Defending CES MMA welterweight champion Chris Curtis lived up to his “Action Man” nickname in his battle with Wilfredo Santiago Jr. in the CES MMA 42 main event on Friday at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
The 29-year-old Curtis nearly left the cage without his title, as “The Brown Bomber” had him dead to rights early in the second round. Santiago clipped the champion with a powerful right to the head that had him stumbling around on wobbly legs. He closed the gap and swarmed with reckless abandon but could not put Curtis away.
Curtis regrouped while his challenger gave chase and lured him into a perfectly timed right uppercut followed by a short left elbow strike to the head. Santiago stumbled backward to the cage, where he was met with a crushing flying knee to the body. He crumbled in a heap, as Curtis pounced with punches until referee John English had seen enough. The end came 68 seconds into Round 2.
In the co-main event, lightweight contender Luis Felix returned from a 15-month layoff and did not appear to have lost a step. Felix overwhelmed Dawond Pickney and did not relent until he tapped to a rear-naked choke. “Rockstar” rocked Pickney with a left to the jaw early in the first round and then ran him through a series of submission attempts. While his submission defense held up initially, Pickney eventually succumbed to a rear-naked choke at the 4:31 mark of Round 1.
Meanwhile, Saul Almeida fought tooth and nail against fellow lightweight Josh LaBerge for nearly three full rounds before pulling the proverbial rabbit out of his hat in the waning seconds. The two landed equal shares of punches and kicks on the feet, and they were relatively even in the grappling exchanges. LaBerge seemed to be a step ahead throughout and appeared to be ticketed for a decision. However, Almeida went for broke and positioned himself for a rear-naked choke. LaBerge did what he could to escape, but his efforts failed. He tapped with 10 seconds remaining in Round 3.
In other action, featherweight Kenny Foster took a close unanimous decision from Joe Pingitore, earning 29-28 marks across the board; flyweight Kody Nordby tapped David Baxter with a rear-naked choke at 4:24 of the first round; bantamweight Kris Moutinho dominated Lloyd Reyes to a unanimous decision, drawing scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28; and Dirlei Broenstrup edged Patrick Walsh by split decision -- 29-28, 29-28, 27-30 -- in a cruiserweight attraction.