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Combat FC 3: Bantamweight World Title Preview

Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"

Joe Cavallaro and his Combat FC crew kick off the New Year Friday February 10th from their home at Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington Massachusetts and live on UFC Fightpass as they present Combat FC 3. It goes without saying following Cavallaro’s return to the New England MMA World in 2022 but we will say it anyway; Combat FC has been a resounding success from the word "GO" and February 10th could very well mark their most exciting lineup to date! Combat FC 3 will feature the deepest, most talent laden, fightcard in my memory of covering this sport, beginning some 10 years ago here in New England.

Combat FC 3 will feature some of the Country’s top unsigned prospects as former Bellator and LFA standout; Solo Hatley Jr. (10-6) makes the pilgrimage North when he takes on Teixeira MMA’s (Connecticut) Regivaldo Cavalho (6-4) at Featherweight in the Co-Main event. New England MMA veteran and standout Heavyweight prospect Terrance “T-Bone” Jean-Jacques (8-3) meets Dirlei Broenstrup (17-9) in a contest that could very easily propel Jean-Jacques to the next level. Also former CFFC upstart and current NEF Welterweight Champion, New York’s Jon “War Hawk” Piersma (5-1) meets two-time Combat FC Alum (2-0); Sanad Armouti (3-1) in a Welterweight feature with “call up” implications.

Top regional prospects; Lightweight Mo Al Kinani (4-1) vs. welcomes Robert Wusstig (7-11) to the New England MMA scene for the first time, Welterweight Mike Bezanson (1-0) plays host to the pro debut of Nebraska’s John Bell (4-1 as an Amateur) and 27 year old Billerica, Massachusetts fan-favorite; Jake “The Gorilla” Pilla (2-0) meets late replacement Seth Basler (3-12) at 140 pounds. All leading up to the Main Event which sees Combat FC put it’s inaugural Professional Bantamweight crown on the line when Cyprus native; Charalampos Grigrious (6-3) meets New York’s Chris “Showbiz” Disonell (6-5)

One quick look at this card and the first thing that came to my mind was; “I do not envy the Combat FC crew and the UFC Fightpass producers who are left to decide which of these fights makes it on the Fightpass portion of the show…” And after speaking to Matchmaker Rick Caldwell earlier in the week, the fights must be narrowed down to eight guaranteed Fightpass slots, with two fights being shown on the UFC Fightpass social media outlets during an hour long lead up to the main card, then six fights to subsequently follow on the UFC Fightpass streaming platform, with one fight being a “swing” fight that will either take place on the Social Media side or the streaming side, whichever time allows. UFC Strawweight Michelle Waterson joins Sean Wheelock on the call as Combat FC 3 will be streamed live on UFC Fightpass beginning at 9 pm Eastern time. And although the lineup has yet to have been sorted out, I put my production hat on for this article, as I take a look at the entire Combat FC card from tip to toe.

Joe Peters (1-3, KTA) v. Tristan Turano (2-1)

Amateur Welterweight

Breakdown: One quick look at KTA Nashua’s Joe Peters resume and you’ll understand why his 1-3 Amateur record does not begin to define him as a martial artist. Over the course of his three career losses, Peters has come up on the wrong side of decisions to Sean Worster (1-1) and Lee HcHugh (5-2) and was only finished by NEF Welterweight title challenger Ed Davis (2-0) to go along with his knockout of Bryant Wade last summer. The road doesn’t get any easier for Peters at Combat FC 3 as his original opponent Darren McCall (0-1) now gives way to short notice replacement; Tristan Turano (2-1). Following a wildly entertaining decision win over Cole Bracket in 2021, Turano was caught by first round knockout at Combat Zone 75 before making his Combat FC debut at Combat FC 2, notching a second round knockout over Zach Danish last October. Both of these men are talented amateurs with an abundance of skills, a perfect recipe to kick off the Combat FC 3 fight card with a Bang!

