The collective groans, raised eyebrows and shaking heads said it all.
Nah-Shon Burrell was handed a controversial split decision over welterweight champion Chris Curtis in the CES MMA 34 headliner on Friday at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Scores were 48-47 and 49-46 for Burrell, 48-47 for Curtis. The title did not change hands, as Burrell had failed to make weight for the match.
Curtis (13-5) seemed to be comfortably in command throughout the 25-minute affair. The 28-year-old pieced together his strikes, as he fired off two- and three-punch combinations with regularity, punctuating many of them with crisp uppercuts. The champion mixed in knees and standing elbows in spots, survived a third-round ground exchange in which he had his back taken and appeared to dictate the rules of engagement for the vast majority of the fight.
Burrell (12-7) had his moments, but the disparity on the feet was glaring to most observers, with Curtis delivering far more of the consequential blows.
In the co-main event, Wai Kru MMA rep Calvin Kattar made a triumphant return to the cage after a three-year absence, as he eked out a split decision over Bellator MMA and Ring of Combat veteran Kenny Foster at a 150-pound catchweight. Scores were 29-28 for Foster, 29-28 and 29-28 for Kattar.
Neither man offered much in the way of meaningful offense. In his first appearance since June 14, 2013, Kattar (15-2) was slightly busier and leaned on occasional punching bursts in a 15-minute bout marked by long stretches of inactivity. Foster (11-11) never got in gear, and his inability to secure his desired takedowns left him to score sporadically with kicks to the legs and body.
Foster has lost nine of his last 11 fights.
Meanwhile, World Series of Fighting and Legacy Fighting Championship alum Matthew Lozano picked up a unanimous decision over Johnny Campbell in a bantamweight showcase. All three cageside judges saw it the same: 29-28 for Lozano (6-3), who has posted back-to-back victories.
Lozano knocked down the South Shore Sport Fighting rep with a right hook in the first round and stepped up his attack in the second, where he utilized knees, punches and kicks to the head, body and legs. Campbell was in an almost constant state of retreat, but the small cage made it virtually impossible for him to find cover. At the start of round three, referee Todd Anderson asked a bloodied Campbell if he wanted to continue. He answered in the affirmative.
Campbell (11-8) struck for a takedown inside the first minute of the third round, applied mild ground-and-pound and later transitioned to the back, threading his hooks. However, Lozano defended repeated rear-naked choke attempts, returned to his feet and bled the remaining seconds off the clock.
In other action, Leon Davis (8-3) claimed a unanimous verdict over Lorawnt-T Nelson (7-5) in their three-round lightweight scrap, earning 30-27, 30-26 and 29-28 scores from the judges; Anton Berzin (4-1) submitted Matt Thompson with a rear-naked choke 3:32 into the first round of their matchup at 205 pounds; Kevin Haley (5-3) dispatched Steve Skrzat with ground-and-pound 2:45 into round two of their light heavyweight encounter; Carlos Candelario (3-0) took care of Luay Ashkar (2-1) with punches 31 seconds into the first round of their pairing at 125 pounds; and Merab Dvalishvili (2-2) captured a unanimous decision over Geoffrey Then (0-1) in a three-round bantamweight tilt, sweeping the scorecards with 30-26 marks from all three judges.