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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Prince Harry; casino tycoon Steve Wynn and fun and games in Las Vegas and beyond...

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Prince Harry; casino tycoon Steve Wynn and fun and games in Las Vegas and beyond...

As the UK's Daily Mail states it's a rare man who walks away from Las Vegas with nothing to regret.

Prince Harry counts the cost of his escapades in Sin City, he may just be coming to regret the day he ever made the acquaintance of casino tycoon Steve Wynn.

Wynn, the self-proclaimed King of Las Vegas, is the billionaire owner of the five-star Encore Wynn resort, the opulent hotel-casino in whose eight-room, £5,100-a-night suite the prince was photographed playing strip billiards.

Unsubstantiated reports this week have suggested that cocaine was snorted in the suite, and that a known prostitute was among the guests. There are even rumours of a video tape capturing the night's events. So how did the third-in-line to the throne come to meet – even befriend – a septuagenarian gambling mogul?

Steve Wynn, a flamboyant showman with a surgically-enhanced, wrinkle-free face, carefully coiffed hair, a volcanic temper and a trophy wife, is famous for befriending celebrities whose patronage would be good for business.

Last November, 70-year-old Wynn was spotted having dinner with the prince in one of his Vegas steakhouses while the Prince was enjoying a weekend break from an advanced helicopter training course in Arizona.

Waiving the bills of celebrities is common practice in Vegas, and it remains unclear who paid the estimated £30,000 bill for Harry's recent stay. According to Wynn's spokesman, the tab was not picked up by either the tycoon or his hotel.

Is the prince welcome to return? I can't see why not,' the spokesman said.

Wynn is unlikely to be perturbed by Harry's naked shenanigans, but if drugs do turn out to have been involved, he may swiftly seek to distance himself from the events. He may be Las Vegas's most revered casino owner, but he still has his gambling licence and his reputation to think about. It is a reputation that Wynn is eager to protect. He has worked hard to erase the stains of the past.

Today, he is widely credited as the man who single-handedly cleaned up' Vegas and made it into a place in which Wall Street could invest and young families could holiday (if parents don't mind their children collecting the prostitutes' calling cards which litter the pavement).

Yet for all his denials, Wynn, who is worth $2.5 billion, has never shaken off accusations that he was linked for many years to the mobsters who once ruled Las Vegas.

He has weathered successive U.S. investigations over everything from drug-dealing to money-laundering, and has never been found to have committed any wrong-doing.

In Britain, the authorities have proved harder to convince. When he tried to open a casino in London to exploit the influx of rich Arabs in the early Eighties, Scotland Yard denied him a licence. But in the desert city of Las Vegas, he remains a swaggering icon. He has a reputation for being sophisticated' but that's by Vegas standards.

This is a man who bought Impressionist masterpieces only to hang them on the walls of his casinos; who reputedly blew his finger off while playing with a gun given to him by a former Mob hitman, and who boasts that his wife Andrea has the greatest butt in the world'.

Money is no object. In 2005, Wynn sank $2.7 billion into building just one hotel the curved glass and steel Wynn Las Vegas. He then did the same again a few years later with the Encore.

So enamoured is he with the idea of himself as Sin City royalty that he arranged his wedding last year to coincide with that of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Hollywood star Clint Eastwood was best man and lingerie model Caprice a bridesmaid. The reception, held in the ballroom of Wynn's Encore resort, boasted a 500-strong guest list which included Sylvester Stallone, Steven Spielberg, Lionel Richie, Sir Philip Green and Celine Dion.

Each guest left with a five-inch high replica of the tiered wedding cake, but it's unlikely Wynn or his rake-thin new wife enjoyed much of the banquet. Both are vegans, and the youth-obsessed Wynn, who exists on a diet of vitamin pills, liquidised walnuts and the occasional indulgent dribble of olive oil, boasts that he still has a 32in waistline.

