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January 22, 2020

CES MMA 60: Bessette v. Cheeks The Preview

CES MMA 60: Bessette v. Cheeks: Featherweight World Title
Travis Lizotte

Friday January 24th, New England’s premier Combat Sports promotion returns to its home at the Twin River Casino Events Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island; as Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment Sports presents CES 60: Bessette v. Cheeks. CES MMA wastes no time in 2020 as it kicks off the roaring 20’s with a bang, by co-headlining with two of the promotions all time biggest stars. Fan favorites Matt” The Mangler” Bessette (v. Charles Cheeks III, Featherweight World Title) and Greg “Ribz” Rebello (v. Tebaris Gordon, Heavyweight World Title defense) sit atop of one of the promotions most exciting fight cards in recent memory. The remainder of the main card features top regional talents including William “Knightmare” Knight, Johnny “Mr. Nice Guy” Lopez, Richie “The Milford Mauler” Santiago as well as the return of John Gotti III! Opening bell sounds at 7pm from the Events Center at Twin River Hotel and Casino with the Main Card following at 8pm streaming live on UFC Fightpass.  

Click Below for a closer look at each fight on the card including a fight by fight Breakdown on every matchup on the CES 60 card (Bout order subject to change).  

Thomas Evans (2-3) v. Johnny Adams (1-5)
Thomas “Captain America” Evans 
Fighting out of: Central Falls, Rhode Island
Affiliation: Team United
Record: 2-3 (1 Knockout)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision loss to Ruso Khubejashvili at CES 20 (2013).
“The Skinny”: In addition to training for his return to the CES cage, Central Falls, Rhode Island’s Thomas Evans is also leading a campaign for a seat on the Central Falls City Counsel. Known outside the cage for his charitable work, Evans is a student of the striking arts since the ripe age of 4, has achieved his 5th degree Black Belt in Sullivan’s American Kenpo and is a highly regarded as a Muay Thai/Loa and Karate Specialist. Once the cage door locks as he will be looking to notch his second career knockout on his way to his first victory inside the CES cage!
Johnny “The Wild Child” Adams
Fighting out of: Rutland, Vermont
Affiliation: Team Wild Child 
Record: 1-5 (1 Submission)
Last fight: First Round Knockout loss to Marty Navis at Cage Titans 46. 
“The Skinny”: Vermont’s “Wild Child”; Johnny Adams has become somewhat of a road warrior across the New England Combat Sports scene, typically called in to fight the promotions best up and coming talent, Adams has been run through a buzzsaw of talented fighters including; Brandon Fleming, Zach DiSabatino, Marty Navis and perhaps none bigger than John Gotti III; who Knocked Adams out in the first round of their CES promotional debuts at CES 46. 
Breakdown: Thomas Evans proved at Lion Fight 40 that his striking is far superior to that of Vermont’s Johnny Adams, dispatching Adams within the first two minutes of their bout in February of 2018. I feel like Adams will once again be drastically outpointed on the feet in this bout, however Adams has made the most of the fights that go to the ground, notching a stunning upset of BJJ Purple Belt Tervor Gudde at Cage Titans 43 last April and will be looking to take this fight into his world, using his size and grappling to seek revenge against the once victorious Evans.
Hugh McKenna (3-4) v. Tommy Lee Davis (2-1)
Hugh McKenna 
Fighting out of: Syosset, New York
Affiliation: Long Island MMA
Record: 3-4 (2 Submissions)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Jarell Davis at CES 59: Paiva v. Dooling. 
“The Skinny”: New York’s McKenna is a physical wrestler with relentless work ethic, skills that have lead to back to back wins in the CES cage following his loss to Tommy Lee Davis to open his promotional campaign. McKenna hopes that a drop in weight, from Middleweight to Welterweight, will gain him the advantage after what was a narrow decision loss in the prequel; at 185 pounds at CES 53: Grevely v. Nordby. 
Tommy Lee Davis
Fighting out of: Marblehead, Massachusetts
Affiliation: Juniko 
Record: 2-1 (1 Submission)
Last fight: First round Submission (Verbal Tap) of Keenan Raymond at Cage Titans Combat Night 2.
“The Skinny”: Marblehead’s Tommy Lee Davis struggled to find opponents in 2019, having fights cancelled on three separate occasions before finally locking horns, and submitting; Keenan Raymond at Cage Titans Combat Night 2. Davis will meet a familiar foe in Hugh McKenna Friday night, a man whom he beat narrowly by judges decision at CES 53 in 2018. 
Breakdown: Davis did just enough on the feet in the first meeting with Wrestler Hugh McKenna to earn a decision win at CES 53, but McKenna had Davis on his heel most of the fight, threatening takedowns to neutralize Tommy’s offensive output. A drop to Welterweight should make Davis lighter on his feet, allowing him to stay at distance and work more striking from the outside of McKenna’s range. I believe Davis will improve upon his previous performance against McKenna, and leave little work to the judges.  
Eddy George (Pro-Debut) v. Raymond Yanez (5-18)
Eddy George
Fighting out of: West Haven, Connecticut
Affiliation: Fighting Arts Academy
Record: Pro-Debut (4-2 as an Amateur)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Dion Rubio at Cage Titans 43. (Captured Cage Titans Amateur Lightweight Title)
“The Skinny”: After reeling off four straight wins to close out his amateur career, including capturing the Cage Titans Lightweight Title against Dion Rubio by decision and the Reality Fighting Lightweight Title with a first round knockout of Matt Biena in January of last year. George sets his sites on the Professional Ranks where he looks to pick up right where he left off and keep his win streak alive, in his CES MMA debut, against the Veteran; Raymond Yanez.
Raymond “The Reaper” Yanez
Fighting out of: Marion, Ohio
Affiliation: Topp Dogg MMA & Fitness
Record: 5-18 (1 Knockout, 3 Submissions)
Last fight: First Round Submission loss to Schyler Sootho at The Johnathan Ogden Foundation. 
“The Skinny”: A native of Ohio, 35 year old Raymond Yanez has found somewhat of a home on the New England MMA scene, standing toe to toe with some of the toughest opposition the region has to offer. A veteran of 23 professional fights, Yanez will be tested, once again, against another top prospect in the professional debut of Lightweight; Eddy George.
Breakdown: There is no doubt that the veteran Yanez possesses skills that can end fights if the opportunity presents itself, but continuously fighting top prospects doesn’t allow for many of those opportunities. Yanez will give up both size and athleticism to the Lightweight George which will be tough attributes to overcome in Yanez’s search for a second win on the New England circuit. I look for George to overpower, Yanez and take the fight to the mat, where he should be able to finish Yanez inside the distance and open his pro career with a stoppage win.

