UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Harris (TV: ESPN/ESPN+)
Saturday, May 16th, Prelims 6:00 PM ET ESPN, Main Card 9:00 PM ET ESPN, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena (Jacksonville, Florida)
Heavyweight Fight: Walt Harris (13-7 (1 NC)) vs. Alistair Overeem (45-18 (1 NC))
Fight odds: Walt Harris -150 Alistair Overeem +120
The UFC will have its 3rd event in Jacksonville, Florida when Walt Harris takes on Alistair Overeem in the heavyweight Main Event. Thus far the UFC has pulled off two fight cards and they have been successful and this could be a sign of things to come as other sports come back as well. The Bundesliga just resumed their season, of course with no fans in attendance.
The UFC’s lightweight division (155 lbs.) looks different at the top after Justin Gaethje upset Tony Ferguson with a virtuoso performance to set up a Title Fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson could never get into a striking rhythm and other than a beautiful uppercut that he landed at the end of the 2nd Round, Gaethje dominated a majority of the fight with superior power, boxing and timing. Give credit to Gaethje who took full advantage of the opportunity and looks like one of the best strikers in the sport getting a 5th Round TKO win over Ferguson.
Henry Cejudo retired after a controversial 2nd Round stoppage win over Dominick Cruz. Cruz was getting back to his feet at the end of the 2nd Round when the referee stopped the fight. It would have been great to see if Cruz would’ve recovered and done better in the ensuing rounds as it looked like he was willing to continue fighting. Cejudo caught Cruz with a knee that put him down, however most of the punches Cejudo threw when Cruz was on the mat were missing and it looked like a premature stoppage. With Cejudo retiring the bantamweight (135 lbs.) and flyweight (125 lbs.) divisions suddenly look very different and it will be interesting to see who emerges and becomes the champion. Cejudo effectively retired as the double champion, however it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him un-retire and fight again at some point in the future.
Francis Ngannou looks like a man amongst boys in the heavyweight division. His 20 second 1st Round knockout over Jairzinho Rozenstruik further proves that Ngannou is the scariest fighter in the UFC. Rozenstruik was thought of as a great knockout artist that could perhaps pull off the upset. The fight started out with Rozenstruik keeping his distance and staying on the outside, but Ngannou lunged forward throwing wild looping punches. Ngannou missed on the first 3 punches, but landed the 4th right hand and one punch is all it took as the Rozenstruik’s body went limp and we were once again witness to the scary power that Ngannou possesses. Ngannou deserves another Title Fight after losing to Stipe Miocic previously by unanimous decision. Miocic is the current champion and could have a trilogy fight against Daniel Cormier. However, it seems like only a matter of time before Ngannou gets his next crack at the Title.
On May 13th, the Main Event featured two fighters that fought Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight Title. Anthony Smith fought Glover Teixeira in a matchup that looked to favor Smith as he had the youth and size advantages over Teixeria. Smith, 31 was taken to school by the older Teixeira, who at 40 years young looks to be having a career resurgence as he dominated one of the best light heavyweights in the division. Smith got off to a strong start in the 1st Round, but was unable to carry the momentum forward as Teixeria won the fight by 5th Round TKO. The fight should’ve been stopped sooner as Teixeria took the fight out of Smith with superior wrestling and boxing, dominating the 3rd and 4th Rounds as Smith looked like he didn’t want to continue to take a beating. Smith spent a majority of the fight on the ground with Teixeria unleashing a lot of ground and pound until the fight was mercifully stopped.
Teixeria once again showed that he has some of the best fundamentals in the sport with great timing and stamina to outlast Smith who did not have the cardio to keep up the fast pace he set in the 1st Round. Smith needs to re-assess and improve on his stamina and wrestling defense. Teixeria deserves to fight another top light heavyweight, perhaps a matchup against Dominick Reyes or Thiago Santos to see if he does deserve another Title Fight. It was a great night for Teixeria who got the upset win over Smith, an opponent that was ranked ahead of him going into the fight.
The Main Event on May 16th will feature two heavyweights when Walt Harris takes on Alistair Overeem. Harris enters the fight with a heavy heart following the devastating murder of his stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard who was only 19. This will be the first time that Harris is fighting since the loss of his stepdaughter. Harris fights for her and will have added motivation to make her proud with a great performance against Overeem.
Overeem has been in the sport for over 20 years and has fought all the top heavyweights, but hasn’t been winning those fights. With recent knockout losses to Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik it appears that the 39 year old fighter could be nearing the end of the line. Lacking the same speed and power that he had earlier on in his career, Overeem has shown to have a suspect chin and doesn’t have the defensive fundamentals to keep his opponents at bay. Overeem is 45-18 (1 NC) and has 14 losses by knockout. Those knockouts must’ve taken a toll on Overeem who is in danger of getting knocked out again when he fights Walt Harris. Overeem is coming off a 5th Round KO loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik in December of 2019.
Harris hasn’t lost since 2017 and is coming off two 1st Round KO wins over Sergey Spivak and most recently Aleksei Oleinik in July of 2019. The fight against Oleinik only lasted 12 seconds as Harris landed a beautiful flying knee followed up by some punches that quickly ended the fight. Harris is 13-7 (1 NC) with all 13 wins coming by knockout. Harris is a powerful striker that likes to mix up his attacks to keep his opponents guessing and should have the speed and power advantages over Overeem. Harris is 36, 6’5 and 264.5 lbs with a 77 inch reach. Overeem is 39, 6’4 and 253.5 lbs with a 80 inch reach. Expect this fight to be contested on the feet with Harris getting a 3rd Round TKO win over the older and slower Overeem. If Harris looks great and gets the knockout win it would be great to see him take on Jairzinho Rozenstruik in his next fight. It should be another great night of fights as the UFC continues to entertain us during these challenging times.