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March 30, 2017

CES 42 Preview: Curtis v. Santiago

Welterweight World Title Showdown

Travis Lizotte

 New England MMA fans set their sights on Twin River Casino once again Friday night March 31st, as Welterweights take center stage when Chris “The Action Man” Curtis looks to defend his CES Welterweight crown against “The Brown Bomber” Wilfredo Santiago Jr. This highly anticipated title bout will headline the absolutely stacked CES 42 card which includes some of the most well known names in New England MMA! “The Action Man” Curtis will be making his first official defense of the 170 pound title for CES and will be doing so against Santiago; who is coming off four straight first round finishes, including an absolute starching KO of Chuck O’Neil at CES 39. Santiago will need all the power he possesses in his two hands if he plans on dethroning the explosively athletic Champion Curtis. Speaking of explosive the Co-Main event of the evening will feature the return of CES fan favorite Luis “Rockstar” Felix who will be making his way back to the CES cage after an over 14 month hiatus, against Arkansas’ Dawond Pickney who is hoping to end a two fight losing streak in his New England Debut. Also on the main card; two of New England’s most seasoned veterans square off in the Lightweight division when Framingham’s Saul “The Spider” Almeida squares off with Fall River’s Josh LaBerge in a fight that has been a decade in the making. “The Norwegian Assassin” Kody Nordby will be making his Flyweight debut against Flyweight veteran; David Baxter. Joe “Lights Out” Pingatore looks to make it another statement win against the vaunted Featherweight veteran Kenny “The Tooth Fairy” Foster. Rounding out the Main card Pat Walsh will battle Brazil’s Darlei Broenstrop at Cruiserweight. All of the Main Card action can be seen live on AXS TV.

            The non-televised portion of the night is also can’t miss, as CES has stacked the card top to bottom with CES fan favorites. Undefeated Kris Moutinho will put his clean record on the line against Lloyd Reyes, as Moutinho expects to prove he is not only one of the promotion’s fastest rising prospects, but one of New England MMA’s biggest stars. Marquis Brewster also looks to keep his record clean against Pennsylvania’s Cody “CoHi” Hier, who is making his professional debut. Cranston Rhode Island’s Gary “Tiger” Balletto Jr. tries to make it three straight first round finishes, as he welcomes New York’s Christopher Rico Torres to the professional ranks and the CES cage. Chad “Machine Gun” Kelly makes his return to the CES cage and will attempt to be the first professional to solve Milford’s Richie Santiago who currently sits at 3-0 with all three wins coming by submission. Kicking the night off; Strawweights Maria Rivera, coming off an upset victory over Sarah Click, will square off against Arkansas’ Jessica Sotack, who is making her professional debut.      


Non-Televised Undercard:


Maria Rivera vs. Jessica Sotack


Maria Rivera

Affiliation: Framingham Taekwondo

Record: 1-0 (1 TKO)

Summary: Maria should be riding high at CES 42 on the heels of her impressive first round TKO of Sarah Click at CES 41. Rivera used superior technical striking landing a huge knee and high kicks to put away the up and coming Click. Maria will look to prove that her win at CES 41 was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her skills and abilities to finish a fight, as she welcomes Arkansas’s Sotack to New England and into the Pro ranks.

Last fight: First round TKO Victory over Sarah Click at CES41.

Jessica Sotack

Affiliation: Off the Chain MMA

Record: Debut (3-1-1 as an Amateur)

Summary: Jessica “The Rebel” Sotack bounced back and made right of a majority draw to Victoria Leonardo in her last fight when she earned a Unanimous Decision win against Leonardo last time out. Jessica will be making her Pro debut when she steps into the CES cage for the first time March 31st.

Last Fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Victoria Leonardo at LFA 4 Aguliar v. Jackson.

Breakdown: Rivera will have her third straight TKO victory in mind when she faces off with Sotack, who will be making her New England MMA debut, professional debut, as well as her first fight in the Strawweight division. Rivera has shown high volume, technical striking, in her two career wins and will likely be aggressive in her pursuit of another victory in the CES cage.


Richard Santiago vs. Chad Kelly


Richard Santiago

Affiliation: BST MMA & Fitness

Record: 3-0 (3 Submissions)

Summary:  Santiago continues to submit his way into the win column, finishing his last six fights by submission dating back to his days as an Amateur. Santiago’s last fight against Raymond Yanez at CES 41 marked the first time Santiago has reached the second round as a Pro. 

Last fight: Second round Submission (Injury) against Raymond Yanez at CES 41.

