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UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris - Predictions and Picks

  • The UFC presents a solid card on ESPN this weekend, but which fighters will pick up important wins?
  • UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem throws down with Walt Harris in the main event.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Preview
Modified 12 May 2020, 04:02 IST

Alistair Overeem faces off with Walt Harris in the main event of this weekend
Alistair Overeem faces off with Walt Harris in the main event of this weekend's UFC show

The third of the UFC’s trio of quickfire shows in Jacksonville, Florida during the current Covid-19 pandemic, UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris largely features a bunch of fights that were planned for a canceled event on April 11th in Portland, Oregon.

Overall this doesn’t look like a bad card by any means; it doesn’t have the depth of UFC 249, which is hardly a surprise, but as a free TV show it looks solid enough and there should be plenty of exciting matches on tap.


Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris.

#1 Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris

Alistair Overeem is one of the UFC
Alistair Overeem is one of the UFC's longest-serving veterans

This Heavyweight clash was actually planned for the UFC on ESPN show last December, but the tragic kidnapping and murder of Harris’s stepdaughter unsurprisingly forced him out of the bout. Overeem instead faced Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and suffered a nasty 5th round TKO. So can the Dutch veteran get back on the winning path here? Or will he come out on the wrong end of things again?

For me, the result of this one should stem on whether or not Overeem can avoid a heavy shot from Harris early in the fight. The Dutchman’s chin has a poor reputation – of his 18 losses, 14 have come by knockout – but the truth is that he’s tougher than his record suggests.

He doesn’t have a completely glass chin per say, and he can weather a certain amount of punishment. His issues have come more from his tendency to cover up under fire – stemming from his days in K-1 when the larger gloves worn by the fighters there offered more protection – and well, the fact that he’s facing the heaviest hitters in the sport.

Harris is definitely one of those heavy hitters, but despite being unbeaten since 2017, he’s not all that proven at the very top level. He did defeat Aleksei Oleinik in his last outing, which was highly impressive, but how much can you really take from a 12-second knockout win?

Essentially, the win over Oleinik showed exactly why ‘The Big Ticket’ is dangerous; he hits very hard and for a huge guy, he’s deceptively fast. The problem for him against Overeem, however, is that the Dutchman isn’t a plodding fighter like Oleinik was.

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‘The Reem’ does have a somewhat methodical style, but he’s still an A+ athlete despite turning 40 the day after this event, and I doubt that Harris will be able to bum-rush him as he did to Oleinik and take him out that quickly.

Were this fight taking place in say, 2013 – when Overeem hadn’t quite found a style to suit him in his post-‘Ubereem’ days – then Harris would definitely be a decent bet. At that stage the Dutchman was still using his stalking, methodical style and simply looking to cover up when his opponent fired back – leaving him susceptible to the kind of knockouts he suffered at the hands of Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne.

Since then though, he’s become a much more economic fighter, with a tendency to catch his foe and then get on his bike to avoid any return offense. This style worked fantastically against the likes of Junior Dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum – but it’s his more cerebral side that I feel makes him a bad match for Harris.

‘The Reem’ is underrated when it comes to being a well-rounded fighter; he can strike from distance, but he’s equally adept at abusing a foe from inside the clinch. And more relevantly for this fight, he’s an excellent wrestler and grappler, capable of grounding an opponent and working them over with strikes or hunting for submissions.

The guillotine choke has traditionally been his go-to submission, but he’s also used various arm-based holds to tap opponents out in the past. And while he hasn’t submitted an opponent since 2009’s tapout of James Thompson in DREAM (!), he’s been using his ground game more and more recently.

His wins over Oleinik and Sergei Pavlovich both stemmed from his ground work, and he was also well on his way to defeating Rozenstruik using his wrestling before he succumbed to that last-gasp knockout. And it’s very notable that Harris’ ground game has always been a bit of an Achilles heel.

Granted, anyone could be tapped out by Fabricio Werdum – who submitted Harris in 2017 – but ‘The Big Ticket’ looked absolutely lost on the ground with the Brazilian and it’s rare to see a submission in just one minute.

With that in mind – and Overeem’s switch to being a more economical, smart fighter – unless Harris can catch him in a rush and put him away in the opening minutes of this fight, I just don’t see how he’ll be successful. Overeem is a more technical striker, but more than that he’s a far more polished fighter in all areas too.

I’d give ‘The Big Ticket’ a puncher’s chance here, but I suspect that ‘The Reem’ will take him down and either finish him with ground-and-pound or look for a submission and get it.

The Pick: Overeem via first round submission


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Published 12 May 2020, 04:02 IST
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