10 reasons to watch UFC 231, starting with two of the highest caliber title fights – MMAjunkie

Two title fights headline UFC 231, which goes down Saturday night in Toronto.

In the main event, featherweight champion Max Holloway returns from a 371-day layoff to face unbeaten challenger Brian Ortega in a highly anticipated matchup that was initially scheduled for UFC 226. That fight fell through a few days before the July 7 event took place when Holloway was hospitalized with concussion-like symptoms.

In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko faces Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a bout to determine the next women’s flyweight champion. The UFC stripped Nicco Montano of that title after she was hospitalized on the morning of weigh-ins for UFC 228. Montano was scheduled to defend her title against Shevchenko on that September fight card.

UFC 231 takes place at Scotiabank Arena. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch:

1. The start of something beautiful?

The way Holloway sees it, Ortega is good, but his resume doesn’t quite match up.

“He’s good,” Holloway said at the UFC 231 press conference. “He’s a dangerous man. But everybody keeps talking about Brian and this and that. Everything the guy did, I did better.

“He’s on, what, a six-fight win streak? I’ve got 12. He beat a champion? I beat two, and I beat one of them twice. At the end of the day, the ‘Blessed’ express is going around in a circle. We lapping you, bro. And I’m younger than you, so congratulations.”

When asked his opinion on Holloway’s assessment of his UFC career, Ortega didn’t have much to say.

“Sometimes, the best response is no response,” the challenger replied.

These two are the best fighters the featherweight division has to offer right now. That fact is reflected in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, where Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) is No. 1 and Ortega (14-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) No. 2. That’s one thing that makes this matchup appealing; another is the fact that this fight could come down to inches.

Holloway looks like he could be one of the best featherweights in UFC history, and a lot of that has to do with his striking. But Ortega has been able to absorb whatever his past opponents have thrown at him and then capitalize on the slightest error with his top-notch grappling. Ortega also has developed his striking during his seven-fight run with the UFC.

It’s easy to get excited about this fight, and the good thing is that no matter what the outcome, we’re likely to see these two face off at least once more.

“He ain’t going nowhere, and neither am I,” Ortega said. “And there’s no more room at the top. No matter what happens, I don’t see him spiraling down, and neither do myself. Whatever happens, fall down, get back up, and challenge each other again. So, this is the beginning.”

2. Blast from the past

It wasn’t long ago that Jedrzejczyk was the darling of the MMA world. That changed some time over the past year or so when her persona took a darker turn. It also didn’t help that she seemed to blame everyone but herself for her back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas.

But as we all know, the MMA world is a fickle and forgiving one. At UFC 231, the ex-strawweight queen has the opportunity to get back in the good graces of those who inhabit that world. All she has to do is overcome the odds and defeat Shevchenko (15-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC), who is the No. 2-ranked woman in the flyweight division. She’s also a woman who has bested Jedrzejczyk (14-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) three times in the past. Granted, those wins came in muay Thai competition and more than 10 years have passed since, but a loss is a loss. And as we have seen, Jedrzejczyk has not been good at letting things like that go.

Jedrzejczyk also has to contend with the fact that she is moving up while Shevchenko is fighting at a lower weight. We know Shevchenko can make the championship weight of 125 pounds and perform well there. The ex-bantamweight title challenger is coming off a “Performance of the Night” bonus-winning victory over Priscilla Cachoeira at 125 pounds.

Jedrzejczyk, whose most recent fight was a decision win over Tecia Torres, is under a lot of pressure in this contest. In mid-2017, we were asking if she was the best female fighter of all-time. Now that she’s on a 1-2 run, we are left to wonder what the future holds for her in the flyweight division where she is unranked and the strawweight division where she is the No. 2 ranked competitor. Jedrzejczyk has the opportunity to provide us with the answer to at least one of those questions at UFC 231.

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‘Make better choices’: Endangered Hawaiian monk seals keep getting eels stuck up their noses and scientists want them to stop – Boston.com

A relaxed-looking juvenile Hawaiian monk seal lounges near a sandy white beach on some green foliage. Its eyes are half-closed and it has a serene expression on its face. But the seal’s calm demeanor is surprising.

