"CES MMA XXII" will be a judgment night of sorts for two of the region's brightest stars as they prepare for a challenge unlike any other. Hard-hitting heavyweight John Johnston will put his undefeated record on the line against a former Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) contender for CES' vacant title and lightweight Luis Felix will face one of mixed martial art's most polarizing figures Friday, March 14th, 2014 at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.
Now 5-0 with five knockouts following another win in January, Johnston will battle 37-year-old Ohio native Josh Hendricks (19-9, 5 KOs) for CES MMA's vacant heavyweight title in a five-round bout. This is a major step up for Johnston, the Melrose, Mass., native, who has yet to fight past the second round in any of his previous five bouts. The furthest any opponent got was 46 seconds into the second round back in September of 2011, and that one ended in typical Johnston fashion when the big heavyweight put a bloodied, battered Shaun Durfee to sleep for good with a hard right cross.
Like Johnston, Hendricks rarely goes the distance -- just twice in 21 bouts -- but his experience in the cage might be the biggest hurdle Johnston has to overcome. Hendricks has been fighting professionally since 2002. His career peaked between 2005 and 2007 when he won 10 of 11 bouts, nine of them ending in the first round, to earn a spot on the UFC 91 undercard in 2008. The thrill wore off quickly with a first-round knockout loss to Gabriel Gonzaga, but Hendricks has remained active by fighting at least once a year over the past five years, including a win over Bellator contender and Connecticut native Josh Diekmann at Twin River in 2011.
In addition to his five knockout wins, Hendricks' impressive resume includes 12 wins by submission. Only two of his 21 fights have gone the distance -- both wins -- setting the stage for what could be a dramatic finish when he faces Johnston on the 14th.
For Felix (10-7, 3 KOs), his lightweight showdown against Arizona's Drew Fickett (42-20, 3 KOs) represents another opportunity to beat a UFC vet while moving one step closer toward reaching the same goal in his own career.
The Providence native already owns wins over Joe Proctor and Marc Stevens and tends to fight his best on the biggest stage, but Fickett is a rare breed, a sturdy veteran with more than 60 fights on his resume before his 35th birthday.
Several undercard bouts at "CES MMA XXII" could steal the show, including the highly-anticipated middleweight bout between UFC vet Thomas Egan (7-4, 6 KOs) of Dorchester, Mass., and Plymouth, Mass., veteran Chip Moraza-Pollard (7-6, 4 KOs) a former Reality Fighting and Bellator contender. Egan, born and raised in Kildare, Ireland, starred on UFC 93 in Ireland.
Looking to keep the momentum going from his win over Chris Woodall in November, former TUF vet Chuck O'Neill (12-6, 4 KOs) of East Bridgwater, Mass., will battle Dade City, Fla., welterweight Roger Carroll (13-10) in a three-round bout. Caroll has won 11 bouts by submission.
Also on the undercard, rising featherweight star and Johnson & Wales alum Charles Rosa (6-0, 3 KOs) of Boynton Beach, Fla., will return to Twin River for the fourth time in a three-round bout against Philadelphia veteran Brylan Van Artsdalen (9-9, 1 KO), an eight-time Bellator veteran.
Marshfield, Mass., featherweight Brendan Fleming (3-2) will take on Baltimore's Robert Sullivan (3-1); fellow featherweight Josh LaBerge (8-4, 3 KOs) of Fall River, Mass., will battle Philadelphia's Steve McCabe (6-14, 5 KOs); Tommy Venticinque (0-1) of Warwick, R.I., will face Rick Rivera of Springfield, Mass., in a welterweight bout; and Winthrop, Mass, featherweight Kyle Bochniak (1-0) will aim for his second win of the year when he faces Marius Enache (1-2) of Philadelphia.
Tickets for "CES MMA XXII" are on sale now at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesmma.com or www.twinriver.com or by phone at 401-724-2253/2254. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
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