Chad Kelly

Affiliation: Fighting Arts Academy

Record: 4-3 (2 TKO/ 2 Submissions)

Summary: “Machine Gun” Kelly is looking to bounce back from a loss to Jay Perrin at Combat Zone 60. Chad has shown killer instincts in his four professional victories, finishing them all, including a huge first round knockout of Kenny Murphy at Combat Zone 50.

Last Fight: First round TKO loss to Jay Perrin at Combat Zone 60.

Breakdown: CES is turning to veteran Chad “Machine Gun” Kelly as they look to find someone who can withstand the ferocious offensive output Santiago brings to the cage. Kelly is somewhat of a finisher himself, scoring stoppages in all 4 of his professional wins. Santiago, will be seeking his fourth professional win at the expense of Kelly, and would love to keep the fight out of the judges’ hands as he has in his first three contests. I think either way you slice it, this fight will not last all three scheduled rounds.



Gary Balletto Jr. vs. Christopher Rico Torres


Gary Balletto Jr.

Affiliation:  New England Combat

Record: 2-1 (1 TKO, 1 Submission)

Summary: Cranston, Rhode Island’s Balletto made it back to back first round finishes last time out when he knocked out Montoyia Swilling in the first round at CES 40. “Tiger” Balletto used his hands to stop Swilling, much to the delight of his father, former Boxer Gary “Tiger” Balletto Sr. Balletto would like to let those hands do the talking again as he enters the CES cage for the fourth time. 

Last fight: First round TKO of Montoyia Swilling at CES 40.

Christopher Rico Torres

Affiliation: 5 Element MMA

Record: Debut (2-2 as an Amateur)

Summary: New York’s Torres will be making his professional debut in a tough environment against Rhode Island’s Balletto. In Torres’ four Amateur fighters he scored two wins (1 by TKO) and two losses both by decision. 

Last Fight: Unanimous decision loss to Kevin Michael Carrier at Gladius Fights 20.

Breakdown: Hometown boy Gary Balletto Jr. will be carrying the crowd to the cage with him Friday night, as he always does, when he squares off with New York’s Torres, who is not only making his CES debut, but his professional debut as well. Balletto will likely be intent to strike with the new comer in hopes of taking home his second straight TKO victory, if Rico Torres can survive the hands of Balletto and work his game to a victory, the CES crowd may very well go silent.


Marquis Brewster vs. Cody Hier


            Marquis Brewster

                Affiliation: Tri-Force MMA

                Record: 2-0 (1 Submission)

                Summary: Riding a four fight win streak spanning both his Professional and Amateur careers, Brewster, the Boston native, will be taking to the CES cage for the fourth time at CES 42 and will be fighting to score the biggest victory of his young professional career.

                Cody Hier

                Affiliation: Renzo Gracie Philadelphia

Record: Debut (2-3 as Amateur)

Summary: Hier will be looking to prove that a move from Michigan to Philly to train at Renzo Gracie was the right one as he seeks a win in his first professional fight. Hier hopes to bounce back from back to back losses and get back in the win column in his first Pro fight and his CES debut.

Breakdown: Both of these fighters have had drastically different outcomes in their last two fights, Hier ended his five fight amateur career with consecutive losses. Brewster, however, has won his first two fights as a pro and has extended his current winning streak to four fights. Brewster would like to assure he leaves Twin River Friday night with his winning streak intact and for Torres, a CES debut that he would like to forget.


Kris Moutinho vs. Lloyd Reyes


Kris Moutinho

Affiliation: Rivera Athletics

Record: 3-0 (1 Knockout)

Summary:  Moutinho finally silenced critics his last time out; earning his first Professional stoppage when an early first round headkick ended the night for Ohio’s Jason Rine at CES 41. Moutinho is one of the region’s most highly touted prospects and he would love to add another stoppage victory to his already impressive undefeated record.

Last fight: First round Headkick Knockout of Jason Rine at CES 41.

Lloyd Reyes

Affiliation: N/A

Record: 4-3 (2 TKO, 1 Submission)

Summary: Native of Georgetown, Guyana; Ontario’s Reyes is making his CES debut against one of the promotions rising stars in Moutinho. “Teagana” will need to silence the Twin River crowd if he is going to earn his fifth professional win against the CES favorite.  A fourth stoppage win would do just that.

Last Fight: Second round TKO victory over Shaun Spath at Global Proving Ground 24.

