Whether he’s on the road or fighting in his own backyard, Philadelphia’s Jeremiah Wells is right at home inside the confines of the CES MMA cage.
Wells celebrated his homecoming in grand fashion Friday at the 2300 Arena in the main event of “CES MMA 52,” overwhelming Jason Norwood of New Jersey en route to a 49-45, 49-45, 49-46 unanimous decision win to capture the vacant CES MMA World Welterweight Title.
Headlining CES MMA’s Philadelphia debut on AXS TV, Wells won for the third time with CES MMA and improved his record to 6-1-1, turning up the pressure after a sluggish first round to bring home the title recently vacated by former champion and current UFC welterweight Chris Curtis.
The first two rounds weren’t easy to score. Norwood (18-6) gained an early edge with a takedown in the opening round, bulldozing his way through Wells and simply wrestling him to the canvas. Norwood controlled most of the action after that while a frustrated Wells had no luck wriggling free.
In the second, Wells did a much better job gaining separation and landed a series of critical uppercuts and knees to the midsection to stall some of Norwood’s progress. The fight took an interesting turn in the closing seconds of the round when Norwood slipped during a head kick, giving Wells a brief opening to lower the boom as Norwood landed hard on his back, but he ran out of time.
Wells opened the third with a key takedown and finally began to wear down Norwood, an ironic twist considering Wells entered as the superior striker hoping to avoid a wrestling match with the strong, sturdy Norwell. Earlier in the fight, Norwood walked the cage to wrestle his way out of Wells’ grasp, but had no answer in the third as fatigue began to set in. With a nasty welt over his right eye, Norwood spent most of the round on his back with Wells suddenly taking control of the fight.
The fourth round was more of the same as Wells turned the tables and muscled through Norwood with a hard, overhand right that sent Norwood crashing to the canvas, by far his cleanest shot of the night. Norwood did his best to keep Wells close and not let him gain separation, but Wells’ right arm slipped from Norwood’s grasp and the Philly native began to soften his opponent with short right hands and elbows mixed with an occasional forearm to the jaw. A worn-out Norwood, blood trickling from his mouth, again had no answer.
Wells entered the fifth in complete control and again knocked Norwood to the canvas in he opening minute with a right cross that clipped Norwood’s temple. Norwood refused to tap as Wells poured it on, smothering his opponent with his forearm pressed against his face as he nudged Norwood to the edge of the canvas. Cool as ever on a humid night in Philadelphia, Wells blanketed Norwod and eventually busted open his forehead with more elbows until the final bell. Norwood somehow survived Wells’ closing flurry, but lost the final four rounds decisively as Wells captured his first world title in just his eight professional fight.
Three-time UFC vet Ron Stallings (15-8) of Temple Hills, Md., pulled off a minor upset in the co-main event and spoiled the Philadelphia homecoming for Nah-Shon Burrell (15-11) courtesy of a close, hard-earned, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, unanimous decision win.
Neither fighter appeared to be in much trouble, but Stallings simply displayed better technique in defending takedowns and putting in the work on the ground to frustrate Burrell, who’s now lost his last four bouts.
Stallings never panicked and occasionally toyed with Burrell, at one point shaking Burrell’s head with both hands while his opponent tried to press him against the cage. Burrell had no answer until the third round, but couldn’t earn the finish to erase the deficit on the scorecards. Stallings has won three of four dating back to 2015 and Friday was his first win in more than two years, ending a frustrating stretch in which four potential bouts got canceled over the last 24 months.
Philadelphia featherweight prospect Pat Sabatini (9-2) stole the show with his fifth first-round finish and eighth career submission win, forcing Nebraska’s Boimah Karma (5-5) to tap due to a rear-naked choke at the 2:19 mark.
Coming off his first loss in nearly three years in April, Sabatini wasted no time putting pressure on Karma, finishing a hearty exchange in the opening seconds with a well-executed spinning back kick. Sabatini quickly caught Karma trying to scramble off the cage, hooked the leg for an effortless takedown and began to wear him down with effective ground-and-pound. Once Sabatini flattened his opponent, he locked in the choke, rolled to his back to lock it in and forced an immediate submission for his seventh win in his last eight fights.
Philadelphia middleweight prospect Joe Pfyer (2-0) kicked off the AXS TV main card with a dominant performance against Atlanta’s Derek Wilson Jr. (2-2), winning all three rounds decisively for a 30-27 unanimous decision on each scorecard.
An accomplished high-school wrestler, Pfyer put his pedigree on display early and often, scoring takedown after takedown and simply smothering Wilson the entire fight. Wilson had no answer and couldn’t stuff any of Pfyer’s hip tosses or single-leg takedowns and wound up on his back most of the night.
In complete control on the ground, Pfyer stayed busy with vicious elbows to the head, softening Wilson’s defense, and all Wilson could do to avoid a stoppage was cover up and wait for the bell.
Two Philadelphia middleweights made their pro debuts against one another in a three-round televised bout with Eugene Aubrey (1-0, 1 KO) stopping Ed Shupe at the 2:36 mark of the opening round.
Aubrey was the aggressor from the opening bell, driving Shupe into the cage and staying active with elbows and knees. As the onslaught continued, Aubrey’s shots began to crack Shupe’s defense. The elbows and overhand lefts started to land flush on Shupe’s temple and Aubrey poured it on with a series of unanswered knees upstairs before referee Dan Miragliotta eventually stopped the fight.
Philadelphia heavyweight and police offer Chris Daukaus (6-2, 5 KOs) looked sharp in his CES MMA debut, stopping New Yorker Jahsua Marsh (3-4) at the 2:16 mark of the second round with a series of unanswered strikes. Daukaus’ striking was too much for Marsh to handle. He peppered Marsh with jabs, overhand rights and two- and three-punch combos and when Marsh went for the takedown to stop the bleeding, Daukaus simply sprawled out, stuffed each takedown attempt and continued to chip away at the overmatched Marsh.
Out of gas by the middle of the second round, Marsh absorbed an overhand left to the chin that stopped him dead in his tracks. Daukaus stuffed another sloppy takedown attempt and began dropping hammerfists as Marsh tried to cover up. The referee mercifully stopped it with just under two minutes to go in the round, sealing Daukaus’ fourth consecutive win.