After years of hard graft and wheeler-dealing, he has earned the right to behave as he wishes. The son of an East Coast bingo parlour operator and hardened gambler, the brash and handsome Wynn Jnr expanded the family business to Las Vegas with a string of clever investments and ambitious hustling.

In the Seventies and Eighties, when Wynn was building his empire, Las Vegas was full of the mobsters who had originally built its gambling industry.

Some say it was impossible to work in the city and not come into contact with mafiosi, even unwittingly. Others have suggested that, even so, Wynn had an unusually large number of brushes with the Mob.

Wynn himself has vigorously denied any involvement with the Mob, and none of the numerous law enforcement investigations for gambling licences have ever concluded that he worked for or with organised crime.

In 1967, he was with some business associates of noted mobsters on a private yacht cruise on a lake in Nevada when a naked young woman somehow fell over the back of the boat and was chopped almost in half by the propeller blades. Her death prompted an investigation, but everyone on board denied having seen the incident.

And he had trouble with officials in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1986 after investigators discovered mobster Tony Castelbuono, a friend of Wynn, was laundering the profits of heroin trafficking at his gambling tables. Wynn almost lost his gambling licence.

Today, such tales of the Mob are just water under the bridge. Wynn has re-invented himself as the business genius who demolished seedy gambling joints along the Vegas Strip and replaced them with slick hotel-casinos such as the Mirage (the city's first 3,000-bed hotel), the Treasure Island and the Bellagio.

Part of his success has been his ability to turn on the charm with important people. But Wynn is notorious, too, for his temper. In 1991, he reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum with the former president of Wynn's Golden Nugget casino, who described Wynn as a womanising, brutal boss.

In allegations made in documents lodged at court, it was said that he would get so angry that his eyes bulged and he started screaming at the top of his lungs and banging his head on the table'. There was no admission of liability by Wynn, who denied the allegations.

His mother Zelma claims his tyrannical behaviour is the result of frustration over his failing eyesight. The tycoon suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive genetic disease which effectively gives him tunnel vision by destroying his ability to see peripheral images. In a dark room, he is completely blind.

His vision may be failing, but for years he was infamous for his roving eye, keeping keys to empty rooms at his various hotels for trysts. He was known to favour his female blackjack croupiers.

All that came to a stop when he met the beautiful Mrs Wynn. Usually described as a British socialite, 48-year-old Andrea was, in fact, born in New York but, as her proud husband likes to stress, was raised in England and France. Tres sophistique.

It all sounds rather less chic when you learn that the family moved to France because her father, a wheeler-dealer named Victor Danenza, fled there in 1976 to escape an FBI fraud investigation.

Before becoming the second Mrs Wynn, Andrea had lived in London with her first husband, Texan banker Robert Hissom, a former polo-playing friend of Prince Charles.

She met Wynn in 2008 in St Tropez, where he keeps a yacht, and the couple began a very public romance. Wynn divorced his long-suffering first wife Elaine, after 46 years of marriage, and wed Andrea last year.

Elaine made around $740 million from the settlement one of the biggest payouts in U.S. divorce history. The costly divorce appears not to have troubled Mr Wynn, who is delighted with his new wife.

It's like God made a woman for me,' he once said, before pointing out the part of his wife he most admired the greatest butt in the world'.

It all goes to show that money can buy you neither taste nor manners. Even Wynn's attempts to acquire a collection of old masterpieces have invited accusastions that he was vulgar and greedily acquisitive.

He has, since the late Nineties, spent hundreds of millions of dollars on paintings by Picasso and Degas, Caravaggio and Titian. He has several times scooped the world's great galleries at auction, only to horrify the art world by hanging his purchases in his casinos.

At 70, he shows no sign of slowing down though controversy continues to dog him. He is embroiled in a three-year court battle with Joe Francis, founder of the soft porn video empire Girls Gone Wild.

In documents lodged at court, Francis claims Wynn threatened in an email that he would kill him over a $2 million gambling debt. Wynn is alleged to have written that he would hit Francis in the back of the head with a shovel'.