Why? Well, there’s a long, black-and-white eel dangling from its right nostril.

“It’s just so shocking,” Claire Simeone, a veterinarian and monk seal expert based in Hawaii, told The Washington Post on Thursday. “It’s an animal that has another animal stuck up its nose.”

Simeone wasn’t the only person stunned by the photo of the seal and its unusual facial ornament that was shared earlier this week on Facebook by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. The picture – taken this year in the remote northwestern Hawaiian islands – has since gone viral, drawing attention to a rare phenomenon that continues to baffle scientists who are now begging the endangered seals to “make better choices.”

It all began about two years ago when Charles Littnan, lead scientist of the monk seal program, woke up to a strange email from researchers in the field. The subject line was short: “Eel in nose.”

“It was just like, ‘We found a seal with an eel stuck in its nose, do we have a protocol?’” Littnan told The Post in a phone interview.

There was none, Littnan said, and it took several emails and phone calls before the decision was made to grab the eel and try pulling it out.

“There was only maybe two inches of the eel actually still sticking out of the nose, so it was very much akin to the magician’s trick when they’re pulling out the handkerchiefs and they keep coming and coming and coming,” he said.

After less than a minute of tugging, a two-and-a-half-foot dead eel emerged from the seal’s nostril.

Since then, Littnan said there have been at least three or four reported cases – the most recent occurring this fall. In all the cases, the eels were removed successfully and the seals are “doing great,” he said. None of the eels, however, survived.

“We have no idea why this is suddenly happening,” Littnan said. “You see some very strange things if you watch nature long enough and this could end up being one of these little oddities and mysteries of our careers that 40 years from now, we’ll be retired and still questioning quite how this happened.”

Researchers have already determined this is not the result of a human with a personal vendetta against seals and eels because all the cases were reported from remote islands that are only frequented by scientists. Littnan said he does have a few theories about how an eel could naturally end up wedged in a seal’s nostril.

A seal’s preferred prey – usually fish, octopuses and, of course, eels – like to hide within coral reefs to avoid being eaten, and since the marine mammals don’t have hands, they have to hunt with their faces.

“They like to stick their faces into the coral reef holes and they’ll spit water out of their mouths to flush things out and they’ll do all sorts of tricks, but they are shoving their faces into holes,” Littnan said.

Perhaps, he said, a cornered eel decided that the only way to escape or defend itself was to swim up its attacker’s nostril and young seals who are “not very adept at getting their food yet” were forced to learn a tough lesson.

But Littnan said that theory doesn’t make much sense.

“They’re really quite long eels, and their diameter is probably close to what it would be for a nasal passage,” he said.

He added that a monk seal’s nostrils, which reflexively close when they are diving for food, are very muscular and it would be difficult for any animal to push through.

“I struggle to think of an eel really wanting to force its way into a nose,” he said.

The other way eels might be ending up in nostrils is through throwing up. Similar to how people sometimes end up accidentally spewing food or beverages from their noses, that could also happen to seals, who often regurgitate their meals.

Still, Littnan said it doesn’t seem possible that a “long, fat eel” would end up going through a seal’s nose rather than out of its mouth. The “most plausible” theory, he said, is that monk seal teenagers aren’t all that different from their human counterparts. Monk seals “seem naturally attracted to getting into troublesome situations,” Littnan said.

“It almost does feel like one of those teenage trends that happen,” he said. “One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to mimic it.”

Though no seals have died or been seriously affected by the eels, having a dead animal up their noses for any extended amount of time poses potentially adverse health impacts, said Simeone, director of Ke Kai Ola, a monk seal hospital in Hawaii run by the Marine Mammal Center.

With an eel lodged in its nose, a monk seal would not be able to close the blocked nostril when diving, which means water could get into their lungs and cause problems, such as pneumonia, Simeone said. A decomposing eel carcass could also lead to infections, she said.

On Facebook, the photo of the seal had more than 1,600 reactions as of early Friday morning. The caption read, “Mondays . . . it might not have been a good one for you but it had to have been better than an eel in your nose.” It also became a trending moment on Twitter.

