Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris will clash TONIGHT (Sat., May 16, 2020) at UFC on ESPN 8 from inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
It’s hard to describe Overeem in any way other than veteran, as the former K-1 kickboxing and Strikeforce Heavyweight champ has really done it all. He’s gone on great win streaks and suffered crushing losses, but Overeem is still here, regularly showing off his skill against tough opposition. Once more, he’ll look to bounce back from a disappointing loss against a dangerous, younger fighter. It took Harris a while to realize his potential, but that seems to be the case. “The Big Ticket” has always had power and athleticism, but now he’s found the confidence to push forward and throw hard. Often, that confidence is all that’s required for a middling fighter to surge.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 45-18 (1)
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 213, Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC on FOX 17), Brock Lesnar (UFC 141), Mark Hunt (UFC 209, Dream 5)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 203), Francis Ngannou (UFC 218), Curtis Blaydes (UFC 225), Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC on ESPN 7)
Keys to Victory: Few Heavyweights can do it all like Overeem. “The Reem” can crush livers with kicks and knees, take down a majority of his foes, and squeeze on the neck like few others.
Overeem has a reputation for allowing fights to slip away from him, and it’s harder to imagine a better example than Rozenstruik’s come-from-behind knockout in the literal final seconds of a 25 minute fight. Against an exceptionally dangerous fighter in Harris, Overeem’s ability to stay sharp will be absolutely key.
However, Overeem can mitigate the risk by closing distance. Harris likes to fight at range, where he can maintain a good bounce in his step and surprise his opponent with sudden left hands. That won’t be possible if Overeem works his way into the clinch, where his destructive knees are at their most volatile.
I’d really like to see Overeem wrestle here. When Werdum took Harris down, he secured an armbar with ease moments later. Overeem may not have “Vai Cavalo’s” finesse on the mat, but Harris’ defense isn’t up to scratch, he’ll likely find a quick finish of his own.
Record: 13-7 (1)
Key Wins: Aleksei Oleinik (UFC on ESPN 4), Sergey Spivak (UFC Fight Night 151), Chase Sherman (UFC Fight Night 103), Cyril Asker (UFC Fight Night 111), Cody East (UFC 197)
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 216), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 96), Nikita Krylov (UFC on FOX 10)
Keys to Victory: It really doesn’t take a deep level of thought to understand Harris approach to MMA. He’s a big Heavyweight with the quickness of a much smaller man, and he applies those physical attributes with classic Southpaw tactics of lining up his left hand and firing the left kick.
Unlike Overeem, Harris wants exchanges. He wants punches to be flying, because Harris hits plenty hard and has far fewer miles on him than “The Demolition Man.” There’s always a risk that he gets cracked first, but that’s simply the reality of almost every Heavyweight contest.
On the whole, Harris would be smart to patiently pressure Overeem. Not only would it help him avoid being placed on the fence, but Overeem tends to overreact — or not react at all — when on the defensive. If Overeem is running around, it will tire him out, leaving him vulnerable later in the fight.
If he fails to react, well ... we saw how that ends in the Rozenstruik fight.
This is quality Heavyweight action.
Alistair Overeem has previous losses to almost all of the current top contenders, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one solid win streak away from a title shot. This is Heavyweight; age and volume of losses do not matter here. Of course, each time Overeem does fall to a younger foe, the odds grow longer against him.
As for Harris, this is much more important. Overeem is not just another opponent for him. Instead, it’s an opportunity to score the biggest win of his career and propel himself into the title mix for the first time. His age, 36, is really prime territory for many Heavyweights, so if Harris is going to prove himself a player among the big men, the time is now.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 8 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.
For more news and notes on UFC on ESPN 8 click here.
At UFC on ESPN 8, Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris will duel in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?