After several long months of waiting on the sidelines as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, New England promotion CES MMA makes its long-awaited return with a special Wednesday fight card, CES 61, on October 14.
The event, a dazzling return of regional MMA to New England, will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick, Rhode Island, with no fans in attendance.
It will be CES MMA’s first card since CES 60 took place in January. CES 61 was originally scheduled for April 24 and was supposed to be topped by Blaine Shutt defending the CES flyweight title against Richie Santiago before the pandemic forced the event’s postponement.
In all, CES 61 will feature seven bouts involving some of the best up-and-coming fighters in their weight classes from the region.
The card will open with a featherweight contest featuring Connor Matthews (2-0) and Joshua Marer (2-1).
Matthews, who trains out of New England MMA legend Joe Lauzon’s own MMA gym, has had an impressive start to his professional MMA career in Cage Titans. He finished Stacey Anderson (0-8) in seven seconds and had a 57-second neck crank submission of Rob Fuller (1-9).
Marer struggled to pick up victories in the amateur circuit but has seemed to start to right the ship as a pro. Last year, the American Top Team Atlanta product had a successful pro debut by submitting Jacob Brunelle (2-7) in just over a minute but was finished by Charleston Pou (3-0) and suffered a nasty cut in the process. Marer made his return in July with a unanimous decision win over the debuting Malik Anbar (0-1).
The action will then move to a pair of lightweights newer to the pro scene, as Eddy George (1-0) takes on Frank Mazepa (0-0, 2-6 am.).
George, who trains out of Fighting Arts Academy, made his professional debut at CES 60, finishing Raymond Yanez (5-20) in 21 seconds.
George was interviewed by MMA-Prospects’ Joe McDonagh as part of the site’s recurring New England’s Next series, available here.
Mazepa will make his professional MMA debut coming off a five-fight losing streak, all via finish, four in the first round, in the amateur scene. He last fought in November, being finished by Kyle Kahler (5-3 am.) in Cage Wars. Mazepa’s last victory came in June 2017, where he submitted Jeremy Stewart (0-1, 5-2 am.) in under a minute.
What follows next will be a heavyweight battle featuring two very experienced talents, as Tyler King (12-8) takes on Jamelle Jones (9-6).
Not only are both men CES veterans, but they are both former contestants of The Ultimate Fighter – King appeared on Season 19, and Jones on Season 23 – and Bellator veterans. King has also competed in the World Series of Fighting (now the Professional Fighters League) and RIZIN, while Jones’ stops also include Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), King of the Cage, and Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC).
King enters this bout on a four-fight losing skid and having competed more in grappling bouts than MMA contests over the past 18 months. His last MMA fight came in May 2019 at Unified MMA 37, where Chris Larsen (5-1) finished him in 57 seconds. That also marked the end of another 18-month layoff for King. His last victory came at Bellator 163 in November 2016, where he submitted Josh Diekmann (15-8).
Jones was last in action at CES 59 in October, getting stopped by William Knight (9-1), which snapped a pair of back-to-back wins for him. Jones has been unable to string together three consecutive victories since 2015.
Then CES 61 moves to the light heavyweight division, as Fabio Cherant (5-1) meets Yu Ji (3-0).
Cherant started his professional MMA run in CES, winning four straight by submission in 2018, with three of those victories coming in the first round. This earned him the chance to compete on Season Three of DWCS, but that was where he suffered his first loss at the hands of current UFC talent Aleksa Camur (6-1). Cherant rebounded at LFA 86 in July, where he submitted Erick Murray Jr. (5-4) in under a minute.
Ji has won all of his first three pro bouts in Premier FC with a first-round finish, each new bout’s ending coming quicker than the last. The Radical MMA NYC product submitted boxer Jesus Javier Cintron (0-8) in less than three minutes, stopped Matt Denning (5-10) in under two, and won the promotion’s middleweight title by finishing Pat Casey (6-3) in 46 seconds.
A bantamweight bout will follow with Kris Moutinho (7-4) facing Ashiek Ajim (3-0).
Moutinho has spent the entirety of his pro career thus far with CES MMA. The Tri-Force MMA product will enter this contest off getting finished by Johnny Campbell (20-12) at CES 57. Prior to that, Moutinho challenged Tony Gravely (19-6) for the CES bantamweight title at CES 54, losing that fight in the fourth round.
It’s not Moutinho’s first time losing two straight after going on a winning streak, as his first two pro losses came after winning four straight to start his run.
Ajim, who trains at Long Island MMA and made his MMA debut in May 2019, also has spent all of his time with CES MMA. His resume currently sports a unanimous decision win over Will Smith (3-2) at CES 56, a 97-second finish of Arslan Otchiyev (2-2) at CES 59, and a third-round finish of Andres Rodriguez (4-1) at CES 60.
The co-main event of the evening will be a 130-pound catchweight contest that puts standout prospect Mitchell Raposo (4-0) up against Matt Almy (4-3).
Raposo, a product of the Regiment Training Center and Lauzon MMA, started his MMA career with an unbeaten run in Cage Titans, scoring finishes of Rob Fuller (1-9), Raymond Yanez (5-20), and Zachary Burhans (3-4) before a decision win over Ron Leon (1-4) in January.
After winning his first two pro fights, Almy has been consistent in trading wins and losses. The Team Bombsquad member’s two most recent fights have been in CES MMA, where he’s gone 1-1. Almy submitted Richie Santiago (8-2) at CES 49 in April 2018 before dropping a unanimous decision to Tateki Matsuda (15-10) at CES 57 in July 2019.
Finally, the welterweight main event will feature one of the biggest prospects in the MMA world right now, John Gotti III (5-0), taking on Nick Alley (6-3).
Gotti, the grandson of the notorious mobster, competed at CES 60 in January, going the distance for the first time in a unanimous decision win over Marcos Lloreda (8-6). Prior to that, Gotti, who trains at Long Island MMA, scored four big first-round finishes, including one coming in 96 seconds, one in 32 seconds, and one in 28 seconds.
Alley, who will be making his second CES appearance, comes into this fight on a three-fight win streak, with all three wins in this span coming via submission in under 90 seconds. He last fought at Premier FC 30 in February, where he submitted Stephen Stengel (4-15). Alley, out of Team Link Hooksett, started his pro career with three straight wins coming by finish as well. But he then was finished three straight times, which including a loss to Kastriot Xhema (3-4) at Bellator 178 and a loss to Gary Balletto Jr. (5-2) at CES 45.
CES 61 will be aired live on Oct. 14 on UFC Fight Pass. The card begins at 8 p.m. ET.