Making an attempt to view Saturday’s fundamental occasion strictly within the context of the matchup itself is a idiot’s errand.

At first, Walt Harris’s headlining heavyweight bout reverse Alistair Overeem marks his first battle because the homicide of his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard, a nightmare that started along with her disappearance this previous October. The tragedy pushed again an preliminary reserving with Overeem that was to happen in December, and after some extra schedule shuffling attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bout has landed on a UFC on ESPN card in Jacksonville, Fla.

Harris appears to proceed his climb up the rankings, which was bolstered by two knockouts of 50 seconds or much less in his earlier two outings. One can solely think about the emotional weight he’ll carry with him on battle night time and the way a lot simply getting the possibility to get again to doing what he loves may lighten that load.

Add in the truth that Saturday’s headliner will cap off the third UFC card in a single week because the promotion resumes operations following a sequence of coronavirus pandemic-related cancellations and postponements in March and April, and also you get the sense that a variety of demons might be exorcised when the present involves an in depth in Jacksonville.

In different fundamental card motion, Claudia Gadelha appears to carry off ubiquitous strawweight scrapper Angela Hill, Dan Ige welcomes longtime light-weight contender Edson Barboza to the featherweight division, Eryk Anders meets veteran Krzysztof Jotko in a middleweight bout, and bantamweight contenders Track Yadong and Marlon Vera make a one-time transfer as much as featherweight for a surefire banger.

What: UFC on ESPN 8

The place: VyStar Veterans Memorial Enviornment in Jacksonville, Fla.

When: Saturday, Might 16. All the occasion will air on ESPN and ESPN+, with the six-fight preliminaries beginning at 6 p.m. ET, and the five-fight fundamental card beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris

Walt Harris has mentioned that Alistair Overeem is a fighter that he’s seemed as much as all through his profession, and that’s evident of their shared in-cage composure.

Don’t let his historical past of blink-and-you-missed-it knockouts idiot you, Harris is a affected person hunter. He’ll actually rush in in opposition to opponents with inferior standup abilities, however in opposition to a striker of Overeem’s caliber, you may count on a extra measured strategy. Overeem is similar approach, having made a profession of analyzing his opponent’s weaknesses earlier than crushing them with a precision flurry. He is aware of what Harris is able to, and he’s not going to mess around with him.

That might imply we see stretches of inactivity right here as the 2 heavyweights dart out and in whereas using loads of feints to coax a mistake out of their opponent. Bear in mind, there might be no stressed crowd to jeer the fighters into motion. When the limbs do begin flying, main injury might be executed.

That is such a coin toss prediction for me, as a result of both fighter is able to touchdown that ending shot at any second. Overeem’s expertise is all the time an element, however so is his well-worn chin, and it’s due to that historical past of knockout losses that I’ve to go along with Harris right here.

Though The MMA Gods are something however sentimental, Harris wins one for Aniah right here.

Decide: Harris

Claudia Gadelha vs. Angela Hill

In opposition to proficient strikers, Claudia Gadelha has often faltered. Her rival Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat her twice, and her final two losses have been to assured standup fighters Nina Ansaroff and Jessica Andrade. Nonetheless, that solely issues if Angela Hill can preserve this battle on the ft.

I’m skeptical relating to Hill stopping Gadelha’s takedowns for 3 rounds. “Overkill” improves with each battle, however her wrestling stays a query mark, and in opposition to a relentless grappler like Gadelha, that space hasn’t developed sufficient but to cease Gadelha from imposing her will. She received’t make it straightforward for Gadelha initially, as her muay Thai strategies will piece Gadelha up. But it surely’s solely a matter of time till Gadelha will get this one to the mat.

On the bottom, few strawweights can dangle with “Claudinha,” so there’s no disgrace in being dealt with by her down there. A budding contender, Hill goes to study why Gadelha has been a mainstay within the top-10 for years.

Gadelha finds the submission within the first or second spherical.

Decide: Gadelha

Edson Barboza vs. Dan Ige

As nice as Ige has seemed throughout his five-fight win streak, I’ve to enact the Edson Barboza rule right here: I don’t consider anybody can beat Barboza on the ft till I see it.

That’s to say, any time Barboza is concerned in a battle that’s projected to happen totally on the ft, I’m going to choose him (the one time I broke this rule was when he fought Justin Gaethje – justifiably so, because it turned out). That’s to not say he can’t be out-struck. Actually, he misplaced a slender break up determination in a back-and-forth placing battle with Paul Felder in his most up-to-date battle. It simply takes a near-flawless efficiency on the a part of his opponent to take action.

Ige has stable standup, he simply doesn’t have the velocity or versatility of Barboza. Nonetheless, he may gain advantage from Barboza having to chop an additional 10 kilos for this featherweight debut, as there’s no telling how the lifetime light-weight will look dropping down a division. Ige may even have the benefit on the bottom ought to it go there, which is simpler mentioned than executed provided that Barboza has solely struggled to cease photographs from elite wrestlers.

What I do count on is for Ige to go the gap with Barboza right here and put in a superb effort that falls quick on the judges’ scorecards.

Decide: Barboza

Eryk Anders vs. Krzysztof Jotko

Congratulations Eryk Anders, you’re within the thick of the middleweight pack now, and breaking by means of means having to get previous wily vets like Krzysztof Jotko.

Together with his lengthy limbs, all-around recreation and sturdiness, Jotko is without doubt one of the hardest outs at 185 kilos. He’s going to frustrate Anders along with his capacity to attain from distance, and the bottom exchanges might lead to exhausting scrambles for each males. If neither finds a end in spherical one, count on this to turn into a little bit of a slog within the second half.

Given how athletic he’s, it may be irritating to observe how easy Anders is along with his placing. He’s assured along with his arms, however that solely takes you to this point when you begin working into opponents with Jotko’s defensive capabilities. If Anders doesn’t tempo himself, he’ll turn into weak to physique photographs later within the battle that can solely additional sap his reserves.

Anders is all the time a menace to catch a slower opponent with that heavy left hand, he simply hasn’t confirmed that he can land it persistently but. I’m going with Jotko to win a choice.

Decide: Jotko

Track Yadong vs. Marlon Vera

Usually, I’d say that is an excessive amount of too quickly for a prospect like Track Yadong, who solely turned 22 in December. However stylistically, it is a nice matchup for him.

Track has confirmed to be a load on the ft. He’s mild and springy, evasive when he must be, and a devastating puncher as soon as he finds the vary. There’s a variety of room for him to develop within the placing division, however what’s already there’s scary.

He’s going through finisher of the very best order in Vera. All 5 of Vera’s previous 5 wins have come by means of knockout or submission and he’s emerged victorious in quite a lot of methods, generally overwhelming his foes early and different occasions battling again from adversity with gorgeous ferocity. “Chito” does all the things in his energy to keep away from the scorecards, which is sensible given that every one 5 of his losses have come by means of determination.

I see Track changing into the sixth fighter to outpoint Vera. These two are going to brutalize one another for 3 rounds, and until Vera can get shut sufficient to journey Track to the bottom the place he’ll have a definite benefit, it’s Track who ought to persistently beat Vera to the punch.

A detailed win in opposition to a harmful fighter like Vera is precisely what Track must additional his growth.

Decide: Track


Matt Brown def. Miguel Baeza

Anthony Hernandez def. Kevin Holland

Giga Chikadze def. Irwin Rivera

Mara Romero Borella def. Cortney Casey

Nate Landwehr def. Darren Elkins

Don’Story Mayes def. Rodrigo Nascimento