Another CES MMA title is heading to The Buckeye State.
Cincinnati’s Chris Curtis captured the CES MMA Welterweight Title Friday night at Twin River Casino in the main event of “CES MMA XXXII,” stopping defending champion Gil Freitas with a series of unanswered strikes at the 3-minute, 13-second mark of the opening round live on AXS TV, becoming the third Ohio-born fighter to win one of the promotion’s titles.
The heavy-handed Freitas (18-6) began to unload on Curtis (13-4, 5 KOs) midway through the round, but Curtis stood his ground and answered with a right uppercut to the chin, momentarily stunning Freitas. With an opportunity to finish the fight, Curtis quickly became the aggressor, landing a right hand to the liver that sent Freitas to the canvas. Curtis immediately pounced on Freitas and landed a flurry of rights and lefts, forcing referee Kevin MacDonald to stop the fight.
Curtis has now won four consecutive fights and seven of his last eight. He’s the third CES MMA champion born in Ohio, joining UFC vets Julian Lane and Dominique Steele. Freitas, making his first title defense since winning the belt in October, lost for the first time in five fights.
In the most bizarre finish of the night, Ryan Sanders (10-7, 2 KOs) of Bangor, Maine, a late replacement on the main card, earned the win over Providence, R.I., lightweight Luis Felix (14-9) when Felix was forced to verbally tap following an injury to his right knee at the 1:46 mark of the second round.
Felix looked sharp in the opening round and briefly had Sanders hurt early in the second, but Sanders caught him with a knee against the cage and took Felix to the canvas. As the two began jockeying for position, Felix twisted his knee and immediately tapped.
“I heard it pop,” Felix said. “The pain just shot through my leg.”
The only consolation for Felix is he retains his CES MMA Lightweight Title, which was not on the line Friday since his original opponent, Waylon Lowe, was forced to withdraw from the fight two weeks ago, leaving Felix and Sanders fighting at a catch weight of 160 pounds in a scheduled three-round non-title bout.
Tennessee heavyweight Ashley Gooch (9-4) pulled off an upset against Josh Diekmann (15-7) of New London, Conn., in his first appearance with CES MMA, forcing Diekmann to tap due to a rear naked choke at the 4:30 mark of the opening round.
The two traded blows early with Gooch remaining wary of Diekmann’s strong overhand right. Gooch eventually got the takedown, took Diekmann’s back and delivered a series of blows, including a hard right elbow to the rib cage, before locking in the choke in the closing seconds of the round. Friday’s fight was Diekmann’s first in 11 months while Gooch has now won his last seven after starting his career 2-4.
Fresh off an upset win over Dinis Paiva in October in his AXS TV debut, Cumberland, R.I., featherweight Kody Nordby (6-3) added another impressive victory to his resume, submitting Derek Shorey (3-3) of Maine via triangle choke 41 seconds into the opening round. Five of Nordby’s six wins have come by first-round stoppage, including the last three under the promotional guidance of CES MMA.
Kyle Bochniak (6-0) of Gloucester, Mass., also won in impressive fashion – his third victory on AXS TV – by submitting Taylor Trahan (5-5) of Whitefield, N.H., via rear naked choke 3:58 into the opening round in a bloody featherweight battle. Bochniak rocked Trahan early, opening a cut over Trahan’s left eye, and continued to pepper him with strikes. Trahan landed some clean shots of his own, but eventually fell the canvas, where Bochniak applied the choke to earn his sixth win in six fights, all with CES MMA.
Unbeaten Abington, Mass., featherweight Manny Bermudez (4-0) remained unbeaten on Friday’s main card and scored his second win on AXS TV, submitting Evan Parker (5-4) of Worcester, Mass., at 1:43 of the opening round via rear naked choke. Parker tried to trade blows with Bermudez, but got busted up quickly and taken to the canvas, where Bermudez put his superior ground game to use.
Providence’s Keenan Raymond (3-2, 1 KO), a late addition to the lineup, highlighted the preliminary card with a knockout win over Cortland, N.Y., welterweight Ryan Todd (0-1). Raymond caught Todd with a left hook early in the second round, followed by a knee to the chin, sending his opponent to the canvas and forcing MacDonald to stop the bout at the 58-second mark.
Also on the prelim card, Centereach, N.Y., featherweight Mak Kelleher (1-2) earned his first win as a pro in his third try, rallying to beat South Boston’s James Murrin (3-4) in a bloody three-round war. Murrin came out strong in the opening round and nearly finished the fight in the second with a series of hammerfists, but Kelleher dominated the third, opening a cut on Murrin’s forehead that left both fighters a bloody mess. Kelleher earned the unanimous decision, 29-28, on all three scorecards.
Flyweight Devin Baxter (2-0) of Bellingham, Mass., also scored a win on the preliminary card and remained unbeaten by submitting Joshua Ricci (0-1) of Whitesville, N.Y., via rear naked choke at 3:02 of the third round. In a battle of unbeaten, Syracuse, N.Y., flyweight Luay Ashkar (2-0) outlasted Nick Iaciofano (2-1) of Providence to earn a 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 unanimous decision win.
Middleweight Pat McCrohan (2-0) of Beverly, Mass., rallied to keep his unbeaten record intact in the final bout of the prelims, winning the last two rounds over Boston’s Mike Rodriguez (2-1) to earn a 29-28 unanimous decision on all three scorecards.