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New York State Assembly legalizes professional mixed martial arts

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s Assembly voted 113-25 Tuesday to legalize mixed martial arts, clearing the way for fights late this year and expanding the combat sport into the last state to still prohibit it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports legalizing the combination of wrestling, kickboxing and judo. The state Senate has already passed the identical measure.

Critics call MMA too violent and like football and boxing prone to causing concussions and head injuries. Some said it inspires domestic violence and invites children to imitate it.

“This is barbaric and it should be banned,” said Assemblyman Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It goes too far for your entertainment.”

Provisions were added to reduce opposition, including raising the insurance required for fighter injuries to $50,000 and to $1 million for life-threatening brain injuries. It requires insurance of $50,000 for the estate of an athlete fatally injured.

Advocates say it has evolved from rougher early days with more rules to protect fighters, who are trained professionals. Meanwhile, it’s on television, and fighters train and amateurs already compete in New York in unregulated bouts.

Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, the lead sponsor, said the law will authorize the state to oversee the amateur bouts as well. “What we seek to do is essentially take the sport out of the shadows in New York,” he said.

Conducted inside a cage or other enclosure with a referee present, MMA fights end when one fighter quits or gets knocked out or when judges decide after 15 or 25 minutes of fighting who the winner is.

The Assembly left the ban intact for years over fears that the sport was too violent. A Democrat-controlled chamber approved MMA in 2007, then subsequently balked. The Republican-controlled Senate, initially reluctant, has voted to legalize it for seven straight years.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat who chairs the tourism committee, said she initially opposed MMA after running into a group of destitute ex-boxers. Added protections for fighters have made it “palatable, at least to me at this point in time,” she said, though said later she still has reservations.

The committee voted 15-5 for it.

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, an Albany Democrat, noted those changes but voted against it, citing its violence and growing evidence of serious brain injuries and concussions in football and boxing.

“In football, concussions can be incidental to the game. Here, it is more part of the sport,” she said.

One early opponent was UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union, publicly citing American Medical Association opposition and the potential social costs of teens imitating fighters. One consistent advocate is Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport’s largest U.S. promoter, whose backers are major owners of nonunion Station Casinos in Las Vegas.

UFC has its eyes on hosting a major fight card late this year at Madison Square Garden and predicts there will be other professional shows next year in Brooklyn, Buffalo and smaller cities.

“I do support mixed martial arts because it’s also an economic generator,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday in Niagara Falls. The state would collect 3 percent of gross receipts broadcast rights, not to exceed $50,000, and 8.5 percent from gross ticket receipts, as well as licensing fees.

Fighters wear small, fingerless gloves and little else. They punch, kick, elbow, grapple, knee, trip, tackle, slam and choke each other inside a cage.

The legislation puts MMA under the control of the State Athletic Commission, which regulates professional boxing with drug testing, officials and ringside doctors. It would have to prepare to do the same for MMA. The legislation, once signed by Cuomo, would take effect in 120 days, giving the commission time to issue rules and set up staffing.

The measure authorizes the state to study potential funding mechanisms for long-term care of fighters who develop degenerative brain conditions.

New York’s longstanding insurance minimums have been $7,500 for pro boxer and wrestler injuries and $100,000 for an athlete killed.

Kevin Lee Slight Favorite Over Michael Chiesa on UFC Fight Night 112 Odds

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Odds are inching toward parity in the matchup between Kevin Lee and Michael Chiesa that ranks as one of the most anticipated non-title fights of the year in the UFC.

Lee is the -140 betting favorite against the +110 underdog Chiesa at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in their lightweight division matchup that will headline UFC Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City. The showdown between burgeoning lightweight division contenders will cap off the card at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday.

Lee, who is 15-2 in the UFC promotion, rates the edge as a striker and also has a strong grappling base that originates from his days as a collegiate wrestler. The 24-year-old has won eight of his last nine bouts, including his four most recent, only one of which went to a decision.

Chiesa has a comparable 14-2 record, which includes a three-win streak with the past two by rear-naked chokes. The older of the two at age 29, he is a crafty scrambler, which probably is an underlying reason for why his price has come down slightly from +115. His work in the clinch could keep Lee from being able to fight on his own terms, which can often cause a younger fighter’s focus to fray.

