Cincinnati’s Dominique Steele captured the CES MMA welterweight title Friday, defeating incumbent champion Chuck O’Neil by unanimous decision in the five-round main event of “CES MMA XXIX” on AXS TV live from Twin River Casino.
Steele (13-5) overwhelmed the East Bridgewater, Mass., native, clinching, grabbing and scoring key takedowns en route to a 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 win on the scorecards. O’Neil (15-7), the promotion’s first welterweight title-holder, tried to engage Steele and trade blows with the 27-year-old challenger, but Steele’s ability to shoot for takedowns, press O’Neil against the cage and drag his opponent to the canvas prevented O’Neil from letting his hands go.
The fight paled in comparison to O’Neil’s last bout, an 11-second knockout win over Emmanuel Walo in January in O’Neil’s first title defense. This time, O’Neil never got going and Steele effectively stool the title, joining lightweight title-holder Julian Lane as the second CES MMA champion from Ohio.
The co-feature ended in stunning fashion with Hartford, Conn., featherweight Matt Bessette (15-6, 4 KOs) knocking Pittsburgh’s Khama Worthy (7-4) cold with a vicious right cross at the 2:42 mark of the second round.
Bessette struggled to close the gap on the tall, rangy Worthy in the opening round, but eventually found his distance and landed the knockout blow midway through the second on a counterpunch after Worthy missed with a right hand of his own.
“We knew his length would be a big deal,” Bessette said. “Not many people have a reach like that. We had to figure out his distance a bit. It took me some time, but we got it right.
“In watching his fights, I knew he loves to counter. He lives and dies by the sword. It worked out for me tonight.”
In one of the most intriguing matchups on the main card, Providence heavyweight Greg Rebello (19-6, 10 KOs) bloodied and battered North Attleboro, Mass., vet Tyler King (9-3) for nearly 15 minutes before finally earning the knockout victory at the 3:10 mark of the third round.
Rebello busted up King early, bloodying his nose with a series of looping left hands in the opening round. King wanted to get his opponent to the canvas, but Rebello’s takedown defense kept the fight in standup mode for the majority of the three rounds. After the pace slowed in Round 2, Rebello let his hands go again in the third, ending the bout with a lethal right, left, left combination that sent King to his knees, putting the finishing touches on a brilliant performance by Rebello.
The 32-year-old Providence native is now 3-1 since coming out of retirement with Friday’s win arguably his most impressive. For King, it was just his third career loss and first since February of 2014. King entered Friday’s bout on the heels of an impressive win over Mike Mucitelli in March, a fight he agreed to take on short notice when Rebello was forced to withdraw due to injury.
Also on the main card, East Providence, R.I., bantamweight Dinis Paiva (7-5) continued his remarkable run, winning his fourth consecutive fight by submitting Brazilian Bruno Marques (7-6) with a rear-naked choke at 4:07 of the opening round.
Paiva has now finished each of his last four opponents in the opening round. After stopping the last two in a combined 59 seconds, he almost scored another early knockout Friday, clipping Marques in the opening seconds and sending the bloodied Brazilian crashing to the canvas.
Paiva emptied the tank in effort to end the fight, but Marques hung in there and eventually got back to his feet. The red-hot Paiva scored two electrifying takedowns and ultimately forced Marques to tap in the final minute of the round.
Unbeaten submission specialist Eric Spicely (7-0) of Olneyville, R.I., kept his perfect record intact in his toughest test to date, forcing New York native and CES MMA vet Harley Beekman (7-3) to submit via armbar at the 4:30 mark of the opening round, Spicely’s fourth submission in seven bouts.
Beekman, making his fifth appearance in the CES cage, found himself on his back early, nearly victimized by the rear-naked choke. Spicely maintained his dominance on the ground and made the entire round uncomfortable for Beekman before locking in the armbar and forcing his opponent to tap before the bell.
Johnston, R.I., featherweight Joe Pingitore (5-1-1) kicked off the main card with a unanimous-decision win over South Boston vet James Grant Murrin (3-3), 30-27 on all three scorecards. Pingitore used his footwork and jab to keep Murrin at bay, controlling the pace by effectively circling the cage and striking Murrin with the cleaner, harder blows, particularly in the third round where he finished with a flurry to close out a hard-fought win.
Lightweight Nate Andrews (7-1, 4 KOs) of East Providence, R.I., bounced back from his loss in August and ended his 10-month layoff with an impressive knockout win over Northborough, Mass., vet Jay Bakanowski (3-2), stopping his opponent at 2:50 of the opening round.
Bakanowski entered fresh off a critical knockout win over Lewis Corapi in March, but got caught with an overhead right while in the clinch with Andrews on Friday and Lewis followed with a series of unanswered strikes against the cage to force referee Kevin MacDonald to stop the bout.
Milford, Mass., welterweight Toby Oden scored the knockout of the night on the preliminary card, pummeling Meriden, N.H., vet Wayne Ahlquist with a flurry of hammer fists in the opening round of their scheduled three-round bout.
Oden (2-1, 2 KOs) clipped Alhquist (1-2) with a head kick midway through the round, momentarily dazing his opponent. Oden followed with a pair of solid right hands, sending Alhquist to the canvas, and earned the stoppage with a series of unanswered strikes, prompting MacDonald to stop the bout at the 2-minute, 35-second mark.
In the opening bout, Ludlow, Mass., featherweight Ricardo Scalissi (2-1) earned the first win of his pro career, submitting Devin Pilkington (0-3) of North Providence, R.I., at the 2:43 mark of the second round via arm triangle. The two traded takedowns in the opening round, but Scalissi gained the upper hand early in the second, sinking in the arm triangle and eventually forcing Pilkington to tap out despite a valiant effort.
After winning his CES MMA and professional debut in March, Norwood, Mass., bantamweight Jesse Gutierrez (1-1) seemed poised for his second win when he sunk in a guillotine choke in the opening round of his scheduled three-round bout against Kody Nordby (4-3), but the Cumberland, R.I., vet broke free, reversed the hold and submitted Gutierrez with a rear-naked choke at the 4:03 mark. It was Nordby’s first win since February 2013, snapping a three-fight losing streak, and first in three tries with CES MMA.
The fourth and final bout ended in a bloody mess with Worcester, Mass., featherweight Evan Parker (5-3) submitting Pete Rogers Jr. (2-2) of Norwich, Conn., via arm triangle at 1:55 of the opening round. The two came out swinging, each landing early blows and each sustaining cuts. With blood from his cutting dripping onto Rogers, Parker locked in the arm triangle and eventually forced his opponent to tap out.
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