By Keith Shillan
CES MMA returned to Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI featuring the welterweight title fight between Chris Curtis and Wilfredo Santiago, the return of lightweight champion, Luis Felix, and the grudge match between Kody Nordby and David Baxter.
In the main event, the title challenger, Wilfredo Santiago, who was coming off of a highlight reel KO over UFC veteran, Chuck O’Neil, immediately started pressing the pace. He landed several big shots to Curtis. He stumbled the champion with hard body shots and an overhand right. The second round started off even worst for the Curtis. Curtis was battered with a right hand that buckled his knee and Santiago tried to to end the fight with several power shots. Curtis seemed to be on full survival mode but landed a perfect short left and right uppercut that hurt Santiago, and Curtis crumbled the challenger with a step knee that finished the fight. Curtis wins by 2nd round TKO.
Curtis stated to me after the fight that he knew that”Santiago hit hard, but he was never hit that hard in his career”. He said that he prepared in camp to be hurt but was “willing to take a chance to win”.
Curtis called out UFC fighter Mike Perry during his post fight interview.
CES lightweight champion, Luis Felix returned to competition after being out for over 14 months and he excited the crowd. He squared off against Dawond Pickney in a non-title fight. Felix dropped his opponent with a straight left hand early in the fight. He almost finished the fight with a standing guillotine choke, but Pickney escaped. Felix attempted several rear naked chokes until he was able to sink one in late in the round. Felix wins by 1st round submission.
Two long time veterans of the sport, Josh LaBerge and Saul Almeida squared off. On paper Almeida had a 3 inches in height and 4 inches in reach, but it appeared much more than what is recorded. Almeida was able to establish range on the feet, landing kicks from the outside. In the second and third round, Almeida controlled the fight on the ground, and was able to sink in a rear naked choke with 10 seconds left.
Crowd favorite, Joe Pingitore squared off against Kenny Foster. The fight was the best fight of the night, and the most controversial. The fight was a tale of two halves. Pingitore landed huge combinations of punches and kicks that staggered Foster in the first round and the beginning of the second, however Foster took the best Pingitore could give and followed up with his own shots. Foster landed several kicks and overhand left hands that staggered Pingitore. The fight seemed even heading into the third round, but a huge groin kick from Foster that was missed by the referee, Keith Peterson, hurt Pingitore bad. Pingitore bent over in pain and never seemed to recover. Foster did a little bit more in the third round to give him the victory. Foster wins by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, and 29-28). The MMA Takeover scored the fight 29-28 for Foster.
Both southern New England fighters, Kody Nordby and David Baxter exchanged heated words towards each other while they were interviewed by myself in a “duel” interview. During the conversation, Nordby, who is known for his wrestling told Baxter that he wasn’t on his level, and even said that Baxter was only on TV because he was facing Nordby. Nordby promised to stand with Baxter, who is known for his striking but quickly took Baxter down. Once the fight hit the ground, the former bantamweight title challenger, Nordby dominated. Nordby was able to trap down one of Baxter’s arm and land several unanswered shots, forcing Baxter to give up his back. Nordby locked in a rear naked choke forcing Baxter to tap out.
Nordby, who is a former bantamweight title contender, moved down to flyweight for the contest. He is currently on a three fight winning streak with back to back submission wins.
The self proclaimed best fighter in CES MMA, Kris Moutinho was back in action when he faced off against the veteran, Lloyd Reyes. Moutinho, who was putting his perfect professional record on the line, came out like he was shot out of a cannon, winging punches trying to end the fight early with one shot. Reyes was able to avoid most of the shots, and turned the fight into a grueling affair. Both fighters were able to land shots on the feet, and some takedowns, however the majority of the fight was contested in the clinch. The best action of the contest came at the end of the second round, where Moutinho was able to hurt Reyes with a flurry of punches. Moutinho appeared to sense that Reyes was slowing down and pressed the action in the final round, but was unable to finish the contest. Moutinho was a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, and 29-28). The MMA Takeover scored the contest 30-27 for Moutinho.
To open the live AXS TV portion of the contest, UFC veteran Patrick Walsh faced off against Brazilian, Dirlei Broenstrup. This fight was considered by many to be the best fight on paper of the entire card. The fight was contested at the CES own Cruiserweight class. The fight was a very close contest. Walsh was able to get several takedowns throughout the contest, but Broenstrup almost was able to secure submissions in the first (Kimura) and third (guillotine) rounds. Both fighters were visible tired early in the fight, and threw a lot of slow punches while on the feet. Broenstrup won a split decision (29-28, 29-28, and 27-30). The MMA Takeover scored the fight 29-28 for Broenstrup.
Marquis Brewster, who was the star of our 4 part “Follow a Fighter” show, stepped in the cage against Pennsylvania’s Cody Heir. Heir desperately wanted to turn the contest into a wrestling match. He attempted to time Brewster’s left hooks with double leg takedowns. He landed a takedown in the first and second round, but couldn’t hold Brewster down. Brewster was able to show that he was the more well rounded fighter. Brewster talked about his much improved hands, and he was able to display it. Brewster won almost all of the exchanges on the feet. He landed a stiff jab, straight right, and a lunging uppercut several times. Brewster won the contest by unanimous decision. (30-27, 30-27, 30-26). The MMA Takeover scored the fight 29-28 for Brewster.
Crowd favorite Gary Balletto Jr didn’t disappoint the home crown. Balletto, who is the son of retired professional boxer and veteran of the TV show, “The Contender”Gary Balletto Sr. squared off against up state New York fighter, Chris Torres. Torres attempted to establish his distance with long kicks, but Balletto was able to get inside, lock a body lock and slam Torres to the canvas. Balletto quickly rolled to a knee bar forcing the quick submission victory. Very impressive.
Richard “Richie” Santiago moved to a perfect 4-0 in his career in a very fast paced back and forth contest with Chad “Machine Gun” Kelly. Both fighters had their hands flying landing solid shots. Both fighters were able to get takedowns, and reverse their opponents in a seesaw battle. The tide changed in the 2nd round. Kelly was able to get a takedown on Santiago, but gave up position when he attempted a guillotine choke. Santiago was able to get the top position, and when Kelly gave up his back, he sunk in rear naked choke which forced Kelly to tap out.
Maria Rivera stepped back in the Twin River arena were she got a win in her only professional fight. She squared off against the Arkansas based fighter, Jessica Sotack, who were making her professional debut. The two squared off in a back and forth contest. All three rounds were toss up rounds. Sotack pressed the pace trying to get to the clinch were she landed knees and was able to get takedowns in the first two rounds. Rivera did her best work with push kicks and high kicks from range, and was able to stay busy from on bottom with sweeps and armbars. Rivera won the fight by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). The MMA Takeover scored it 30-27 for Rivera.
Photo courtesy of Will Paul / CES MMA