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May 10, 2017

CES 44 Preview: Featherweight Championship; Matt Bessette v. Rey Trujillo

CES 44: Featherweight World Title

Travis Lizotte

                CES MMA returns to its home at Twin River Casino Friday night May 12th for the Promotion’s 44th event, after taking the show on the road on April 15th when the promotion held its second show in their history at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, MA. CES returns to Lincoln, Rhode Island with Promotion’s most fan friendly fighter and Featherweight Champion Matt “The Mangler” Bessette, who will headline the card when he squares off against six time title holder, and former Legacy FC Featherweight Champion; Rey “The Warrior” Trujillo. The Texas born and bred Trujillo, is a veteran of 40 professional fights all while capturing six career title belts in some of the most respected promotions in the country. If he is going to make it seven title belts, he will have to stop New England’s top pound for pound fighter, Bessette, in his own back yard. Bessette will look to add to his string of six straight TKO stoppage victories as he attempts to defend his title for the second time, after first defending against Kevin Croom at CES 41. Trujillo will be making his CES debut as well as his AXS fights debut and will be anxious to make a statement to the world when he goes toe to toe with the cream of the New England MMA crop in Bessette. For Bessette a highlight reel finish could gain him the attention many feel like “The Mangler” already deserves as he strives to leave a mark on the region while gaining a shot to fight in the UFC. This fight should absolutely live up to its billing as it headlines the stacked night of fights at CES 44.

                Also on the main card; Providence, RI’s own slugging Heavyweight; Greg “Ribz” Rebello will be looking to punch his own ticket to the UFC when he squares off against Denver, Colorado’s Kevin “Blackness” Sears who looks to bounce back from a loss and upset the hometown favorite; Rebello. Rebello will be focused on adding Sears’ name to his list of career knockout finishes, which currently stands at 13 victims. Also, Ultimate Fighter season 16 standout Jon Manley will be back in the cage for the first time since 2015 when he returns to the CES cage against New Jersey Welterweight Manny Walo who will be making his return to the CES cage for the first time since 2015 and will be riding a four fight winning streak. Providence, RI born UFC veteran Sean Soriano will be looking to right the ship, and snap a two fight losing skid, when he squares off against New York Featherweight Jacob “Jaguar” Bohm who will be making his CES debut. Connecticut’s Flyweight phenom; Carlos “The Cannon” Candelario looks to move to 6-0 as a professional when he takes on his toughest test to date in Bellingham, MA veteran Billy “The Wolverine” Giovanella. CES Light-Heavyweight star in the making; Mike “Bones” Rodriguez,  will try to make it three consecutive first round knockouts when he locks horns with New Jersey’s Alec Hooben who will be looking to keep his current three fight win streak alive in what will be his CES Debut. 

                Fresh off a first round submission due to strikes victory in his CES debut at CES 43 in April; Middleweight Justin “The Fort” Sumter will be welcoming Brian Sparrow back to the CES cage for the first time since 2013. Former Welterweight Toby Odin will be stepping up to 185 pounds for his first fight in 23 months against Paul Sims who will be making his professional debut as well as his promotional debut Friday night. Rounding out the CES 44 card will be two Women’s division fights; in the first fight, rising Flyweight star “Scary” Kerri Kenneson will be making her professional debut when she steps into the CES cage for the first time in her career against Jessica Leigh Norris who comes into the contest with a 3-0 professional record and will be fighting for the first time in the United States coming to us from Singapore. Speaking of rising Flyweight stars, perhaps there are no female fighters in the region whose stock is rising faster than that of Framingham’s Maria Rivera; Rivera took her record to 2-0 last time out with a unanimous decision victory over Jessica Sotack at CES 42. Maria will be making her third appearance for the CES promotion when she welcomes Marisa “Spider Monkey” Messer Belenchia to the CES cage and to the professional ranks, as Maria looks to continue to increase her stock at the top of the New England Women’s Flyweight Division. CES 44 promises to be an exciting night of fights with an incredible amount of star power as CES settles back into their home at Twin River Casino in Lincoln. Rhode Island. 
          Click below for the full breakdown of each fight on the CES 44 Fight card.


