Matt Bessette admitted after the CES MMA 41 main event that he could not see himself as a true champion until he defended his featherweight title. After he put a whipping on Kevin Croom, it seems safe to assume that “The Mangler” feels like one now.
Bessette on Friday electrified the crowd inside the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, as he tore into his challenger, battered Croom around the cage and bloodied his face with a bevy of punches, knees and kicks. He turned up the heat in the third round, where he floored “The Hard-Hitting Hillbilly” with a vicious counter right hook and did not relent until the job was done.
The 32-year-old Bessette unleashed a tsunami of punches to the head and body, paired them with clinch knees to the head and finished off his opponent with a high kick. Referee Kevin MacDonald intervened 32 seconds into Round 3, as Croom crumbled in a heap against the fence.
In the cruiserweight co-headliner, Patrick Walsh was too much for Kevin Haley to handle and ragdolled his counterpart from the start. He struck for an early takedown and mauled Haley on the ground for much of the opening stanza. Wash looked to do the same in the second round, but Haley instead surrendered his neck and fell prey to a standing guillotine choke. The tap came 23 seconds into Round 2.
Meanwhile, bantamweight contender Dinis Paiva survived a sluggish start and had to dig deep in order to prevail against Jordan Espinosa. Paiva found his rhythm in the second round and proceeded to systematically break down Espinoza in the third, where he utilized superior striking and a potent clinch game. His work earned him a unanimous decision, with 29-28 tallies across the board.
In other action, Kody Nordby submitted fellow bantamweight David Garcia with a guillotine choke at 4:20 of the second round; heavyweight Keith Bell authored an upset by flattening Tyler King with a barrage of punches 1:38 into the first round; Carlos Candelario submitted Miguel Restrepo with a rear-naked choke at the 2:11 mark of the second round in their 130-pound catchweight battle; and heavyweight Greg Rebello stopped Danyelle Williams with punches at 2:59 of the first round.