With the conclusion of UFC on ESPN 8, the UFC has finished its streak of three events in eight days. In the main event, a couple of heavyweights faced off with hopes of climbing the ladder. Stepping into the octagon fighting for his late stepdaughter, Walt Harris looked to pick up a big win. Standing across from him would be MMA and kickboxing veteran Alistair Overeem. A win for either fighter would move them closer to the top five of the division.
The co-main event of UFC on ESPN 8 featured an interesting matchup as former strawweight title challenger Claudia Gadelha returned to the octagon. Facing off against her was she who would like to be referred to as “Lady Donald Cerrone” Angela Hill. After starting her 2019 with a record of 1-2, Hill would take three straight short notice fights. She would then end up putting together a record of 3-0 in the span of seven months. As for Gadelha, she entered the fight coming off a loss to Nina Ansaroff. After a close three rounds, Gadelha took two rounds on two of the judge’s scorecards, giving her the split decision win.
After an exciting week of fights, UFC on ESPN 8 closed out the week well. Once again full of action from top to bottom, now it is time to determine the standout performances. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. Along with every performance will be a look at what could potentially come next for each fighter.
UFC on ESPN 8 Standout Performances
#1 Kevin Holland
def. Anthony Hernandez via TKO (Strikes) at 0:39 of Round One
Earning his contract off the Contender Series, Anthony Hernandez had put together a UFC record of 1-1 prior to this fight. He made his UFC debut in February of 2019 when he took on Markus Perez. He would end up losing that fight, as Perez defeated him by submission in the second round. His next fight came six months later as he faced Jun Yong Park. He picked up his first UFC win over Park, finishing him by submission in the second round. The win would match him up next with Punahele Soriano, however things would get shaken up and Hernandez found a new opponent.
Also earning his contract off of the Contender Series, Kevin Holland quickly made a name for himself in the UFC. Holland made his UFC debut on short notice at UFC 227 against heavy hitting middleweight Thiago Santos. The fight started with some craziness but Santos soon took over and dominated the fight, winning by unanimous decision. After that, Holland would go on to win three straight fights, starting with a submission win over John Phillips. He followed that up with two decision wins over Gerald Meerschaert and Alessio Di Chirico. In his most recent outing, he ended up losing to debuting fighter Brendan Allen by second round submission. He looked to rebound with a big win over Hernandez at UFC on ESPN 8.
The fight started as the two met in the middle, Holland unleashing a perfect one-two to start. He followed that up with a lunging side kick to back Hernandez up to the fence. Holland landed a good leg kick before he would back up to the center again. It was at this moment that Hernandez threw his only punches, moving forward with a couple of jabs that just missed. Holland continued landing good shots, connecting with a kick to the body, before clinching with Hernandez. This is where Holland would land a hard elbow and a perfect knee to the body that sent Hernandez crumbling to the mat. Holland would land some ground and pound before the ref jumped in to stop the fight in just 39 seconds.
With that big win, Holland now has a UFC record of 4-2. Earlier this week, Holland offered to step into another middleweight fight that had fallen through. Originally scheduled to face Karl Roberson, Marvin Vettori was left without an opponent on Wednesday after Roberson was deemed unfit to fight. Holland offered to cut the weight and face Vettori on Wednesday and then weigh in again and fight Hernandez on Saturday. Vettori holds a UFC record of 4-2-1 as he is currently on a two fight win streak with wins over Cezar Ferreira and Andrew Sanchez. After Holland’s impressive performance over Hernandez, a fight between Holland and Vettori could be an entertaining one.
#2 Alistair Overeem
def. Walt Harris via TKO (Strikes) at 3:00 of Round Two
Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris were originally scheduled to headline UFC on ESPN 7 against each other. However, due to the disappearance of his stepdaughter, Harris was forced out of the fight. Overeem ended up fighting surging, undefeated heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event instead. Overeem seemed to have controlled the majority of the fight up until the last thirty seconds. During the closing moments of the fight, Rozenstruik landed a hard punch that split Overeem’s lip wide open, forcing the ref to stop it immediately. Overeem and Harris would then be booked to face each other again in the main event of UFC on ESPN 8.
Leading up to his fight against Overeem, Harris had put together a record of 3-0, 1NC. All three of his wins during that time would come by KO/TKO. The no contest came against former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. It had originally been a split decision win for Harris but after a positive USADA test, it was deemed a no contest. Prior to that, he had picked up the first win of that span, finishing Daniel Spitz by TKO. Following his four month suspension after the Arlovski fight, he returned against Sergey Spivak. He defeated Spivak in under a minute, finishing him by TKO as well. In his most recent outing, he go on to knock out Aleksei Oleinik in just twelve seconds.
