MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC on ESPN 8.

UFC on ESPN 8 takes place Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. The card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

Alistair Overeem (45-18 MMA, 10-7 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 39 Weight: 248 lbs. Reach: 81″
  • Last fight: Knockout loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik(Dec. 7, 2019)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight titles
+ K-1 grand prix heavyweight champion (2010)
+ ADCC European winner
+ 24 KO victories
+ 17 submission wins
+ 34 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Accurate and variating shot selection
+ Devastating knees and kicks
+ Crafty clinch game
+ Underrated takedown ability
+ Solid top control
^ Good grip-fighting/ground striking
+ Dangerous guillotine choke
– Dropped or stopped in 9 of last 16 fights
+/- 3-2-1 against UFC-level southpaws

Walt Harris (13-7 MMA, 6-6 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’5″ Age: 36 Weight: 256 lbs. Reach: 77″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Alexey Oleinik (July 20, 2019)
  • Camp: Spartan Fitness (Birmingham, Ala.)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA accolades
+ Multiple-time Golden Gloves champion
+ NAGA and Copa Grappling titles
+ 13 KO victories
+ 11 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Athletic and agile
+ Moves well for heavyweight
^ Solid feints and footwork
+ Accurate hooks and crosses
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Dangerous crosses and kicks
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Shows improved wrestling
+ Transitions well from topside
^ Dangerous ground strikes

Point of interest: Striking with the southpaw

The main event on ESPN features a heavyweight affair that packs a lot of potential fireworks for as long as it stays on the feet.

Walt Harris, the southpaw, will typically work his way into the fight through a thick layer of palpable pressure, steadily stalking down his opposition. Using subtle feints to draw out reactions, Harris keeps an array of counters at the ready, whether it be in the form of hard check-hooks or pinpoint crosses.

Once the multiple-time Golden Gloves champ establishes his rhythm and range, he will tack on Thai kicks and knees to his combinations with authority. Still, for all of Harris’ strengths, he is not beyond being tagged in return, which makes me curious as to how veteran Alistair Overeem handles this matchup.

Overeem hasn’t faced a southpaw striker in some time (going 3-2-1 against career UFC-level lefties), but is no stranger to having to stave off young and hungry oncomers.

When facing aggressive forward movers in the past, Overeem typically elects to hang just outside of range for safe distance – keeping his space – and looking for his openings to strike. If you have been watching Overeem since his days in PRIDE, then you will know that the Dutchman didn’t always fight this way.

Although the striking upgrades made during the K-1 chapter of his career helped him immensely, it wasn’t until Overeem’s run of UFC knockout losses that we saw him adjust his footwork and approach.

Already dangerous off of his stance shifts, it was Overeem’s confidence in his head movement and technique that often allowed him to plot in front of his opponents longer than he needed to. But after a series of camp changes during his run of losses, Overeem seemed to take things to another level at Jackson-Wink, where he would embrace a slightly different method than before.

Like many fighters who come from that camp, Overeem will circle more comfortably from the outside as he looks to sharpshoot his attacks like a torpedo plane on a bombing run. Among the highest striking accuracy in the division, this style is optimal for Overeem and also plays a huge role in protecting his chin from unnecessary roughness.

Perceived technical advantages aside, Overeem statistically has been dropped or stopped in nine of his past 16 fights, which makes this a full-fledged heavyweight affair while it’s on the feet.

Next point of interest: Wrestling with “The Reem”