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The superstitious belief that bad things tend to happen in threes doesnt seem to hold water in the sporting world.That thought became evident again this week with the clamoring for a third UFC fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, almost from the moment McGregors arm was raised as the victor in their five-round welterweight rematch Saturday night in Las Vegas.In fact, some of the best rivalries have been bunched in threes. Lets revisit some of the most memorable trilogies in sports history:Muhammad Ali vs. Joe FrazierAli became the boxing legend he was thanks to a handful of gifted opponents, none more than Frazier, who gave Ali all he could handle in their three meetings in the 1970s.I. The first on March 8, 1971, was dubbed The Fight of the Century because it was the first title bout between undefeated heavyweights. Frazier held both belts entering the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York and gradually wore down Ali, even knocking him to the canvas in the 15th round before winning a unanimous decision. Still, Frazier would spend a month recuperating in a hospital afterward.II. Frazier lost the title two years later to George Foreman, so when he and Ali clashed inside Madison Square Garden for a second time on Jan. 28, 1974, no major belts were on the line. The build-up for the fight was intense, however. Ali and Frazier became physical on the set of Wide World of Sports, resulting in fines for both, but the actual fight was the least entertaining of the three, with Ali winning a narrow 12-round unanimous decision.III. Ali and Frazier would clash once more in the Philippines on Oct. 1, 1975, a fight that would later become known as the Thrilla in Manila and go down as one of the greatest bouts in boxing history. With the heavyweight title back on the line because Ali had beaten Foreman, the pair went back and forth for 12 rounds before two big rights from Ali midway through the 13th sent Frazier backpedaling. Ali continued the assault in the 14th, prompting Fraziers cornerman, Eddie Futch, to throw in the towel.Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto DuranThis landmark trilogy featured Leonards first professional loss and last career victory. And in between, Duran provided one of the most indelible moments in boxing history with two words in Spanish that cross all language barriers: No mas.I. Four years after Leonard won an Olympic gold medal in Montreal, he returned to the city on June 20, 1980, to take on the rugged Panamanian slugger. Duran was 71-1 entering the WBC welterweight title bout, amassing most of those wins in the lightweight division, while Leonard was 27-0 and five years younger at 24. Leonard elected to fight toe-to-toe with Duran at the start of the 15-round bout and paid a hefty price before briefly returning to his elusive style. The last three rounds went back to a slugfest, and Duran managed to edge Leonard on all three judges scorecards for what many believe was the biggest victory of his career.II. The rematch came five months later at the Superdome in New Orleans, and Leonard took advantage of his superior hand speed and quickness to flummox Duran, who eventually turned his back on Leonard near the end of the eighth round and quit, uttering the now-famous line, No mas.III. Durans reputation took a big hit as a result of that move, especially in his home country of Panama. Nine years passed before Duran got another shot at Leonard. By then, Duran was 38 years old and no match for the more spry Leonard, who retained his super middleweight title with a 12-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas.Affirmed vs. AlydarHorse racings Triple Crown of 1978 remains the most hotly contested two-horse rivalry in the sports history, as chestnut colts Affirmed and Alydar went head-to-head in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Affirmed, ridden by Steve Cauthen, won all three times and was the last horse to win the Triple Crown until American Pharoah in 2015. Alydar, with Jorge Velasquez up, finished second in each of three marquee races, the only horse ever to do so.I. Alydar was a slight favorite as the horses were locked in the gate for the Kentucky Derby, but his patented late move began too late and he finished 1? lengths behind Affirmed.II. When they returned for the Preakness two weeks later, Affirmed emerged as the favorite and didnt disappoint, taking the lead at the quarter-pole and holding off Alydar by a neck, 7? lengths ahead of the third-place finisher.III. Three weeks later, the duo was back on the track in Elmont, New York, and this matchup proved the most exciting. The horses raced side by side over the last third of the 1?