Wynn denies the allegations and claims no such email exists.

In Asia, where Wynn now earns 70 per cent of his profits from the gambling mecca of Macau, a resort on the South China Sea, he is embroiled in a battle with a former business partner, Kazuo Okada.

This week, Okada sued Wynn for $140 millino for libel after each accused the other of paying bribes within the Asian gambling industry. No amount of black marble and old masters can hide the sleaziness at the heart of Las Vegas.

It is hard to believe Wynn when he claims he could just as easily have gone into family theme parks if Walt Disney hadn't done it first. Indeed, it seems about as likely as Prince Harry settling for free entry to Sleeping Beauty's Castle rather than a weekend with his colourful acquaintances in Sin City.

One ponders if the prince may be planning to visit in any casino - hotels in the near future, and little doubt that Australia's The Star or Crown Melbourne would love to have him. The smart money say's Prince Harry will no be stepping into any casino in Australia or anywhere else in the near future, perhaps more positive PR appearances will be on the cards however.

Soprano tops bill for Ten Days festival...

Internationally-renowned soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will perform at next year's Ten Days on the Island Festival in Tasmania.

The New Zealand singer is one of two top international acts secured by the organisers.

Dame Kiri will perform in Launceston, Hobart and Burnie during the festival next March.

Festival director Jo Duffy says the Tasmanian performances will give the acclaimed performer a very intimate experience.

"She's performed at the Royal Albert Hall, she's won Grammy awards, she's performed at La Scala, she's performed for the Queen and various members of the Royal Family," she said.

"But really a lot of performers, when they reach a certain stage in their career, they want to almost get back to were they began, to be able to look their audiences in the eye and really relate to them very closely."

Award-winning New York theatre company Elevator Repair Service will open the festival with a performance based on an Ernest Hemingway novel.

Ms Duffy says interest is already huge.

"We have already had people interested in coming to Tasmania specifically to see this show."

"It's only doing six performances and it's travelled around the world to many of the very large international arts festivals and it's not been to anywhere else in Australia."

Zionist casino mogul Sheldon Adelson rocks Israeli media...

The loss-making 60-year old Israeli daily Maariv plans to stop appearing as a weekday newspaper and convert to a digital-only edition unless a major new injection of investment can be found to sustain it in printed form.

But its plight also likely to cast a fresh spotlight on the runaway success—at least in circulation terms—of its newest competitor, the right-wing free paper Israel Hayom, which is financially backed by US casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson.

While the paper is likely to continue printing a weekend edition for the foreseeable future, the planned move comes amid fears by journalists at the paper of significant possible layoffs.

Nir Hefetz, Maariv’s editor-in chief told Army Radio yesterday: "We've been looking at the digital direction for a number of months and it's all just a matter of timing. If we won't have any oxygen, we will be forced to make the move quickly."

Discount Investments, which has a 62 per cent holding in the paper and is part of the financially troubled IDB conglomerate has agreed to back a £2.3m bank loan, but one which is apparently conditional on a halt to weekday printing and other cost cutting measures.

Israel Hayom, which strongly supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is owned and funded by Mr Adelson, the American casino billionaire who is a major Republican Party benefactor, and opponent of a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After supporting the unsuccessful GOP primary candidate Newt Gingrich, he indicated he could spend up to $100m on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

While Israel Hayom also has paid delivery to homes it is handed out for free by seemingly ubiquitous newsboys across the country. It says that "reaching every citizen and every venue in Israel is one of the key tenets of the paper’s mission.2

The paper survived an unsuccessful attempt in 2009 by Knesset members to block majority newspaper ownership by foreigners. An unnamed Yedhiot Ahronot executive was recently quoted in the business daily Globes saying: "Adelson has simply brought ruin to the Israeli newspaper market, and the Israeli politicians who benefit from its flattering coverage have allowed this unprecedented phenomenon to occur."