Mike Jolicoeur (1-1, KTA) v. Nestor Yuja (4-3)

Amateur Lightweight

Breakdown: Peters’ teammate at KTA in Nashua; Mike Jolicoeur (1-1) suffered the only loss of his combat sports career to Jarrod St. Jean at Combat FC 1. Since then Jolicoeur has gone 2-0 in the kickboxing realm, capturing the Combat Zone Amateur Lightweight belt via third round knockout of Justin Santiago. Jolicoeur welcomes the business end of probably the biggest upset in the short history of the Combat FC promotion when he meets late replacement (for Joe Cortigiano) New York’s Nestor Yuja (4-3). Last time WE saw Nestor Yuja was at Combat FC 2 when he needed just one strike to knockout highly touted prospect; Lucas Rosa (6-1) in stunning fashion. Yuja would go on to add his third career knockout just one month ago at Reality Fighting when he connected with John Lee in the second round of their contest. Make no mistake about it, these dudes both love to let their hands fly; Jolicoeur coming from a kickboxing background and Yuja owning three career wins by KO. Combat FC fans better arrive early as these two Lightweights volunteer to test one another’s chins.

Conor Hews (1-0, New England Cartel) vs. Matthew Heller (3-2, Teixeira MMA)

Amateur Catchweight (130 lbs.)

Breakdown: Following his come up which included numerous Grappling matches as well as a knockout in his kickboxing debut, New England Cartel’s Conor Hews needed just under a minute in his MMA debut at Combat FC 2 to dispatch fellow Flyweight Julian Menjivar via Rear Naked Choke. Hews will face a big step up in competition on February 10th when he welcomes Teixeira MMA’s Matthew Heller (3-2) to the Combat FC cage for the first time. Winner of three of his five amateur bouts, Heller has become well traveled as an amateur, competing here in New England as well as for top regional promotion CFFC. Heller saddles up for yet another top promotion at Combat FC 3 as he seeks his fourth career win while looking to pick up his second career finish at the expense of the Cartel’s Hews. These grapplers will settle the score Friday night when they meet at a Catchweight of 130 pounds inside the Combat FC cage! New England Cartel’s Hews spoke with our own Steve Domenico leading up to his Sophomore billing under the Combat FC banner check out the interview below.

Zack Magdis (Debut) v. Hal Zanone (1-1)

Amateur Middleweight

Breakdown: According to Combat FC matchmaker Rick Caldwell and by all accounts available on the interwebs, newcomer Zack Magdis is exactly what you would expect to see when you show up to a Middleweight MMA fight. Former division 1 Linebacker at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester native Magdis’ cover reads as an athlete; muscular frame, filled out with tattoos and good looks, leading to his nickname “Zohan.” We are going to see just how much that athleticism transfers to the MMA cage Friday night when he meets, owner of the Combat FC promotion’s fastest knockout; Hal Zanone (1-1). Zanone needed just seven seconds to stop Curt Benoit with punches in a Middleweight affair at the inaugural Combat FC1 last June, and will be looking to build upon that performance here against the newcomer Zack Magdis.

Jarrod St.Jean (2-0, Spero’s Martial Arts) v. Saheeb Jackson (1-0, Tri-Force)

Amateur Lightweight

Breakdown: I'm pretty sure there is an insurance policy out there with Jarrod St.Jean’s name on it pertaining to the structural integrity of the Allepo Shriner’s Auditorium’s roof as he and his Spero’s Martial Arts fanbase have torn the roof off the joint in his first two Combat FC appearances. St.Jean broke into the Amateur Lightweight waters at Combat FC 1 in June with a first round Triangle Choke of Mike Jolicoeur. Jarrod went on to finish Joe Cortigiano with first round strikes at Combat FC 2 in November. Both times, St.Jean’s fans; Deafening! St.Jean looks to keep the streak alive Friday night when he squares off with arguably his toughest test to date in Tri-Force MMA’s Saheeb Jackson. Jackson broke onto the scene in November at Combat Zone 78, beating the first round bell with a Triangle Choke of Tim Briggs. Training out of Tri-Force becomes an automatic ‘feather in the cap’ of a young Amateur like Jackson, who gets the opportunity to train with some of the region's top combat sports athletes on the mats in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Action is a promise in this one as Lightweights conclude the Amateur portion of Friday nights Combat FC 3.

