UFC Florida: Overeem vs. Harris Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Jacksonville, Fla.

Updated: May 14, 2020 • 9:10 AM ET

Jacksonville, Fla. will host this weekend's UFC Fight Night card.

The UFC will showcase its third event within a week in Jacksonville, Fla. this Saturday, once again without fans in VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled to take place on April 11 in Portland, Ore., Saturday’s main event will be a heavyweight bout between No. 8 Alistair Overeem and No. 9 Walt Harris.

Veteran Dutch fighter Overeem will attempt to rebound from a fifth-round knockout loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik in December. Since challenging UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for the title in 2016, Overeem is 4-3 with all but one of the fights ending with a finish.

Since making his UFC debut in 2011, the 39-year-old Overeem has become a legend of the sport. He’s one of the extremely few fighters to ever hold titles in both kickboxing and MMA at the same time, and the only MMA accomplishment missing from his resume is a UFC championship. In his career, he has key victories over Fabricio Werdum (twice), Mark Hunt (twice), Andrei Arlovski, Junior dos Santos, Roy Nelson, Stefan Struve, Frank Mir, Brock Lesnar, Brett Rogers, Vitor Belfort (twice) and Sergei Kharitonov.

Overeem was on a two-fight winning streak before being finished by Rozenstruik in a fight he was winning. However, a win over a surging fighter such as Harris would keep Overeem in the conversation as a top contender in the heavyweight division.

Meanwhile, Harris is coming off two straight wins with his last being a 12-second knockout of Aleksei Oleinik last July. He remained out of action for the rest of 2019 after his stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, went missing in October.

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Blanchard’s death was confirmed in late November after her remains were found in Macon County, Ala. one month after her disappearance. A suspect has been arrested and charged with Blanchard’s murder, and Harris will dedicate Saturday’s fight to his late stepdaughter.

“It means everything to me,” Harris recently said via WHNT News 19. “We’re still fighting for my daughter, you know. I’m physically going to be fighting Alistair Overeem, but there’s still battles to be won on her behalf and she’s still in my heart every day.

“Every day I train, every breath I take, I’m thinking about her, so it’s going to be fun to get in there because she was my biggest fan, so I know she’ll be right there with me watching and rooting me on. So, I can’t wait.”

The 36-year-old Harris believes a win over a legend such as Overeem will solidify his position as a title contender.

“It’s my opportunity to show the world I belong in the top five and I deserve a title shot,” Harris said. “It’s also a chance to get to fight somebody who you modeled your career after. I mean, he’s fought the best of the best, so a win over him puts me in that conversation with some of the best of the best fighters in the world.”

Harris is 6-3 in his last 10 fights with one no contest coming by a controversial disqualification. Overeem would undoubtedly represent Harris’ biggest win in the Octagon and likely set him up for a bout with a top five contender.

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a women’s strawweight bout between former title challenger Claudia Gadelha and Angela Hill.

The No. 6 ranked Gadelha is coming off a decision win over Randa Markos last July. Since challenging former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title in 2016, Gadelha is 4-2 with both losses coming by decision.

The 31-year-old Gadelha has key victories over Jessica Aguilar, Cortney Casey, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Carla Esparza. With a win on Saturday, she’ll have a good shot at getting a fight with someone in the top five of the rankings and opportunity to remind everyone why she once fought for a title.

Meanwhile, Hill is on a three-fight winning streak. All three bouts took place within a five-month period from September through February, starting in Mexico City, then to Raleigh, N.C. and all the way to Auckland, New Zealand. Her last victory came by unanimous decision over Loma Lookboonmee in February.

The 35-year-old Hill is on her first winning streak since debuting in the UFC in 2017. Since her debut, she has fought 11 times, making her one of the busiest fighters in the UFC. The only thing missing from Hill’s resume is a win over a marquee name, and that’s what a win over Gadelha would represent.

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN at 9 p.m. EDT

Featherweight bout - No. 15 Dan Ige vs. No. 11 Edson Barboza

Middleweight bout - Eryk Anders vs. Krzysztof Jotko

Featherweight bout - No. 14 Song Yadong vs. No. 15 (bantamweight) Marlon Vera

 

Prelims on ESPN at 6 p.m. EDT

Welterweight bout - Matt Brown vs. Miguel Baeza

Middleweight bout - Anthony Hernandez vs. Kevin Holland

Featherweight bout - Mike Davis vs. Giga Chikadze

Women’s flyweight bout - Cortney Casey vs. Mara Romero Borella

Featherweight bout - Darren Elkins vs. Nate Landwehr

Heavyweight bout - Rodrigo Nascimento Ferreira vs. Don’tale Mayes

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