While the paper has a range of established columnists and is highly professionally produced, it was criticised over its deletion of an insulting reference to Mr Netanyahu in its report of the letter left by Moshe Silman, who set fire to himself during a social protest in Tel Aviv in July.

Like other media, Israel Hayom provided readers with an illustration of the letter written by Mr Silman, who later died of his injuries. And it said that Mr Netanyahu and his finance minister Yuval Steinitz were among those Mr Silman blamed for his financial plight. But unlike other media it displayed an image which failed to include the letter’s two lines describing the two politicians as “scumbags”—or literally “stinking dead bodies.”

According to the latest authoritative survey by the market research organisation TGI Israel Hayom, which boasts a weekday distribution of 275,000 copies, has a 38.1 per cent share of that market, compared to its closest rival, Yedhiot Ahronot, with 36.1 per cent and Maariv with 11.1 per cent. The left-leaning daily Haaretz has a market share of 7.2 per cent. (Belfast Telegraph)

Sam Razavi Wins 2012 APPT Melbourne Main Event - 03 Sep 2012

The second Main Event of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) wrapped up this weekend at the famed Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia as the final nine players competed for the AUD $326,125 first prize. In the end, it was England’s Samad “Sam” Razavi who emerged triumphant for his first ever APPT title.

Razavi entered the nine-handed final table second in chips with 1.318 million, one of four players over the million chip mark. He had a bit of a gap to make up, though, as Tom Grigg led the remaining field with 2.271 million chips.

It took Razavi about three hours to make his big move, but as they say, good things come to those who wait, right? Throughout much of the final table, he was basically just one of the crowd, not really doing much to distinguish himself aside from eliminating Brendon Rubie in 9th place, but Rubie was down to just 30,000 chips at that point, anyway. In the meantime, other players had made runs at the top, including Wayne Bentley and Keith Walker. But finally, with just four players remaining, Razavi made his move.

Bentley raised pre-flop to 60,000 and Razavi called. Razavi then check-called a 150,000 bet after the flop landed Q diamonds-6 diamonds-4 diamonds. The check-bet-call pattern was the same on the turn A hearts and river 8 clubs (but for 250,000 and 400,000 chips, respectively). Apparently, Razavi wasn’t too worried about losing the hand, quickly revealing Q spades-T clubs for just second pair (or maybe he wanted to end the pain quickly, like tearing off a bandage). If that was confidence, it was spot on, as Bentley mucked, handing the sizable pot to Razavi. That hand sent Razavi’s stack up to 2.5 million, while Bentley’s fell to 1.1 million.

Twenty minutes later, Razavi grabbed another 200,000 chips, this time from Grigg, who was seeing his fortunes decline. Just a few minutes later, though, Grigg took a large sum of chips while eliminating Wayne Bentley in 4th place. Bentley had gotten all of his chips in on the turn with a flush draw and Grigg had made the call with top pair. The flush, obviously, never came to fruition.

Going into three-handed play, it was a very close race with Razavi holding 2.74 million chips, Grigg claiming ownership to 2.6 million, and Walker clutching 2.2 million. After more than an hour, it looked like Grigg was going to run away with the tournament, as his stack was up to 5 million, while Razavi had 1.5 million and Walker had just 1.2 million.

But Razavi doubled-up with 9-9 versus Grigg’s A-K, followed by Walker winning an 800,000 chip pot from Grigg. And then, just like that, it was Sam Razavi’s tournament. In what may have been the turning point of the tournament, Grigg opened pre-flop to 105,000 and Razavi called. Grigg again bet 105,000 on the K-T-T flop and Razavi again called. They both checked the 4 on the turn and Grigg checked the 3 on the river, but Razavi bet 500,000. Grigg went deep into the tank and finally made the call, though his cards were never revealed as Razavi flipped over 3-3 for a rivered full house. That was nearly a one million chip pot for Razavi, sending him up to 2.65 million chips.