James Campbell (4-0) v. Bruce Richards (0-5)

Catchweight (160 lbs.)

Breakdown: After an injury forced Jamie Campbell (4-0) from his comeback fight at Combat FC 1 in June of 2022, “Tha Comanche” has been working diligently to return healthy in 2023 following, what now, will be a 13 year layoff from caged competition. Campbell began his fighting career all the way back in 2006 where he reeled off 2 wins before joining the WCF organization, the organization which would be rebranded into Combat FC just last year. Campbell would go on to fight twice for Joe Cav’s WCF, notching two knockouts on the way to an impressive 4-0 pro career. Do Not let Campbell's 13 year hiatus fool you as he has been highly active in MMA gyms across the country over the last decade getting in rounds with the likes of UFC Lightweight Matt Brown and former UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight Champion; Henry Cejudo. Campbell finally gets to knock off the rust Friday night when he makes his long awaited Combat FC debut against Vermont’s Bruce Richards (0-5). Richards made his Combat FC debut in October at Combat FC 2 suffering his fifth loss to Massachusetts’ upstart Mike Bulger (2-0) by first round Rear Naked Choke. It goes without saying that both of these men will have much to prove Friday night when the cage closes on their 160 pound Catchweight scrap.

Aaron Trecell (1-3, Sityodtong) v. Stephen Stengel (5-20, Team Stengel)

Catchweight (175 lbs.)

Breakdown: Speaking of Combat FC 2; Sityodtong’s Aaron Trecell (1-3, v. Chris Almestica) and Team Stengel’s Stephen Stengel (5-20, v. Jeff Reynolds) both earned Highlight Reel knockouts inside the Combat FC cage last November. Trecell displayed some slick striking over the minute he shared with Almestica in the Combat FC cage before landing a headkick that separated Almestica from consciousness in dramatic fashion. That very same evening New England MMA veteran Stephen Stengel caught the pro debuting Jeff Reynolds with a 1-2 that shut the lights out on Reynolds just :14 seconds after the opening bell. With both fighters looking to remain busy, Combat FC Matchmaker Rick Caldwell lines these two highlight reel finishers up at a Catchweight of 175 pounds Friday night at Combat FC 3.

Dan Cormier (9-10, Tri-Force) v. Danny Maldonado (1-4, Warrior’s Nation MMA)


Breakdown: There is no question the Professional Flyweight Division is one of the thinner weight classes nationwide, however Tri-Force MMA’s Dan “The Hamburglar” Cormier (9-10) is forced to compete under the 125 pound jurisdiction due to the fact that Men’s Strawweight fighters are virtually non-existent. Winner of three of his last four contests since 2019, Cormier has done his best to stay active in the boxing ring (2-1) during his current 16 month layoff from caged combat. Cormier’s opponent Friday night has also suffered from a ‘numbers weak’ Flyweight division as New York’s Danny Maldonado (1-4) has been forced to fight above his natural Flyweight class in three of his five pro bouts. Maldonado showed that when at his natural 125 pounds he can hang with some of the best in the region, going three rounds with Tim Flores in his April 2019 pro debut. Maldonado returned to New England for the first time since that 2019 pro debut last time out, notching his first career victory with a first round choke of Nate Boutcher (0-2) at NEF 49 in September. Maldonado stares down his toughest task to date Friday night when he shows up on the other side of the fight card from 20 fight East Providence native Dan Cormier at Combat FC 3. Cormier also caught up with our Steve Domenico leading up to Combat FC 3, check out the complete interview below.

Marcel Romero (Pro Debut, G&G Wrestling) v. Chris Rooney (0-3, Team Rooney)


Breakdown: G&G Wrestling’s Marcel “The Jackal” Romero (Pro Debut) accomplished just about all their is to accomplish as a New England Featherweight Amateur, going 4-0, with 3 knockouts, including finishes of Dan Walsh and Kenny Champion on his way to earning the Cage Titans Amateur Featherweight title against Arthur Mpofu last June. With little still to prove at the Amateur ranks, Marcel punches his pro ticket Friday at Combat FC 3 when he matches up with three fight professional Chris Rooney (0-3). Rooney makes his Combat FC debut in search of his first professional victory after testing himself against both Mo Al Kinani and Pat Gilbride in back to back contests that lead to first round stoppages. However, both of those fights were taken on short notice and Rooney believes he has a ton to prove, given a full fight camp to prepare for the pro debut of Marcel Romero at Combat FC 3.

