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It was a shaky start for Alistair Overeem, but the veteran heavyweight got the job done in the main event of UFC on ESPN 8 Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida.
Overeem (46-18, 1 NC) took on Walt Harris in the featured bout of the evening and it seemed early on that “The Demolition Man” wouldn’t make it out of the opening frame. Harris, who climbed into the cage for the first time since tragically losing his stepdaughter to a brutal murder last year, came out with jabs before blasting the Dutch striker with punches. Harris tried ending the fight with a furious barrage of punches and, while Overeem suffered a laceration around his eye, Harris couldn’t seal the deal.
Overeem used his vast in-cage and ring experience to weather the storm and eventually turn the tides in the battle. The former K-1 World Grand Prix champion wound up hurting the American with a head kick and then slowly pounded on Harris until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped it three minutes into the second round.
“I brought my best version of me out here tonight,” Overeem said after his conquest. “I took training camp very seriously and all of the details that go with it. Team Elevation is excellent, preparing me for all situations. I have great sparring partners and teammates, Curtis Blaydes, Zach, Tai, great guys, great chemistry. Things are also reflex, when you fight, in my opinion, you should not think too much. That’s exactly what I did tonight, just reacting and not thinking too much.”
It seemed to be business as usual for the former title challenger, even with the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena being devoid of fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. And he also wasn’t about to subconsciously sabotage his fight due to emotions because of what Harris has been going through. Overeem said that everybody in the sport needs to stay focused and continue moving forward no matter what happens.
“It is horrible what he’s been through, the personal tragedy with his daughter,” he said. “Also with the whole corona thing going on in the background, it is really important that we get back on the horse and we keep going and I think that’s also really important for Walt. Hats off to him, he needs to keep going.”
Overeem will keep moving forward, but the 40-year-old legend (his birthday is today) admitted that time is winding down on his fighting career. A veteran of 14 professional kickboxing matches and 65 MMA fights as well as becoming champion for K-1, DREAM and Strikeforce throughout his career, Overeem understands that he has to make some drastic noise now. He has his sights on one day capturing the UFC world title, a belt that has eluded him his entire MMA career, but he also is starting to plan for his exit.
“There’s two things that I’m focused on: one more crack at the title, and also the closing of my career.”
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