Maria Rivera

Affiliation: Framingham Taekwondo

Record: 2-0 (1 TKO)

Summary: Rivera hit the ground running when she made her professional debut at CES 41 with a TKO of Sarah Click, they hype grew further when she fought Jessica Sotack to a decision win at CES 42. Gaining notoriety as one of the fastest rising women’s prospects in the Northeast; Maria Rivera will look to keep her winning streak alive and her undefeated record clean with a victory over Messer-Belenchia at CES 44. A third win in the CES cage could start talk of Maria gaining national attention and could put her one step closer to signing with one of those national promotions.

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Jessica Sotack at CES 42.

 Marisa Messer-Belenchia

Affiliation: Ultimate MMA

Record: Debut (3-1 Amateur)

Summary: Belenchia has unfortunately suffered an injury that will not allow her to compete Friday night against Maria Rivera.

Last Fight: Unanimous decision victory over Laken Jowers at Premier FC 20.

Breakdown: Although CES has been working to find another opponent for Maria Rivera on short notice, they have not yet been successful, for now the fight is off.

Carlos Candelario  vs.  Billy Giovanella


Carlos Candelario

Affiliation: Underdog BJJ

Record: 5-0 (1 TKO/ 3 Submissions)

Summary: Candelario continues to climb the Flyweight ranks as he continues to rack up wins looking virtually unstoppable in all five of his professional fights, having finished four of those professional wins, three by submission. Carlos also continues to receive tougher opponents on his climb to the top and his next opponent will be his toughest to date, when the rising star steps in against Flyweight veteran Billy Giovanella. Candelario hopes that an impressive win over the veteran will be the signature win he needs to add to an already impressive resume.  

Last fight: Second round submission choke of Miguel Restrepo at CES 41: Bessette v. Croom.

 Billy Giovanella

Affiliation: Connors MMA

Record: 9-6 (3 TKO/ 4 Submissions)

Summary: After his Bellator bout with Joshua Ricci was scrapped due to issues with Ricci’s paperwork, the Flyweight veteran Giovanella was anxious to get back in the cage and he will do so Friday night against the most highly touted prospect in the New England Flyweight Division in Candelario. Billy has thrown down with many top Flyweights in his 15 fight pro career, perhaps none with more hype than that of Candelario, Billy hopes to prove that his experience will be too much for Carlos, as he looks to notch his tenth professional win. Giovanella needs a win over Candelario to help get his career back on track after losing four of his last five contests.

Last Fight: First round TKO (knees) loss to Alexander Keshtov at Global Proving Ground 27.

Breakdown: An injury very late in camp has caused Billy Giovanella to pull out of the fight with Candelario, CES is also making their best effort to find a 25th hour replacement for the Flyweight in hopes to keep the exciting prospect Candelario on the fight card.


Justin Sumter

Affiliation: Fighting Arts Academy

Record: 3-1 (1 TKO/ 2 Submissions)

Summary: Justin “The Fort” Sumter has won his last three fights after starting his professional career with a loss to Tim Caron at Bellator 153. Sumter has needed just shy of three minutes total fight time, to hand Sean Evans, Ralph Johnson and Abe Pitrowski first round defeats in his three professional wins. Sumter has shot his way up the ranks of the Middleweights and given his three straight first round finishes, has to be one of the division’s fastest rising talents. Sumter looks to keep the string of violence going against Sparrow, who is making his return to the cage for the first time since 2013.

Last fight: First round Submission due to strikes of Abe Pitrowski at CES 43: Mass Invasion II.

 Brian Sparrow

Affiliation: Pro Elite Training Center

Record: 2-0 (1 TKO/ 1 Submission)

Summary: Returning from a long layoff, dating back to 2013, Massachusetts Middleweight Brian Sparrow has never lost a fight in his Mixed Martial Arts career, which spans six total fights. Sparrow will be returning to the CES cage where he earned his first professional win against Ruben Ortiz at CES 17 via third round choke. There is no doubt that Sumter will be the strongest competition Sparrow has faced in his career but a win against Sumter would solidify Sparrow’s decision to return to the cage.

Last Fight: First round TKO stoppage victory due to Choke over Chris Paolini at Cage Titans 16 (2013).

