- Date & Location: Sat., May 16, 2020, @ VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida
- Odds: Alistair Overeem +135, Walt Harris -165
- Prediction: Harris via KO
On May 16, two top-10 heavyweights meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night 176 in Jacksonville, FL. Former UFC title challenger Alistair Overeem faces rising contender Walt Harris. Overeem is the No. 8-ranked competitor in the official UFC heavyweight rankings. Harris is ranked No. 9.
Overeem is 2-1 in his past three bouts. He has only gone the distance in three of his 17 fights with the UFC. Harris, who is in his second stint with the UFC, is unbeaten in his past four outings. He has gone the distance in four of his 21 career fights.
OVEREEM VS HARRIS ODDS
OVEREEM VS HARRIS PREDICTION & PICK
Since his arrival in the UFC, the knock on Harris has been that his athleticism exceeded his ability and confidence in the fighting game. That can no longer be said about the former Jacksonville State University basketball player. Harris has scored all his wins by knockout. His past two stoppages took a combined 62 seconds. Harris seems to have corrected everything that ailed him early in his UFC career when he went 3-6.
Overeem has an incredible amount of experience in his back pocket. He’s been in the combat-sports game for over 20 years and has reached impressive heights during his career. He’s also been taking a more cerebral approach to his fight game as he ages. However, his past 11 losses, which date back to 2006, have all come by knockout.
I am going with Harris in this bout because of his development and some intangibles I will discuss below.
Pick: Harris (-165)
BETTING VALUE WITH HARRIS
Harris has developed into a scary fighter over the past few years. He also seems to be well prepared for his opponents. At six-foot-five and with an athletic edge over most of his foes, he seems to have developed into a real threat in the division.
Harris possesses game-changing power and speed, but what makes him effective is his ability to absorb information and fight within a plan that his team has put together for him. His move to Spartan Fitness, where he trains with UFC fighter Eryk Anders, has really suited him well and made him a more effective fighter.
This fight could go the five-round distance, but I think Harris’ advantages will allow him to wear down Overeem and eventually get the knockout win.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Here is where we get into the intangibles mentioned above. Harris’ stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, was kidnapped in late 2019. After an extensive search, Blanchard’s body was found in Macon, Alabama. This will be Harris’ first fight since Blanchard’s murder.
Harris spoke about Blanchard in March, “I just feel like that’s what my daughter would want. She’s witnessed me work so hard to get here, and she’s sacrificed so much, as well as my wife and my other kid, so I couldn’t just fall off the face of the earth and let this get the best of me. I had to get my mind back focused and continue the mission.”
Harris will be supremely focused and dialed in for this fight. I believe his mental determination and preparation will make an enormous difference on May 16.
Since losing to UFC champion Stipe Miocic in 2016, Overeem has gone 4-3. Only one of those fights has gone the distance, his 2017 majority decision win over ex-champion Fabricio Werdum. He is coming off a late knockout loss to rising heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Overeem cannot afford another loss to a fighter looking to make a jump up the heavyweight rankings.
Harris’ last fight was brief, but it told a tale. In July 2019, he knocked out Aleksei Oleinik in 12 seconds. A knee to the body set up a big left hand that ended the fight. The knockout was the third fastest in UFC heavyweight history. After the stoppage, Harris, who has scored “Performance of the Night” bonuses in his past two wins said, “We worked on that for 15 weeks. We knew he liked to dip his head and show he was changing levels, so I just wanted to throw something up the middle and make him hesitant it landed and this right here is a monster. It’s different. We put him away.”
FIGHT STATS: OVEREEM VS HARRIS
|Alistair Overeem||Category||Walt Harris|
|3.54||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||2.96|
|2.15||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.68|
|1.39||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.35|
|0.9||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.2|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
After a two-fight losing skid, Overeem got back on track with two knockout wins. Rozenstruik then knocked him out in his most recent scrap. If Overeem, at 39 years of age, wants to remain in the top 10 of the heavyweight division he needs a win here. If he loses to Harris, he could very well become a gatekeeper in the division.
In 2017, Harris had a chance to make a gigantic leap in the heavyweight division when he faced former champion Fabricio Werdum. Werdum won that bout by submission in 65 seconds. This matchup gives Harris a second opportunity to break into the elite of the current heavyweight weight class. If he squanders this opportunity, Harris could find himself waiting a while before he faces another opponent ranked in the top 10.