Many expressed sympathy for the seal having to experience what one Twitter user described as “the most uncomfortable thing ever.”

“RIP eel, but how satisfying must it have been for the seal when it was pulled out?” another person wondered.

Littnan, however, told The Post the young seal “seemed apparently fairly oblivious to the fact that there was two feet of eel sticking out of its face.”

In general, Simeone said marine animals are “very stoic,” adding, “It’s amazing the kinds of things they can tolerate.”

While “eel snorting” has yet to really catch on in the seal community, Littnan said he hopes it never does.

“We’re hoping it’s just one of these flukes that will disappear and never be seen again,” he said.

If monk seals could understand humans, Littnan said he has a message for them: “I would gently plead for them to stop.”

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Tennessee inmate second to be executed in electric chair in two months – NBCNews.com

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By The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee inmate became the second person to die in the state’s electric chair in just over a month Thursday, nearly two decades after Tennessee adopted lethal injection as its preferred method of execution.

David Earl Miller, 61, was pronounced dead at 7:25 p.m. at a Nashville maximum-security prison.

Miller was convicted of killing 23-year-old Lee Standifer in 1981 in Knoxville and had been on death row for 36 years, the longest of any inmate in Tennessee.

David Earl MillerTennessee Department of Correction / via AP

At 7:12 p.m. and after Miller had been strapped into the chair, Tennessee Department of Correction officials raised a blind that had covered the windows to a witness room. Miller looked straight ahead, his eyes seemingly unfocused and his face expressionless.

Warden Tony Mays asked Miller if he had any last words. He spoke but his words were unintelligible. Mays asked him to repeat himself, and his words were still difficult to understand, but his attorney, Stephen Kissinger, said he understood them to be, “Beats being on death row.”

Officers then placed a large damp sponge on Miller’s shaved head to help conduct the current before strapping a cap to his head. Water ran down Miller’s face and was toweled off by an officer. Miller looked down and did not look back up before officers placed a shroud over his face.

After someone connected an electrical cable to the chair, Miller’s body stiffened as the first jolt of current hit him. His body then relaxed before a second jolt came less than a minute later. Again, Miller’s body stiffened and then relaxed. The blinds were pulled down and an announcement of the time of death came over an intercom.

No witnesses from either Miller’s family or Standifer’s were present for the execution, but Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa Taylor read a brief statement from a woman from Ohio who did not want her name given.

Taylor read, “After a long line of victims he has left, it is time to be done. It is time for him to pay for what he has done to Lee.”

Miller had been on a date with Standifer, who had mental disabilities, and the two were seen together around town the evening of May 20, 1981. The young woman’s body was found beaten and stabbed the next day in the yard of the home where Miller had been living.

Earlier on Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam refused Miller’s request to commute his sentence to life in prison. Miller’s petition for clemency said Miller had been physically abused as a child by his stepfather and had been physically and sexually abused by his mother. The petition argued that evidence of the trauma and mental illness it caused should have been presented to a jury.

Assistant Federal Community Defender Kissinger spoke briefly after the execution.

“(Miller) cared deeply for Lee Standifer, and she would be alive today if it weren’t for a sadistic stepfather and a mother who violated every trust that a son should have,” Kissinger said.

Both Miller and inmate Edmund Zagorski before him chose the electric chair over lethal injection, a process proponents said would be painless and humane.

But the inmates argued in court that Tennessee’s current midazolam-based method causes a prolonged and torturous death. They pointed to the August execution of Billy Ray Irick, which took around 20 minutes and during which he coughed and huffed before turning a dark purple.

Their case was thrown out, largely because a judge said they failed to prove a more humane alternative was available. Zagorski was executed Nov. 1.

In recent decades, states have moved away from the electric chair, and no state now uses electrocution as its main execution method, said Robert Dunham. Dunham is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which doesn’t take a stand on the death penalty but is critical of its application.