Breakdown: Sumter steps into the CES cage with intentions to add to his list of dramatic first round finishes when he faces off with the undefeated Sparrow, although Sparrow hasn’t seen cage time since 2013 he fully intends to weather the storm that Sumter brings to the cage in search of his third professional victory. Sumter is one of the hottest prospects in the Middleweight division and doesn’t look like he is slowing down, Sparrow will have to show that he has learned a lot in his four years away from the cage if his hopes to offer Justin Sumter a setback in his climb up the Middleweight ranks.


Toby Oden

Affiliation: Tri-Force MMA

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

Summary: Toby will be making his third appearance in the CES cage when he fights Paul Sims Friday night at CES 44. Oden has an impressive 2-1 record inside the CES cage with his only loss coming by decision to the highly touted Manny Walo who will also be fighting on Friday night’s main card against Jon Manley in a Welterweight title eliminator. Toby will be looking to make it three finishes as a pro when the CES cage door closes on Friday night.

Last fight: First round TKO (punches) of Wayne Ahlquist at CES 29.

 Paul Sims

Affiliation: Daddis MMA

Record: Debut (6-2 Amateur)

Summary: Philadelphia’s Paul Sims will be making his professional debut for CES after an impressive eight fight amateur career in which he want 6-2 with five wins by submission and one by TKO. Sims will be looking to make a name for himself in his CES debut against the tough veteran Oden.

Last Fight: Second round submission choke of Kyle Daukaus at CFFC 56: Wells v. Walo.

Breakdown: Oden will be fighting in the CES cage for the first time in nearly two years when he welcomes Paul Sims to the professional ranks. Toby makes the move up from Welterweight to Middleweight to fight Sims in what could likely turn into a grappling battle and a test of strength, with both fighters being confident in their abilities for control the fight from the clinch and on the mat.   


Jennifer Leigh Norris

Affiliation: Juggernaut Fight Club

Record: 3-0 (1 TKO/ 2 Submissions)  

Summary: Baltimore’s Norris will be making her first trip to the cage in North America on Friday night. Jennifer is the veteran of four fights in Asia, including an undefeated record with each of her three professional wins coming via stoppage. Norris will be making a quick turnaround as her last victory came via submission just over a month ago at IMPI World Series Asia.

Last fight: Third round submission (Armlock) of Ramona Pascual at IMPI World Series Asia.

Kerri Kenneson

Affiliation: Team Link Hooksett

Record: Debut (4-1 Amateur)

Summary: The quickly surging Team Link Hooksett prospect Kenneson will be making her highly anticipated pro debut at CES 44 against Baltimore’s Norris. Kerri has been looking to crack the professional ranks for the last few months now and cannot wait to test her skills in the CES cage for the very first time. Kerri is a well rounded fighter with ever improving striking and above average grappling strength for the Women’s Flyweight division. Kenneson hopes to make a name for herself amongst the best Women’s fighters in the Northeast with a win at CES 44 in her Pro Debut.   

Last Fight: Unanimous decision victory over Elizabeth Van Der Horst at Gladius Fights 24, for Gladius Women’s Flyweight Amateur Title.

Breakdown:  Team Link Hooksett’s Kerri Kenneson has been one of the most talked about Amateur fighters in the New England region for some time now and Friday night she will finally make her Professional debut for New England’s biggest promotion at CES 44 against the three fight Professional ; Jennifer Leigh Norris. Each one of Norris’ three professional victories came overseas and she will be looking to test her skills for the first time against American competition as she debuts for CES. It will be interesting to see how Norris’s international technique will translate against one of the most exciting female fighters in our region in Kerri Kenneson. I see this fight being one of the longer fights on the card, as both fighters will have some feeling out to do when they step into the cage, each reaching career milestones and each looking for the biggest wins of their early careers.  

Light Heavyweight

Mike Rodriguez

Affiliation: Lauzon MMA

Record: 7-2 (5 TKO/ 2 Submissions)

Summary: Rodriguez has bounced back nicely since his loss to Kevin Haley at CES 39, scoring back to back first round knockouts lasting only a combined 46 seconds at CES 41 against Hector Sanchez then again at CES 43 against James Dysard. Rodriguez has shown flashes of being one of the most exciting fighters to watch on the entire CES roster and has made his name on the regional circuit as a finisher. An impressive victory over Hooben at CES 44 could vault “Bones” into one of the top spots in the Light-Heavyweight division in all of New England.  