Travis Demko (2-0, Lauzon MMA) v. Josh Krejci (1-2, Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing)

Catchweight (140 lbs.)

Breakdown: You could say this professional combat sports thing is going pretty well for Allston, Massachusetts’ Travis Demko (2-0, 1 Knockout, 1 Submission) who makes his Combat FC debut Friday night toting a 8-1 pro boxing record to go along with an unblemished 2-0 pro MMA record. Demko laces up the 4 ounce gloves for the third time at Combat FC 3 as he looks to remain unbeaten against Missouri’s Josh Krejci (1-2). Krejci will be making his second consecutive start for the Combat FC promotion, falling victim to a first round Jake Pilla Guillotine at Combat FC 2. Krejci will once again find himself locked inside the cage with one of New England’s fastest rising prospects Friday night when he steps in to meet Lauzon MMA’s Travis Demko. This matchup should provide a great gauge on the prospect status of Demko, who will find the toughest foe of his MMA career across the cage from him in this Catchweight showdown with Krejci.

Jake Pilla (2-0, Gorilla Crew) v. Seth Basler (3-12, Team Basler)

Catchweight (140 lbs.)

Breakdown: A fan favorite on the New Hampshire and Massachusetts circuit since he turned 18 in 2013, Billerica's Jake "The Gorilla" Pilla (2-0) has grown up in the New England MMA spotlight over the course of the last decade. For the most part under the watchful eye of Former UFC Welterweight and New England MMA legend John "Doomsday" Howard, the Black Belted Pilla has risen to top-prospect status in an action packed New England Bantamweight division and seems to have found a home in the Combat FC cage where the 27 year old looks to propel his career to new heights. Pilla takes the next step in the development process Friday night when he meets 15 fight professional Seth Basler (3-12) at a Catchweight of 140 pounds. Basler has been a litmus test for Bantamweight and Featherweight prospects all along the Eastern seaboard throughout his career. Always ready to stand and bang with whoever he finds himself inside the cage with, Seth Basler has shown a weakness to defend the chokes when the fight hits the floor. And the floor just so happens to be Jake Pilla's wheelhouse, the fight will not last long once Pilla is able to get this contest on the ground!

Mike Bezanson (1-0, Burgess MMA) v. John Bell (Pro Debut, Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing)


Breakdown: New Hampshire Welterweight top prospect Mike Bezanson (1-0) faced little friction as an Amateur on his way to a 5-0 record with five knockouts, while capturing the Combat Zone and NEF Amateur Welterweight straps along the way. In April of last year "All Class" cashed his Amateur titles in for a successful pro-debut against Aaron Trecell (1-3) at Combat Zone 76 by Unanimous Decision. And although Bezanson's pro debut did not produce a finish it showed a lot about Mike Bezanson the fighter, who was forced to overcome the toughest adversity of his career in that fight with Trecell. Bezanson makes his Combat FC debut Friday night following ten months of re-tooling his arsenal in anticipation of an eye catching, Sophomore performance against Nebraska's John "Cheat Code" Bell (Pro Debut, 4-1 Amateur). Following a successful Amateur career that saw him climb to Tapology's #3 ranked Amateur Welterweight in Nebraska, Mick Doyle's John Bell looks to take to the professional ranks by storm as he intends to inflict the first blemish of Benzanson's career under the bright lights at Combat FC Friday night for UFC Fightpass fans to bare witness.

