Tomorrow, UFC continues its series of events being held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. This show is headlined by heavyweights Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris. The matchup is a big one for Harris, being his return to competition after an absence due to the disappearance of his step-daughter Aniah Blanchard, who was later found dead.
Since his tragic loss, Harris has been able to bounce back in his career, saying she is “fighting for her.” In a tough matchup like he is put in, Harris has the chance to earn the largest victory of his career to date in his return. Along with the fight is 10 other fights on the card. Let’s give it a look.
Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass (first hour in Canada), TSN1, 4 & 5 (second and third hour in Canada)
Bout 1: Dontale Mayes (7-3) vs. Rodrigo Nascimento (7-0) (Heavyweight)
Kicking off the preliminary card is the debut of undefeated Brazilian fighter Rodrigo Nascimento, facing Dontale Mayes. Nascimento impressed critics on Dana White’s Contender Series, putting Michal Martinek in an arm-triangle choke to win and earn a UFC contract. Mayes had an unsuccessful UFC debut in October, losing to Ciryl Gane due to a third-round heel hook. With this fight, he looks to redeem himself.
Bout 2: Cortney Casey (8-7) vs. Mara Romero Borella (12-7) (Flyweight)
Longtime UFC strawweight Cortney Casey makes the move up to flyweight for the first time, facing Mara Romero Borella on the undercard. Casey hasn’t fought since February of 2019, losing via decision to Cynthia Calvillo. Romero Borella will attempt to snap a two-fight losing streak which started in August.
Bout 3: Darren Elkins (24-8) vs. Nate Landwehr (13-3) (Featherweight)
Darren Elkins celebrated a decade in the UFC recently, but he finds himself in a position he’s never been in before. For the first time in his career, he looks to snap a three-fight losing streak. He will be tasked with that when being matched up against Nate Landwehr, who lost his UFC debut in January to Herbert Burns.
Bout 4: Giga Chikadze (9-2) vs. Irwin Rivera (9-4) (Featherweight)
Since his UFC debut in 2019, Giga Chikadze has gotten two split decision wins. Being booked against Mike Davis, the Georgian fighter almost saw his Saturday night plans disappear after Davis withdrew from the card. But, after Irwin Rivera rose the occasion, Chikadze has work again. Rivera is on a three-fight winning streak, with this being his first chance in the UFC. Before, the Mexican-born fighter fought in regional promotions like Titan FC and Combate Americas.
Bout 5: Kevin Holland (16-5) vs. Anthony Hernandez (7-1) (Middleweight)
Two products of Dana White’s Contender Series will meet on the prelims, with Kevin Holland facing Anthony Hernandez. Holland has went 3-2 since his debut, recently losing via rear naked choke to Brendan Allen in October. The original opponent for Hernandez was Punahele Soriano, who pulled out of the card. Hernandez has been 1-1 since joining the UFC, coincidentally both being an anaconda choke.
Bout 6: Matt Brown (22-16) vs. Miguel Baeza (8-0) (Welterweight)
Only making his second appearance in the UFC, Miguel Baeza is matched up against Matt Brown, who will be making his 26th appearance in the promotion. Baeza was scouted from Dana White’s Contender Series, getting a scorecard win over Victor Reyna on a season three episode. Since then, he has stopped Hector Aldana in the second round with strikes. Brown is currently on a two-fight winning streak, although the older of the two appearances came in 2017. If he wins on Saturday, it will be the first time he’s won twice within 12 months since 2014.
Main Card (9PM EDT) (ESPN / TSN 1, 4 & 5)
Bout 7: Song Yadong (15-4-1) vs. Marlon Vera (17-5-1) (Featherweight)
Kicking off the main card is Song Yadong versus Marlon Vera. There has been some confusion around this matchup and its existence on this fight week, as news broke on Friday that Uriah Faber weighed in as a possible alternate for the fight. It was explained that possible visa issues for Yadong could arise, and if that does happen, Faber would replace him. However, as it stands, the fight is happening.
Yadong’s seven-fight winning streak came to an end in December after going to a draw against Cody Stamann. Vera extended his impressive five-fight winning streak in October, stopping Andre Ewell in the third round.
Vera has had trouble finding an opponent due to COVID-19 cancelling events. Two opponents he previously was scheduled to fight were Eddie Wineland and Ray Borg, who competed on Wednesday.
Bout 8: Eryk Anders (13-4) vs. Krzysztof Jotko (21-4) (Middleweight)
While neither Eryk Anders or Krzysztof Jotko are currently ranked in the UFC middleweight division, it could be argued that they border it currently and could be one outstanding performance away from breaking through. Anders, who has been with the UFC for nine fights has won his last two, most recently an October win over Gerald Meerschaert. Jotko is also on a two-fight winning streak which started in 2019.
Bout 9: Edson Barboza (20-8) vs. Dan Ige (13-2) (Featherweight)
After a debuting loss in the UFC, Dan Ige has made a real name for himself, getting five wins in a row. He looks for a sixth on Saturday when paired against Edson Barboza.
While being 1-4 in his last fights, that stat itself sells him short, with losses coming against opponents like UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, interim champion Justin Gaethje, Paul Felder and Kevin Lee. For the first time in his career, “Junior” will drop 10 pounds and fight in the featherweight division.
Bout 10: Claudia Gadelha (17-4) vs. Angela Hill (12-7) (Strawweight)
The co-main event of the evening sees Angela Hill fight Claudia Gadelha. Hill has become one of the most active fighters in the UFC as of late, this being her fifth fight in 12 months. She’s won her last three, two of them being stoppage victories. More recently, she defeated Loma Lookboonmee, the first UFC fighter from Thailand.
Gadelha has been flipping between wins and losses recently, going 3-2 in her last five. Her last fight saw her bounce back from a previous loss to Nina Ansaroff, defeating Randa Markos.
Gadelha has had trouble finding a fight after a string of bad luck. First, a fight was thrown out after Gadelha was injured. Then, upon second attempt, her opponent missed weight. After being booked for an earlier May show against Marina Rodriguez, Gadelha has finally landed a fight that looks like it will come to fruition.
Bout 11: Alistair Overeem (45-18) vs. Walt Harris (13-7) (Heavyweight)
In the main event, Walt Harris returns to MMA after dealing with the tragic loss of step-daughter Aniah Blanchard.
Earlier in the week, ESPN program SportsCenter aired a 14-minute special titled “Fighting for Aniah.” The short told the story of how Harris and his family dealt with the loss of Blanchard.
“I felt like if I quit on her now, I would never be able to live with myself,” said Harris, talking about how he thinks she would want him to push on with his MMA career.
This matchup sees Harris pick up where he left off in MMA, with this matchup be a re-booked main event from December. Harris was first meant to fight Alistair Overeem, but was replaced by Jairzinho Rozenstruick after withdrawing.
Now that he’s back, Harris receives the opponent he had before in MMA veteran Overeem.
The Dutch kickboxer is one of the more experienced fighters in the division, fighting at a high level of MMA since 2002, when he debuted in Pride FC. He lost his two-fight winning streak in December, with a buzzer-beater knockout being delivered by Rozenstruick in the 25th minute of competition.
If successful, Harris will move to three wins in a row, a streak that has currently be attained by first-minute stoppages only.