All the attention might have been on the anti-climax that was Liverpool vs Manchester United this weekend, but elsewhere there has been a bounty of sporting stories. Snooker has a new star, the UFC has a new record-breaker and preparation for the heaviest boxing match in history is well underway. Here are five sport stories you might have missed...
Max Holloway Puts In A Record-breaking Performance At Fight Island 7
It is not hyperbole to suggest that the performance Max Holloway put on this weekend at UFC’s Fight Island 7 is perhaps the greatest we have ever seen. In his destruction of Calvin Kattar, he smashed through a plethora of single-bout UFC records. The American landed 445 significant punches, which is simply ridiculous. If his opponent and countryman hadn’t landed a single shot, the fight still would’ve broken the record for the most combined significant strikes landed in a UFC fight. What on earth.
He also landed 312 more significant strikes than Kattar. To put that into context, the previous record for overall significant strikes by a fighter was 290. He averaged one punch every two seconds for 25 minutes, attempting 746 strikes over the allotted time period. Judge David Lethaby scored the fight at 50-42, only the second time that score has ever been seen in UFC history, such was Holloway’s dominance. This was just remarkable.
The Mountain Makes His Boxing Debut
The Mountain from Game of Thrones, aka Thor Bjornsson, took his first tentative steps as a boxer this weekend as he faced off against Northern Ireland’s Steven Ward. Coming in ten stone heavier than his cruiserweight opponent, ‘Thor’ put in a solid display across the three rounds.
The one-time World’s Strongest Man winner lost 110lbs coming into this fight, moved around the ring nicely and even dropped his opponent with a powerful shot late on. A sporting draw was announced given it was an exhibition fight, but the real drama will come in September when Bjornsson takes on fellow WSM winner and bitter rival Eddie Hall in the ring in Las Vegas for the “heaviest boxing match ever”.
“I have huge respect for this sport, this is just the beginning,” Bjornsson said. “I will be in the best shape of my life in September this year and I will knock Eddie Hall out.”
Chelsea Beat Manchester United To Top The WSL
All eyes may have been on the men’s team, but Manchester United had also topped the table in the Women’s Super League heading into the weekend’s crunch clash with title rivals Chelsea. Casey Stoney’s women were unbeaten across their opening ten games in the WSL, and in just their second season in the top flight, have emerged as genuine title contenders.
This weekend however their title ambition took a knock as Emma Hayes’ Chelsea team beat them 2-1 at Kingsmeadow, with England international Fran Kirby scoring the winner just minutes after Lauren James had equalised for United. That goal took the Blues to the top of the table and one point clear of Manchester United, while Arsenal and Manchester City make up the top four.
Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Lockdown Demands Rejected
The Covid-19 hit Australian Open is seeing perhaps the strangest build-up to a Grand Slam event ever, as 72 players isolate ahead of the tournament. World number one and defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic made a list of demands for the event’s organisers, including that the players were moved out of their hotels and into private residences with tennis courts.
Unsurprisingly, these demands have been rejected by the state premier Daniel Andrews who said: “There's no special treatment here... because the virus doesn't treat you specially, so neither do we.” Meanwhile, British hopeful Heather Watson has been making the best of the situation, running three miles back and forth in her hotel room.
Debutant Yan Bingtao Wins Betfred Masters
There was a shock in the snooker as Betfred Masters debutant Yan Bingtao beat John Higgins to win the tournament at the very first time of asking. At the age of just 20, he became the youngest winner in 26 years, when a 19-year-old Ronnie O’Sullivan beat the same man, Higgins, in 1995.
Bingtao, who is ranked 11th in the world, came back from 7-5 down to triumph 10-8 over the veteran world number six, to win the first major title of his fledgling career. Higgins, who has seen it all in his long career was humble in defeat and full of praise for the victor: "He was fantastic. He has such an incredible all round game. He could be a world champion without a shadow of a doubt, so China is very lucky to have Yan."