-mile Belmont before Affirmed outbobbed Alydar at the finish line.Larry Bird vs. Magic JohnsonBird and Johnson combined to reach 14 NBA Finals in their nearly parallel careers, but the Hall of Famers faced off only three times in a championship series.I. The first time was in 1984, which marked Birds second trip to the Finals with the Boston Celtics and Johnsons fourth with the Los Angeles Lakers. The series went seven games with the Celtics prevailing and Bird winning MVP honors after averaging 27.4 points and 14 rebounds.II. They locked up again in 1985, and the Lakers turned the tables by winning their third title of the decade with a six-game victory, finishing off the Celtics in Boston.III. Bird and Johnson led their teams back to the Finals in 1987, and the Lakers again prevailed in six games, boosted by Johnsons game-winning junior sky hook in the final seconds of Game 4. Johnson and the Lakers defended their title against the Detroit Pistons the following season, but Bird didnt reach another Finals.Roger Federer vs. Rafael NadalFederer and Nadal have gone head-to-head 34 times in their storied careers, but only thrice on grass. Those thrilling encounters occurred in the Wimbledon mens final over three successive years and required a combined 14 sets.I. The first meeting came in 2006, when the 20-year-old Nadal entered the championship match having won six of his previous seven meetings against Federer, but the Spaniard couldnt close out several opportunities and fell in four sets, handing Federer his fourth straight Wimbledon title.II. The pair met again the following summer as the top two seeds at the All England Club, and Nadal pushed Federer to five sets, the first time they went the distance against each other in a Grand Slam final. Federer drew the line with a 6-2 win in the final set to win his record-tying fifth straight Wimbledon title.III. Nadal broke through the following year in their most anticipated and epic meeting on grass, a five-set thriller that set a record for the longest Wimbledon final at 4 hours, 48 minutes. Nadal also ended Federers Open-era record 65-match winning streak on grass.Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ersThe Cowboys and 49ers met in the first two NFC Championship Games in 1970 and 71, but it was the three straight years they collided in the title game during the 1990s that put their rivalry on par with some of the greatest in sports.I. Just three years before the first of those meetings, the Cowboys had finished 1-15, but their 30-20 win in the 1993 NFC Championship Game propelled Americas team to its first Super Bowl since the 1978 season.II. The Cowboys followed the same script the next season behind quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith, beating the 49ers in the NFC title game and then knocking off the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year.III. Jimmy Johnson departed as head coach of the Cowboys after the 1994 season, and that change seemed to give the 49ers the edge they needed in the 1995 NFC Championship Game. They surged to a 21-0 first-quarter lead before winning 38-28 and denying Dallas a chance at a record three straight Super Bowl wins. Like the Cowboys the previous two seasons, the 49ers went on to win the Super Bowl.Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland RaidersThe matchup was just in its infancy and the quality of play was hardly impeccable, but during the three straight years the Steelers and Raiders met in the AFC Championship Game, a rivalry was born.I. The teams combined for 12 turnovers and Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler completed only 18 of 42 passes in the 1974 AFC title game, a 24-13 win by the Steelers that propelled them to their first Super Bowl victory.II. Pittsburgh might have played even worse the following year, committing eight turnovers in 16-degree weather before holding on a for a 16-10 win. Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann left the game because of a concussion caused by a vicious hit by Oakland safety George Atkinson. It was the Raiders sixth straight loss in an AFC title game.III. Oakland ended that skid and prevented the Steelers from chasing a third consecutive Super Bowl ring by winning the 1976 championship game game 24-7. Coach John Maddens Raiders followed in Pittsburghs path from the previous two seasons and won their first Super Bowl two weeks later.Randy Couture vs. Chuck LiddellIn a sport known for multiple rematches, Couture-Liddell is remembered as one of the first great MMA trilogies. They tangled in Las Vegas three times for the UFC light heavyweight championship, and all three fights ended by knockout.I. The first took place June 6, 2003, at UFC 43. Couture dropped down from the heavyweight division