Eric Spicely wants rounds. He wants a fight. He wouldn’t even mind getting punched in the face.
“A little, maybe. Just a little bit,” said the Providence, R.I., middleweight, who’s finished his last six opponents in the opening round. “That’s a different feeling and I haven’t felt that in almost three years.”
Aaron Johnson appears to be a worthy adversary. The Kennesaw, Ga., native has 22 pro fights under his belt, 13 of them wins, including 11 first-round finishes of his own.
He beat Greg Rebello, the hometown favorite, at Twin River Casino a year ago and submitted former Bellator champion Brennan Ward in just 15 seconds, so calling Johnston a step up in competition for Spicely is like referring to a hurricane as a “light breeze.”
“He better pack a lunch,” Johnson said.
“A lot of fighters, they have this ego, which is good and bad,” he continued. “I think that was Brennan’s problem, honestly, more than anything. He had never been beaten.
“Eric’s never been beaten. He doesn’t think he can be beat, which is good and bad. It’s a double-edged sword when you think you’re that good, because there is always going to be somebody out there tougher than you. He hasn’t met that guy yet, but Friday night, you never know. It’s going to be a fight regardless of what he thinks. I’ve never been in a cage and not gone and brought the fight to the guy and tried to fucking fight him. That’s one thing he will have.”
It’s also the one thing Spicely (7-0, 2 KOs) wants as he prepares for his second nationally televised fight Friday, Oct. 30th, 2015 on AXS TV on the main card of “CES MMA XXXI” at Twin River.
The plan from Day 1 was to learn from every fight, build a foundation and step up the level of competition each time. His 2014 bout against 39-fight vet Nuri Shakur was supposed to be his first major test, but Spicely made quick work of the durable Shakur, stopping him with a flurry of strikes in just 94 seconds.
He later faced Harley Beekman, another durable opponent, in his AXS debut in June and, instead of getting pushed to the limit, did what no fighter had ever done by stopping Beekman in the first round with an armbar and snapping Beekman’s three-fight win streak. Spicely has yet to fight past the first round since his pro debut in 2012.
“We’re trying to get the rounds in and we’re trying to get the tough fights that are going to push us. It just keeps not working out in our favor, but it’s not a bad thing, you know?” Spicely said.
“I think it’s great. First-round finishes look good on paper. If you’re trying to get signed by a bigger organization, that’s what they’re looking for. If you’re decisioning everybody, they don’t really see that. They don’t watch your tapes or anything like that. They’re just looking at your record and they’re looking at the people you’ve beat and how.
“First-round finishes are great. That’s what I want to keep doing, but I also want to have the experience of getting pushed and having some adversity. I think with this fight that’s what we’re looking for.”
This is a spot Johnson relishes. He has no problem fighting on foreign soil against the hometown favorite and spoiling the party. He did it to Rebello, submitting the Providence native via guillotine choke in 2014, and he did it to Florida native James Hammortree in 2012, submitting him via heel hook in just 33 seconds.
“That fight ended very poorly for him,” Johnson quipped.
The secret to his success? He’s a submission specialist, a self-described aggressor with underwhelming striking ability that he says is “good enough to get me where I need to be,” though he’s quick to point out he once scored a knockout from his back after pulling guard.
“I hit pretty hard,” Johnson said. “I have decent, heavy hands.”
He’s also deceptive, at times conceding takedowns so he can pull guard and play to his own strength, much like he did against Ward at Bellator 89, luring him in with weak leg kicks.
“I threw the lazy leg kicks for him to take me down,” he said. “They were shitty leg kicks. They weren’t leg kicks to do damage. If I wanted to throw a leg kick to do damage I would’ve turned my hip over. I wanted him to take me down to go to the guard and I knew he would do that.
“I’m not afraid to pull guard in the fight. I’ve never been afraid to pull guard in a fight and submit people in any ranks, even Bellator.”
Like Johnson, Spicely is also a grappler, relying more on his ground game than his striking, except for what he considers the key difference between he and his opponent.
“I think I’m better everywhere and I think he’s just good in one area,” Spicely said matter-of-factly. “I don’t think he has any desire to train other things and work on his standup and his wrestling. He seems content just to be on the ground and work for a submission.”
This has all the makings of a chess match, the kind of fight that could end up on the canvas for three full rounds and yet still pack as much excitement as a back-and-forth brawl between two overpowering strikers. Spicely expects — and wants — a real fight Friday and figures to get one, a welcomed change from his previous six bouts.
“We definitely want to fight the best guys and also the fights that make sense,” he said. “You see a lot of guys get the next level and they flunk out right away, two or three fights in, and it’s like, we don’t want to be those guys and I definitely don’t want to be someone that gets there and is already cutting cut and then you’re fighting back on the regional scene, which is not bad, but you work hard to get to achieve your goal. You don’t want to, like I said, flunk out in a year or so or two or three fights.”
Countered Johnson: “He’s definitely fought and grappled some, but he’s fought some non-grapplers. I really don’t know what the combined records of all his opponents are. I just know he’s kind of like an up-and-coming kid and I don’t think he’s ever been tested at this point. That’s the problem. I think he overwhelms people. I just don’t think he’s going to get that from me.”
Tickets for “CES MMA XXXI” on are priced at $50.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and available for purchase online at www.cesboxing.com or www.twinriver.com, www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254, or at the Twin River Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
The vacant CES MMA Welterweight Title is on the line in the main event as Plymouth, Mass., vet Chip Moraza-Pollard (10-8, 5 KOs) battles Sao Paulo, Brazil native Gil de Freitas (17-5, 6 KOs) in a five-round bout. Also on the main card, former welterweight champ Chuck O’Neil (15-7, 5 KOs) of Bridgewater, Mass., makes the move to the middleweight division against Daniel Vizcaya (8-3, 2 KOs) of Aurora, Ill., and Providence, R.I., heavyweight Greg Rebello (18-6, 10 KOs) faces Syracuse, N.Y., vet Mike Mucitelli (7-2, 1 KO.
Also on the main card, Woonsocket, R.I., native Andre Soukhamthath (8-3, 4 KOs) returns in a bantamweight bout against Carlos Galindo (10-3, 3 KOs) of Woburn, Mass.; bantamweight Dinis Paiva (7-5, 4 KOs) of East Providence, R.I., looks to extend his four-fight win streak against Cumberland, R.I., vet Kody Nordby (4-3); and Remo Cardarelli (5-2) of Milford, Mass., makes his CES MMA debut in a flyweight bout against New York native Darren Mima (6-4, 1 KO).
The preliminary card includes a flyweight bout between Carlos Candelario (1-0) of New Britain, Conn., and Jesse Gutierrez (1-1) of West Roxbury, Mass., in addition to a middleweight bout between Buck Pineau (0-1) of Ashland, Maine and Berkley, Mass., native Pat McCrohan, who is making his professional debut. Flyweights David Baxter (1-0) of Bellingham, Mass., and newcomer Brandon Warne of Ovid, N.Y., battle in a three-round bout and featherweight Shane Manley (2-2) of Cortland, N.Y., battles Taylor Trahan (5-3) of Littleton, N.H.
For more information on “CES MMA XXXI” visit www.cesmma.com, follow @CESMMA on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the official CES MMA Facebook fan page.