Walt Harris had sentiment on his side in his first headlining assignment with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but the guile, experience and competitive spirit of an all-time great proved to be too steep a mountain for him to scale.
Former Dream, Strikeforce and K-1 World Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem on Saturday put away Harris with sustained ground-and-pound in the second round of their UFC on ESPN 8 main event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Referee Dan Miragliotta gave “The Big Ticket” every opportunity to recover before calling for the stoppage 3:00 into Round 2.
Harris—whose stepdaughter was abducted and murdered in October, the tragic case garnering national attention—had his counterpart reeling inside the first five minutes, as a multi-punch volley to the face sat down Overeem at the base of the cage and forced him to duck for cover. By the time the Elevation Fight Team representative returned to an upright position, blood was flowing out of his nose and from a cut near his eye. Overeem managed to extend the fight into a second round, where he leveled the Alabama native with a head kick-left hook combination, pursued him to the canvas and advanced to his back, at which point he flattened out Harris and cut loose with punches until Miragliotta had seen enough.
In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 8 “Overeem vs. Harris,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Alistair Overeem vs. Derrick Lewis: Even as he straddles the line between gatekeeper and contender, Overeem remains as relevant as ever at the age of 40. “The Demolition Man” has recorded three wins in his last four outings and was ahead on the scorecards in his ill-fated Dec. 7 confrontation with Jairzinho Rozenstruik before suffering a lip-splitting knockout loss in the final five seconds of the fight. Overeem may run out of time before he secures another title shot, but he represents an intriguing challenge for virtually any heavyweight currently ranked in the Top 10. Lewis last fought at UFC 247, where he pocketed a unanimous decision over Ilir Latifi on Feb. 8.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Amanda Ribas: The 31-year-old Gadelha finds herself in possession of back-to-back victories for the first time in nearly three years after she captured a split verdict from former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Angela Hill in the three-round co-headliner at 115 pounds. All three judges scored it 29-28: Sal D’Amato for Hill, Chris Lee and Dave Tirelli for Gadelha. Both women made compelling cases for themselves across 15 minutes. Gadelha delivered a takedown in the first round, settled in side control and let her ground-and-pound do the rest. Hill was undeterred. The Alliance MMA export opened a cut above Gadelha’s left eye in the middle stanza and decked her with a perfectly place straight right, as the momentum appeared to shift in her direction. Round 3 could have gone either way, though Gadelha staggered her counterpart with a left hook and utilized an effective clinch. The promising Ribas extended her run of consecutive wins to four on March 14, when she laid claim to a unanimous decision over Randa Markos at UFC Fight Night 170.
Dan Ige vs. Arnold Allen: Ige continued his slow but steady climb on the 145-pound ladder, as he eked out a split decision over former Ring of Combat champion Edson Barboza in a contentious featherweight feature. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: D’Amato and Derek Cleary for Ige, Troy Wincapaw for Barboza. However, the strikes of consequence were landed by the Brazilian, as Barboza dropped his counterpart with a right elbow-right hook combination in the first round and left him in survival mode with a knee to the liver in the second. Ige responded with body-head combinations, a series of clinches and a strong closing argument in Round 3, where he spent the final 72 seconds in top position after executing a takedown. The affable Hawaiian has rattled off six consecutive victories since his failed Octagon debut opposite Julio Arce in 2018. Operating out of the famed Tristar Gym in Montreal, Allen improved to 16-1 by taking a unanimous decision from Nik Lentz at UFC Fight Night 166 on Jan. 25.
Yadong Song vs. John Dodson: Crisp counters, devastating power punches from both hands and punishing leg kicks carried the surging Song to a unanimous decision over Team Oyama’s Marlon Vera in a closely contested featherweight showcase. The Team Alpha Male prospect swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks across the board. Song did his best work across the first two rounds, as he connected on two- and three-punch combinations, targeted the head and body, held his own in the clinch and fought fire with fire. Vera turned the tide in Round 3, where he executed a pair of takedowns, let his hands go and did what he could to curry favor with the judges, albeit in a losing effort. Dodson last appeared at UFC Fight Night 167 in February, when he dispatched Nathaniel Wood with third-round punches.
Miguel Baeza vs. Kenan Song: The unbeaten Baeza put away “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 alum Matt Brown with punches in the second round of their featured welterweight prelim. Brown succumbed to blows 18 seconds into Round 2. Both men were teetering on the brink through a hyper-competitive first round, though youth and speed ultimately won out over power and experience. The Dana White’s Contender Series graduate floored the oncoming Brown with a left hook, chased him to the canvas and closed it out with follow-up punches. Now a perfect 9-0, the 27-year-old Baeza has secured seven of his nine career victories by knockout or technical knockout. Song, 30, last competed at UFC Fight Night 168, where he knocked out Callan Potter in the first round of their Feb. 23 encounter.
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