
Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending champion, finished 18th and is 10th in the standings.

Sprint Cup Standings
Tony Stewart won at New Hampshire for his second straight win to open NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The win vaulted him to the top of the standings where he now owns a seven-point lead over Kevin Harvick.

Cup Standings
1. Tony Stewart
2. Kevin Harvick (-7)
3. Brad Keselowski (-11)
4. Carl Edwards (-14)
5. Jeff Gordon (-23)
T-6. Kyle Busch (-29)
T-6. Matt Kenseth (-26)
T-6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-26)
9. Kurt Busch (-28)
10. Jimmie Johnson (-29)
11. Ryan Newman (-34)
12. Denny Hamlin (-66)

Other Chase driver results saw Kyle Busch finish 11th; Harvick 12th; Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17th; Kurt Busch 22nd; and pole winner Ryan Newman 25th.
Fuel mileage was a deciding factor with several contenders falling away when they ran out of fuel. Bowyer, still looking for at least one victory this season before he leaves Richard Childress Racing, thought he could stretch his gas until the very end. He wound up 26th.
Stewart couldn't believe his good fortune a year after the same problem derailed his shot at a victory.
"I know exactly what that feels like," Stewart said. "I know exactly how he feels right now. I saw him slowing down the back and I thought, 'Oh, no, you're kidding me.' That's not the way you want to win it."
Greg Biffle, the only other driver to open the Chase with two straight wins, was third. Brian Vickers was fifth.
Round 3 of the Chase is next week at Dover International Speedway.
Stewart's win last season snapped a 32-race losing streak and helped Stewart-Haas Racing take the checkered flag for the second time this season. Newman and Stewart finished 1-2 at New Hampshire in July.
Stewart was cryptic about the turnaround after he got out of the No. 14 Chevrolet at New Hampshire.
"We got rid of some dead weight earlier this week, so, it's made it a lot easier It's been a big weight lifted off our shoulders," he said, without explanation. "Sometimes you've got to make adjustments in your life, and we did that, and it's definitely helped this weekend for sure. These guys have never quit, man, these guys have never given up, and we've got a shot at this thing."
Pressed on the issue in the media center, Stewart declined to address it.
"We're just going to leave it at that," he said.
Whatever he meant, it seemed more personal than professional. Crew chief Darian Grubb said there were no personnel changes on the team.
"Maybe he's talking about me and I just don't know it yet," said Grubb, laughing.
With results like these? Not a chance.

AP Top 25 Week 4 College Football

1 LSU (42) 4-0 1471 2
2 Oklahoma (12) 3-0 1422 1
3 Alabama (5) 4-0 1413 3
4 Boise State (1) 3-0 1280 4
5 Oklahoma State 4-0 1209 7
6 Stanford 3-0 1205 5
7 Wisconsin 4-0 1177 6
8 Nebraska 4-0 991 9
9 Oregon 3-1 985 10
10 South Carolina 4-0 950 12
11 Virginia Tech 4-0 883 13
12 Florida 4-0 820 15
13 Clemson 4-0 744 21
14 Texas A&M 2-1 734 8
15 Baylor 3-0 659 17
16 South Florida 4-0 585 18
17 Texas 3-0 466 19
18 Arkansas 3-1 434 14
19 Michigan 4-0 417 22
20 TCU 3-1 338 20
21 Georgia Tech 4-0 298 25
22 West Virginia 3-1 280 16
23 Florida State 2-2 239 11
24 Illinois 4-0 179 24
25 Arizona State

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