Mo Al Kinani (4-1, Evolution Athletix) v. Robert Wusstig (7-11)


Breakdown: Not only is Mo Al Kinani (4-1) one of the more dangerous Lightweight prospects in recent memory, he is also one of the most active 155'ers in the region. Evolution Athletix' (Saco, Maine) Al Kinani fought five time in 2022, and aside from a hiccup to a very talented Ross Dannar (1-0) at NEF 47, Mo is a perfect 4-0 with four first round knockouts. The 26 year old Al Kinani hopes to make a statement on UFC Fightpass when he extends a vicious welcome to his toughest test to date; New York's Robert "The Real Deal" Wusstig (7-11). Wusstig makes his North American debut at Friday's Combat FC 3 after spending the first decade of his career in the Guam natives' Asian Pacific. Wusstig ends nearly five years of inactivity when he looks to disrupt the Combat FC and UFC Fightpass debut of the highly regarded Lightweight striker; Mohammad Al Kinani. Mo looks to add yet another highlight reel finish to his portfolio in what is the biggest spot of his promising young career.

Leo Ladeira (2-3, Sityodtong) v. Aaron Lacey (7-4, Nostos)


Breakdown: After beginning his professional career a disappointing 0-3, Sityodtong's Leo Ladeira (2-3) has enjoyed a career 180 since the beginning of 2002, reeling off two consecutive stoppage wins last year including a Triangle Choke of Paul Teaque in his Combat FC debut at Combat FC 1. Ladeira would like to find a home on the Combat FC Lightweight roster and will get a chance to secure just that, if he can solve savvy New England MMA veteran Aaron "Relentless" Lacey (7-4) in a late notice replacement matchup following the pull outs of Ladeira's first two opponents. Ladeira holds on to his spot on the Combat FC 3 card in a "be careful what you ask for" billing against the often-dangerous Nostos MMA product Lacey.

Lacey has found himself in the midst of some tough luck over his last two bouts, a cut ended his contest with Johnny Campbell at Cage Titans 52 after just one round of action and a questionable referee stoppage put a halt to his fight with Zach DiSabatino at Cage Titans 56 early in the first round. Lacey looks to get his hand raised for the first time in nearly a full calendar year when he locks in with Leo Ladeira Friday night in Lacey's Combat FC debut, this should be a really fun affair as these two Lightweights meet at a crossroads in their respective careers.

Sanad Armouti (3-1, Florian Martial Arts) v. Jon Piersma (5-1, Synthesis BJJ)


Breakdown: Perhaps no one has enjoyed the Combat FC launch more than Florian Martial Arts Welterweight Sanad Armouti (3-1), who in his two Combat FC starts, has left The Shriner's Auditorium in victory. The Blackbelt Armouti used his submission threats as well as his length at Combat FC 1 when he bested Sage Philippe over three rounds for a Unanimous Decision nod. Armouti returned at Combat FC 2 in November putting his submission skills to work with first round Armbar of Tony Pike. Sanad totes a current two fight winning streak into Combat FC 3 Friday night when he summons New York Super Welterweight Prospect Jon " War Hawk" Piersma (5-1) to the Combat FC cage for the first time.

Newly minted NEF Welterweight Champion Jon Piersma could very well be 7-0 at this point in his career, combine that with his NEF title and we could easily be talking about Piersma making his UFC debut this year, rather than highlighting this Combat FC 3 fight card. That's water under the bridge for the Piersma camp, as they have no problem testing themselves against the best of the Welterweight division until the call up comes. Piersma returns to the UFC Fightpass spotlight Friday night as he continues his push towards the sports pinnacle against a hungry and talented Sanad Armouti in what could end up being a chess game between two top level grapplers. Piersma checked into "The Room Podcast" during the lead up to this fight with Armouti, check out the complete interview below.

Terrance Jean-Jacques (8-3, Bone Squad) v. Dirlei Broenstrup (17-9)


Breakdown: Big Men take center stage next in a Heavyweight showdown with big time implications as New England's top Heavyweight prospect; Terrance Jean-Jacques (8-3) returns home to the Northeast region for what could be his biggest opportunity to date. Last time we spoke about Jean-Jacques he had just won the RUF Heavyweight: Road to One FC tournament, an accomplishment that was supposed to come with a multi-fight contract with Worldwide promotion One FC. Unfortunately for "T-Bone" the One FC contract never came to fruition, leaving Terrance to pave his path to the big leagues some other way. The next step in that journey plays out Friday night in the Combat FC cage as Jean-Jacques makes his promotional debut against New England MMA Heavyweight veteran Dirlei Broenstrup (17-9).