Georgia and Nebraska courts both have ruled the electric chair unconstitutional, and about two decades ago it looked as though the U.S. Supreme Court would weigh in on the issue. It agreed to hear a case out of Florida after a series of botched executions there. But Florida adopted lethal injection, and the case was dropped.

Dunham said he wasn’t aware of any state other than Tennessee where inmates were choosing electrocution over lethal injection.

In Tennessee, inmates whose crimes were committed before 1999 can chose electrocution over lethal injection.

Prior to Zagorski’s execution, the builder of Tennessee’s electric chair had warned that it could malfunction, but Zagorski’s and Miller’s executions appeared to be carried out without incident. Miller’s death was only the third time Tennessee had put an inmate to death in the electric chair since 1960.

The courts said Miller couldn’t challenge the constitutionality of the electric chair because he chose it, even though his attorneys argued the choice was coerced by the threat of something even worse.

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Kevin Hart’s celebrity supporters reveal a fracture in Hollywood’s politics – Washington Examiner

The 2019 Oscars are currently hiring for the role of show host. Comedian Kevin Hart was announced earlier this week as entertainment for the star-studded evening in Hollywood, but he has since voluntarily resigned from the post. The reason won’t shock you.

Activists and quasi-journalists went to the trouble of finding distasteful tweets from Hart dating back nearly a decade, an online mob formed demanding penance, and Hart “passed” rather than “feed internet trolls and reward them” in a video statement delivered on Instagram.

Kevin Hart did the right thing here, and a few different lessons can be learned from his ordeal.

The since-deleted 2011 tweet that put Kevin Hart in this situation read, “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughter’s doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay’.” Ha-ha, very funny, Kevin.

Well, not really. It’s more than a bit off-color, but does it really matter? Hart’s tweet has been billed repeatedly as a homophobic statement. My Southern grandfather made homophobic remarks, Kevin Hart makes jokes, which is what this was. Does anyone really think Hart would smash a wooden doll house over a child’s head or condone such violent acts by anyone in his audience? Or is it possible his tongue is just placed deeply in cheek?

The Oscars have faced backlash in years past for a lack of racial diversity, thus the annually recurring hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The Academy phoning its recently hired black superstar host and delivering an ultimatum to him for an apology or dismissal from the job certainly doesn’t solve any of its problems with race.

A brief scan of Kevin Hart’s comments on the Instagram post announcing his recusal from the event highlights a divide in Hollywood we don’t often hear about. Numerous black actors, comedians, and musicians are lined up behind Hart. Nick Cannon wrote, “We with you regardless!!! You know we feel about people trying to control us anyway!!” Cedric the Entertainer joined in with a simple, “Stand Up Kev,” and Damien Wayans offered, “Much love & respect always, REGARDLESS.”

Hollywood is not a political or cultural monolith, and the broad support of Hart shows a fracture in a coalition generally considered to be progressive and unified.

A saga like this calls to mind the recent “Hidden Tribes” report that correctly pointed out the chasm that exists between those who attend the church of political correctness and those who do not. The country is not simply left and right, the report says, but a range of less-radical subgroups exhausted by the true believers on the fringes.

The “woke” community is far from what you see online, which is characterized as a younger cohort led by intersectional people of color. It’s generally a movement of affluent, highly educated whites dominating the space of “progressive activist,” with only a fraction of African Americans in the survey sample represented by those views.

Being an intersectional ally to people of color, in reality, looks something like this: a white activist berating a black man and telling him he gets no second chance and also apparently has to volunteer for LGBTQ causes.

Kevin Hart’s response to this has been nothing if not blunt.

“The same energy that went into finding those old tweets could be the same energy put into finding the response to the questions that have been asked years after years after years,” he said, referencing a Rolling Stone interview from 2015 where he distanced himself from those exact same tweets. Hart also pointed out that critics are constantly looking for reasons to be angry, and then he stepped down from the job he knew would be taken away regardless.

Our popular culture does not currently make room for forgiveness and the extension of the benefit of the doubt. Only after all of this did he offer a simple and seemingly sincere apology.

