Play It Forward: Feb. 18-24

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

UFC 157: Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche, 7 p.m. Saturday, Honda Center in Anaheim, pay per view ($44.95, or  $54.95 high-def):
It was in the 2012 ESPN “Body Issue” where Ronda Jean Rousey, all 5-foot-6 and 135 pounds, showed up without any clothes. Her hands wrapped up in pink tape covered her chest, her long blonde hair covered much of her face – except for a smile. We could see her naval piercing, her Olympic rings tattoo high up on her left thigh – and we could see that the mixed martial artist, all of 25 years old, had come out on the other side about once having mixed emotions about what she was made of: “When I was in school, martial arts made you a dork, and I became self-conscious that I was too masculine. I was a 16-year-old girl with ringworm and cauliflower ears. People made fun of my arms and called me ‘Miss Man.’ It wasn’t until I got older that I realized: These people are idiots. I’m fabulous.”
So it’s “Rowdy” Rousey’s turn to come over from Strikeforce and try to become the next UFC superhero, arm-bar style. She’s been handed the bantamweight champion belt before she enters the Octagon in the first women’s main event, taking on Liz Carmouche.  “I’m fighting to win, and I’m fighting to keep women in UFC,” Rousey has said. “And I’m not entertaining the idea about what will happen if I lose because I’m not going to lose.” The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo has won all six of her pro bouts in the first round with the arm-bar submission. Carmouche, who spent five years in Marine Corps, shouldn’t frighten easily. As a helicopter electrician, “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche has done three tours of duty in the Middle East. She’s won eight of her 10 pro bouts but says: “The only person who can beat me is myself.” Hope she doesn’t beat herself up too much if Rousey wins this as all the promoters expect.
Also: HBO’s “Real Sports” has a feature on Rousey, so-dubbed “Blonde Ambition,” where reporter Jon Frankel visits her at home in Venice and at her Big Bear training camp to talk about her life’s journey. The piece airs Tuesday at 10 p.m.

BEST OF THE REST:

MONDAY

Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth blocks a shot by Nashville’s David Legwand during a shootout win Saturday in Nashville. Fasth blocked two of the Predators’ three shootout attempts as the Ducks won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NHL: Ducks vs. Columbus, 7 p.m., Honda Center, 7 p.m., Prime:
The L.A. goalie may be Quick, but the O.C. netminder is just as Fasth. The Ducks’ fast start can be pinned on the success of Viktor Fasth. Still, how much longer do the Ducks fly under the NHL radar? Second only to Chicago in the Western Conference with an 11-2-1 record and four wins in a row. They only have one more game this week: Sunday vs. Colorado, 5 p.m., Prime.

TUESDAY

NHL: Kings at Edmonton, 7 p.m., FSW:
Last trip to Oilerville was a painful 2-1 OT loss, where the tying goal came with seconds left in regulation, after a couple of Edmonton goals had already been waved off by the officials.

SOCCER: Galaxy vs. Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles, 7:30 p.m. Home Depot Center in Carson, TWC Deportes:
The 2012 MLS Cup champs against the 2012 Liga MX Apertura champs, also known as the “Xolos.” Keep it friendly, guys. This is the Galaxy’s only exhibition against a Mexican club prior to opening the MLS season on March 3 at home against Chicago.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: UCLA at USC, 8 p.m., Galen Center, Pac-12 Network:
The Bruins (10-4, 19-6) took back-to-back losses to Cal and Stanford last weekend — the top two teams in the conference — so maybe that won’t  compromise their No. 15 ranking in the latest AP poll. The Trojans (5-9, 8-17) have lost nine of their last 10 conference games after a 4-0 start. These two meet up again Sunday at Pauley Pavilion (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Indiana at Michigan State, 4 p.m., ESPN:
Magic Johnson and Dick Vitale on the call.

WEDNESDAY

Kevin Garnett, reaches around for a steal against Dwight Howard during their previous meeting in Boston on Feb. 7. The Celtics won 116-95. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

NBA: Lakers vs. Boston, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, ESPN, TWC SportsNet:
First game back from the All-Star break, and one day away from the NBA trade deadline, the Lakers and Celtics hook up for their one-and-only time in L.A. Could this be the final game in a Laker uni for Pau Gasol, and the same in a Celtics jersey for Kevin Garnett? It’s been less than two weeks when we had to watch the Lakers suffer their worst loss of the season in Boston, 116-95. Kobe Bryant had 27, and Dwight Howard, who seemed to be forced into playing, had nine points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes before fouling out.

