UFC: Dogged Alistair Overeem bounces back to stop Walt Harris at UFC Florida

Alistair Overeem has prevailed in an exhilarating back and forth heavyweight contest with Walt Harris at UFC Fight NIght 176 in Florida on Sunday (NZ time).

'The Demolition Man' battled through an early onslaught from Harris where he seemed on the cusp of defeat, to steal the momentum and force a referee's stoppage with strikes in the second round.

Making his first Octagon appearance since the tragic passing of his stepdaughter, Harris came out of the gate strongly, grabbing Overeem's attention on the feet with some heavy shots.

Countering a low kick from Overeem, Harris then dropped the Dutchman to the canvas and pounced with an onslaught of strikes from above in an attempt to finish the contest.

But referee Dan Miragliotta allowed Overeem plenty of time to show signs of defence, and Overeem obliged by shooting for a desperation takedown, then took advantage of his grappling superiority by moving into top position and controlling the rest of a tight first round.

But while Harris managed to survive to take his seat in the corner, the second round was much less forgiving.

Overeem unleashed one of his patented high kicks that found its mark on the side of Harris' head, crumpling him to the mat. 

Overeem swooped, worked his hooks in from the back mount, then proceeded with an unanswered series of shots that finally saw the referee put a halt to proceedings and give the veteran his 47th career win.

The win is Overeem's third in his last four fights, as the perennial contender continues to flirt with title contention.

"Somehow I keep finding the focus," Overeem said post fight. "I love it." 

"Let's look at the rankings, fight again later this year and maybe see if there's one more shot at the title."

Harris was understandably emotional after the loss, but vowed to come back stronger.

"I want to say thank you first and foremost to the UFC," Harris said. 

"They've been amazing through the whole process. My wife and my family is so grateful. We owe you guys everything."

In the co-main event, Brazilian Claudia Gadelha edged Angella Hill via split decision, while Hawiian Dan Ige took the same result against Edson Barboza in the Brazilian's featherweight debut.