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UFC Fight Night: 174 | Squared Up: Overeem vs. Harris

There were two UFC events in the books in Jacksonville, Florida this week. UFC President Dana White said the events went off without a hitch. Systems were in place, and the system worked.

White said other leagues around the country had reached out to him, asking what they could learn from this week going forward. This is all good news. Sports feel like they will be back in a big way soon, and that’s good news for all of us.

There is one more UFC event in Jacksonville, Florida this week. This Saturday UFC Fight Night 174 will be the last before the UFC goes back home to Las Vegas, Nevada. White is not sure what happens then. He plans to have another event on the UFC campus on May 23rd, but he needs the Governor of Nevada to sign off on that before we can get excited. Let’s enjoy what we know is happening, and that’s UFC Fight Night 174.

The main event features a matchup between two UFC heavyweights. One fighter a UFC heavyweight legend in Allistair Overeem, and the other fighter trying to break into the top 5 of the division for the first time in Walt Harris. This will be Walt Harris’ first fight back since his stepdaughter was murdered late last year. He walks into the cage with a heavy heart, but motivation will not be lacking for Walt Harris. This week has been a great one for combat sports, let’s end it on the right note.  

Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris

Saturday, May 16, 2020 – 11:55 PM EDT

Opening Line: Walt Harris -141 at BetOnline

Alistair Overeem celebrates after winning his bout against Sergei Pavlovich. (Photo by GREG BAKER / AFP)

Alistair Overeem

There are not many fighters in the conversation for the best heavyweight fighter in combat sports history but Alistair Overeem is one of them. What Overeem has done in his career has been remarkable. He is a former DREAM Heavyweight Champion, Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, K-1 World Grand Prix Champion and one of only two fighters in history to hold both an MMA & K-1 Kickboxing title at the same time. Overeem is one of the best heavyweight strikers of all-time, which is complemented by a severely underrated grappling game.

His top control wrestling game is solid and his takedown defense legitimate. He was once labeled the best heavyweight grappler in Europe before Josh Barnett and Fabricio Werdum took over the mantle.

Overeem might be in the twilight of his career but he is coming off one of the more impressive performances he has had in a while. He lost his last fight. However he outclassed Rozenstruik for 24.5 of 25 minutes, and was caught with a devastating punch that tore his face in half causing him to lose in the last 10 seconds of the fight.

He still has some gas left in the tank. How much though, is a question mark. Overeem will walk into the octagon as the #8 ranked heavyweight fighter in the world. Below is a look at Allistair Overeem, by the numbers.

Stats

Method of VictorySignificant StrikesTakedowns
23 wins by TKO3.65 Landed25% Accuracy
5 wins by Decision4.69 Absorbed73.08% Defended
17 wins by Submission

Pros

• Striking (Alistair Overeem is one of the greatest Heavyweight strikers in MMA history, period).

• Clinch (Overeem initially learned his clinch skills from his days as a kickboxer, but transitioned them to round out his MMA striking skills. He used to throw heavy knees in the clinch, but he has spent more time at range the longer his career went on. He is still very dangerous in the clinch).

• Athleticism (Overeem might be aging, and Father Time might be on his way, but he still looks like an athletic freak. He was Francis Ngannou before Ngannou existed. His cardio has held up well in the latter part of his career, and it’s thanks to his athleticism).

Cons

• Chin (Alistair Overeem has been chinny for most of his career. He is always at risk of getting put to sleep, but that is the case for a lot of heavyweight fighters. The big boys hit way to hard to remain conscious at all times. Anyone that has their button hit hard tends to drop with few exceptions. His chin has continued to erode the older he got, and anybody that backs him needs to be cognizant of it).

• Age (He still looks the part, but age has dulled a once sharpened blade. He is probably 60% of what he once was. Everything is slower, including his recovery time).

• Chin (Did I mention that my 10-year-old daughter might be able to knock him out? NO? Ok well….. I think you get the point).

Walt Harris laughs during his heavyweight bout against Mark Godbeer of England. Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP

Walt Harris

Most of the time mixed martial artists come from some type of grappling background. This was not the case for Walt Harris. In college Harris played basketball at Jacksonville State University for one season. After that season Harris received multiple tryouts from the National Basketball Association. Instead of trying out, Harris decided he wanted to become a professional mixed martial artist. 

In 2011 Harris made his professional debut on the regional scene for Hess Extreme Fighting. After amassing a (6-1) record, Harris was signed to the main roster of the UFC. He made his debut in November 2013 at the Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale. Harris lost his debut against Jared Rosholt via unanimous decision and followed that up with another loss to Nikita Krylov. Since the Krylov fight, Harris has won 7 of his last 11 fights including his last fight against Aleksei Oleinik.

Unfortunately, we have not seen Harris since that fight due to the tragic murder of his stepdaughter late last year. There is no question that Harris will be extremely emotional as he takes the walk towards the cage on Saturday night. One would have to imagine he has a special motivation to get the job done against Allistair Overeem. Harris will enter the cage as the 9th ranked heavyweight in the world. Below is a look at Walt Harris, by the numbers.

Method of VictorySignificant StrikesTakedowns
13 wins by TKO2.96 Landed33.3% Accuracy
0 wins by Decision2.68 Absorbed76.47% Defended
0 wins by Submission

Pros

• Power (Walt Harris has heavy hands, even for the heavyweight division. That power is compounded by the fact that he explodes in short bursts, which make his power and all-around striking game more effective).

 Striking (I like Walt’s striking game. He has a ton of power. He lives in the pocket rather than staying at range. He has fantastic hand speed. His combinations and counter striking game is sound, and it’s topped off with leg kicks that come with conviction. On the whole, his striking is a big asset).

 Wrestling (Harris does not come from a grappling background but you wouldn’t know that if you watched his UFC fights. His takedown game is serviceable, but his wrestling and top control game is in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. This is in part because of Harris’ freakish strength).

Cons

 Emotions (Are there things that Harris needs work on? Yes. He has no submission game at all, and that makes him more one-sided than some ranked fighters in the division. That is not what I am concerned about on Saturday. He has had a very emotional year. We do not know what is going on his head. We have no idea how it will affect him in the cage. Will he be so amped up that he presses and it ends up costing him the fight? I suppose it’s possible). 

The Verdict

So, who wins this fight? I have to take my Walt Harris here. He has had a tough year. As a father, I could not imagine losing a daughter in the way he did. You have to think he walks into the cage and takes a ton of emotional baggage out on Allistair Overeem’s face.

If Walt Harris stays at range and fights Overeem he will lose. Overeem is a far superior striker at range. However, that is not Walt’s style. Harris gets right in your face and fights in the pocket, not at range. If he does that he wins the fight. If he is having issues, he can still take Overeem down and keep him there with his solid top control.

We know that Allistair Overeem’s chin is there for the taking. He has been known to get starched, and that is exactly what I think happens. I can not see Walt Harris losing this fight after everything he has been through. I would not pick against him here. He has the tools to get it done, and that is exactly what I think happens. Give me Harris by TKO -110 at 5Dimes here.

Harris by TKO-110
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