William Knight (6-1) v. Rocky Edwards (12-9-1)
William “Knightmare” Knight 
Fighting out of: Manchester, Connecticut
Affiliation: Thornton MMA
Record: 6-1 (6 Knockouts)
Last fight: First round TKO (Strikes) loss to Tafon Nchuckwi at CFFC 80: Rhodes v. Wali.
“The Skinny”: UFC Developmental fighter William Knight has stepped up in weight class in his last two fights, in effort to test his skills at the highest possible level against Jamelle Jones (9-5) and Tafon Nchukwi (2-0). The result against Jones was more of what have grown to expect from Will Knight, using his heavy hands to demolish his opponent into the canvas. However, Knight would lose position in a wrestling scramble at CFFC 80 against Nchuckwi that resulted in Knight tasting defeat for the first time in his career. Knight is wasting no time, as usual, getting back to action and looking to remind people why he is one of the most dangerous fighters still fighting regionally. 
Rocky “The Number” Edwards
Fighting out of: Sunbury, Ohio
Affiliation: Topp Dogg MMA & Fitness
Record: 12-9-1 (3 Knockouts, 6 Submissions)
Last fight: First Round Submission (Armbar) of William Walker at MMAX FC 6: Fall Brawl 2019.
“The Skinny”: Ohio’s Rocky Edwards ended a two fight losing skid with a first round armbar of William Walker (7-5) as MMAX FC 6. In his two fights prior, Edwards dropped a decision to Mark Lemminger (7-1) and fell to Devin Smyth (8-1) by first round knockout. Edwards puts his Black Belt to the test once again against top regional talent when he tries to solve, UFC developmental contractee; William Knight, and notch what would be the biggest win of his career. 
Breakdown: It’s hard to believe that this fight doesn’t somehow end up on the ground, where the Black Belt Edwards can be sneaky, but William Knight destroys his opponents in close proximity and holds an astronomical strength advantage in this matchup. I see Knight using early strikes to set up a takedown and eventual ground and pound of the highly experienced Rocky Edwards, putting Knight back on track for a UFC appearance before years end.