The fight started as both fighters touched gloves in the center of the octagon. The first minute or so did not see much action outside of a pretty spinning body kick from Overeem. Just over a minute into the round, Harris blitzed in with a nice combination that dropped Overeem. Harris began searching for the finish, landing heavy ground and pound but Overeem was still defending himself well. Eventually Overeem was able to grab a hold of Harris’ leg, looking for his own takedown. However Harris defended it well as he ended up back on top of Overeem, but after a quick burst from Overeem, the two were back on their feet.
Overeem still seemed to be a little hurt as Harris connected with some shots that forced Overeem to cover up and back up to the fence. Harris would then try to land a front kick but it was cause him to stumble to the ground, allowing Overeem to take his back. Overeem would spend the remainder of the round on top, landing some good ground and pound and possibly stealing him round one.
Once again, the second round started a bit slow. Harris seemed to have gotten tired due to spending most of the first round on the bottom, while Overeem was patiently waiting for his moment. Just about a minute and a half into the round, Overeem found his opportunity as he landed a hard head kick followed by a left hook that dropped Harris. After a minute of ground and pound from Overeem, the ref stepped in to stop the fight.
The win for Overeem now puts him at 3-1 in his last four with the one loss being his last second loss to Rozenstruik. He could be on a four fight win streak perhaps had he survived the last five seconds of that fight. With that being said, even at 40 years of age, Overeem is not going anywhere just yet. He has made it clear he still wants another shot at the title and he is not slowing down anytime soon.
The problem with Overeem is that he has been around the top for so long that there are multiple top ten heavyweights that have already faced and/or beat him. The only fighters ahead of Overeem in the rankings that he has yet to face is Alexander Volkov, Derrick Lewis and Daniel Cormier. Cormier can be taken off the list of considerations as he has a date with the champion Stipe Miocic at some point. Volkov can also be taken off the list considering Overeem most likely just jumped him in the rankings.
That leaves fifth ranked Derrick Lewis. Since his 2018 title shot against then champion Daniel Cormier, Lewis has put together a record of 2-1. Following his loss to DC, he would take on former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. He would lose the fight in the second round, as JDS finished him by TKO. Following that loss he would put together a two fight win streak. That started in November of 2019 as he defeated Blagoy Ivanov by split decision at UFC 244. In his most recent outing, he defeated heavyweight newcomber Ilir Latifi at UFC 247 by unanimous decision. A fight between Overeem and “The Black Beast” would surely be entertaining and someone would most likely be finished.
#3 Cortney Casey
def. Mara Romero Borella via Submission (Armbar) at 3:36 of Round One
In the last two years, Cortney Casey had only competed in the octagon only three times. During that time she put together a record of 1-2 as she picked up a split decision win over Angela Hill. Among the losses included a split decision loss to Michelle Waterson at UFC on Fox 29. In her most recent fight, she faced off against Cynthia Calvillo at UFC on ESPN 1. She would end up losing that fight by unanimous decision, setting up a future date with Mara Romero Borella.
Making her UFC debut in 2017, Borella kicked off her UFC career with a first round submission win over Kalindra Faria. She would then go on to face future title challenger Katlyn Chookagian and would lose by unanimous decision. Her next fight resulted in a win as she defeated Talia Santos by split decision. After that she would go on to lose her next two straight starting with a TKO loss to Lauren Murphy. In her most recent outing, she took on Montana De La Rosa and would lose by unanimous decision. She looked to pick up a much needed win over Casey.
It did not take long into the fight for Borella to close distance and begin searching for a takedown. After about a minute in the clinch, Borella got the body lock and was able to wrestle Casey to the ground. As Casey worked from the bottom in her guard, she began looking for the armbar. She came close to locking it up but Borella quickly slipped out and escaped from Borella’s guard in the process. Not long after however, Casey had Borella back in her guard and she soon began looking for the submission again. She was quickly able to lock it up and the tap came not long after. Casey had picked up her first finish since 2016.
After picking up a much needed win at UFC on ESPN 8, there are plenty of options for Casey. Having just moved up to the women’s flyweight division, a win puts her in a good position. One possible fight that stands out could be a match up with Paige Vanzant. Whenever it is that Vanzant becomes healthy, it could make for an entertaining match up. In her last outing, Vanzant picked up a submission win over Rachael Ostovich. A win for either Casey or Vanzant puts them in a position to potentially fight for a top fifteen spot.
#4 Miguel Baeza
def. Matt Brown via Knockout (Punches) at 0:18 of Round Two
After an ACL tear leading up to a fight with Carlos Condit, Matt Brown considered himself retired. It took two years for him to recover from his injury and would end up returning to the octagon. His return fight took place at UFC 245 when he took on Ben Saunders. In his first fight in two years, Brown picked up his second straight win as he defeated Saunders by second round knockout. He looked to make it three in a row as he entered the octagon at UFC on ESPN 8.
