It seems like I say this with every divisional rankings recap, but the pro welterweight division is probably one of the deepest divisions in our region! But for real. It is. This time I'm serious.
23 year old Billy Goff (5-2) is at the top of the 170 pound heap, and he probably is the biggest young prospect in all of New England. Goff had an impressive 12 month stretch starting in December of 2020 when he beat Robson Gracie Jr (3-1) via TKO at Bellator 254, then he dispatched Sean Lally (8-5) via a grinding decision, and most recently ran through #7 ranked, and previously undefeated, Marty Navis (5-1) in a dominant performance at Cage Titans 50. The Team Dexter product has looked extremely impressive in his current 3 fight win streak, and he's done it against very good competition. Goff seems to be getting better with every fight out, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a call to the Contender Series with another 2-3 big wins on the regional scene. He has a dance scheduled against #3 Gary Balletto Jr. (7-2) on March 4th at CES 66 where they'll both compete for the vacant CES welterweight world title. It doesn't get much better than #1 vs. #3, and to have some gold on the line, makes it that much more interesting. The winner of this fight could easily find themselves with a UFC opportunity on the horizon, and this may also be one of the biggest Welterweight bouts we've ever seen in this region.
Kemran Lachinov (10-3) grabs our #2 slot after a couple impressive Bellator performances, and a stint on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Although Lachinov was eliminated after his first bout in the TUF house, he was competing up a weight class at 185 while on the show, so we need to keep that in consideration when ranking him. He is still one of the best 170 pound fighters in the region, always facing tough competition with a fighting style that can entertain even the most boring people. Lachinov doesn't have a fight scheduled at this point, to our knowledge, but we're hoping to see him back in the cage soon and working towards the Bellator or UFC contract.
We already talked about Gary Balletto Jr. at #3, but it's worth noting his presence, as he was able to explode back onto the New England regional scene in 2021 after taking some time off. Balletto Jr. was viciously KO'ed by current UFC fighter, Jeremiah Wells (9-2-1) at CES 49 back in April of 2018. "Batman" received a broken jaw in that fight that required him to take some time away from the sport. It was one of those types of KO's where you're not sure if a fighter will be able to mentally return from, but Balletto Jr. has proven that he is still one of the best welterweights in New England. He racked up 2 impressive wins under the CES banner in 2021, and now he's prepared to go into a highly-competitive battle with Goff at CES 66 in a few months. If he can pull off the upset of Goff, then "Batman" would be knocking on the door of the UFC.
The former #1 ranked welterweight in the region, Vinicius De Jesus (9-5), has fallen to #4 on our rankings after a tough stretch over the last year and half, going 0-3 under the Bellator and LFA banners. He may have dropped 3 fights in a row, but they have been against very high-level competition in Jaleel Willis (15-3, Bellator fighter), Austin Vanderford (11-0, Bellator WW title contender), and Levan Chokheli (10-1, Bellator stud). These 3 opponents have a combined record of 36-4 against high-level competition. This cannot be overlooked, and is the main reason why De Jesus has remained in our top 4, even after a 3 fight skid. "The Brazilian Bad Boy" will need to regroup and try to rack up a few wins on the regional level before testing his metal with some of Bellator's best. He'll need to be very selective with his next two fights, or it might be the last we see of De Jesus on the national level.
There is some interesting stuff going on at numbers 5,6, and 7. Pat "The Gorilla Ninja" Casey (8-4) has locked down the 5th spot in our rankings after 2 dominant performances within the region under the Premier FC banner. Casey lost 3 fights in a row - 2 of them being against tough competition with Bellator - but he bounced back nicely towards the end of 2021. Although it wasn't against the toughest competition, Casey did exactly what he should have done in those fights - run through them.
CES standout, John Gotti III (5-1), grabs the 6th ranking in the region, dropping one spot from his previous ranking after losing to 10th ranked Nick Alley (7-5) back in October of 2020 at CES 61. Gotti has had fights fall through in April and November of last year, and pushing his inactivity close to a year and a half. Gotti III has a high ceiling and a lot of hype around him, but he'll need to get back on the winning track in the coming months under the CES banner.
Cage Titans regular, Marty Navis (5-1), is coming off a tough loss to topped ranked Billy Goff, but the Lauzon MMA product still has a lot to look forward to in 2022. With 2-3 more quality wins on the regional scene, Navis could very easily find himself on the cusp of something big at the next level.
There's a lot of talent on this list, with a number of fighters having a shot at cracking into the UFC ranks with a few more quality wins on the regional scene. Keep an eye out for these talented welterweights in the region over the coming months.