Walt Harris returns to the octagon this Saturday after nine months without competing. His opponent on the night will be Alistair Overeem and they are set to headline, UFC on ESPN 9. This is the third time this fight has been scheduled and after almost six months since it was originally planned, let’s hope this one goes ahead.
Harris began his first UFC tenure in 2013, losing his first two fights. Following a decision loss in his debut, he faced Nikita Krylov. His second bout lasted just 25 seconds at the hands of Krylov, which ultimately sent him packing from the UFC.
He made a successful return to Titan FC where he won via TKO against Bellator vet, DJ Linderman. Then came his return to the UFC. He was brought in as a replacement for Daniel Omielanczuk. Again, unfortunately for Harris, this ended in a TKO finish for his opponent, Soa Palelei…again leading to his release. Originally scheduled to fight at Titan FC 32, Harris was instead chosen to fight at UFC 197 instead.
Finally…finally Walt Harris would earn his first victory under the UFC banner. Two and a half years after his debut, Harris notched a TKO victory over Cody East. In an exciting fight, Harris managed to end it via ground and pound in the first round. Going on to lose his next fight via razor-thin split decision, Walt Harris seemed to have switched.
The Turning Point
Starting off 2017, Walt Harris was an 8-5 journeyman, with a UFC record of 1-4. If he lost in his next bout, surely it would lead to another release and his UFC career would be ultimately over.
Harris faced Chase Sherman in January 2017 and showed a vastly improved stand-up game. Slick on the feet, constantly landing heavy shots, Harris ended it with a vicious knee, one-two combo before huge hammerfists lead the referee to stop it.
After a win in his next bout, another finish, this time of Cyril Asker, Harris was matched with Mark Godbeer at UFC 216. On the same card, Fabricio Werdum was scheduled to face Derrick Lewis. On the night of the event, Lewis had to withdraw from his bout due to back pain. Who stepped up? The ‘Big Ticket’, Walt Harris. Taking the fight on hours notice, Harris hadn’t prepared for someone with the Jiu Jitsu of Werdum… and it showed.
Werdum was able to submit Harris in a little over a minute and handed Harris the L. What was interesting is that the unranked Harris, a man who was 3-4 in his UFC career, stepped up to face the #2 heavyweight on just hours notice. Harris did get the match with Godbeer eventually but it was far from the fight we expected. At UFC 217, Harris was dominating the first round when he accidentally landed a low blow. The referee stopped the action but after this, Harris landed a high kick on Godbeer. It led to the Englishman being unable to continue and the L was handed to Harris due to an illegal strike.
UFC on ESPN 9
Walt Harris would then go on to win his next four fights (one deemed a NC after Harris tested positive for a banned substance). With three finishes he has notched two performance of the night bonuses for, Harris is certainly carrying momentum into his bout with Overeem. We know all too well the horrific ordeal that Harris has gone through outside the octagon as of late and it will be good to see him back in the octagon doing what he does best.
His opponent, Alistair Overeem has had a storied career. One of the most recognisable faces in all of combat sports, ‘The Reem’ has had 64 professional MMA bouts, on top of a vast number of kickboxing fights. Coming off a tough TKO loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Overeem will be looking to bounce back. The experience is certainly on his side as well as having a more well-rounded game.
Harris certainly will be exercising his demons in this one so it could be a tough night for Overeem.
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