17 May 2020 12:34

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Walt Harris returned to mixed martial arts Saturday, seven months after the killing of his 19-year-old daughter, Aniah Blanchard. He was defeated in the second round by Alistair Overeem in the final night of the UFC's three events at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Overeem embraced Harris on the ground after their fight, inviting the American to train with him. In his post-fight speech, Harris struggled to hold back tears as he thanked the UFC, his trainer, and his teammates. Walt Harris, an American fighter, struggled to hold back tears returning to the UFC seven months after the abduction and murder of his daughter.

Aniah Blanchard, 19, went missing in October, 2019, in Alabama. Her remains were discovered two months later and an autopsy revealed she died of a gunshot wound, CNN reported. Harris told reporters at a virtual media day this week that he endured a "dark, dark period" while grieving, but after speaking with his wife, Angela, he used the gym as a coping mechanism. Harris also prayed, and said his daughter spoke to him during those spiritual moments. I want you to fight.'" And fight he did, as Harris topped the bill at the final night of the UFC's three Jacksonville, Florida shows, competing against one of the heavyweight division's biggest names — Alistair Overeem — on Saturday, May 16.

A first-round onslaught in which he floored Overeem and appeared close to finishing the Dutch kickboxer was the closest he came to victory, before a big head kick and ground and pound led to defeat in the second. Alistair Overeem consoles Walt Harris. Watch the moment Overeem consoled Harris below. Overeem said, "Let's train together," when he embraced Harris on the canvas. "First, I just want to say thank you to the UFC … they've been amazing through this whole process. My wife and I have been so grateful, we owe you guys everything," Harris said in his post-fight speech in the Octagon. With tears building in his eyes and his voice beginning to break, Harris thanked his trainer and teammates. The UFC's three events at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena were behind-closed-doors due to a ban on mass gatherings to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. "To the fans, I know y'all couldn't be in here but you're at home, watching, I'm sorry," Harris said. Said Overeem: "Walt is a cool guy. It is horrible what he's been through, the personal tragedy with his daughter … We just have to get back on the horse and I think that's also really important for Walt." Blanchard's accused killer, Ibraheem Yazeed, was arrested in November in connection to the abduction, and faces the death penalty. Yazeed's next court appearance is June, according to reports. The veteran UFC fighter who knocked an American's teeth out said he knew he was doing damage because his fist hurt from all the punching An American fighter threw 21 punches in a fight-finishing sequence, and said he's motivated to one day take on 'the Khabibs, the Conors' of UFC The UFC showed a leg injury so bad you could see the shin bone underneath, and a commentator gave an awkward giggle UFC boss Dana White said it was 'tough to watch' a fighter get beaten so bad he was left with broken bones and missing teeth MMA fighters are apoplectic at Anthony Smith's corner for failing to stop a UFC fight when the American was given a horrific thrashing The UFC concluded its trifecta of events over a period of eight days with an emotional showdown Saturday night. Alistair Overeem endured a first-round scare to stop Walt Harris in the second frame. The main event between heavyweights headlined a UFC Fight Night from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. The focus of the fight was squarely on Harris, who entered with a heavy heart after the tragic death of his stepdaughter late last year. Overeem had an unenviable task: He needed to keep the emotions out of the fight and get back to his winning ways. For a moment, it looked as if Harris would end up with the storybook ending. Harris dropped Overeem with a right hand and pummeled the former Strikeforce champion with devastating ground and pound that left Overeem's face a bloody mess. Harris smelled the blood in the water and attacked. Unfortunately, he lost his balance, which allowed the Dutch kickboxer to take him down and work him over with his own ground and pound until the end of the round. After spending a great deal of energy trying to secure the knockout and fend off Overeem's ground and pound, Harris appeared to be exhausted entering the next round. Overeem waited for his opportunity and fired a head kick and right hand that dropped "The Big Ticket." The 40-year-old then used his experience to carefully maneuver to Harris' back, flatten him out and land some more ground and pound to force a stoppage at 3:00 of the round. Overeem bounced back after suffering a brutal last-minute knockout loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik — who replaced Harris last December — and will now look to work his way up the rankings. Harris lost for the first time in four fights, but he remains a threat in the division. He fought back tears as he apologized to his community and the fans for the loss after carrying the emotional weight of his stepdaughter's death into the Octagon. "I promise you that you haven't seen the last of 'The Big Ticket,'" he said. Claudia Gadelha escapes with split decision over Angela Hill Gadelha picked up her second win in a row with the narrow victory and kept herself in the mix of contenders in the women's strawweight division. Facing an opponent who was entering her seventh fight in 421 days, Gadelha needed to find a way to neutralize Hill's striking. Although putting the fight on the ground was the obvious path to victory, Gadelha showed improved striking herself, which aided her in earning the decision. After an even first few minutes, Gadelha secured a takedown late in the first round, which was exactly where Hill didn't want to be with the BJJ black belt. Fortunately for Hill, Gadelha wasn't able to do much on the ground. But the precedent was set that Hill needed to do everything in her power to ensure she didn't end up on her back in the second round. Hill cut Gadelha with a left jab and then dropped her with a hard right hand in the second round. The sequence completely turned the fight around. With the fight hanging in the balance entering the third, both fighters let it all hang out. Hill picked apart her opponent with precision striking as the seemingly fresher fighter. Gadelha managed to turn up the pressure late and landed a few hard hooks that ultimately swung the pendulum in her favor. Two judges saw it her way with 29-28 scores while the other judge gave the fight to Hill 29-28. Unranked heading into the fight, Hill improved her stock significantly with her performance against a former title contender. Dan Ige spoils Edson Barboza's featherweight debut The surging Ige earned his sixth straight victory by getting a close split decision victory. Barboza dropped down to featherweight in a bid to find success after losing two straight as a lightweight. Although he looked impressive in his new weight class, he ran into a dog in Ige. The two got off to a fast start, but Ige got the better of it in the striking department early as the Brazilian tried to find his rhythm. Perhaps surprised at Ige's durability, Barboza was unable to keep Ige from advancing and landing powerful strikes. It appeared Ige was having a great second round, but a late kick to the body hurt him badly and likely earned Barboza the round. Barboza continued to work to the body in the third round and landed a hard left hook that stung Ige. But Ige refused to go away and fought back, landing a hard left hand that briefly stunned the Brazilian. Ige finally secured a takedown with a minute left but wasn't able to do much with it. That late takedown was likely what gave him the fight as two judges saw it in his favor with 29-28 scores and the third judge seeing it for Barboza. The victory means Ige will likely get a crack at a top-10 featherweight for his next bout. UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Harris results Alistair Overeem def. Walt Harris via second-round TKO. Claudia Gadelha def. Angela Hill via split decision. Dan Ige def. Edson Barboza via split decision. Krzysztof Jotko def. Eryk Anders via unanimous decision. Song Yadong def. Marlon Vera via unanimous decision.