41 year old Brazilian; Dirlei Broenstrup, is no stranger to the New England MMA Heavyweight division owning wins over Pat Walsh and Cody Lightfoot and having shared the cage with UFC rosteree Parker Porter during his time inside New England caged enclosures. Broenstrup bounced back and forth between New England and his native Brazil throughout the course of his 26 professional fights, compiling 17 wins against some of the best Heavyweights out there. Dirlei returns to New England for the first time since 2019 Friday night, looking to bounce back off a loss, when he meets Jean-Jacques in the middle of the Combat FC cage, live on UFC Fightpass.

Solo Hatley Jr. (10-6, Rock City MMA) v. Regivaldo Carvalho (6-4, Teixeira MMA)


Breakdown: The day Combat FC Matchmaker Rick Caldwell booked this fight he texted me letting me know he had "Booked a fun one for February 10th." Fun ensues in the Combat FC 3 Co-Main event here in the Featherweight division when heavy handed Bellator veteran Solo Hatley Jr. (10-6) makes his New England MMA debut against fellow Bellator vet Regivaldo Carvalho (6-4). Owner of four knockouts across his ten professional victories Little Rock, Arkansas' 26 year old Solo Hatley hits like a Mac truck. However, when you live by the sword, sometime sometimes you need to be prepared to die by the sword. Following an impressive 8-2 start to his career, Solo has managed just two wins over his last six bouts while facing some of the top Featherweight pros in the country. Hatley scored a much needed first round knockout of Brandon Gaitor in October, he looks to parlay that into a little winning streak here against Connecticut's Regivaldo Carvalho.

Teixeira MMA's Carvalho comes into this contest after suffering a tough third round TKO to Blake Bilder in the Main Event at CFFC 107 in April. Carvalho and his team at Teixeira MMA in Danbury, Connecticut, including former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Glover Teixeira and current UFC Middleweight Champion Alex Pereira have gone back to the drawing board in anticipation of this Regivaldo's Combat FC debut. Carvalho has his work cut out for him Friday night in the Combat FC 3 Co-Main Event, in what should be a barn burner against the always tough Solo Hatley Jr, live on UFC Fightpass!

Charalampos Grigoriou (6-3, LAW MMA) v. Chris Disonell (6-5, Renzo Gracie)

Bantamweight World Title

Breakdown: Combat FC puts the promotions first professional title up for grabs Friday night in our Main Event when New Yorkers Chris Disonell (6-5) and Charalampos Grigoriou (6-3) prepare for five rounds of Bantamweight action. Albany's "Showbiz" Disonell has been looking to return to the New England Bantamweight division for the last eight months or so, but bouts with Joe Penafiel, Lionel Young and Kris Moutinho have fizzled. For his troubles following the pull out of his Combat FC 3 opponent Moutinho , Combat FC brass tabbed Disonell for this main event title slot when Massachusetts' Rico DiSciullo was forced out due to injury against Challenger Charalampos Grigoriou.

"The Ferocious" Grigoriou comes into this biggest spot of his career Friday night, winner of his last two bouts by knockout, extending his career mark to 6-3 with five of those wins coming by way of knockout. Grigoriou has written his career resume exclusively for CFFC over the last four years, testing himself against some of the sports best up and coming Bantamweights before aligning with Combat FC, having his eyes set on their inaugural Bantamweight title Friday night. Now this may seem somewhat unconventional for New England MMA fans, who are accustomed to seeing talent from our region highlighting local fight cards, but the story behind this matchup is far from conventional as both men were preparing for bouts against top New England Bantamweight talent in Moutinho and DiSciullo. But for anyone who has seen these two fight in the past, we know we are in for an absolute Dogfight Friday night when these two touch em up to decide the Combat FC Bantamweight King, for the World to see only on UFC Fightpass!


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