Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back with another quick turnaround, as the promotion is set to complete the trifecta by staging its third and final event in the span of just eight days. Indeed, UFC on ESPN 8 will take place later tonight (Sat., May 16, 2020) inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., which has been home base for the promotion for a little under two weeks now.
Walt Harris suffered the loss of his daughter earlier this year after she was abducted and later found shot to death in Macon County, Alabama. It’s an unimaginable and tragic loss that will crush even the hardest of people. Still, as hard as it was for Walt, and his entire family, he is mustering up the strength to return to action after an extended layoff. As it stands, Harris is on quite a roll, having won three in a row — four, had his win over Andrei Arlovski not been overturned to a “No Contest” after failing a drug test. The hard-hitting big man has been putting in work for some time now, and seems to have finally found his groove after starting his UFC career at 4-6. A win over Alistair Overeem could be his “Big Ticket” to get in into title contention in the Heavyweight division.
Overeem, meanwhile, is looking to get back into the win column after having his two-fight win streak snapped — and his lip sliced in half — by Jairzinho Rozenstruick in the final seconds of their 265-pound showdown last December (see it), bringing his record to 2-3 over his last five outings. “The Reem” may no longer be a spring chicken, but he still carries with him some heavy hands and enough skills to make the division interesting. A win over Harris will get him his momentum back, though a defeat will give him another two-fight skid inside the Octagon. I’d normally give the striking advantage to Overeem here, as five of his last six UFC wins have come by way of knockout. That said, every single one of Harris’s 13 victories have come by way of knockout/technical knockout (TKO), so he matches Overeem in the power department. Walt will be coming in with extra motivation, so Overeem better be on his game if he wants to avoid his second straight knockout loss.
In the co-main event, Claudia Gadelha and Angela Hill will collide in a women’s Strawweight bout, one that I like very much. Hill has been on a tear as of late, winning three straight, all in the span of just six months. Her willingness to step up on short notice has made her a fan-favorite. Plus, she has an exciting style that matches up well with Gadelha’s aggressive pace. Gadelha is 2-1 in her last three outings and is coming off a win over Randa Markos at UFC 239. It’s a pivotal fight to say the least, as the division is wide open, and the winner here could inch herself closer to a shot at the title, preventing Joanna Jedrzejczyk from getting yet another shot. The division needs new title contenders not named Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas, so there is a lot hanging in the balance here.
It’s a nice card, but the only match up I’m not quite feeling is Matt Brown vs Miguel Baeza. “Immortal” is a longtime veteran of the game who has faced the likes of Robbie Lawler, Diego Sanchez, Donald Cerrone and Johnny Hendricks over the last few years. So to give him a man who has only competed once inside the Octagon is bit of a head-scratcher. No disrespect to Baeza — who is 8-0, 1-0 UFC — but I would have liked to see Brown get another veteran of the game here. Plus, if you’re trying to bring Baeza along, who looks like a promising prospect, why give him someone as experienced and dangerous as Brown? I don’t see Sean O’ Malley getting tough fights like this. Just sayin’.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a bevy of changes. The event was set to go down last month in Porltand, but was postponed due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus. Among the notable changes was a fight between Anthony Hernandez and Punahele Soriano, who were set to collide at this event before Soriano was forced out of the bout. As a result, Kevin Holland stepped in to fill the void. Several international fighters were forced out of the event, including Lara Procopio, Ariane Lipski and Luana Carolina due to worldwide travel restrictions and will have thier respective bouts replaces for a later date. A fight between Rodrigo Nascimento and Don’Tale Mayes was added to this card, which was originally set to go down at UFC Lincoln.
No major injuries were reported, but a fight between Mike Davis and Giga Chikadze was scrapped after Davis was forced out due to complications from his weight cut. In his place, Octagon newcomer Irwin Rivera will get the nod.
