Chuck O’Neil rebounded from a near devastating blow to the spine Friday night at Twin River Casino and turned the tables on Ricardo Funch to capture CES MMA’s vacant Welterweight Title.
O’Neil (14-6), a Bridgewater, Mass., native and former contestant on The Ultimate Fighterreality series, submitted Funch (8-5) with the arm bar at the 2-minute, 51-second mark of the second round in the main event of “CES MMA XXVI,” a stunning turnaround after taking a heel to the spine in the opening round.
Unnerved through it all, O’Neil fought effectively off his back in the second round and locked in the arm bar after momentarily attempting a triangle choke to the finish the fight.
“He left his arm in there, so I figured I’d take it home with me,” said O’Neil, the No. 2 ranked welterweight in the northeast entering Friday who has now won three consecutive fights.
“I felt like I came out kind of slow, but that was our plan. I have good cardio and great training from my teammates. I knew I was the stronger fighter and he’d have to deal with that. I was ready to go.”
Funch, a Springfield, Mass., native and four-time Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) vet, fought Friday for the first time since 2012. He lost a point in the opening round due to the illegal blow and had control in the second until O’Neil reversed the hold and locked in the arm bar for the clincher.
The heavyweight co-feature ended in thrilling fashion with “Big” John Johnston (7-0, 7 KOs) keeping his perfect record intact and then announcing his retirement at the age of 43 after stopping tough veteran Keith Bell (5-5-1) of Newport News, Va., at the 2:20mark of the opening round.
Johnston, a Reading, Mass., native, ate a big right hand to the chin in the opening minute and appeared out on his feet, but he withstood the initial onslaught and eventually took Bell to the canvas and flipped him on his stomach, where he pounded away with unanswered rights and hammer fists until Bell tapped out.
In one of the most highly anticipated bouts of the night, lightweight Leon Davis (6-2) of Springfield, Mass., pulled off the biggest win of his young career, upsetting the previously unbeaten Jimmy Davidson (7-1) of Sandwich, Mass., via an arm triangle submission with 24 seconds remaining in the final round.
Davidson appeared to have control of the fight entering the final round, especially coming off a dominant performance in the second in which he scored an early takedown and controlled the pace. Davis adjusted and stuffed Davidson’s takedown attempt at the start of the third and effectively worked his own ground-and-pound before locking in the triangle in the closing seconds. Davis, making his fourth appearance with CES MMA, won for the first time since November.
Returning to the cage for the first time since January, West Palm Beach, Fla., bantamweight Andre Soukhamthath (8-2) submitted Long Island’s Tom English (5-5) via rear-naked choke at the 2:17 mark of the second round. Andover, Mass., veteran Nuri Shakir (18-21, 9 KOs) finished Pawtucket, R.I., middleweight Todd Chattelle (12-11) at the 4:08 mark of the second round, forcing Chattelle to verbally submit due to an eye injury from excessive strikes.
Providence, R.I., cruiserweight Greg Rebello (17-6) won for the first time since June of 2013, beating Kearny, N.J., veteran J.A. Dudley by unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27. Rebello nearly finished the fight in the third round, catching Dudley with an overhand left in the closing minutes that spun his opponent around and sent him backpedaling toward the cage. Dudley withstood the flurry, but Rebello earned the win on the scorecards.
Featherweight James Murrin (2-1, 2 KOs) of South Boston, Mass., made quick work of North Providence, R.I., native Devin Pilkington (0-2) in the opening round, catching Pilkington with an overhand right in the first minute of action and finishing him with a series of unanswered strikes just 59 seconds into the bout.
Also on the undercard, Worcester, Mass., middleweight Terrell Clark (2-1) submitted Joe Cronin (2-3) of Mansfield, Mass., via the guillotine choke at 1:07 of the opening round and featherweight Kyle Bochniak (3-0) of Winthrop, Mass., remained unbeaten with a 30-27 unanimous decision win on all three scorecards against Ruso Khubejashvili (2-2) of Norwood, Mass.
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