Ashiek Ajim (2-0) v. Andres Rodriguez (4-0)
Ashiek “Wizard Eye” Ajim
Fighting out of: Queens, New York
Affiliation: Long Island MMA
Record: 2-0 (1 Knockout)
Last fight: First round Knockout of Arslan Otehiyev at CES 59: Paiva v. Dooling.
“The Skinny”: Long Island’s Ashiek Ajim has a very powerful right hand to go along with some seriously high level grappling. Coming from a camp lead by head coach Ryan LaFlare and Chris Wade, Ajim could be an exciting prospect to watch in the Bantamweight division going forward. Making his third straight start under the CES banner, Ajim looks to improve upon a current nine fight win streak, dating back to 2016, when he enters the cage Friday night against Boston’s Andres Rodriguez.  
Andres “Cooley” Rodriguez
Fighting out of: Boston, Massachusetts
Affiliation: Sityodtong Boston
Record: 4-0 (2 Knockouts, 1 Submission)
Last fight: Third round Knockout of Kenny Murphy at Combat Zone 71.
“The Skinny”: The man they call; “Cooley;” Andres Rodriguez is exactly what you would expect from a striker out of Sityodtong Boston, Lengthy, Technical and Dangerous. “Cooley” is the is the owner of two knockouts over four career wins, all coming without a loss. Rodriguez makes his CES debut Friday night in hopes of launching his career to the next level at the expense of also undefeated; Askiek Ajim.  
Breakdown: This is the toughest pick on the card, Boston's Rodriguez is way above the curve on the feet, but has been slowed down at times when welcoming the clinch. Rodriguez will need to stick and move and not mess around with the grappling of Ajim, once Ajim closes the distance he possesses a heavy top pressure and a sharp right hand. This fight is a stylistic coin flip to me, both these fighters need the fight to play out differently if they plan to come out victorious. I am leaning towards Ashiek in this one, I believe he will have luck closing the distance against Andres, forcing him to fight off his back.

John Gotti III (4-0) v. Marcos Lloreda (7-5)
John Gotti III 
Fighting out of: Oyster Bay, New York
Affiliation: Panza MMA/ Long Island MMA
Record: 4-0 (4 Knockouts)
Last fight: First Round Knockout of Davis Espino at CES 56:Boyington v. Dubuque.
“The Skinny”: Anyone who has seen John Gotti III fight live knows what they are in for, intense, all out, in your face, pressure right from the opening bell. Gotti mounts a calculated heavy attack that put his opponents away in a hurry; resulting in four professional wins, all coming by way of first round knockout. It is hard to imagine the ceiling for the Long Island native with the storied lineage, but if his first four fights are any indication, Gotti is on the path to stardom. Gotti faces one of the first true tests of his young career Friday night as he welcomes back Miami’s Marcos Lloreda.    
Marcos “El Lobo” Lloreda
Fighting out of: Miami, Florida
Affiliation: American Top Team Kendall
Record: 7-5 (2 Knockouts, 3 Submissions)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Sanad Armouti at CES 59: Paiva v. Dooling.
“The Skinny”: Main sparring partner of UFC Middleweight contender Yoel Romero, Miami’s Marcos Lloreda fully understands the opportunity that is ahead of him as he is set to face surging Welterweight Top-Prospect; John Gotti III. ATT, Kendall’s Lloreda will admit, his career has been somewhat up and down since turning pro in 2013, but this matchup with Gotti could change all of that. With the eyes of the MMA world on his opponent, Lloreda looks to play the role of show stopper, and steal the spotlight away from the red hot Gotti. 
Breakdown: Twelve fight veteran; Lloreda is by far the most seasoned test of John Gotti III’s young career, and will be a great gauge on the path of the rising star’s future in this sport. One thing experience is going to have a hard time preparing Lloreda for, however, is the power and tenacity of Gotti’s attack. Lloreda’s chin will be tested early and often by the talented power puncher, it will be up to Marcos to be able to initiate a clinch, where he will need to slow the pace of the fight before Gotti turns the lights out on the American Top Team product. 

