UFC on ESPN 8 Report: Alistair Overeem finishes Walt Harris in the second round
By: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday night the UFC held its eighth card on ESPN, from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, in Jacksonville, Florida. This was the third and final of the UFC’s events in Jacksonville throughout the past eight days. The card was headlined by a bout in the heavyweight division, between Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris. The promotion for this event heavily focused upon the tragic death of Harris’s stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, and this marked his first fight since her disappearance. Harris fought twice in 2019, winning both fights with a pair of first-round knockouts. Overeem came into this fight off of a rough loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik, a fight in which he was seconds away from winning, before being dramatically finished in the final seconds of the bout. A dramatic win for either competitor could conceivably insert them into a top-five position in the heavyweight rankings. Elsewhere on the card, Angela Hill faced off against a top ten strawweight in Claudia Gadelha, and Edson Barboza made his featherweight debut against Dan Ige.
Commentary for the card was provided by Brendan Fitzgerald, alongside Paul Felder and UFC Hall of Famer, Michael Bisping. Performance bonuses were awarded to Cortney Casey and Miguel Baeza. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Song Yadong and Marlon Vera.
*Rodrigo Nascimento def. Don’Tale Mayes by rear-naked choke at 2:05 of Round 2
*Cortney Casey def. Mara Romero Borella by armbar at 3:36 of Round 1
*Nate Landwehr def. Darren Elkins by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 20-27)
*Giga Chikadze def. Irwin Rivera by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
*Kevin Holland def. Anthony Hernandez by TKO at 0:39 of Round 1
*Miguel Baeza def. Matt Brown by KO at 0:18 of Round 2
*Song Yadong def. Marlon Vera by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Krzysztof Jotko def. Eryk Anders by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Dan Ige def. Edson Barboza by Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Claudia Gadelha def. Angela Hill by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
*Alistair Overeem def. Walt Harris by TKO at 3:00 of Round 2
DON’TALE MAYES (7-3, 241) VS RODRIGO NASCIMENTO (7-0, 255) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Both fighters came out of the gates aggressive with their low kicks. Nascimento began to hunt for the takedown, but Mayes defended it well and they ended up in a stalemate against the cage. Nascimento landed a heavy looping right hook as he rushed forward, and took Mayes down with a minute and a half remaining in the round. Mayes worked his way back to the feet before time expired.
Nascimento connected with a head kick to begin the second. Mayes pressed him against the cage and landed some decent shots to the body, but Nascimento tripped him to the floor, took his back, and choked him out not long thereafter.
WINNER: Rodrigo Nascimento by rear-naked choke at 2:05 of Round 2
Nascimento looked solid here. He landed the bigger strikes on the feet and had a clear advantage on the ground. This was his UFC debut, and it will be interesting to monitor his progress as he moves forward in the division. He called out Chase Sherman in his post-fight interview.
CORTNEY CASEY (8-7, 126) VS MARA ROMERO BORELLA (12-7, 2 NC, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Borella pressed Casey against the cage early and succeeded on her first takedown attempt. Casey threw up an armbar from her guard, locked it in, and got the first-round stoppage as Borella tapped out.
WINNER: Courtney Casey by armbar at 3:36 of Round 1
Coming into this fight, Casey had lost three of her last four fights, with a string of three consecutive split decisions in that four-fight span. Picking up a first-round submission win in a new weight class may have been exactly what Casey needed to get back on track. In her post-fight interview, Casey expressed interested in remaining at flyweight
DARREN ELKINS (25-8, 146) VS NATE LANDWEHR (13-3, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Elkins got Landwehr down early in the first and quickly moved into half guard. He attempted a guillotine choke, but Landwehr scrambled back to his feet. Elkins was efficient with his strikes, finding a home for most of what he was throwing. Landwehr opened up a notable cut near the right eye of Elkins with an inadvertent headbutt. Landwehr ended the round with a nice right hand. I scored the round 10-9 for Elkins.
Landwehr was finding more success on the feet in the second, defending Elkins takedown attempts and landing some solid uppercuts. Elkins continued to throw at an impressive pace. Elkins landed a powerful right hook and Landwehr responded with a primal scream. Landwehr connected with a series of knees from the clinch, and the momentum of the fight was beginning to shift in his favor. They exchanged looping right hands, and Landwehr landed a big elbow. Herb Dean paused the action to bring a doctor in to examine a pair of severe cuts on Elkins, as Landwehr screamed at Dana White. As the action resumed, Landwehr began fighting with a hand behind his back. As the round ended, a bloody Darren Elkins let out an adrenaline-fuelled yell of his own. 19-19 going into the third.