Last fight: First round TKO of James Dysard at CES 43: Mass Invasion II.

 Alec Hooben


Record: 5-2 (1 TKO/ 3 Submissions)

Summary: New Jersey’s Hooben comes into CES 44 winner of his last three bouts and coming off his own pair of first round finishes as he steps in to fight Mike Rodriguez. Hooben would like to add to his already three professional victories by submission; he will have to dig deep into his bag of tricks if he hopes to find a hole in the well rounded game of Rodriguez. The upset minded Hooben hopes to silence the CES crowd as he makes his promotional debut Friday night at Twin River.

Last Fight: First round TKO of Mike Wade at Maverick MMA 1.

Breakdown: Mike Rodriguez further solidified his claim as one of the biggest rising stars in New England last time out when he knocked out James Dysard at CES 43 in just 39 seconds, if Rodriguez is going to add to his resume of impressive finishes Friday night he will need to do so against New Jersey’s Alec Hooben. Hooben, who has a current three fight win streak, could offer some problems for Rodriguez in the submission game; Hooben has three career victories by way of the tap and Rodriguez has been finishes by submission twice in his three career losses. Hooben is going to have his hands full with the physical Rodriguez and will need to stay away from the punishing finishing power possessed by the lengthy striker. Rodriguez loves to finish fights quickly and will look to keep the fight at distance with Hooben in hopes to add his name to his ever growing list of highlight reel knockouts.  


Sean Soriano

Affiliation: Blackzilians

Record: 9-5 (3 TKO/ 3 Submissions)

Summary: When Soriano started his career by reeling off seven straight victories, the UFC came calling and forced him to grow up fast. Soriano would fight for the world’s top promotion three times, for the most part on short notice, picking up three straight losses to Tatsuya Kawajiri, Chas Skelly and Charles Rosa before the promotion parted ways with the Featherweight in 2015. Soriano has since gone 1-2 between both CES and Legacy FC and hopes that a win against Bohn will help him get his career back on the path he started on, when he burst on to the scene undefeated in his first four years as a pro.

Last fight: Second round submission loss to Levan Makashvili at CES 38.

Jacob Bohn

Affiliation: Behring Jiu Jitsu New York

Record: 5-3 (1 TKO/ 2 Submissions)

Summary: New York’s Bohn is also looking to change the tides that have seen him drop two of his last three fights including a decision loss his last time out for the Hybrid Pro Series Featherweight title. Jacob has the opportunity to add a signature win to his resume if he can find a way to get past the UFC veteran Soriano who will undoubtedly be Bohn’s toughest test of his career inside the cage.

Last Fight: Unanimous decision loss to Alex Morgan at Hybrid Pro Series 5.

Breakdown: Soriano returns to his home state of Rhode Island and the CES cage, looking to get his career back on track after ending up on the wrong side of the decision in five of his last six fights. The CES fan favorite will square off with New York’s Jacob Bohn who is also dead set on getting back into the win column after dropping his last fight. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist Bohn is going to have to turn to his BJJ roots if he hopes to contain the electrifying fight game that once got Soriano recognition from the world’s top promotion the UFC. For Soriano, this is as close to a must win fight as he has faced in his career, for Bohm a win against the UFC veteran would be just what he needs to blossom an already impressive pro career. With both of these fighters fighting for a purpose this could surprisingly be one of the better fights on the card if Bohm can survive early and get to a comfortable spot in the fight where he can test the crafty veteran. Odds will likely favor Soriano drastically in this bout but I’m always interested to see how an underdog, like Bohm, adapts and performs in the biggest moment of their careers.   


