Wilfredo Santiago Jr. on Friday stunned a capacity crowd inside Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts, as he torched Chuck O’Neil less than a minute into their CES MMA 39 headliner.
Santiago forced the taller O’Neil into a slugfest from the start, and “Cold Steel” cracked under pressure. A volley of punches forced O’Neil’s back to the cage, and when he tried to fire back, a booming overhand right from Santiago separated him from consciousness. As soon as the blow landed, O’Neil was out and slid stiffly down the fence. Santiago added another right hand to make sure it was over before referee Paul Asmar could intervene. The end came just 41 seconds into Round 1.
In the co-main event, rising welterweight prospect Manny Bermudez did everything in his power to submit Saul Almeida, but the veteran’s defensive genius thwarted his armbars and chokes at every turn. When Almeida was not busy fending off submission attempts, he was landing clean strikes and otherwise controlling the pace of the fight. Nevertheless, Bermudez was awarded a split decision: 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. Afterward, a visibly disgusted Almeida bolted from the cage.
Elsewhere, Peter Barrett electrified the crowd with a fabulous liver kick to Jeremy Davis, ending their thrilling back-and-forth battle at 1:55 of the second round. The two men tore into each other from the start, but Barrett was the busier fighter and began to take over late in Round 1. He drew the taller Davis into a firefight in the middle stanza and then brought it to a close with the kick, forcing the Tampa, Florida, resident to stumble back in agony and crumble in a heap.
In other action, light heavyweight Kevin Haley broke Mike Rodriguez’s foot with a nasty toe hold in just 68 seconds; Micah Terrill took out fellow welterweight Bobby Flynn with a flurry of punches in 70 seconds; Dan Dubuque edged Max Barrett via split decision in a 140-pound catchweight duel; and Joshua Ricci eked out a split verdict against Remo Cardarelli in a flyweight affair.