And then, after having led for much of the final table, Tom Grigg was gone. Grigg raised a hand pre-flop to 100,000 and was once again called by Razavi. Just like before, Grigg bet 105,000 on the 7-7-5 flop and Razavi called. When a Queen landed on the turn, Grigg threw down 215,000 chips and Razavi made the call. The river was a 3 and Grigg checked, only to be shocked when Razavi moved all-in. Obviously a huge decision, Grigg pondered it so long that Razavi had to call clock on him. Grigg eventually made the (crying) call and Razavi instantly showed that he had 5-5 and flopped a boat. Grigg was eliminated and Razavi took a 5.9 million to 1.8 million chip lead into heads-up play against Keith Walker.

Heads-up play was short and sweet. On one of the opening hands, Walker three-bet all-in pre-flop with pocket Jacks and Razavi called with K-T of spades. The flop presented two spades, giving Razavi a flush draw, and the turn brought third, clinching the hand and the tournament title for Sam Razavi.

The AUD $326,125 first prize is the largest cash of Razavi’s career. He has had success in the past, placing sixth in the 2011 Aussie Millions Main Event for $222,530 and winning the 2011 UK & Ireland Poker Tour – Cork Main Event for $100,628. He has now earned over $800,000 on the live tournament circuit.

2012 Asia Pacific Poker Tour Melbourne – Final Table Results (AUD$)

1. Sam Razavi – $326,125
2. Keith Walker – $205,345
3. Tom Grigg – $114,750
4. Wayne Bentley – $87,575
5. Gary Benson – $72,475
6. James Bills – $57,375
7. Kristian Lunardi – $45,300
8. Nigel Andrews – $36,240
9. Brendon Rubie – $27,175 (Poker News Daily) losing its poker face...

LONDON (SHARECAST) - Online gaming titan says revenues in the first half of 2012 grew at its casino and gaming offerings but poker has been hit by strong competitors and difficulties in southern Europe.

The group was formed last year by the merger between German outfit bwin Interactive Entertainment and British firm PartyGaming and still has co-Chief Executives Norbert Teufelberger and Jim Ryan.

On a pro forma basis (comparing the results of both companies before the merger), total revenue increased by 3% to €410.0m (2011: €398.0m). This was achieved despite an 11% increase in gaming taxes so that the pro forma “clean” earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation increased 13% to €92.3m (2011: €81.9m). This is better than the forecast of €89m made by analysts at Peel Hunt. has also had to take a nasty one-off charge of €31.5m after the Spanish authorities contacted all of the major online gaming operators making clear any online operator that had ever accepted customers from Spain had an obligation to pay Spanish taxes.

The group offers four online “experiences”: sports betting produced revenues of €128.1m in the first half, versus €125.7m in 2011; casino and games delivered €139.7m, against €124.3m in the prior year; bingo was down from €33m to €31.5m; while the weakest performance was from poker, which fell from €104.9m to €96.4m.

In a joint statement, Ryan and Teufelberger said they were "determined to return [poker] to growth through execution of a detailed plan that includes pooling our poker liquidity as well as repositioning our flagship PartyPoker brand.”

The interim dividend has been increased by 10% to 1.72p per share although the company warned that net gaming revenue since June has fallen 8% as the end of the Euro 2012 Championships and a late start to the Bundesliga hit takings.

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment: PartyCasino gets new 'Under the Sea' slot game

Check out PartyCasino via the Media Man network for more on this exciting new slot game which can be played for free or played for money. Bwin.Party is one of the most financially stable gaming companies on the planet and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. They also high security and high excitment online poker, sports betting and more.

New Trailer For Marvel Heroes...