Rodrigo Nascimento Ferreira will bring his talents to the Octagon officially to face Don'Tale Mayes after earning a submission win on the “Contender Series." Mayes came up short in his own debut last October, while Ferreira is undefeated thus far in his career, winning all seven of his fights by way of stoppage, six of them in the very first round. Prior to Mayes putting up a dud in his first UFC effort, he was riding a four-fight win streak. Furthermore, he packs some power in his punches and has shown he can get the job done on the ground as well.
Also, Irwin Rivera got the call up on a few days notice after Mike Davis was forced out to weight-cutting complications. Rivera is on a three-fight win streak and has been putting in work under the highly-competitive Titan FC banner for a few years now. He has proven to pack a punch, as his last three wins have come by way of knockout.
How The “Prelims” Look:
Matt Brown will make his return to the Octagon to face Miguel Baeza in Welterweight action. “Immortal” has won two straight, knocking out Diego Sanchez in 2017 before making good in his comeback fight from retirement by knocking out Ben Saunders at UFC 245. In Baeza, Brown will have the distinct experience advantage, as Miguel only has eight pro fights to his credit, one inside the Octagon. Still, the undefeated (8-0, 1-0 UFC) has six knockouts in his young MMA career, so he has the chance to make a splash against one of the most beloved fighters in the game.
Darren Elkins will look to snap his three-fight losing streak when he faces off against Nate Landwehr, who came up short in his Octagon debut against Herbert Burns, snapping his seven-fight win streak in the process. Also, Cortney Casey eyes a a return to the winner’s circle as she faces off against Mara Romero Borella, who is looking to avoid her third straight defeat.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Edson Barboza has had a rough three years. After scoring back-to-back-to-back wins over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and Beniel Dariush, “Junior” went on to drop four of his next five, including his last two in a row. Granted, he’s not losing to scrubs, coming up short against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kevin Lee, Paul Felder and Justin Gaethje, a murder’s row of dangerous opponents and two current champions. Still, a big staple win has eluded Barboza throughout his career, given the impression that he simply can’t win the big fight. Now that he’s dropping down to Featherweight, perhaps the devastating striker can find a new lease on his combat career. Against Dan Ige, things wont get any easier as he has won five straight and 11 of 12 overall. It’s a must-win for Barboza, who is clinging on to his UFC roster spot, one he wasn’t too sure he wanted a few months back.
Interest Level: 7 of 10
It’s a decent card with some rather intriguing bouts. Obviously the Heavyweight main event is going to be fire, but it could be over in the blink of an eye. Plus Gadelha and Hill could prove to be highly-entertaining and the sleeper fight of the night.
Also in main card action, Eryk Anders and Krzysztof Jotko will collide in what is sure-to-be a banger of a Middleweight showdown. Anders — who hits like a truck — has turned things around to win his last two bouts. Jotko, meanwhile, has also won his last two straight, a nice turnaround from his horrid three-fight skid.
Rounding out the main card will be a Featherweight bout between Song Yadong and Marlon Vera. Song has been going wild, winning seven in a row up until he fought to a draw with Cody Stamman. Marlon Vera, meanwhile, is no slouch, winning five in a roll, all stoppages. Someone is going to have his winning streak snapped, but he won’t let it go without a fight.
Enjoy the event!
Full Fight Card:
UFC Fight Night Main Event On ESPN/ESPN+:
265 lbs.: Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris
UFC Fight Night Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (9 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Claudia Gadelha vs. Angela Hill
145 lbs.: Edson Barboza vs. Dan Ige
185 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Krzysztof Jotko
145 lbs.: Marlon Vera vs. Song Yadong
UFC Fight Night Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Matt Brown vs. Miguel Baeza
185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Kevin Holland
145 lbs.: Giga Chikadze vs. Irwin Rivera
145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Nate Landwehr
125 lbs.: Mara Romero Borella vs. Cortney Casey
265 lbs.: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Rodrigo Nascimento
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
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.
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