Efficient and tactical in his approach, 14-time Bellator vet Rick Hawn performed with surgeon-like precision Friday in the main event of “CES MMA XXVIII” at Twin River Casino while fan-favorite Luis Felix stole the show.
Hawn (20-4) boxed circles around challenger Derek Loffer (9-3) to earn a lopsided, 30-27, unanimous decision on all three scorecards, and Felix, the Providence, R.I., native fighting for the third time on AXS TV, dazzled the crowd with a first-round knockout win over Cincinnati’s Reggie Merriweather in the co-feature.
A former U.S. Olympian and four-time national judo champion, Hawn circled the cage effectively and continuously peppered Loffer, frustrating the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native in a relatively effortless win. Hawn scored a takedown late in the second round and wore down Loffer with short elbows and fists to the ribcage. The third round was more of the same, slick boxing and flawless footwork for Hawn, who won his second consecutive fight and sixth in his last eight tries.
Felix (13-8, 5 KOs) turned back the clock to 2014 with his knockout win over Merriweather (6-6), stopping his opponent at the 4:29 mark of the opening round.
Reminiscent of the head kick that knocked Drew Fickett cold in March of 2014, Felix clipped Merriweather with a similar blow late in the opening round. The kick didn’t quite finish the fight, but it was the beginning of the end for Merriweather as Felix quickly closed in with a series of rights and lefts before referee Kevin Mulhall mercifully stopped the fight. Since losing to Julian Lane in August in his AXS TV debut, Felix has now won back-to-back fights on network television.
Also on the main card, Selden, N.Y., featherweight Brian Kelleher (12-7) silenced the pro-Andre Soukhamthath (8-3) crowd, easily defeating the Woonsocket, R.I. (Boca Raton, Fla.), fan-favorite by unanimous decision, 30-27, on all three scorecards.
The two were originally supposed to fight in January, but Soukhamthath withdrew due to an illness. Kelleher dominated Friday’s fight, nearly submitting Soukhamthath several times with guillotine and rear-naked chokes. Even though Soukhamthath broke free from all of Kelleher’s submission, he spent the majority of the fight in defense mode, never really getting a chance to let his hands with the exception of a brief flurry at the end of the second.
Kelleher picked up right where he left off in the third, taking Soukhamthath to the canvas early and dominating the ground and pound to earn a convincing win in his CES MMA debut.
Submission specialist Roger Carroll (16-11, 15 submissions) added another one to his resume, forcing fan-favorite Todd Chattelle (12-12) of Pawtucket, R.I., to tap out via Peruvian necktie at the 2:25 mark of the second round.
Fighting on AXS TV for the fifth time, Carroll had trouble against the taller Chattelle in the opening round, unable to work his way to the inside as Chattelle kept him at bay with a combination of leg kicks and jabs. Once he got Chattelle to the canvas in the second, Carroll went to work, submitting the 12-time CES MMA vet and earning the 15th submission victory of his career.
Chattelle, the first-ever CES MMA champion and the most prolific fighter in the promotion’s history with 12 appearances, announced his retirement shortly after the fight, ending an eight-year professional career that began in 2007.
Boston native Kyle Bochniak (5-0, 2 KOs) kicked off the main card on AXS TV with a bang, knocking out Dominic Warr (5-5) with an overhand right at the 1:49 mark of the opening round. Warr and Bochniak exchanged blows for the first minute, mixing in leg kicks and jabs, until Bochniak clipped Warr with a hard right that sent the Alston, Mass., native crashing to the canvas. Mulhall immediately stopped the bout before Bochniak could inflict more damage.
Hard-hitting Joey Gomez (6-0, 6 KOs) of Hollis, N.H., followed with another highlight-reel knockout, keeping his perfect record and KO streak intact with a victory over Cambridge, Mass., bantamweight Kin Moy (6-2). A potential Fight of the Night candidate, this highly-anticipated showdown ended at the 1:30 mark with Moy feigned a jab and got knocked out with an overhand right, the sixth first-round knockout of Gomez’s career.
Heavyweight Tyler King (9-2) of Norwood, Mass., fighting on just 10 days’ notice, upended Syracuse, N.Y., vet Mike Mucitelli (7-3) by unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27. Despite early takedowns by Mucitelli in the opening round, King controlled the pace of the fight, specifically on the ground, where he dominated with the ground and pound to wear down the smaller Mucitelli.
Lightweight Jay Bakanowski stole the show on the preliminary card, knocking out Lewis Corapi in the second round of their scheduled three-round bout.
The Medfod, Mass., native Corapi (6-2) entered Friday with six wins in seven pro bouts and dominated the majority of the fight, peppering Bakanowski (3-1, 2 KOs) with kicks to the midsection and straight rights upstairs, but Bakanowski turned the tables midway through the second round with a left hook to the jaw. Corapi crumbled to the canvas and Bakanowski immediately followed with a series of hammerfists to earn the surprising stoppage from referee Kevin MacDonald at the 2:25 mark, the biggest win of the Northborough, Mass., native’s career.
The Bakanowski-Corapi bout was the fourth and final fight of the preliminary card before the start of the live AXS TV broadcast beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Flyweight Jesse Gutierrez (1-0) of Norwood, Mass., impressed in the opening preliminary bout, submitting Chad Kelly (3-2) of Gardner, Mass., at the 4:58 mark of the opening round via triangle choke. Making his professional debut, Gutierrez dominated the bout, peppering Kelly with kicks to the liver and using his boxing skills to land crisp combinations. Gutierrez locked in the triangle choke in the closing seconds and forced Kelly to submit right before the bell.
Also making her pro debut, female bantamweight Sarah Payant (1-0) of West Springfield, Mass., scored an improbable victory with just seven seconds remaining when he she forced fellow debut Janice Meyer (0-1) of Cortland, N.Y., via triangle choke. Meyer dominated the second round and the majority of the third with effective ground and pound and appeared to be ahead on the scorecards with time winding down, but Payant locked in the triangle and Meyer couldn’t break free before submitting at the 4:53 mark.
Boston featherweight James Grant Murrin (3-0) remained unbeaten with the first submission win of his career, forcing fellow Bostonian Lionel Young (6-15) to tap via rear-naked choke at the 2:25 mark of the third and final round.
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