It is commendable that Hart voluntarily tweeted an apology after being effectively pushed out of a performer’s dream job in Hollywood. The kind of penance the cultural Left requires is both humiliating and a dead-end road, and he was correct in pointing it out while maintaining goodwill to those his joke offended.

It’s disheartening to say, but the times we live in may require more personal resolve and unapologetic authenticity, not less. We gain nothing from requiring celebrities, friends, or family to issue canned and insincere apologies for their differences in opinion. Kevin Hart approached this controversy with his heart on his sleeve and a long record of more sincere comments on the issue of homosexuality and parenting.

Good for him for knowing that nothing more could be done here — and as usual, shame on the Academy.

Stephen Kent (@Stephen_Kent89) is the spokesperson for Young Voices and host of Beltway Banthas, a Star Wars & politics podcast in D.C.

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Young Seals Keep Getting Eels Stuck Up Their Noses, and Nobody Knows Why – Live Science

Young Seals Keep Getting Eels Stuck Up Their Noses, and Nobody Knows Why

This Hawaiian monk seal got an eel stuck in its nose. Scientists say this is a rare, but not unheard of, occurrence.

Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Brittany Dolan

So, no one told you life was gonna be this way.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program released a photo on Monday of a poor Hawaiian monk seal, squinting in what can only be a what-is-my-life look, with a probably-also-distressed eel stuck up its nose.

This phenomenon, eels getting stuck in seals’ noses, is rare; the team has observed only three or four cases of eel-nose in the past four decades, said Charles Littnan, a monk seal conservation biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. But weirdly, the incidence has been increasing in the past couple of years. “In almost 40 years of monitoring, we have actually never observed this until a few years ago,” Littnan said. [Gallery: Seals of the World]

Oddly, it seems to always be in the right nostril, but “I don’t really think that means anything,” Littnan told Live Science. This whole situation could just be a “weird anomaly” or a “crazy statistical quirk, and we may never see it again,” he added. “We have no idea why it’s happening.”

As to how the eel gets stuck, Littnan has several ideas. The monk seals feed on or near the bottom of the ocean, because they’re “very efficient” and “don’t like to chase things in the water,” he said. So, they go for the food, like eels, whose strategy is to hide.

Monk seals nose around in coral reefs, root around in the sand, and flip over 50-lb. (22 kilograms) rocks to grab hiding octopuses, Littnan said. While the unfortunate, recently photographed seal was doing this, an eel could have, in a case of self-defense, “rammed itself into the nostril and maybe got stuck,” Littnan said.

Or if the seal brought the eel out to the surface to eat the prey, the eel could have whipped around and got into the nose, Littnan said. Since this phenomenon has been observed only in juvenile seals, Littnan said it could also just be that the seals are inexperienced at hunting.

Or, just like in the YouTube videos where people sneeze and spit up long strands of pasta through their noses, the seal could have regurgitated an eel that it ate, with the eel coming out the wrong pipe, Littnan said.

In this case, a relatively small part of the eel is in the nose, which “leads me to thinking that the eel forced itself in while trying to escape,” Littnan said. In some other cases, the researchers have seen, in which around 2 feet (0.6 meters) of the eel was stuck the seal’s nose, the seals must have regurgitated the prey, Littnan said.

If that had been the case with this seal, the animal probably could have gotten rid of the eel on its own by shaking its head around. But the eel may have gotten deeper into the nose, preventing the seal from removing the invader. An eel in the nose may be bad, but a rotting eel in the nose would be even worse; bacteria from the rotting flesh could have infected the animal, Littnan said. Also, seals’ nostrils close automatically when the animals go under water, and having an eel in there could have hindered that process, closing off an all-around great day for the seal with some water up the nose.

In every instance of eel-nose, including this one, the researchers have removed the eel successfully. The seals were all fine, but the eels did not make it, according to the scientists’ post.

Hawaiian monk seals are among the most endangered seals on the planet, with only about 1,400 of them living in Hawaii. But recent years have shown “encouraging developments,” according to NOAA Fisheries. The seals’ numbers have increased, even though these little creatures always “find unique ways to get themselves into trouble,” Littnan said.

Originally published on Live Science.

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