MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN 8, a five-round heavyweight bout between contenders Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem. The event takes place on Saturday, May 16 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Walt Harris (-160)
Harris (13-7, 1 NC) is one of the top-10 ranked heavyweights in the UFC. The 36-year-old American is 6-6, 1 NC overall in the UFC, with notable wins over Aleksei Oleinik and Chase Sherman. He is a big, athletic, explosive heavyweight with legitimate KO power, with all 13 of his career victories coming by knockout. “The Big Ticket” has been really hot as of late, going undefeated over his last four fights. But he suffered a personal tragedy last fall when his daughter was murdered and that halted his momentum. He says he will use her death to fuel his fire and make a run for the UFC heavyweight title, and what a story that would be if it happens. This is the third time Harris has been booked against Overeem and if he can win this fight, it won’t be long before he’s fighting for the belt. It’s the biggest fight of his career, and now let’s see if he can get his hand raised.
Alistair Overeem (+140)
Overeem (45-18, 1 NC) is the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion. The 39-year-old Dutchman is one of the most accomplished heavyweights of all time and has fought and defeated some of the best fighters of all time. His UFC record is 10-7, with victories over the likes of Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Frank Mir, and Brock Lesnar. “The Reem” is one of the most well-rounded heavyweights in the sport as he’s able to finish his opponents on the feet and on the mat. Out of his 45 career victories, 40 of them have come by stoppage with 23 by knockout and 17 by submission. The problem with Overeem his entire career has been his chin, and it’s gotten worse with age. Overeem has been finished with strikes 14 times in MMA alone, including three knockout losses in his last five fights. It makes it very difficult to trust him when picking his fights, especially against someone who hits as hard as Harris. You can’t count Overeem out of making another title run at heavyweight just because he is so well rounded and experienced, but given his compromised durability it genuinely makes it difficult to side with him when he fights a heavy hitter like Harris.
Fight Breakdown: The first thing to mention is I don’t see any way this fight goes the full five rounds. There’s too much knockout power and finishing ability between these two, and a lack of defense, as well. It’s a heavyweight fight between two heavy hitters with questionable durability, so it truly could go either way, but I have to lean towards Harris to get his hand raised here. He’s a bit younger, he’s the faster fighter, and he has more momentum heading into this fight. Overeem is one of the best heavyweights of all time but is getting up there in age and his chin and durability are massive question marks at this point. If the fight stays on the feet I see Harris connecting with a power punch and putting Overeem out cold. Then again, if Overeem fights smart and takes the fight to the ground he could very well latch onto a submission. But given the state of Overeem’s chin, I just can’t pick him to beat someone as explosive and powerful as Harris is, especially if the fight stays on the feet like I expect it to. My pick is for Harris to knock Overeem out in the first round.
Prediction: Walt Harris wins via TKO