17 May 2020 06:35
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. 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. 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. Claudia Gadelha escapes with split decision over Angela Hill 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. Two judges saw it her way with 29-28 scores while the other judge gave the fight to Hill 29-28. The surging Ige earned his sixth straight victory by getting a close split decision victory. 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. UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Walt Harris via second-round TKO. Angela Hill via split decision. Walt Harris' emotional return to the Octagon didn't have the outcome he'd hope for in the main event of "UFC on ESPN 8" on Saturday night. Alistair Overeem scored a TKO victory over Harris when referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the heavyweight fight three minutes into the second round of the scheduled five-round headliner. The Homewood heavyweight was fighting for the first time since the murder of his stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard. "I want to thank my community, Homewood," Harris said from the Octagon after the fight. Harris' past two fights lasted 12 and 50 seconds, and it appeared he would follow a similar path to victory against Overeem. A right hand put Overeem down about one minute into the opening round, and Harris administered a beating to the grounded fighter. But when Harris stumbled on a front kick and went down with almost three minutes left in the first round, Overeem was on him quickly and took control, putting his left again and again in Harris' face for all but the final seconds of the period. In the second round, Overeem landed a head kick, followed by a left that put Harris on the canvas. Harris tried to cover up, but with Overeem on his opponent's back and landing punch after punch, the fight was headed to an early finish. The No. 8 heavyweight challenger, Overeem has an 11-7 UFC record and a 46-18 mark dating to his first MMA pro fight in 1999. Harris and Overeem were supposed to square off on Dec. 7 at "UFC on ESPN 7," but Harris pulled out of that fight after Blanchard's disappearance. Saturday night's card was the third in eight days as part of UFC's return at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida – all fought without fans in the seats. Harris became an advocate of Aniah's Law after Blanchard's murder. Walt Harris has Alistair Overeem down during a heavyweight bout at "UFC on ESPN 8" on Saturday, May 16, 2020, at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.Getty Images FORMER ALABAMA FOOTBALL PLAYER DROPS DECISION IN UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT FIGHT Walt Harris (left) and Alistair Overeem fight during a heavyweight bout at "UFC on ESPN 8" on Saturday, May 16, 2020, at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.Getty Images