Most of the time in MMA, you have to expect the unexpected.
That wasn’t the case on Friday night at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The card for CES 63 produced a lot of predictable results from some rising stars in the Northeast. The evening gave many up-and-coming stars a chance to build their résumé.
Nick Fiore (2-0), Nate Ghareeb (3-1), Tom Pagliarulo (2-0) and Eddy George (3-0) were all impressive in first round finishes.
In the opener that pitted debuting fighters, Thad Jean (1-0) of Ludlow, MA earned a win over Sage Philiippe (0-1) in a fight he largely dominated.
Each fighter had their moments on the feet in the first half of the opening round as they exchanged a lot of heavy kicks.
Jean got the better of the local product though both on the feet and on the mat. Philippe shot twice and both times, Jean was able to take the back.
Jean even turned one scramble into a deep armbar attempt to end the round. Philippe fought it off, turned in and survived the round.
After a relatively uneventful second round on the feet, Jean again turned Philippe’s attempt to grapple against him.
In almost a replay of the first round, Philippe shot, Jean sprawled and took the back. He sunk in the rear naked choke to earn the win in his professional debut at 3:59 of the third round.
Next, the Haverhill, MA product Nick Fiore needed just two minutes to dispatch of 114-fight veteran Jay Ellis.
Ellis (15-99) threw hard at Fiore to open the fight, but Fiore was composed and grabbed a hold of Ellis and finished him with ground and pound.
Nate Ghareeb (3-1) took the cage next and looked much more comfortable coming off a Bellator setback to major prospect Cody Law (4-0).
He battered Dajun Robinson the entire opening round and almost had him out of there mid-way through with a series of elbows on the fence.
Robinson survived that onslaught but he wasn’t so lucky the next time.
Ghareeb had Robinson against the fence as the clock was ticking down and landed four or five straight knees in a row and to end the fight with a TKO as Robinson fell trying to get back to his corner.
To open the main card, Ashiek Ajim (4-1) made quick work of Richard Barnard (2-7) of Hawaii with about 15 straight unanswered ground strikes.
After that was another New England Cartel prospect showcase in Tom Pagliarulo.
The Haverhill native used his length early on to keep the debuting Josh Hardy at distance. That didn’t matter much though when Pagliarulo landed a huge right hand that knocked Hardy out cold at 2:59 of round one.
Eddy George (3-0) followed with an impressive showing at lightweight.
George got a takedown about 35 seconds in, slid into mount and pounded away on the debuting Tony Jackson for about a minute straight.
Jackson was able to move enough to initially appease the ref, but eventually it was too much as about 12 straight unanswered strikes ended the fight.
Chris Disonell (6-4) knocked out Bellator alum Will Smith (3-4) and Carlos Candelario (8-0) earned the first decision of the night when he topped Miguel Restrepo with a score of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
“I really think we weren’t going [to go] 15 minutes,” Candelario said. “I was gone for four years. I was a little slow. I had him in some bad positions, he had me in some bad positions. We love that though.”
In the most surprising result of the evening, Kody Murray of Vermont took down Miguel Cuevas about 30 seconds into the fight and locked up an arm triangle choke 44 seconds into the first round for the win.
In the main event, 14-fight UFC veteran John Howard made the walk last and looked every bit fighter he has been.
He took down Ozzie Alvarez (8-7) about 45 seconds in and spent over three minutes on top in the first round. He got reversed with less than a minute in the round, but then reversed position right back and spent the last 15 seconds on top.
Howard opened the second round pushing Alvarez up against the fence. He then picked him up and slammed him.
Howard spent much of the remainder of the round on top, but couldn’t put Alvarez away and he settled for a 29-28, 29-27, 29-26 decision to end the show.
The next event will be CES 64, held on Sept. 17 where UFC veteran Matt Bessette will take on Bruce Boyington for the lightweight title at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.