It goes without saying that the fight game is unpredictable and chaotic a majority of the time. I've been around the sport for 13 years and I'm fairly confident that I've never seen a card get flipped on its head as many times as CES 71 has.
Originally Ali Zebian vs. Eddy George was going to be headlining the card for the lightweight title, and Pat Casey vs. Gary Belletto was the co-main event. This would have made for one of the best top-ends of a card that the New England region has seen in quite some time with 4 New Englanders battling it out against each other. But after injuries forced both Zebian and Belletto out of their fights, Pat Sullivan and Jimmy Burchfield Jr. have been dealing with speed bump after speed bump over the last few weeks. They had found a replacement opponent in Chris Padilla (10-6) for George, a 5-0 rising star in the lightweight division, but that was short-lived when Padilla was forced to pulled out. Then in came Angel Alvarez (5-1) to fill in as a late replacement for George, but after a significant weight miss earlier today by Alvarez, that fight was ultimately scrapped as well, leaving George without a dance partner.
George's misfortune turned into an opportunity for New England prospect Nate Ghareeb (6-2), as the promotion elevated his featherweight bout against Antonio Castillo Jr. (13-15) to the co-main event for the vacant Lightweight belt that George was originally scheduled to compete for. Both Ghareeb and Castillo weighed in at 149 pounds for the 155 pound belt, setting up a last minute bout to compete for the CES lightweight crown on UFC FightPass. I would assume that if Ghareeb won this bout, that he'd vacate the belt shortly thereafter. Ghareeb is good friends with George, so you could safely assume that they would not fight each other for the belt, and Ghareeb is also a natural featherweight, making it seem like the bout at lightweight is just a pitstop for him.
After all of the shuffling, Mitch Raposo (6-1) stepped on the scales at 126 pounds to vie for the CES flyweight championship in the main event against Brazillian Flavio Carvalho (7-4-1). A belt that Raposo has had his sites on for some time, and now finally gets an opportunity to wrap it around his waste.
The card also features local stud Dion Rubio (3-0) taking on undefeated Kaecy Raddon (2-0) in what should be an early favorite for Fight of the Night. We'll also see The Russian Polar Bear, Yuri Panferov (3-0), taking on an unknown 44 year old in Brad Imes (8-12). I know nothing about Imes, but after looking into his resume, I'm not really seeing how this fight helps Yuri progress in his career. Imes is 0-4 in his last 4 fights and is 18 years older than the fast-rising Panferov. But who knows.....this is the fight game and anything can happen. Regardless of the matchup, look for Panferov to quickly get this fight to the mat and slap on a submission within the first 3 minutes. I'm predicting a rear naked choke at 2:36 of round number 1. Lock it up.
The twists and turns that were dealt this card (which is being held on Thursday night) have been unprecedented, and the brass at CES have done their best at plugging holes over the past 3 weeks. It goes without saying that the original card was going to be a banger, but as it goes in the fight game, there are a lot of things out of your control. Regardless of the chaos, fight cancellations and late replacements, CES still has a number of intriguing fights on tap tomorrow night at Bally's Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
There will be 6 total MMA fights tomorrow night, as well as 4 grappling matches to kickoff the card. The main card will be broadcast live around the world on UFC FightPass, and there are still tickets available to purchase at the door if you're into watching fights live. Doors will open at 6:30, the first grappling match will pop off at 7:00 and the main card will get underway on FightPass at 8:00. Check out the full card below, and you can also purchase tickets HERE.
CES Flyweight Championship
Mitch Raposo (6-1) vs. Flavio Carvalho (7-4-1)
CES Lightweight Championship
Nate Ghareeb (6-2) vs. Antonio Castillo Jr. (13-15)
Dion Rubio (3-0) vs. Kaecy Raddon (2-0)
Yuri Panferov (3-0) vs. Brian Imes (8-12)
Jon Ciampa (0-0) vs. Jerell Nettles (0-1)
Shane Dillehay (0-0) vs. Kamil Meler (0-0)
You can check out the full weigh-in video below from earlier today.