Well, in the words of the great philosopher DJ Khaled, “Another one”. This is the third UFC card in 7 days, and for a fight fan with no other meaningful hobbies this is a dream come true. We are live once again this Saturday from Jacksonville. Here is a deeper look into what you can expect if you tune in:
In the 5-round main event, we have two top heavyweights slugging it out between Dutch legend Alistair Overeem (45-18 (1) Career, 13-7 UFC) and knockout artist Walt Harris (13-7 (1) Career, 6-6 (1) UFC). A little context behind this matchup – this was a fight originally scheduled to take place on December 7th of last year in Washington DC, but Harris pulled out of the bout weeks before, after his step-daughter was tragically kidnapped and murdered in Auburn, Alabama. When Harris dropped out, he was replaced by Surinamese kickboxer Jairzinho Rozenstruik (who fought and was knocked out last week by Francis Ngannou) who won the fight with four seconds remaining despite likely being down on the judges scorecards to Overeem.
This is a fight that has implications to who will move up the heavyweight ladder, but also tremendous emotional ramifications for Harris, seeking a win in his first fight back from an unimaginable tragedy. Harris is 3-0 (1) in his last 4 fights, and the momentum push from a win fueled by the emotions he must carry would be the makings of a Hollywood film.
What to Expect
Based on previous trends from both fighters, I would not expect anything besides a striking war. 100 percent of Harris’ victories come by way of knockout. Alistair Overeem has won 17 of his 45 victories via submission, but his last submission victory was over James Thompson in Japan in 2009 and he has never once submitted a fighter in the UFC. Between Harris’ knockout pedigree and Overeem’s world championship kickboxing background – I can only imagine these two will stand in front of each other and throw down.
From 265 lbs men to 115 lbs women, our co-main event hosts former title contender Claudia Gadelha (17-4 Career, 7-4 UFC) taking on Angela Hill (12-7 Career, 11-7 UFC).
If you did a little bit of quick math adding up Hill’s record, you would see that only one of her professional bouts in mixed martial arts was outside of the UFC. She has faced world champions in her 3rd and 4th pro fight, and is always mixing it up with a dangerous opponent night in and night out.
Gadelha is no exception to this. She is 4-2 in her las six fights, and her only other two losses are to former world champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (If you have never heard this last name out loud, I can only imagine how you think it is pronounced. It happens to be pronounced Yun-Chain-Check, fucking crazy right?)
The landscape for contenders at 115 lbs is wide open, so a definitive win can slingshot either fighter near the top 5 of the weight class.
What to Expect
If you spend time watching a lot of MMA, you will often hear the term “Striker vs Grappler Matchup” and this type of fight falls into that category. Angela Hill has never submitted an opponent in her career. She has never been knocked out, and is always in her comfort zone standing up. Gadelha had never been submitted or knockout, but 7 of her 9 finishes in her career have come by way of submission.
Full disclosure, striker vs grappler fights have a reputation of turning out to be boring. The narrative of this type of contest is two fighters wanting to be in constant avoidance of their opponent’s strength, thus naturally leading to a lack of engagement. This is important though: In the two fights that Gadelha has won fight of the night bonuses from the UFC, they were against pure strikers, so perhaps we will still get excitement in this matchup.
Fighters to Watch
Hawaiian grappling wizard Dan Ige (13-2 Career, 5-1 UFC) is about to enter a whole new fucking universe of tough competition this weekend. Ige is an up-and-comer whose biggest career victory was a split decision over Mirsad Bektic. His opponent is world class highlight reel machine Edson Barboza (20-8 Career, 14-8 UFC) who is making his featherweight debut.
This is an unbelievably tough fight for Ige, but he is on my fighters to watch list because, believe it or not, I think he is going to pull this off. Ige certainly does not have the resume of a fighter like Barboza in terms of competition level, but he is a muscular 145 lbs fighter who really doesn’t have glaring weaknesses. He has 8 finishes total in his career, 5 by submission, 3 by knockout. He not only averages 3.89 strikes per minute, he averages 2.38 takedowns per fight.
Barboza is already a large lightweight, cutting down to a whole new weight class 10 lbs lower, dropping 4 of his last 5 fights, I think this is Ige’s time to shine.
The 22 year old young gun, originally from Hulan, China now residing and fighting out of Sacramento, CA, Song Yadong (15-4-1 (1) Career, 4-0-1 UFC) is a well balanced killing machine that everyone at 135 lbs should be terrified of. Bantamweight is a weight class full of savages from top to bottom, and Yadong has found a way to climb the ladder and destroy many of the fighters in his way. His opponent, Marlon Vera (15-5-1) is no slouch, he has won 5 straight fights and none of them have gone to the judge’s scorecards. However, the level of competition and pace that Yadong pushes is contender level, and he is expected to do big things this weekend.
The first fight on the prelims Saturday will feature dangerous Brazilian prospect Rodrigo Nascimento (7-0 Career, 0-0 UFC). I know it is strange to have one of my fighters to watch be a fighter who has never fought under the lights of the UFC, but Nascimento has won back to back fights against grueling competition, formerly 8-0 Michal Martinek and 4-2 Everton Dos Anjos. Nascimento can beat opponents a lot of different ways, and even though he is fighting 6’6” power puncher Don’tale Mayes (7-3 Career, 0-1 UFC), I think Nascimento is going to put his versatility on display in his octagon debut.
Main Card (6pm PST – ESPN+)
Harris def. Overeem (KO)
Gadelha def. Hill (Submission)
Ige def. Barboza (Decision)
Anders def. Jotko (Decision)
Yadong def. Vera (KO)
Prelims (3pm PST – ESPN+)
Baeza def. Brown (KO)
Holland def. Hernandez (KO)
Chikadze def. Davis (Decision)
Casey def. Borella (Decision)
Elkins def. Landwehr (Submission)
Nascimento def. Mayes (Decision)