Landwehr defended a series of takedown attempts from Elkins, and by the time they separated, Elkins was at a new level of bloody. Still, Elkins continued to march forward and land solid combinations. This was another violent, high paced round of action, and both fighters were just covered in the blood of Darren Elkins by the final minute of the round. Elkins landed a 1-2 that knocked Landwehr’s head back. Elkins started to pour it on with big combinations in the final minute. Landwehr connected with two more big strikes to end a fantastic fight. Close round, but ultimately, I scored the fight 29-28 for Elkins.
WINNER: Nate Landwehr by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 20-27)
This fight was awesome. Definitely one of the most violent fights of the year thus far and the endurance of both men, Elkins especially, was impressive. Elkins has lost his last four fights (notably against tough competition) but remains one of the most entertaining fighters at 145lbs. Landwehr put on a show throughout the fight and carried that high energy attitude into his post-fight interview. He is now 1-1 in the UFC.
GIGA CHIKADZE (9-2, 145.5) VS IRWIN RIVERA (9-4, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Irwin Rivera took this fight on two days notice, after Chikadze’s original opponent, Mike Davis, pulled out.
Chikadze had a huge size advantage here. Rivera was rushing forward to land wild combinations, and he found some success with this tactic early. Chikadze defended a takedown attempt and landed a kick to the body. Chikadze landed a question mark kick to the body of Rivera. Chikadze began to control the action as the round progressed, and I scored the round 10-9 in his favor.
Rivera knocked Chikadze a bit off balance with a superman punch early in the round. They had a wild exchange where they momentarily just traded hooks in the pocket. Much like the first round, Chikadze started to take over around the halfway point of the round. He was keeping Rivera at range, and landing big strikes at will. He was attacking the body of Rivera very effectively with kicks and knees. 20-18 Chikadze going into the final round.
Chikadze immediately hurt Rivera with a big knee, knocking him down, but Rivera jumped right back up swinging. Chikadze was not quite as aggressive in this round as he was in the last, but still won the round, and the fight, handily.
WINNER: Giga Chikadze by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
This fight looked like a featherweight against a bantamweight, but I think both fighters gained from their respective performances. Chikadze dominated, which was the type of win he needed after two close decisions to start his UFC run. Rivera showed off a lot of heart and toughness, and he kept marching forward even as he was taking some hard shots. I’ll look forward to watching him at bantamweight.
KEVIN HOLLAND (16-5, 182.5) VS ANTHONY HERNANDEZ (7-1, 1 NC, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Immediate heavy right from Holland. Holland landed a right elbow followed by a pair of left knees to the body in a clinch exchange, and Hernandez just collapsed from the body shots. Holland followed Hernandez to the ground with strikes until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Kevin Holland by TKO at 0:39 of Round 1
Holland was aggressive from the get-go, and it paid off with a quick finish of Anthony Hernandez here. Holland came off as charismatic in his post-fight interview (as he always does), and he used the opportunity to call out Mickey Gall. He is now 4-2 in the UFC.
MATT BROWN (24-16, 171) VS MIGUEL BAEZA (8-0, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Baeza found early success by attacking the lead leg of Matt Brown. Brown hurt Baeza bad with a trio of hooks against the cage, rocking him and knocking his mouthpiece out. Brown landed several elbows as he continued to attack Baeza. After the referee paused the action to hand Baeza his mouthpiece, Brown hurt Baeza with a solid combination, but Baeza responded with a 1-2 that dropped Brown, and he followed him to the ground. Brown worked his way up despite being mounted, and both fighters landed a few more solid blows before the round concluded. This was a crazy back-and-forth round.
Not long into the second, Baeza landed a counter left hook as Brown moved in, knocking him out.
WINNER: Miguel Baeza by KO at 0:18 of Round 2
The first round of this fight was fantastic, and Baeza closed the show in the second with a great knockout. Baeza is a prospect to look out for at welterweight, now 9-0 with 7 finishes. Matt Brown is still an exciting fighter but is showing his age at this point in his career. He is now 1-1 since returning from his brief retirement from the sport. If he is going to continue fighting, I would personally love to see him fight Carlos Condit, a fight that was scheduled in 2018 but fell through.
