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Walt
Harris
had sentiment on his side in his first headlining
assignment with the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
, but the guile, experience and
competitive spirit of an all-time great proved to be too steep a
mountain for him to scale.

Former Dream,
Strikeforce
and K-1 World Grand Prix champion Alistair
Overeem
on Saturday put away Harris with sustained
ground-and-pound in the second round of their
UFC on ESPN 8
main event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena
in Jacksonville, Florida. Referee Dan Miragliotta gave “The Big
Ticket” every opportunity to recover before calling for the
stoppage 3:00 into Round 2.

Harris—whose stepdaughter was abducted and murdered in October, the
tragic case garnering national attention—had his counterpart
reeling inside the first five minutes, as a multi-punch volley to
the face sat down Overeem at the base of the cage and forced him to
duck for cover. By the time the
Elevation Fight Team
representative returned to an upright
position, blood was flowing out of his nose and from a cut near his
eye. Overeem managed to extend the fight into a second round, where
he leveled the Alabama native with a head kick-left hook
combination, pursued him to the canvas and advanced to his back, at
which point he flattened out Harris and cut loose with punches
until Miragliotta had seen enough.

In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 8 “Overeem vs. Harris,” here are
five matches that ought to be made:

Alistair
Overeem
vs. Derrick
Lewis
:
Even as he straddles the line between
gatekeeper and contender, Overeem remains as relevant as ever at
the age of 40. “The Demolition Man” has recorded three wins in his
last four outings and was ahead on the scorecards in his ill-fated
Dec. 7 confrontation with Jairzinho
Rozenstruik
before suffering a lip-splitting knockout loss in
the final five seconds of the fight. Overeem may run out of time
before he secures another title shot, but he represents an
intriguing challenge for virtually any heavyweight currently ranked
in the Top 10. Lewis last fought at UFC 247, where he pocketed a
unanimous decision over Ilir Latifi
on Feb. 8.

Claudia
Gadelha
vs. Amanda
Ribas
:
The 31-year-old Gadelha finds herself in
possession of back-to-back victories for the first time in nearly
three years after she captured a split verdict from former
Invicta Fighting Championships
titleholder Angela Hill
in the three-round co-headliner at 115 pounds. All three judges
scored it 29-28: Sal D’Amato for Hill, Chris Lee and Dave Tirelli
for Gadelha. Both women made compelling cases for themselves across
15 minutes. Gadelha delivered a takedown in the first round,
settled in side control and let her ground-and-pound do the rest.
Hill was undeterred. The
Alliance MMA
export opened a cut above Gadelha’s left eye in
the middle stanza and decked her with a perfectly place straight
right, as the momentum appeared to shift in her direction. Round 3
could have gone either way, though Gadelha staggered her
counterpart with a left hook and utilized an effective clinch. The
promising Ribas extended her run of consecutive wins to four on
March 14, when she laid claim to a unanimous decision over Randa
Markos
at UFC Fight Night 170.

Dan
Ige
vs. Arnold
Allen
:
Ige continued his slow but steady climb on the
145-pound ladder, as he eked out a split decision over former
Ring of
Combat
champion Edson
Barboza
in a contentious featherweight feature. All three
cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: D’Amato and Derek Cleary
for Ige, Troy Wincapaw for Barboza. However, the strikes of
consequence were landed by the Brazilian, as Barboza dropped his
counterpart with a right elbow-right hook combination in the first
round and left him in survival mode with a knee to the liver in the
second. Ige responded with body-head combinations, a series of
clinches and a strong closing argument in Round 3, where he spent
the final 72 seconds in top position after executing a takedown.
The affable Hawaiian has rattled off six consecutive victories
since his failed Octagon debut opposite Julio Arce in
2018. Operating out of the famed
Tristar Gym
in Montreal, Allen improved to 16-1 by taking a
unanimous decision from Nik Lentz at
UFC Fight Night 166 on Jan. 25.

Yadong Song
vs. John
Dodson
:
Crisp counters, devastating power punches from
both hands and punishing leg kicks carried the surging Song to a
unanimous decision over
Team Oyama
’s Marlon Vera
in a closely contested featherweight showcase. The
Team Alpha Male
prospect swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks
across the board. Song did his best work across the first two
rounds, as he connected on two- and three-punch combinations,
targeted the head and body, held his own in the clinch and fought
fire with fire. Vera turned the tide in Round 3, where he executed
a pair of takedowns, let his hands go and did what he could to
curry favor with the judges, albeit in a losing effort. Dodson last
appeared at UFC Fight Night 167 in February, when he dispatched
Nathaniel
Wood
with third-round punches.

Miguel
Baeza
vs. Kenan
Song
:
The unbeaten Baeza put away “The Ultimate
Fighter” Season 7 alum Matt Brown
with punches in the second round of their featured welterweight
prelim. Brown succumbed to blows 18 seconds into Round 2. Both men
were teetering on the brink through a hyper-competitive first
round, though youth and speed ultimately won out over power and
experience. The
Dana White’s Contender Series
graduate floored the oncoming
Brown with a left hook, chased him to the canvas and closed it out
with follow-up punches. Now a perfect 9-0, the 27-year-old Baeza
has secured seven of his nine career victories by knockout or
technical knockout. Song, 30, last competed at UFC Fight Night 168,
where he knocked out Callan
Potter
in the first round of their Feb. 23 encounter.


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