Gazillion Entertainment is proud to show off a new trailer for Marvel Heroes. The new trailer announces 3 new playable heroes in the game – Daredevil, Punisher, and Squirrel Girl. The trailer made its debut at the Marvel Heroes panel at PAX 2012. The panel featured Gazillion President David Brevik (one of the creators of Diablo!), legendary Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man! Avengers vs. X-Men! And) and Marvel’s mighty VP of Games Production TQ Jefferson. If you look closely, you’ll also see a bunch of villains were also revealed in the trailer, including Mr. Fisk the notorious crime lord.


About Marvel Heroes...

Marvel Heroes is a FREE-TO-PLAY action-packed massively multiplayer online game created by David Brevik, the visionary behind Diablo and Diablo 2. Set in the iconic Marvel Universe, Marvel Heroes combines the core game-play style of Diablo and MMOs with the expansive library of heroes from the Marvel Universe. In the game, players can collect and play as their favorite Marvel Superheroes (including Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine, Hulk, Spider Man, Captain America and many others). Team up with friends and try to stop Doctor Doom from devastating the world with the power of the Cosmic Cube in a story crafted by comic-book super-scribe Brian Michael Bendis.

The Main Event's top 10 best MMA fights of the rest of 2012...

This weekend has been more about the fight that didn’t happen than any that did.

UFC 151 was canceled Aug. 23 and the the finger of blame has been pointed in every which direction. The basics are that Dan Henderson partially tore his MCL and was unable to compete in the main event against Jon Jones. Jones was given a fill-in opponent in Chael Sonnen, but turned it down, causing the UFC to cancel the show altogether and inciting president Dana White to go all medievel on Jones in a media conference call.

White blames Jones and his coach Greg Jackson. Jones has blamed the UFC, himself and Henderson (or “that old man,” according to a tweet Saturday). There’s more finger pointing here than in the Republic National Convention. Just not as many empty chairs or old, senile actors.
But what’s done is done. Jones will face Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 on Sept. 22. UFC 151 will forever be known as the event that wasn’t and it’s time to move on.

There are plenty of exciting fights to look forward to before 2013. Here’s a look at our top 10 (barring injuries):

10. Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le (UFC on Fuel TV 6, Nov. 10 in Macau)
This one isn’t as much about the fight as it is about the significance of the event – the UFC’s first in China. Neither of these guys is currently in their prime, but they always give crowd-pleasing performances. Le, a native of Vietnam, should have a massive Asian following.

9. Eddie Alvarez vs. Patricky Freire (Bellator 76, Oct. 12 in Windsor, Ontario)
Alvarez might have dropped the Bellator title last year to Michael Chandler, but he’s still one of the top 15 lightweights in the world. This also could be his last Bellator fight with his contract expiring – don’t be surprised if he’s in the UFC in 2013. Explosive knockout artist Freire will be a game opponent.

8. Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson, UFC flyweight title (UFC 152, Sept. 22 in Toronto)
Don’t blink. These are two of the fastest guys in MMA and both challenged for the bantamweight title before the UFC created its flyweight division. This bout will determine the company’s first-ever flyweight champion and these are legitimately the top two guys in the world at 125.

7. Shane Carwin vs. Roy Nelson (TUF 16 finale, Dec. 15 in Las Vegas)
There’s very little chance this one leaves the first round. Carwin and Nelson love to slug it out and after coaching against one another on “The Ultimate Fighter” they probably won’t be too friendly. It’ll be nice to see Carwin, a former heavyweight top contender, back in the cage.

6. Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir (Strikeforce: Mir vs. Cormier, Oct. 27 in TBA)
This might be a Strikeforce fight, but it has UFC implications. Mir, the former UFC heavyweight champion, takes on Strikeforce champ Cormier in somewhat of a crossover matchup. But Cormier will be in the UFC right after this fight courtesy of Strikeforce's heavyweight division being disbanded and a win here puts him on path for a title shot in 2013.

5. BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald (UFC on Fox 5, Dec. 8 in Seattle)
The trash talk has already been fun between the two, but things will really heat up when they enter the Octagon. Think of this as something of a passing of the torch fight. Penn, in the twilight of his career, will put up a strong challenge against the young lion, but the multi-faceted MacDonald is nearing superstardom in the welterweight division.