Breakdown: Kris Moutinho doesn’t only think he is a great fighter, he thinks he is the best fighter in New England, and he is setting his sights on CES 42 to prove to the Northeast that he is here to stay. Moutinho will be facing his stiffest competition to date when he steps in with Ontario’s Reyes, but it doesn’t matter to Moutinho who is in the cage with him, he will be fighting for a finish in dramatic fashion. Reyes will hope to show that his experience in the cage, as well as his well rounded game will be enough to stop the streaking Moutinho and give him the first blemish on his pro record.


Main Card: Live on AXS TV:



Pat Walsh vs. Dirlei Broenstrup


Pat Walsh

Affiliation: Victory Combat Academy 

Record: 10-2 (4 KOs/ 3 Submissions)

Summary: Pat continues to prove that he is one of the elite wrestlers at any weight class; using powerful takedowns and heavy top position pressure to grind Kevin Haley into Submission in the second round at CES 41. Walsh’s superior wrestling was the key in his victory over the freakishly strong Bellator veteran; Haley. Pat has made it known that he would like to strike with his opponent this time out in effort to show that he is an all around fighter.

Last fight: Second round Submission Choke of Kevin Haley at CES 41

Dirlei Broenstrup

Affiliation: Team Link

Record: 14-4 (5 KO/TKO, 6 Submissions)

Summary: Team Link’s Broenstrup will be fighting stateside for the first time since 2014, when he fought to a decision win over Shedrick Goodrich at Premier FC 17. At that time Dirlei was in the midst of an 8 fight winning streak that spanned three years once all was said and done. That 8 fight win streak came to an end in August of last year when he fell to Adlan Amagov in the first round via Arm Lock.

Last Fight: First round Submission loss (Arm Lock) to Adlan Amagov at Plotforma S-70 7th.

Breakdown: Pat Walsh continues to show that he is a dominant force in any division north of 205 in New England; he will again find his home in the 215 Cruiserweight division Friday night when he goes to battle with Team Link Submission specialist Dirlei Broenstrup. Walsh showed last time out, that there is little to no match in New England when it comes to his wrestling game, however, Pat has made it known that he would like to throw hands in his bout Friday against the Brazilian native. Trading punches with Broenstrup could be the best way to neutralize his high level submission game, although Pat is stifling on the ground with great pressure from the top, Broenstrup hopes that if the fight ends up on the ground he can harvest a limb that could cause Walsh to tap.  


Joe Pingitore vs. Kenny Foster


Joe Pingitore

Affiliation: Tri-Force MMA 

Record: 7-2-1 (2 KOs and 2 Submissions)

Summary: Pingitore has voiced his wishes to get a rematch with Featherweight Champion Matt Bessette, who handed Joe his only defeat in his last four fights. After Bessette defeated Kevin Croom at CES 41 “Lights Out” left the arena unimpressed with Bessette’s performance. Pingatore hopes that a stoppage victory of Kenny Foster will earn him another shot at the CES Featherweight strap.

Last fight: First round Submission Choke of Spence Higa at CES 40.

Kenny Foster

Affiliation: Bombsquad

Record: 11-11 (5 Submissions, 1 TKO)

Summary: Foster’s 22 fight pro career spans over eight years and includes some of the most formidable opponents the Featherweight division has to offer. Foster who is currently trying to break away from a three fight losing streak will turn to his cage experience to attempt to solve the upstart Pingatore. “The Tooth Fairy” Foster will be returning to the cage after an 11 month layoff following his loss at CES 34 to Calvin Kattar.

Last Fight: Split decision loss to Calvin Kattar at CES 34.

Breakdown: Joe Pingatore is willing to take on any Featherweight you put between him and Featherweight Champion Matt Bessette. Standing in Pingatore’s way Friday night will be the saavy veteran Kenny Foster, who will care little of Joe’s aspirations after their bout. Foster has made a career of testing some of the toughest of opponents you can put in front of him, and is going to prove that the rematch with Bessette will not come easy; if it comes on his watch. “Lights Out” Pingatore will be happy to add to Foster’s current three fight losing streak and hopes to do so in brutally dramatic fashion as he paves his path back to the title shot. I look for Joe to bring the heat right out of the gate, and look to test the chin of the Bellator veteran Foster, who is no stranger to a scrap and can use his fight knowledge from eight years as a professional to tip the scales in his direction.



Kody Nordby vs. David Baxter


Kody Nordby

Affiliation:  Sityodtong Boston

Record: 8-4 (7 Submissions)

Summary: Kody has choked out four of his last six opponents, leading to five total wins in that span. But all that work was done in the Bantamweight division. Following his Ten Finger Guillotine choke of David Garcia at CES 41, “The Norwegian Assassin” announced a move to the Flyweight division immediately putting the entire division on watch. Nordby is extremely strong for his size, which along with his Wrestling pedigree, have lead to him being one of the fighters to watch throughout all of New England. 