NHL: Kings at Calgary, 7 p.m., FSW:
Calgary is ready to flame out on this season already? They’re 28th in the league in goals-against and 29th in penalty kills.

GOLF: WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, from Marana, Ariz., first day, 9 a.m., Golf Channel:
Hunter Mahan defeated Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 to win last year’s event.  McIlroy returns as the No. 1 seed, ahead of Tiger Woods and Luke Donald in the field of 64. No. 4 Brandt Snedeker is out with a rib injury. Golf Channel has Thursday (10 a.m.) and Friday (11 a.m.), plus some on Saturday (9 a.m.), NBC picks it up Saturday with the quartefinals (11 a.m. to 3 pm.) and Sunday’s final (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

BASEBALL: “The Next Knuckler,” 6 and 7 p.m., MLB Network:
The final two episodes of the reality series where five former college quarterbacks try to get a spring-training invitation to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

THURSDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. San Antonio, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, TNT:

Chris Paul gets his photo snapped with Michael Jordan at Jordan’s birthday party Friday in Houston, launching the Air Jordan XX8. Paul wears ‘em. (Photo by Omar Vega/Invision for Jordan Brand/AP Images)

The Clippers’ extended break out of the All-Star game interruption, and first up is a Spurs team they’ve already beaten twice – but the last time was way back on Nov. 17, when Chris Paul hit a 10-footer in the lane with 24.6 seconds left to give the Clippers the eventual 92-87 win. Same old story for the Spurs – they’ve built the best record in the league at 42-12, winning nine of their last 10, and 20-10 on the road. San Antonio is first in the league in team assists a game (25.0) and fourth in scoring (104.3).

FRIDAY

NBA: Lakers vs. Portland, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center:
Yup, it’s the Trailblazers who held a half-game lead over the Lakers for that ninth spot in the Western Conference standings. Wanna do something about it? And Portland has lost five in a row, 8-20 on the road. These two have split the previous two meetings.

SATURDAY

NHL: Kings vs. Colorado, 1 p.m., Staples Center, FSW:
The Avs scored one of their few victories of the season against the Kings, 3-1, back on Jan. 22, as 20-year-old captain Gabriel Landeskog scored against Jonathan Quick.

NBA: Clippers vs. Utah, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center, Prime:
The Clippers took a back-to-back series against the Jazz on Dec. 28 and 30. But that was so last year.

EXHIBITION BASEBALL: Dodgers vs. Chicago White Sox, Glendale, Ariz., noon; Angels split squad vs. Chicago Cubs in Tempe, Ariz., and vs. San Francisco in Scottsdale, noon:
Practice, practice, practice. Time to start.

SUNDAY

NASCAR: Daytona 500, 10 a.m., Channel 11:

Danica Patrick applies make up before an interview in Daytona Beach last week. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Danica Patrick, pole dancer extreme. She isn’t just paying a visit to Daytona, she’s got the best seat in the house, the first gal ever to secure the top qualifying spot for any Sprint Cup race. Top that off with her finally admitting she’s got a budding romance with fellow Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The Great American Race has plenty of storylines, indeed. The rest of the field will be set in duel-qualifying races Thursday.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: UCLA at USC, 12:30 p.m., Galen Center, Prime Ticket:
On the day they’re handing out Academy Awards, the Trojans might be  up for “Best Recovery in a Local Rivalry” if they were to knock off the Bruins again coming off a 75-71 overtime triumph at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 30.

NBA: Lakers at Dallas, 10 a.m., Channel 7:
Really? A network-quality matchup? Only if Mark Cuban stages it as another episode of “Shark Tank,” listening to a Kobe Bryant sales pitch about starting an avocado-date protein shake company.

EXHIBITION BASEBALL: Angels vs. Oakland, noon, FSW:
The first of 23 spring training games from Arizona for the Angels on the network.

NFL: Scouting combine in Indianapolis, 6 a.m., NFL Network:
Leon Sandcastle has to wait until next week. Today, it’s Matt Barkley and his buds. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are up today. (Saturday, it’s tight ends, offensive linemen and special teams guys. Defensive guys are Monday and Tuesday of the next week. NFL Network goes live until 4 p.m.

THE 85th ACADEMY AWARDS: 5:30 p.m., Channel 7:
Bobby De Niro fought off the field for the best actor award in 1980 playing Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull.” Does he have the juju to end a 32-year Oscar-less streak by winning best supporting actor in the role of a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic/bookmaker in “Silver Linings Playbook”? He can’t count on an Eagles’ victory parlay this time. He’ll be at the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theatre on Hollywood and Highland, with Seth MacFarlane as the host.

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