Richie Santiago (7-2) v. Giorgi Kudukhashvili (5-3)
Richie “The Milford Mauler” Santiago 
Fighting out of: Milford, Massachusetts
Affiliation: Tri-Force MMA
Record: 7-2 (7 Submissions)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision loss to Miles Johns on Dana Whites Tuesday Night Contender Series 2019.
“The Skinny”: If we learned anything in Santago’s last bout, it was that Richie is as tough as they come, going toe to toe with Miles Johns (8-0) on Dana White’s Contender Series back in June. A bout which saw Richie suffer a broken jaw, as well as his second career loss; which lead to seven months away from MMA competition. Santiago makes his return to CES where he boasts a 7-1 record with all seven wins coming by way of submission, and puts himself in line for a title shot at either Bantamweight or Flyweight with a win at CES 60, unless of course bigger opportunities present themselves with the UFC.    
Giorgi “Little Godzilla” Kudukhashvili 
Fighting out of: New York, New York
Affiliation: Mutant MMA
Record: 5-3 (1 Knockout, 1 Submission)
Last fight: First Round Knockout of Chris Disonell at Maverick MMA 15.
“The Skinny”: Still regarded as a prospect to watch in the Bantamweight Division, 24 year old New Yorker; Giorgi Kudukhashvili reached a rough stretch in his career since suffering a devastating shoulder injury against Ricky Bandejas at CFFC 66 in 2017. Including the match with Bandejas, Giorgi is just 2-3 in his last five fights with a combined opponents record of 26-10 in those bouts. It doesn’t get any easier Friday night as Kudukhashvili finds himself across the cage from fellow grappler and submission specialist; Richie Santiago. 
Breakdown: New York’s Kudukhashvili typically fights like he was shot out of a cannon, pouring on pressure from the opening bell and looking to use strikes to set up takedowns. This is a strategy that could play right into the luring style of Richie Santiago, who is a great counter-striker and somehow ends up on top of, or on the back of his opponent in most grappling exchanges. I see Santiago weathering an early storm from Giorgi and wearing down the Little Gorilla before finding a home for one of Richie's patented Chokes, finishing inside the distance. 

Johnny Lopez (12-4) v. Blaine Shutt (7-4)
*Flyweight World Title*
Johnny “Mr. Nice Guy” Lopez
Fighting out of: Meriden, Connecticut
Affiliation: Underdog MMA
Record: 12-4 (6 Submissions)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Dan Cormier at Bellator 232.
“The Skinny”: Known throughout the region as a flyweight wizard; Johnny “Mr. Nice Guy” Lopez has set the standard in New England’s 125 pound division for the last decade. At 36 years old, the time is now for the BJJ Brown Belt out of Meriden, Connecticut who hones his skills at an elite level with Underdog MMA under the direction of Russell Leak and fellow Champion; Matt Bessette. Lopez finds himself in position to further his claim as New England’s Top Flyweight as he stes his sites on the inaugural CES Flyweight World Title. The spotlight is nothing new to Lopez who has notched 2 career wins inside the Bellator cage, as well as a long run as the Reality Fighting Flyweight Champion. A CES Title to go along with his Reality Fighting Crown could put Johnny in line for a Contenders Series matchup, or a late replacement call from the UFC. 
Blaine “The Shutdown” Shutt
Fighting out of: Hummelstown, Pennsylvania
Record: 7-5 (6 Submissions)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision loss to Sean Santella at CFFC 78: Santella v. Shutt.
“The Skinny”: Pennsylvania’s Shutt has been competing in the cage since the age of 20, amassing 12 wins across his amateur and pro careers with 10 of those wins coming by way of submission. Shutt although very effective, has found himself struggling to make the jump to the next level, having come up short in three of his last five bouts; with two of those losses coming in title fights. Shutt would undoubtedly take that next step, if he could reel off an upset of the hometown veteran; Johnny Lopez and earn himself the signature win of his career and the CES Flyweight Crown. 
Breakdown: This is a very interesting matchup stylistically, both fighters are submission specialists but deploy their submission techniques in far different ways. Pennsylvania’s Shutt is very offensive in his approach, looking to force his submission game on his opponents and initiating them with his strength and physicality. Connecticut’s Lopez is much more patient with his approach, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake and capitalizing on it before they can realize they are in trouble. I believe that Lopez will outsmart the upstart Shutt on the ground, forcing him into mistakes he cannot recover from and making him pay for those mistakes on his way to being crowned the CES Flyweight Champion. 