Last fight: Second round Guillotine Choke Victory over David Garcia at CES 41.


David Baxter

Affiliation: USMMA

Record: 4-1 (3 Submission, 1 TKO)

Summary: Baxter has finished fights in all four of his professional victories and has amassed a 2-1 record in the CES cage. Baxter will be looking to prove that he has just started to show his potential and will hope to add to his win total when he welcomes CES veteran Kody Nordby to the Flyweight Division. This will undoubtedly be the largest step up in competition Baxter has faced as a Pro, in this his 6th Pro fight.    

Last fight: Second round submission Choke of Dan Cormier at CES 41.

Breakdown: Kody Nordby wants there to be no mistake that he belongs in the discussion for the CES Flyweight title, when he makes his debut in the division, against Flyweight mainstay David Baxter. Both fighters earned second round submission choke victories at CES 41, setting up their meeting at CES 42. Nordby, a successful Bantamweight in the CES cage surprised some people following his CES 41 win when he announced his move down to Flyweight. “The Norwegian Assassin,” whose strength and wrestling set him apart from most of his opponents at 135 pounds, should be absolutely enormous at 125 pounds. However, Baxter is ranked 5th amongst New England Flyweights and did not get there by accident, he would like to show Nordby that strength; is little match for the speed possessed in the Flyweight Division.  If Baxter can keep some distance in the fight and avoid the top level wrestling of Nordby, it could be a long night for the division’s new comer. Kody knows what to do with distance as well, and would love to show the CES crowd some of the dynamic striking tools he possesses, sharpened by the tutelage of Coach Mark DellaGrotte.  



Josh LaBerge vs. Saul Almeida


Saul Almeida

Affiliation:  Sityodtong Boston

Record: 18-8 (13 Decision Wins)                                

Summary: Saul “the Spider” Almeida is one of the more seasoned veterans of New England MMA, the veteran of 26 fights, spanning nine years and 65 hard fought rounds. Saul has no problem going the distance in fights and has been in many three round wars in the past. Almeida has an unorthodox style that has posed problems to many of the top Featherweights in New England including Manny Bermudez who narrowly escaped with a split decision win over Saul the last time out. Almeida will be looking to break a three fight loss streak at CES 42, including the loss to Bermudez and also including another split decision defeat to Bruce Boyington at WSOF 31.

Last fight: Split decision loss to Manny Bermudez at CES 39.

Josh LaBerge

Affiliation: Lauzon MMA

Record: 11-5 (5 Knockout/ TKO, 1 Submission)

Summary: Fall River’s LaBerge is another of New England’s most experienced fighters and also has a career that spans the last decade. Veteran of 16 fights over the last ten years Josh has fought the who’s who of the Lightweight and Featherweight division and has developed his name as somewhat of a Knockout artist. Josh “The Problem” LaBerge will tote with him 5 career Knockouts into the CES cage March 31st and will hope to add to that number at the expense of Framingham’s Almeida.

Last Fight: Second round Knockout of Jon Lemke at CES 36.

Breakdown: Almeida against LeBerge is a fight that New England MMA diehard fans have been looking forward to for years. Both fighters have fought the “who’s who” in both the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions from the Northeast and beyond, on their ways to incredible MMA careers. Although their records show that both fighters are at different points in their careers, LaBerge; winner of back to back fights in the CES cage and Almeida; a tough luck loser of consecutive split decisions, both will be looking to show that they are top Lightweights in the region. LaBerge will have to close the distance against the lengthy Almeida, and hope that he can find a place on Saul’s chin to land some hard leather, before Saul is able to engage Josh in his bullying clinch game. Once “The Spider” can work his clinch game, he has the ability to control where the fight goes, and the stamina to wear out his opponent. If you are a fan of all out wars this could be the fight you won’t want to miss at CES 42.



Luis Felix vs. Dawond Pickney


Luis Felix

Affiliation: Team Rockstar / Sityodtong Boston

Record: 14-9 (5 KO/TKO, 5 Submissions)

Summary: Luis “Rockstar” Felix needs no introduction to CES fans; Felix has been fighting in the CES cage since the promotion’s inception in 2010 at CES 1. Providence’s Felix has made a name for himself over the last decade on the New England MMA scene as being an explosive finisher. In 14 career wins, Felix has only left his fate to the judges four times, every time he steps in the cage he expects to finish the fight. Luis would love to make it an early night as he returns to the CES cage after a year long hiatus and leave the cage with his hand raised.