to take on Liddell for the interim light heavyweight belt that became available when Tito Ortiz was locked in a contract dispute with the UFC. Despite entering as a heavy underdog and just weeks shy of his 40th birthday, Couture forced a stoppage by landing a flurry of punches midway through the third round, becoming the first MMA fighter to win belts in two weight classes.II. Couture still held the light heavyweight title when he was matched against Liddell at UFC 52 on April 16, 2005, an event that set records at the time for live gate and pay-per-view purchases. Angered after he was poked in the eye in the opening round, Couture abandoned his game plan and charged at Liddell, who knocked him out to become the new light heavyweight champion.III. The pair would clash one more time 10 months later at UFC 57, and the event would again shatter records for attendance and pay-per-view buys. Couture made another costly mistake and Liddell capitalized much the same way he did in their second fight, winning by second-round knockout and sending Couture into retirement.Arnold Palmer vs. Jack NicklausPalmer-Nicklaus is still considered golfs greatest rivalry, a competition that peaked at the Masters from 1964 to 66. Nicklaus had won his first Masters in 1963, but Palmer hadnt challenged that year and finished tied for ninth.I. Palmer, at age 34, became the first four-time Masters champion when he beat the 24-year-old Nicklaus by six strokes at the 1964 tournament, a bit of a payback for Palmer after Nicklaus defeated him by three strokes two years earlier at the U.S. Open for his first professional win.II. Nicklaus turned the tables on Palmer and everyone else in the field the following spring, shooting a tournament-record 17-under par -- a mark that stood until Tiger Woods shot 18-under in 1997 -- and winning by nine strokes over the second-place Palmer.III. The Golden Bear continued to steal the Augusta spotlight from Palmer, winning the 1966 tournament after an 18-hole playoff. Palmer missed the three-man playoff by two strokes and finished in a tie for fourth. Nicklaus would go on to win the tournament three more times for a total of six green jackets, a record that still stands.New York Yankees vs. Boston Red SoxTwo of the most storied franchises in the baseball have met three times for the right to play in the World Series, all in a six-season span, and each of those American League Championship Series?matchups was more legendary than the last.I. In the first postseason meeting between the teams, the Yankees had too much pitching and needed only five games to beat the Red Sox in the 1999 ALCS before marching on to secure the second of three straight World Series titles. That series was just a warm-up for the next two.II. They met in the ALCS again in 2003, and this time the Red Sox pushed the series to seven games, reaching the cusp of their first World Series berth since 1986. But Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone hit the first pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning for a walk-off home run, sending New York to the Fall Classic for a third straight season.III. The Red Sox didnt sulk for long, earning another spot in the ALCS the following year. They proceeded to make history against the Yankees by becoming the only MLB team to bounce back from a 3-0 deficit and win a seven-game series. Bostons rally included extra-inning wins in Games 4 and 5 and Curt Schillings bloody sock victory in Game 6. The Red Sox didnt let that comeback go to waste, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Series title since 1918. Romelu Lukaku Belgium Jersey . Reassurance came from Paul Tesori, his caddie and close friend whose newborn son is in intensive care in a Florida hospital. "Paul sent me a text this morning, just told me he loved me and wanted to go out and fight as hard as I would any other day," Simpson said Sunday after doing just that. Dries Mertens Jersey . According the Toronto Star, a knee injury will keep Sundin out of the lineup, which includes former teammates Gary Roberts, Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi and Curtis Joseph. http://www.belgiumsoccerpro.com/Axel-Witsel-Belgium-Jersey/ . The judges scored it 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 for Jones (19-1). It was the champions closest call. Despite the loss, it was a remarkable show by the confident Swedish challenger, who had the best of the early rounds and then hung on in the fourth and fifth. Marouane Fellaini Jersey . Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday that allowed the veteran right-hander to retire as a member of team with which he broke into the majors and spent the bulk of his distinguished 16-year career. Jan Vertonghen Belgium Jersey . Westbrook has missed 27 games since having a procedure on Dec. 27 to deal with swelling in his injured right knee — the third operation on the knee in nine months. HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros didnt hang their heads after a five-run ninth inning allowed the Oakland Athletics to take a two-run lead Friday night.They were confident they could rally with the heart of their order due up in the bottom of the inning.Luis Valbuena drove in four runs, highlighted by a three-run homer with one out in the ninth, to lift the Astros to a wild 10-9 victory over the Athletics.Oakland took the lead with the big ninth before Jose Altuve singled with one out in the bottom of the inning. Carlos Correa struck out, but reached on a wild pitch before Valbuena connected off Ryan Madson (3-3) for his third homer in four games to give Houston the win.That inning, the way you draw it up is were in the good part of our order that we feel really comfortable with, manager A.J. Hinch said.Valbuena knew it was gone the moment he made contact.I was looking for a good pitch, he said. Trying to get the pitch I wanted and I (didnt) miss the pitch. You see what happened?Oakland manager Bob Melvin felt confident with Madson on the mound in the ninth before things went awry.I feel good whenever he takes the mound and we have the lead whether its one or two runs, Melvin said. I didnt have negative thoughts going into that inning. I fully believed we were going to win the game.Houston led by three runs entering the ninth before Yonder Alonso connected off closer Will Harris with no outs to cut the lead to 7-6. Pinch-hitter Jake Smolinski singled with one out before a double by Jed Lowrie chased Harris.He was replaced by Michael Feliz (6-1) who was greeted by the double from Davis that put the As up 8-7.Josh Reddick added a run with an RBI single to make it 9-7.Stephen Vogt had an RBI triple and Marcus Semien hit a solo homer to help Oakland take a 3-0 lead in the fourth.Correa hit a two-run homer in the fourth before the Astros went on top with a four-run fifth.Houston trailed by one run with no outs and the bases loaded in the fifth when Marwin Gonzalez singled off starter Daniel Mengden to tie it. The Astros took the lead on an RBI groundout by Altuve. Correa followed with a run-scoring single to push the lead to 5-3 and chase Mengden, who had remained in the game despite being struck in the chest by a comebacker an inning before.Correa got in a rundown trying to sttretch his hit into a double and Altuve broke for home on the play.ddddddddddddSemien threw home in time to tag out Altuve and allow Correa to reach second.Marc Rzepczynski took over and allowed an RBI single from Valbuena to make it 6-3.Houston starter Collin McHugh allowed eight hits and four runs in six innings and remains winless since May 30.Mengden, a rookie who is from Houston and attended nearby Texas A&M, yielded six hits and a season-high six runs in a season-low 4 2/3 innings.Altuve singled with no outs in the fourth for Houstons first hit before Correas 14th homer cut the lead to 3-2. It was the 35th home run of his career to tie him with Adam Everett for most home runs by a shortstop in franchise history.Mengden was shaken up later in that inning when a hit by Carlos Gomez bounced off his glove and hit him in the chest before dropping to the ground. He picked the ball up and got it to first for the out before being tended to by a trainer. It took him a minute to catch his breath before he threw a couple of warmup pitches and remained in the game.I think it is one of those things that scared me more than it hurt, Mengden said. Those are always nerve-wracking.TRAINERS ROOMAstros: OF Colby Rasmus was out of the lineup with an ear infection. Hinch said he hopes Rasmus will feel better and be back in the lineup on Saturday.NO COCOOakland OF Coco Crisp served a one-game suspension on Friday night for intentionally throwing his bat toward home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn the night before. The bat hit Reyburns foot after Crisp struck out to end the fifth inning of Oaklands 3-1 victory at Houston. Crisp apologized after the game and said he didnt mean for the bat to end up so close to Reyburn.UP NEXTAthletics: Kendall Graveman (4-6, 4.57) will start for Oakland on Saturday. Graveman has bounced back from a tough start to the season to go 3-0 with a 3.63 ERA in his last seven starts, and his three-game winning streak ties a career high.Astros: Lance McCullers (4-2, 3.57) is scheduled to start for Houston on Saturday. McCullers allowed five hits and one run with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of a 2-1 win over the Mariners in his last start. ' ' '

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