Dubai: Once again the big men top the bill as the UFC hosts its third fight card in an eight-day span of high-octane action at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, in the early hours of Sunday morning (UAE time).
Following Wednesday’s 10-card event featuring the light-heavyweight blockbuster between Glover Teixeira and Anthony Smith, it’s the turn of Walt Harris, who makes an emotional return to the Octagon following the murder of his stepdaughter last December, and Alistair Overeem.
Although the historic Memorial Arena will be shorn of fans it will include with all the trappings of a typical UFC showstopper.
From veteran ring announce Bruce Buffer to the promotion’s stellar broadcast team anchored by Jon Anik and supported by expert views from fighters Daniel ‘ DC’ Cormier and Paul ‘The Irish Dragon’ Felder, the UFC have succeeded in defying the odds and bringing top-class action to a worldwide audience in excess of one million.
All fights can be watched live in the UAE on UFC Arabia.
The action kicks off with the first of five undercard fights, featuring Rodrigo Nascimento and Don’Tale Mayes, who square off in a heavyweight preliminary bout.
UFC debutant Nascimento is undefeated in his MMA career at 7-0 while Mayes, who lost his only career UFC fight against Cyril Gane in August, has posted three wins from seven bouts.
However, the night’s marquee event is the Overeem vs Harris contest, who were originally scheduled to face off on December 7, but Harris pulled out of the bout following the death of his stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard.
The 36-year-old American, a former NBA basketball tryout, took time away from the sport to mourn his loss, but returns to the Octagon for what is the biggest fight of his career
“I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and it was all about me and what I could get out of myself,” Harris told Newshub’s Fight Club podcast. “When I got into fighting, I always looked internally for strength, will and energy.
“My goal, my motivation was to become a champion at some point, but now I feel like I am not just fighting for myself, but I am fighting for her.
“She was my biggest fan, so my push every day, when I feel like I can’t go anymore, is her. She gives me the extra strength I have never felt before. It’s hard to put into words what I feel in those dark moments in the gym, but all I can say is that I hear her talking to me and motivating me.”
Overeem enters this bout having suffered a late knockout on the December 7 card by Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
This was a third loss in his last five bouts for Overeem. He is currently ranked No. 8 in heavyweight division, a notch above Harris.
In stark contrast, Harris comes into the fight having won his last four events and two straight victories over Sergey Spivak and Aleksi Oleinik, where he’s earned a Performance of the Night bonus.
The card’s co-main event is a women’s strawweight contest between c and the proactive Angela Hill.
Gadelha enters this fight off a win over Randa Markos at UFC 239 while Hill comes in off a three-fight winning streak.
The feature event of the main card is a welterweight contest between 39-year-old Matt Brown (22-6) who takes on Miguel Baeza, who is 12 years younger.
In other action Edson Barboza takes on Dan Ige and Eryk Anders faces Krzysztof Jotko.
The preliminary card begins at 2am (UAE Sunday) with the main card expected to start at 5am (UAE Sunday).
UFC Fight Night
Main card (from 5am UAE time)
Main event: Alistair Overeem vs Walt Harris (heavyweight)
Claudia Gadelha vs Angela Hill (women’s strawweight)
Dan Ige vs Edson Barboza (featherweight)
Eryk Anders vs Krzysztof Jotko (middleweight)
Song Yadong vs Marlon Vera (featherweight)
Prelims (from 2am)
Matt Brown vs Miguel Baeza (welterweight)
Anthony Hernandez vs Kevin Holland (middleweight)
Mike Davis vs Giga Chikadze (featherweight)
Cortney Casey vs Mara Romero Borella (women’s flyweight)
Darren Elkins vs Nate Landwehr (featherweight)
Rodrigo Nascimento vs Don’Tale Mayes (heavyweight)