Last Fight: Second round Submission loss to Ryan Sanders at CES 32.

Dawond Pickney

Affiliation: Off the Chain MMA

Record: 10-7 (6 Knockouts/ TKO)

Summary: Arkansas’s Pickney is a veteran of 17 professional fights and hopes that the change of scenery will help him snap his current two fight losing streak. Pickney will be making his first appearance on the New England MMA circuit at CES 42 and looks to show that he is a different fighter following back to back losses. Dawond’s last two fights include a loss to recent UFC signee; Jared Gordon, and Treston Thomison who submitted Pickney in the Bellator cage. Pickney will undoubtedly be looking to leave a lasting impression on the CES fans in his promotional debut.  

Last Fight: First round Arm Lock submission loss to Treston Thomison at Bellator 166; Dantas v. Warren 2.

Breakdown: Felix versus Pickney may be the best bet on the card if you’re looking to find a highlight reel knockout. Both fighters possess full arsenals of stylistic striking and the willingness to stand and trade punches with their opponents. Felix, however, has shown his ability to use his submission game to finish fights in the past, and Pickney has come up on the wrong end of submissions in recent memory. Look for Felix to be content to trade blows with Arkansas’ Pickney, but do not overlook his abilities to find holes in Pickney’s striking game that allow him to set up a submission. Pickney will do everything in his power to stop this fight before “Rockstar” Felix has that opportunity, as he hopes to grab the attention of the CES fans in his New England MMA debut. Felix hopes to have his hand raised for the first time in nearly two years in front of the home crowd at CES 42 and would enjoy doing so in “Rockstar” fashion.  



Christopher Curtis (Champion) vs. Wilfredo Santiago (Challenger)

Welterweight (CES World Title)

            Christopher Curtis

                Affiliation: Son of Siam and Team Quest

                Record: 14-5 (4 Knockout/TKO, 3 Submissions)

                Summary: Curtis, winner of four of his last five bouts, will be making his first official Welterweight title defense since he won the belt at CES 32 when he stopped Gil deFreitas with strikes in the first round of their title match. Curtis was however scheduled to defend his title at CES 34 against Nah-Shon Burrell but the fight became a non-title match when Burrell (174 lbs) failed to make weight for their fight; which ended in a split decision, in favor of Burrell. Although Curtis holds a belt in the Welterweight division, his last fight was at Catchweight; (190lbs) and he has also fought in the Middleweight division at points in his 19 fight professional career.

                Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Leo Bercier at Final Fight Championship 24: Daytona Beach.    


Wilfredo Santiago Jr.

Affiliation: Jackson/Winklejohn MMA

Record: 7-3 (6 KOs/ 1 Submission)

Summary:  Wilfredo takes a four fight win streak into CES 42. “The Brown Bomber” has finished his opponent in all 7 of his professional wins, all in the very first round. The hard hitting Lawrence, Mass Knockout artist has made quick work of Chuck O’Neil, Nuri Shakir, Sean Lally and Ralph Johnson across his current streak. Santiago will be making his fourth appearance in the CES cage and this time it’s for the belt.   

Last fight: First round KO (Punch) of Chuck O’Neil at CES 39.

                Breakdown: Wilfredo Santiago Jr. may be the one fighter in the CES promotion who I watch fight with my breathe held, his extremely powerful overhand strikes have the ability to put any opponent to sleep in an instant. All seven of Santiago’s wins in his professional career have come via fight round stoppages, making him one of the scariest dudes in the Northeast. But if you were to ask me one fighter I felt could neutralize the onslaught that Santiago brings to the table my answer would definitely have to be; Chris Curtis. The Champion Curtis’ eight year run has left him with belts from numerous promotions and fights against some of the top talent from Welterweight all the way to 190 pounds in a Catchweight bout. Curtis showed the New England fans what he was all about at CES 32 when he stopped Gil deFreitas with strikes, something that had never been done before. “The Action Man” Curtis is athletic enough to take the fight all over the cage and has extremely well rounded MMA that Santiago will have to be cautious of. The longer this fight goes, the momentum will build in the favor of the Champion who is used to going into the later rounds having gone all five rounds on more than one occasion in the past. But as it is with any knockout artist; one punch can end the fight at any time, and before you know it the lights could go out at Twin River Casino and we could be crowing a new Welterweight Champion,… hypothetically speaking.