SONG YADONG (14-4-1, 1 NC, 145.5) VS MARLON VERA (15-5-1, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
The first round was pretty slow, as they felt each other out. Song was a bit more aggressive throughout the round, and he certainly landed the bigger strikes. Both men connected with numerous leg kicks. They pressed each other against the cage, alternating positions. Towards the end of the round, both fighters landed some solid elbows and body shots in the clinch against the cage. I scored the round 10-9 for Song.
Vera started fighting with more aggression in the second, and in turn, Song let loose with some powerful counterstrikes as Vera marched forward. This was a much busier round for both fighters, but Song was getting the better of their striking exchanges. They exchanged wildly in the pocket against the cage, and Vera landed some brutal elbows. Vera connected with a solid hook to the body to end the round. Vera finished strong this round, and I think he edged out a close one to even the score going into the third round.
Vera rushed across the octagon to begin the third, they returned to the clinch against the cage, where Vera took him down and began to work from Song’s guard. Song worked his way up and ate another big hook to the body. Song responded with a left cross and a solid counter left not long after. With about two minutes remaining in the round, they just stood and traded, both fighters landing huge shots. Vera racked up two more takedowns toward the end of the fight, and I thought he won the round and the fight.
WINNER: Song Yadong by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was another exciting fight on what was shaping up to be a great card. I was surprised by the decision, but it was certainly a close and competitive fight. Song is now 5-0-1 in the UFC, and I think a rematch with Cody Stamann would make sense for both of those fighters right now.
The UFC announced Kevin Randleman as the newest inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame’s Pioneer wing. Amongst his career highlights, Randleman was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion and a former UFC heavyweight champion. Perhaps his most notable career win came at PRIDE Elimination 2004, where he became the first fighter to knock out Mirko Cro-Cop in his MMA career. Randleman tragically passed away in 2016 at the age of 44, after suffering a heart attack while in the hospital battling Pneumonia.
ERYK ANDERS (13-4, 186) VS KRZYSZTOF JOTKO (21-4, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Jotko circled the cage and looked to counter, as Anders pressured forward looking to make contact. Anders attempted some takedowns throughout the round that Jotko defended. Jotko landed a pair of low kicks and then attempted a takedown, but Anders scrambled out of it and fired off a head kick along with a flurry of strikes to end the round strong.
Anders started the second round aggressively but was having trouble keeping Jotko still. Jotko landed a pair of solid straight left hands in the first minute or so of the round. Jotko defended a few more takedown attempts from Anders. Not the most entertaining fight, and rather difficult to score.
Jotko defended some more takedown attempts. Anders had a brief moment of success as he pressured forward throwing strikes. Jotko landed some solid counter strikes to back him off. Anders attempted another takedown. Jotko defended again. Jotko might be the all-time leader in takedowns defended after this fight. Regardless, Jotko outlanded Anders every round, and I scored the fight for him.
WINNER: Krzysztof Jotko by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
With this fight, the streak of exciting fights and finishes was brought to an end. Jotko defended a lot of takedowns and outlanded Anders, but I don’t think this is a performance that will do much for him one way or the other. Jotko has now won his last three fights.
DAN IGE (13-2, 146) VS EDSON BARBOZA (20-8, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
This fight marked Barboza’s featherweight debut.
Ige was very aggressive, not giving Barboza room to fire off his kicks, but Barboza dropped him with a right hook to the temple and then followed Ige into his guard. Barboza rained down a flurry of brutal hammerfists, but Ige survived the attack and returned to the feet. Ige connected with a hard kick to the body, as well as a straight right. Barboza landed a brutal leg kick and hurt him with a left hook. Ige threw a flying knee and a flurry of hooks to the body. Good round, that I scored 10-9 for Barboza.
Dan Ige started the second round the same as the first, rushing Barboza, landing some solid shots, before Barboza backed him off by returning fire. Barboza had a notable hematoma on his face from where the flying knee connected in the first round. They exchanged big body shots in the clinch. Ige landed an elbow and shot for a takedown that Barboza stuffed. Barboza connected with a kick to the body that hurt Ige, and defended another takedown from Ige, landing some solid shots on the ground to end the round. I had it 20-18 Barboza going into the final round, but that was a close one.
