Veteran Dutch striker Overeem claimed the 46th win of a career which has now included victories in the 1990’s, 2000’s, 2010’s and 2020’s as he defeated Harris, who was fighting for the first time since the abduction and murder of his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard last year.
As such, the fight was tinged with a weighty emotion which was emphasized by the UFC using the narrative of Blanchard’s murder to paint the picture of the headline fight – and soon after the first bell sounded it seemed as though Harris was going to steamroll his way to an emotional win.
Early in the fight, Harris – who was unbeaten in four fights going into the event – connected with a swarming series of shots on Overeem that sent the Dutchman flying.
Harris followed with a series of shots on the ground but Overeem, ducking and dodging on the ground, kept his composure and fought back to his feet – only to be hurt by more heavy shots from the American.
However, the tide turned in the second round. Overeem took advantage of an unbalanced Harris to end up in top position on the ground and pounded the defenseless Harris with a sequence of shots that prompted the referee to step in and stop the fight.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get the W for you tonight,” an emotional Harris told his team during his post-fight interview.
“You’ve been like my family through everything, and I’m so grateful. … Y’all at home watching, I’m sorry. I’ll be back better, I promise you. You haven’t seen the last of ‘The Big Ticket.’ I’m going to go home, recover. I’m going to heal emotionally and physically, and I promise you I’ll be better.”
UFC president Dana White echoed Harris’s sentiments, saying that it took a huge amount of courage to compete so soon after an horrific family tragedy.
“Win, lose or draw, being here is a win for him,” White said.
“He got through tonight and who knows what was going through that guy’s body, head, the whole deal.
“He’ll get better from this, in every way you can be better — from fighting to the other things that are going on with him.”