Jon Manley

Affiliation: Team Link Northampton

Record: 9-3 (4 Submissions)

Summary: Former Ultimate Fighter contestant Manley will be returning to the cage for the first time since 2015 when he suffered a TKO loss at the hands of Mike Perry at Premier FC 18. Manley has won two of three fights since his run with the UFC ended and if he hopes to one day make it back to the UFC the time has to be now for the 30 year old Team Link Fighter. Manley has been in the cage with some stiff competition in the past including the likes of Neil Magny and Colton Smith with the UFC, he will need to dispatch another tough opponent in Manny Walo if he hopes to get his shot at Chris Curtis for the CES Welterweight title in his effort to make it back to the UFC.  

Last fight: Second round TKO loss to Mike Perry at Premier FC 18.

 Manny Walo

Affiliation: Allstar BJJ

Record: 11-2-1 (2 TKO/ 1 Submission)

Summary: Former CES Welterweight Title Challenger; Walo will return to the CES cage in hopes to avenge his 11 second knockout loss to Chuck O’Neil for the Welterweight title at CES 27. Since his loss to O’Neil; Walo has gone 4-0 with two wins for World Series of Fighting as well as capturing the CFFC Welterweight title in February of 2016. If Walo can get past the UFC veteran Manley, he will get his shot at redemption against Chris Curtis for the CES Welterweight strap he so highly covets.

Last Fight: Split decision victory over Andrews Nakahara at WSOF 35: Ivanov v. Jordan.

Breakdown: With a shot at Christopher Curtis, the CES Welterweight Champion on the line, this fight has all the makings to be fight of the night at CES 44. Both fighters have faced daunting tests throughout their careers to get to this point and are now just one fight away from the CES title fight that could further propel their careers. Stylistically; Manny will likely look to keep the fight standing against the submission specialist Manley who is more comfortable grappling and using his Jiu Jitsu to finish his opponents. If Manny can use his stylish striking to keep the distance he could see success but if Manley can close the distance and get the fight to the ground is could be a quick night for Walo. I have this fight marked as one of my favorite matches of the night, the title shot will just be the cherry on top of an already exciting bout.   


Greg Rebello

Affiliation: Sityodtong Boston

Record: 21-7 (13 TKO/ 1 Submission)

Summary: Make no mistake about it Providence’s Rebello will have one thing in mind once the cage door closes Friday night at Twin River Casino; his 14th career knockout. Rebello knows that a win could earn him a rematch with Ashley Gooch for the CES Heavyweight Title, but another highlight reel knockout victory, could gain the ill willed Rebello a shot on the national stage. Rebello has made his wishes to fight for the UFC well known as of late, but Friday night he will let his hands do the talking when he faces off with fellow finisher; Kevin Ray Sears of Denver, Colorado. 

Last fight: First round TKO (punches) of Danyelle Williams at CES 41: Bessette v. Croom.

Kevin Ray Sears Jr.

Affiliation: Childs Play MMA

Record: 6-3 (3 TKO/ 3 Submissions)

Summary: Kevin Sears is one of those “Kill or be Killed” types of fighters, in nine professional fights Sears has only heard a judge’s decision once, earning finishes in all six of his wins amongst the ranks of Professional Heavyweights. Sears will be looking to bounce back from a first round TKO loss in his last contest and avoid being the 14th Knockout in Rebello’s career, when he makes his debut on the East Coast. Sears would love to stun the CES crowd with a knockout of his own, but is going to need every bit of power he possesses if he wishes to defeat the hometown favorite and far more experienced fighter in; Greg Rebello.  

Last Fight: First round TKO (punches) loss to Kelvin Tiller at Shamrock FC 282.

Breakdown: If you are a fan of two Heavyweights standing and trading punches, this is going to be a dream fight, both fighters are looking to violently end each others night. Sure, Sears possesses one-punch knockout ability in his heavy hands, but Rebello’s combination of high-volume stylish striking and overwhelming power can become a big problem for most one punch strikers. Rebello will have the CES fans, as well as experience, on his side when the two Heavyweights meet in the CES cage and Rebello violently welcomes Kevin Ray Sears Jr. to New England. Sears would love to spoil Rebello’s aspirations of signing nationally, at least for now, and secure what would be the biggest win of the Heavyweight from Denver’s career. However, Rebello and his 13 career knockouts, believes that he will be the one delivering the knockout blows once the bell rings at Twin River. I believe this fight will end in true Heavyweight Fashion; brutal knockout, one way or another!