4. Benson Henderson (c) vs. Nate Diaz, UFC lightweight title (UFC on Fox 5, Dec. 8 in Seattle)
This could easily be a Fight of the Year candidate if it goes how it’s supposed to. Neither of these guys gives an inch – both Henderson and Diaz are perpetually moving forward. A win here, against a superior standup fighter in Diaz, would put Henderson’s name among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

3. Jose Aldo (c) vs. Frankie Edgar, UFC featherweight title (UFC 153, Oct. 13 in Rio)
Well, this is a pleasant surprise. Aldo was supposed to defend his title against Erik Koch, but Koch had to pull out with an injury and his loss is the fans’ gain. Edgar was the UFC lightweight champion for more than a year and his last two losses were by the slimmest of margins. Aldo, meanwhile, is a buzzsaw – one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. This is, indeed, a superfight.

2. Georges St. Pierre (c) vs. Carlos Condit, UFC welterweight unification (UFC 154, Nov. 17 in Montreal)
It seems like it’s been forever since St. Pierre has fought. One of the best MMA fighters of all time has not competed in more than a year and a half due to injuries, including a torn ACL. He returns to face red-hot Carlos Condit, who is coming off a win over Nick Diaz in January. St. Pierre, a dominant champ, has never faced anyone with the combination of speed, athleticism and technique that Condit has.

1. Junior dos Santos (c) vs. Cain Velasquez, UFC heavyweight title (UFC 155, Dec. 29 in Las Vegas)

This time, we’ll get the incredible battle of wills that we were promised last year. Velasquez lost his title to dos Santos last November in just over a minute via stunning knockout. To make matters worse, it was the UFC’s first show on Fox and the company took undeserved criticism for the quick, flash KO.

Who knew that dos Santos-Velasquez wouldn’t be a war? This one will make up for it, closing the year on a huge high note – the two best heavyweights in the world trading in the center of the cage. Only one will be standing at the end. (New York Post)

Captains agree it's Manly or Dogs to win - 3rd September 2012...

The NRL competition is a two-horse race between last year's premiers and this year's minor premiers, according to the eight captains taking part.

The pair, going head to head at ANZ Stadium in a qualifying final, were the overwhelming favourites in a poll of the team leaders at Monday's captains' call.

Premiership favourites the Sea Eagles were favoured by Canterbury's Michael Ennis and Cronulla's Paul Gallen as the team to beat, while North Queensland's Johnathan Thurston and Canberra's Terry Campese like the chances of this year's minor premiers.

'I can't go past Manly obviously with the side that they've got,' Gallen said.

'It's a pretty good side and they've been there and done it before.'

South Sydney's Michael Crocker summed up this year's premiership race perfectly when he admitted he couldn't pick a favourite between the two.

The Raiders only just squeezed into the finals on the back of a five-game winning streak, but they've been dubbed the dark horse of the competition, alongside the Rabbitohs, who emerged from a slump with two wins to finish the regular season.

'Souths have got a really good style of play and I reckon they're the smokies,' Thurston said.

'They've flown under the radar.

'Every team goes through a period like that (where they lose a few) but they've bounced back.'

After witnessing the Raiders pile on 36 unanswered points against last year's grand finalists the Warriors, Crocker admits he will be keeping one eye on the Green Machine.

'The way the Raiders have been playing, they're a scary prospect,' he said.

'If you look at their performance in the second half yesterday, when they were 22-6 down at halftime, to come out and score 36 points, they've got that ability and so many class players across the park.'

Ben Barba was unanimously anointed this year's Dally M Medal winner for his scintillating season with the Bulldogs, and was tied with Thurston on two votes a piece as the player most oppositions will fear these finals.

Manly's Jason King declined the opportunity to participate in the poll.


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