Whoever wins, it should be a good one, and both will stay high up in the lightweight hierarchy.

The co-main event is a middleweight matchup, with Johny Hendricks listed as a strong -225 favorite on the UFC Fight Night 112 odds against Tim Boetsch (+175). It’s the second fight at the heavier weight class for Hendricks, who seems rejuvenated now that he no longer has to be concerned about cutting weight – and draining his cardiovascular capacity – during the final weeks of pre-fight training.

However, Hendricks’ popularity as an ex-welterweight champion and the way he won his middleweight debut against inconsistent Hector Lombard have driven his price toward a low rate of return.

If Hendricks drops his defense, that might give Boetsch the opening to use his strength and land some massive combinations. While it’s true Boetsch has lost five of his last eight fights, there’s a reason he keeps getting bookings.

Justine Kish (-105) is a small underdog against Felice Herrig (-125) in a women’s strawweight bout that seems likely go the distance, as both have a strong base in kickboxing while neither has big-time punching power. In a toss-up such as this, it might be wise to take the more seasoned fighter, Herrig.

And Dennis Siver (-210) is favored against fellow featherweight veteran BJ Penn (+170), in what is a “last stand” bout for each nearly 40-year-old fighter. Penn has been in the Octagon more recently than Siver, who hasn’t fought since 2014, and also has an edge in punching power and landing significant strikes. Siver might also be the level of fighter that the 38-year-old Penn can beat at this twilight stage of his career.

 

 

Aldo favored at home against Holloway in UFC 212 co-main event

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The scenario at UFC 212 seems like a win-win for Jose Aldo, since he’ll be on home soil against Max Holloway in a fight that reckons to unfold mostly in the stand-up.

Aldo, who’s been known to be choosy about which fights he takes, is set as a -150 betting favorite against the +120 underdog Holloway for their featherweight unification title bout at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The fight will cap off the card at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Aldo has been stopped only twice in 28 career fights, while Holloway has only one loss by submission over 20 fights. While the 30-year-old Aldo might be past his peak in speed, he thrives at slowly revealing his striking arsenal over the course of a fight and will have a slew of time to do so, due to the reduced threat of a takedown.

Holloway, who comes in as the interim champion, has an edge in reach and will certainly go on the offensive. Holloway, who excels at backing up opponents and throwing combinations with his hands, will land some significant strikes. Whether that’s enough to earn a decision remains to be seen.

All 12 scheduled fights feature Brazilian fighters. Since the start of 2016, Brazilian fighters competing on home soil in the UFC are 14-6 against foreign opponents, but only four were plus-money underdogs.

In the co-main event, rising women’s strawweight star Claudia Gadelha (-350) is a favorite against Karolina Kowalkiewicz (+265) on the UFC 212 betting lines. Gadelha has a well-developed takedown defense that might help her with taking the fight to the ground and negating Kowalkiewicz’s striking.

In keeping with the night’s Hawaiian vs. Brazilian theme, Yancy Medeiros (-143) is favored against Erick Silva (+123) in a welterweight bout. Silva picks his spots with his striking and is very accurate, whereas Medeiros is a volume striker to the extent that he lands an above-average number of strikes per minute, but connects less than 35 per cent of time. Playing a patient game could help Silva get the win.

Vitor Belfort (-160) is favored against fellow veteran middleweight Nate Marquardt (+140) even though Belfort has lost three of his last five fights by stoppage (and the other was a no-contest). It shapes up as a tilt where the fighter who lands the first big shot will probably win. Marquardt, 3-7 in his last 10 fights, still has some striking ability and a bit of durability.

Based on each man’s brief track record in the UFC, Paulo Henrique Costa (-280) and Oluwale Bamgbose (+240) could have a quick resolution. Costa is not only 9-0, but none of his fights have gone beyond the first round. All six of Bamgbose’s wins have been decided in Round 1. Bamgbose has shown more vulnerability to strikes, meaning Costa is likely to receive some openings.