Champion Matt Bessette  vs. Challenger Rey Trujillo

Featherweight(World Championship)

Matt Bessette

Affiliation: Underdog BJJ/ Ascension MMA

Record: 21-7 (6 TKO/ 8 Submissions)

Summary: There is not much to say about Matt Bessette that hasn’t already been said, Matt has been proving people wrong since he was a child, when he battled Leukemia and overcame a 50/50 shot at survival. Bessette has continued to prove people wrong throughout his entire MMA career, resulting in a current six fight winning streak, the CES Featherweight title and Friday night Bessette will look to become the first CES Champion to defend his title twice when he squares off against Texas’ Rey Trujillo. Bessette’s last two fights have solidified his Championship status; Matt weathered a barrage of strikes that nearly ended his night early against Joe Pingatore at CES 37 last August, before persevering through an tough first five minutes to submit Pingatore with a kneebar in round 2. In January Bessette defended his title for the first time when he and Kevin “The Hard Hitting Hillbilly” Croom, traded violent blows for two rounds before Matt came out in the third round and landed a combination that crumbled Croom and earned the referee’s stoppage. Bessette has certainly been tested in his climb to CES Featherweight glory and he is a better champion because of it.

Last fight: Third round TKO (punches) of Kevin Croom at CES 41: Bessette v. Croom.

 Rey Trujillo

Affiliation: Bloodline MMA

Record: 22-18 (14 TKO/ 1 Submission)

Summary: Speaking of Championship belts, Texas’ Rey Trujillo has collected six belts in his career for the following promotions; IXFA, HERO FC, VFA, Fury and twice for Legacy. The current Fury Featherweight Champion, Trujillo is no stranger to title fights, last time out Rey looked to capture the Fury Lightweight Belt and become the promotions champion at both Featherweight and Lightweight, ultimately Trujillo lost the fight against Kolton Englund at Fury FC 16 but his stock didn’t take a hit at all as he is lined up to fight Bessette at CES 44. Trujillo vows that Bessette has never fought anyone like him before, hoping that he can use his 15th career knockout to take the belt from the current Champion Bessette and leave with his 7th career title. Trujillo has no problem going into someone else’s house and taking their belt, something which he has done before and intends to do again Friday night against the fan favorite Bessette.

Last Fight: Fourth round submission (Armlock) loss to Kolton Englund at Fury FC 16.

Breakdown: CES Featherweight Champion and fan favorite Matt Bessette will step into the CES cage for the second time this year with intentions of defending his Featherweight Crown for a second time, something no other CES Champion at any other weight class has done before. In November of 2016 a fan poll revealed the 145 pound king of New England, Bessette, as the fan’s favorite fighter in the CES promotion and that continues to show, when “The Mangler” is on the fight card the fans sell out the Event Center at Twin River and CES 44 should be no different as fans will pack the house to see “their Champion” defend his belt against the Texas finisher Rey “The Warrior” Trujillo. Like Bessette, Trujillo has fought some of the toughest fighters the Featherweight division has to offer over his 40 fight career that includes 22 wins, 14 wins by way of knockout and six championship belts to his resume. Trujillo has become known as a finisher, ending 15 fights in his career short of the final bell and would love to make it 16, when he looks to silence the Twin River crowd and take his 7th career Championship belt with him back to Texas. Bessette, on the other hand, has no intentions of leaving Twin River without his Featherweight strap, and as a winner of his last six bouts he looks to show the world that he is well deserving of UFC great, and AXStv announcer; Pat Miletich’s second highest ranked fighter amongst all promotions covered by AXS fights. Fans should be ready for a fight that will well warrant the moniker of Main Event Friday, when these two savvy veterans take center stage, under the bright lights of Twin River Casino and the CES cage each looking to put the other to sleep and take home the title; CES Featherweight Champion.  

CES 44 will take place Friday May 12th at the Event Center at Twin River Casion in Lincoln, Rhode Island, doors will open at 6 pm and fights are due to start at 7pm. Tickets to what will likely be a sold out show can be purchased through, but do not hesitate as the last seats are filling up fast for what will promise to be one of the most exciting nights of combat sports in New England this year.