Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
Well there it was ladies and gents; New England MMA is officially back as of Wednesday night and damn did CES 61 deliver in a big way. With a little help from UFC FightPass and the tent outside the Crown Plaza Hotel in Warwick, Rhode Island Jimmy Burchfield's Classic Entertainment and Sports (CES MMA) held the regions first local Mixed Martial Arts event in over seven months Wednesday night as they brought regional MMA back to New England in style with what promised, and ultimately delivered, to be one of the more exciting fight cards in the promotion's recent history. With some of the regions most talented prospects highlighting a star studded evening of fights, CES 61 delivered the shot to the veins that the New England MMA faithful have longed for during the seven month absence of regional MMA events here in New England. While everyone takes a minute to digest what went on in the cage at CES 61, lets take a minute to look at some of the headlines of what was a very entertaining night of fisticuffs, under the tent at the Crowne Plaza, Warwick.
Three of the regions most promising, undefeated prospects, keep their streaks alive with dominant performances.
Top New England MMA prospects; Flyweight Mitch Raposo (5-0), Featherweight Connor Matthews (3-0) and Lightweight Eddy George (2-0) took care of business Wednesday night, keeping their unbeaten records in tact and opening some eyes while doing so. Fighting Arts Academy's Eddy George kicked off the evening with his second first round knockout in as many tries, after battering the debuting New Yorker; Frank Mazepa (0-1) with Knees and Punches to warrant the referee's stoppage at 2:21 of the first round. This fight was never in question as West Haven's George was on the gas peddle from the opening bell, landing steady combinations on the outmatched Mazepa before referee John English stepped in and saved Frank from further punishment when he stopped defending himself against the fence. George looked as advertised in this one, a dominant pace with a deep arsenal of strikes has me looking forward to this guy's return to the CES cage. I expect a slight uptick in the level of competition next time out, as CES continues to push George along the path to stardom.
Former Cage Titans FC standout; Connor "The Controller" Matthews furthered his undefeated record to 3-0 with an eerily similar outcome to his last fight, with a 57 second Rear Naked Choke finish of American Top Team Atlanta's Josh Marer (2-2). Why so eerie you ask? Last time out against "Cornflakes" Rob Fuller (1-8) at Cage Titans 47 in January, Matthews would notch the first submission victory of his professional career; coming by way of Neck Crank...at 57 seconds of the very first round. With back to back 57 second submission victories to go with a 7 second knockout to kick off his professional career, Connor Matthews is making a strong case for some serious shine atop the list of top New England Featherweights, as the Lauzon MMA budding star should start to see increasing opportunities to prove that he belongs at the next level. I could see Matthews appearing on FightPass again sooner than later, whether it be back at CES later this year or with another top regional promotion, Matthews is somebody matchmakers should have their eye on!
Fall River's Killa Mitch Raposo (5-0) showed why he is one of the top unsigned Flyweights in the country Wednesday night in his FightPass and CES debut when he kept two of the most impressive streaks in New England alive. Not only did Mitch extend his career winning streak to 11 straight, what is perhaps the more impressive feat is that Mitch has arguably still never lost a round of MMA competition, in a career that has seen him go the distance eight times. Let that sink in, in the 24 rounds that Regiment Training Center's Raposo has given the judges the opportunity to score, he is a perfect 24-0...Which makes his three round domination of the always game Matt Almy (4-4) that much more impressive. Almy was supposed to provide the stiffest test to date for the young Raposo, but it was more of what we have become accustomed to from the 21 year-old Raposo, who bested the veteran Almy in every phase of the fight for the entirety of their fifteen minutes in the cage. After passing his first "big test" as a professional, "Killa" Mitch could find himself firmly in line to make a Contenders Series bid this fall.
Kris Moutinho v. Ashiek Ajim lives up to the billing, with what should be an early favorite for New England pro fight of the year.