Standing across from him would be undefeated knockout artist Miguel Baeza. Baeza earned his contract off the Contender Series, winning by unanimous decision. His UFC debut came at UFC Fight Night 161 when he took on Hector Aldana. He would win the fight in the second round, defeating Aldana by TKO. That win would set him up against UFC veteran Matt Brown as he had a chance to pick up a big win.
The first round started off with each man landing their own good shots. It was just under two minutes into the round when Brown closed the distance and unleashed a quick combination that stunned Baeza, sending his mouthpiece flying. Brown continued landing hard shots including some perfect elbows while Baeza tried to recover. With just under two minutes to go, they met in the middle where Brown landed a good combination again before Baeza landed his own combo that dropped Brown. Baeza landed some hard ground and pound as he looked for the finish before Brown got back to his feet with under a minute left. Round one seemed very even as both fighters had their moments.
It did not take long for Baeza to end things in the second round. He opened things up with a nice combination followed by a front head kick. Just moments later, Baeza landed a hard left hand that dropped Brown. After one or two shots on the ground the ref had seen enough as he stopped the fight.
In just his second fight in the UFC, Baeza picked up a big win over UFC vet Matt Brown. The win puts him at 2-0 in the UFC, adding to his undefeated record of 9-0. A potential next opponent for him could be ten time UFC vet Belal Muhammad. Since making his UFC debut in 2016, Muhammad has put together a record of 7-3. During that span, he has put together notable wins over Randy Brown, Tim Means and Curtis Millender. His most recent fight happened last year at UFC 242 when he took on Takashi Sato. He would win the fight in the third round, submitting Sato by rear naked choke. A fight between Muhammad and Baeza would surely be entertaining as a win should put them just outside the top fifteen of the division.
#5 Rodrigo Nascimento
def. Don’Tale Mayes via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:05 of Round Two
Holding an undefeated record of 7-0 entering his UFC debut, Rodrigo Nascimento earned his contract off the Contender Series. His fight happened during season three, episode six as he took on Michal Martinek. He would finish Martinek in the first round, submitting him with an arm triangle choke in round one. Entering his UFC debut, all of Nascimento’s wins had come by way of TKO or submission.
Standing across from him was another man who earned his contract off the Contender Series Don’Tale Mayes. His appearance came during season three as well, but during episode four. He earned his contract with a first round TKO win over Ricardo Prasel. Mayes would then make his UFC debut last October at UFC Fight Night 162 when he faced Cyril Gane. He would lose in the third round of that fight as Gane finished him with a heel hook. Mayes looked to pick up his much needed first UFC win against Nascimento.
Nascimento started round one as he quickly took control of the center of the octagon. He began finding early success with his leg kicks, landing a few heavy ones before the pair clinched along the fence about a minute in. After about a minute in the clinch, they would break apart and Nascimento once again took the center again. He would land some more good shots including a hard left hand before landing a combo and clinching again. Just seconds after, Nascimento took Mayes down to the mat where he would spend the remainder of the round. Mayes found his way back to his feet with about twenty seconds left, but it was a clear 10-9 round for Nascimento.
Nascimento opened up round two taking the center, landing a good leg kick and then following it up with a perfect head kick. The pair clinched along the fence once again about a minute into the round. About a minute later, Nascimento got the body lock and wrestled Mayes to the mat. He quickly landed some good ground and pound, causing Mayes to give up his back. Nascimento immediately took Mayes back, got his hooks in and locked up the choke. As he locked it up, he flattened Mayes on the mat causing the tap to follow moments later.
After a successful UFC debut at UFC on ESPN 8, Nascimento has held on to his perfect record as he now sits at 8-0 with 8 finishes. There is no need to throw any sort of higher competition at him just yet as he is so young in his UFC career. An interesting possible opponent for his next outing would be The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 winner Juan Espino.
Prior to his TUF win, Espino had put together a six fight win streak outside of the UFC. He holds an overall record of 9-1. Two thirds of his victories have also come by way of submission, so a match up with Nascimento could be exciting on the mat. Espino’s last outing was the TUF 28 Finale, taking place in November of 2018 as he submitted Justin Frazier in the first round. Since then he has been out of competition due to injuries but he should be nearing his return date soon.
After UFC on ESPN 8, the following few weeks seem a little up in the air at the moment. On May 23, the UFC was expected to host an event in Las Vegas. That event was scheduled to be headlined by a welterweight contest between former champion Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. However, in the recent weeks, reports have come out that the card has been moved to May 30 with Las Vegas still in mind. Whenever and wherever the card happens, be sure to check back here in the following days for the standout performances.
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