This time, Luis Felix finished what he started and brought the CES MMA title to Providence.
One year after getting choked out by Julian Lane on national television in the inaugural CES MMA lightweight championship, the Providence, R.I., native earned his revenge Friday in the long-awaited rematch, defeated Lane by unanimous decision, 49-46, 49-46, 48-47 in the five-round main event of “CES MMA XXX” on AXS TV at Twin River Casino.
Felix (14-8) did what he does best, effectively circling the cage and staying out of harm’s way while peppering Lane (9-4-1) with kicks to the legs and midsection. Lane’s inability to cut off the cage and corner Felix made for a strategic, if unappealing, bout with Felix implementing the game plan for the first four rounds until the Mansfield, Ohio native finally let his hands go with time winding down in the fifth.
Other than a few clinches along the cage, all the action was front and center. Lane let loose in the fifth, landing a flurry of clean punches that momentarily sent Felix backpedaling and running for cover. Neither fighter hit the canvas once during the bout, and Felix ultimately beat the clock in the fifth to become the new champion, ending Lane’s reign 371 days after he won the belt at “CES MMA XXV.”
The co-feature came to a shocking end when Lenny Wheeler (9-3-1, 6 KOs), living up to his nickname, “The Show Stealer,” floored Hartford, Conn., and Bellator vet Matt Bessette (15-7) just 39 seconds into the opening round of their featherweight bout.
Wheeler backed Bessette against the cage and caught him with an overhand right to the chin, followed by two more hard rights as Bessette crumbled to the canvas, prompting referee Dan Miragliotta to step in and stop the bout.
“I said coming into this fight I would knock him out within a minute,” Wheeler said. “There was no doubt.”
Welterweight Chip Pollard (18-5, 10 KOs) opened the main card in style, pummeling Dan Lauzon (9-9) of Bridgewater, Mass., en route to a second-round stoppage at the 3:12 mark.
Lauzon tried to use his ground game to his advantage early in the opening round, but Pollard weathered the storm and began to break down the fatigued Lauzon with a flurry of strikes, mixing in overhand rights, hooks and head kicks. Pollard contined the onslaught in the second round as a wobbly Lauzon began to teeter on the brink and eventually finished the fight with a series of hard rights.
Also on the main card, Ludlow, Mass., lightweight Leon Davis (7-3) and female bantamweight Peggy Morgan (4-3) of Manchester, N.H., won by identical 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 scores. Davis defeated Dorchester, Mass., vet Andres Jeudi (7-5), controlling the action on the canvas, while Morgan used her superior striking to outwork Jessy Miele (4-2) of Waterbury, Conn. Morgan survived a scare in the third round when Miele caught her in an attempted guillotine choke, suffocating Morgan for the majority of the round until she eventually broke free and finished the final minute with effective ground and pound to seal the win.
West Bridgewater, Mass., light heavyweight Pat Walsh (6-2) also won unanimously on the scorecards, 30-26, 30-26, 30-27, using an effective mix of stand-up and ground and pound to defeat West Roxbury, Mass., vet Jesse McElligott (5-3).
The highlight of the preliminary card was the professional debut of Cranston, R.I., welterweight Gary Balletto Jr. (0-1), the son of Rhode Island boxing legend Gary “Tiger” Balletto, who lost a 30-27, 30-27, 30-25 unanimous decision to fellow debut Anthony Giacchina (1-0) of Selden, N.Y.
Balletto Jr. got off to a strong start, clipping Giacchina with a left hook in the opening seconds, nearly sending him stumbling to the canvas. But Giacchina recovered and eventually took control of the fight, at one point nearly submitting Balletto Jr. with an armbar toward the end of the round.
Balletto Jr.’s extensive wrestling background came into play as he escaped danger and scrambled back to his feet, but Giacchina scored early takedowns in each of the next two rounds to prevent Balletto Jr. from getting into rhythm.
In the opening preliminary bout, Russell, Mass., bantamweight Jacob Smith (1-0, 1 KO) won his pro debut, stopping fellow newcomer Chris Catarino (0-1) of Nashua, N.H., at 4:03 of the second round. A nasty head kick from Smith in the center of cage sent Catarino reeling and Smith finished the job with a flurry of strikes, forcing Miragliotta to step in and stop the bout.
Featherweight Manny Bermudez (2-0) of Abington, Mass., made quick work of Centereach, N.Y., native Mak Kelleher (0-2), forcing the triangle choke submission at 3:05 of the opening round. Bermudez took control early, picking up Kelleher and slamming him to the canvas before eventually locking in the triangle.
Making his third appearance with CES MMA, Peabody, Mass., bantamweight Rico DiSciullo (5-0, 2 KOs) cruised past Springfield, Ill., vet Jake Constant (6-8-1) when Constant was forced to verbally tap out due to a separated right shoulder.