In a fight that I have had circled since the fight card was released, former Bantamweight Contender Kris "The Soul Snatcher" Moutinho (8-4) was looking to shake the burden of back to back losses for the second time in his promising career, there to answer the favor was highly touted, undefeated Bantamweight; Ashiek Ajim (3-1). In what was described by CES announcer Michael Parente as somewhat of a "Crossroads" type of fight for these two prospects who's careers were on different trajectories.
Both fighters came out firing early and often trading combinations and both coming after each other from the opening bell. Ajim was the first to land a big shot, at two minutes into the first round that sat Moutinho down on the canvas in what looked like it could have been the beginning of the end for the 28 year old Milford, Mass native. But then folks quickly found out why they refer to him as "The Soul Snatcher." Kris returned to his feet with a new sense of urgency, biting down on his mouthpiece and walking through the shots of the on coming Ajim while landing heavy shots of his own and slowing the attack of the surging New Yorker.
In round two Moutinho showed why he once challenged for the CES Bantamweight strap, with an outpouring of offense that was simply too much for the fading Ajim to withstand before referee John English mercifully put an end to their contest at 2:45 of the second round declaring Moutinho the winner by TKO.
There is no question that Regiment Training Center's Moutinho needed this win if he hoped to live up to being one of the top Bantamweight contenders in New England. If not for taking some extremely tough fights we could be looking at Moutinho in a much different light, but Kris chose to take the tough route, competing and learning from some of the best New England had to offer in Tony Gravely and Johnny Campbell. Kris showed that his goals are still the same here with a tremendous comeback win against a dangerous opponent, a win that should put the spotlight right back on the former title challenger as he now looks to prove that he is still one of the more promising future stars in the Northeast.
Blue Collar New England veteran Nick Alley too much to handle for previously undefeated Gotti III.
At 5-0, and with a name that no one can deny, John Gotti III (5-1) grew from the Grandson of the notorious boss of the Gambino Family, into one of the most feared Welterweights in the country before our very eyes. Gotti III was making the climb to stardom, checking off every box along the way and sending all challengers packing. Before we knew it Gotti was a star, a star worthy of headlining the first fight card out of quarantine for the regions leader in MMA; CES. Gotti would do just that Wednesday night, on Fight Pass against New England mainstay; Team Link Hooksett's Nick "JC" Alley (7-3).
Alley, who drew high praise coming into the bout with Gotti, would undoubtedly be the toughest test of Gotti's career. A winner of three straight fights, New Hampshire's Alley proved in the early going that he was not about to shy away from the powerful New Yorker as both men showed signs of brilliance in a closely contested first five minutes. Although Gotti came out composed in the second round, the veteran Alley began to wear on him, slowing Gotti's attack and turning the momentum into his corner. Alley finished the second round in top control landing strikes including an elbow that opened a cut on the forehead of John Gotti.
Alley was equally impressive in the third round nearly ending the fight early with what looked like a tight triangle choke attempt that Gotti narrowly escaped. "The Kid would not fold man," Alley told me earlier today, "I had him in that triangle and he would not give up, he's tough as nails for sure!" Alley finished the fight conceivably in control and the judges scorecards reflected just that as it would be Alley who would steal the show, a show that was supposed to belong to Gotti in his first Main Event for the CES promotion.
Let's be real, this is by no means the end to the Gotti III allure, although Gotti is no longer unbeaten he is far from defeated and I am sure CES will bring him back bigger than ever. But let's not let the Gotti loss overshadow a great win for one of my favorite New England MMA fighters and all around likable dudes, Nick "JC" Alley. Alley has been around the game for nearly a decade and has been a tough out for anyone he has accompanied the cage with. As one of the hardest working and truly grateful fighters in New England, Alley deserves every ounce of praise that comes with what will go down as a career defining win for the always game Team Link Product. A massive upset of the highly regarded Gotti should earn Alley some pretty big opportunities in the near future, and we here at NewEnglandMMA.org could not be happier for our friend Nick Alley and his entire team from Team Link Hooksett including his head coach and New England MMA legend Mr. Ed Carr!