Barboza was going after the body in the third round, after the shot that hurt him at the end of the second. Ige succeeded on a takedown towards the end of the round and spent the final minute on top. Barboza kept Ige from advancing, but ending the round on the bottom never looks great to the judges. I scored the fight 29-28 Barboza.
WINNER: Dan Ige by Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Most fans had this fight penciled in as a sure-fire fight of the night candidate, and it lived up to the expectations. Ige’s game plan was to pressure and overwhelm Barboza with strikes, and for the most part, it worked for him. Barboza is always a dangerous counter striker, and he had the biggest moments in the fight, with the first-round knockdown and the body shot in the second. This one really could of went either way and with this win, Dan Ige is on a 6-fight win streak. I do not doubt that he will be matched up with a higher-ranked featherweight in his next bout.
For Barboza, this is a tough loss. Since his loss to current Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2017, he has gone 1-4. Two of those losses were razor-close split decisions, and another one was against an opponent who missed weight. It is understandable why Barboza might be frustrated at the moment, but he remains one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. If he is going to remain at 145lbs, I would suggest a fight against Cub Swanson.
CLAUDIA GADELHA (17-4, 155.5) VS ANGELA HILL (12-7, 115) – STRAWWEIGHT
Remarkably, this was Hill’s 7th fight since the beginning of 2019.
Gadelha’s boxing looked sharp early, working the body to slow Hill down. She pressed Hill against the cage in search of a takedown, and eventually got her down, landing in side control. Hill made it back to her feet with seconds remaining, but the first round went to Gadelha.
Hill opened up a cut on the right eye of Gadelha with a jab, then dropped her with a straight right. Her coaches urged her to let Gadelha up, and she obliged. Gadelha attempted another takedown, and Hill defended it, turning Gadelha against the cage before disengaging. Gadelha connected on a pair of right hands as Hill ducked forward. Hill flurried forward to end the round. A pretty clear 19-19 going into the third.
They were trading punches early in the round. Gadelha landed a strong kick to the leg. This was a close round, but Hill looked a bit sharper throughout the round, landing efficiently, and did a good job of avoiding Gadelha’s left hand. Gadelha did end strong, however, landing some notable strikes as time expired, and that made this a very tough round to score. I narrowly gave the edge to Angela Hill.
WINNER: Claudia Gadelha by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Another close fight, and another exciting three rounder. Angela Hill looked good against the former strawweight title challenger and proved that she could hang with the higher-ranked fighters in the division. Gadelha’s cardio and striking both looked improved from her last few bouts, which will serve her well against the current top five. She called out Carla Esparza in her post-fight interview, which was interesting given the fact that she beat Esparza when they fought. Since last challenging for the title in 2016, she has gone 5-2.
ALISTAIR OVEREEM (45-18, 1 NC, 253.5) VS WALT HARRIS (13-7, 1 NC, 264.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Overeem connected with an early spinning back kick to the body. Harris knocked Overeem down with a quick combination near the cage, and begin to unload with ground and pound strikes to the downed Overeem. Overeem was cut open badly, and it looked like the fight was close to getting stopped, but Overeem made his way back to the feet. He was hurt, but Harris fired off a front kick and seemed to slip, and Overeem took him down, taking his back with over two minutes remaining in the round. Overeem landed some left hands and controlled the remainder of the round.
Into round two, Overeem landed a head kick and a left hook that put Walt Harris down, and Overeem started throwing right hands at the grounded Harris. Overeem took his back and flattened Harris out, continuing to throw those rights. He kept throwing them, and Harris was not able to improve his position, and eventually referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight.
WINNER: Alistair Overeem by TKO at 3:00 of Round 2
Overeem showed a lot of heart by surviving that knockdown sequence in the first round. He was the more experienced and well-rounded fighter, and that knockdown in the second was beautiful. He is one of those fighters who has pretty much fought everyone throughout the years, so there is not an obvious direction for him, but fights against Derrick Lewis or Alexander Volkov could be interesting.
The promotion for this card was focused entirely around Harris’s rebounding from the loss of his step-daughter, and it was naturally tough to see him lose like this. He came close to a stoppage in the first round, and will likely face another notable heavyweight in his next bout, although it really should be a step down from a fighter with the skillset of an Alistair Overeem. Harris gave an emotional post-fight interview, where he thanked his coaches, teammates, the fans, and his community.