Greg Rebello (25-9) v. Tebaris Gordon (3-1)
*Heavyweight World Title*
Greg “Ribz” Rebello 
Fighting out of: Providence, Rhode Island
Affiliation: Tri-Force MMA
Record: 25-9 (16 Knockouts, 2 Submissions)
Last fight: First Round Knockout of Kevin Haley at CES 57: Rebello v. Haley.
“The Skinny”: All signs point to this being the last time New England MMA Legend Greg Rebello will lace up the gloves, although Rebello himself still balks at using the word “retirement.” The 37 year old Rebello has had a storied career across his fourteen years as a professional, stacking up a jaw dropping 16 Knockouts, 25 wins, a shot on the Contender Series as well as a long run as CES Heavyweight World Champion. Although career long aspirations of signing with the UFC took a big hit in June of 2018, when Ribz fell victim to a first round knockout at the hands of Josh Parisian on Dana White’s Contender Series, leaving Rebello on the outside looking in. With the UFC in Rebello’s rear view (for now) Greg returned home, to CES, last time out and successfully defended his CES Heavyweight Title against veteran Light-Heavyweight Kevin Haley, dispatching Haley with strikes in the very first round. Rebello looks to retain his title Friday night in front of his hometown crowd and ride off into the sunset as the reigning CES Heavyweight World Champion! 
Tebaris “Boom” Gordon
Fighting out of: Gastonia, North Carolina
Affiliation: Gym-O
Record: 3-1 (3 Knockouts)
Last fight: First Round Knockout loss to Greg Hardy on Dana Whites Tuesday Night Contender Series 2018.
“The Skinny”: There is no doubt that North Carolina’s Gordon is looking to put the distinction of being one of the men who launched Greg Hardy into the UFC behind him. After starting his career off 3-0 with 3 knockouts the 31 year old Gordon found himself gaining high praise after huge wins over previously unbeaten; Chandler Cole and Marvin Skipper, earning him the fight with the former NFL star. Boom would take a huge step in his young career if he could put a stop to the reign of heavily favored, Heavyweight Champion; Greg Rebello.  
Breakdown: Providence’s Rebello is one of the most talented and fluid punchers the Heavyweight Division has seen, with the power of a Heavyweight and the speed and movement of a Middleweight, Rebello is a serious problem for even the most experienced Heavyweights. Fellow Contender Series allum and veteran of just four professional fights; Tebaris Gordon does possess knockout power in his hands but will have trouble matching the technicality and the explosiveness of Rebello’s attack. I see Rebello picking Gordon apart on the feet on his way to a TKO stoppage of the vastly less experienced Tebaris Gordon, as Rebello aims to retain his CES Heavyweight Crown and chock up his 17th career knockout in the process. 

Matt Bessette (23-9) v. Charles Cheeks III (14-7)
*Vacant Featherweight World Title*
Matt “The Mangler” Bessette
Fighting out of: Hartford, Connecticut
Affiliation: Underdog MMA
Record: 23-9 (7 Knockouts, 8 Submissions)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Tim Dooling at CES 55: Wells v. deJesus.
“The Skinny”: For Bessette, the former CES Featherweight Champion, he looks to regain a title which he held and defended twice, before signing with the UFC in early 2018. Bessette had an incredible run as CES champion, beating the breaks off high level veterans; Kevin Croom and Rey Trujillo on his way to becoming one of the most dominant champions in the promotions history. When “locked in” Bessette is one of the most complete fighters to come out of New England in some time, putting together deadly combinations on the feet to go along with a Black Belt on the ground. Bessette made his return to the CES cage his last time out, with a lop sided three round drubbing of Tim Dooling at CES 55. Admittedly, Bessette does not see this fight with Charles Cheeks III going the distance, as he looks for a finish in devastating fashion in his effort to regain the title that he never lost!   
Charles Cheeks III
Fighting out of: Houston, Texas
Affiliation: PRESS Forward MMA
Record: 14-7 (1 Knockout, 6 Submission)
Last fight: Unanimous Decision victory over Josh Davila at Fury FC 34.
“The Skinny”: In 2009, with one year left of eligibility Charles Cheeks III made the decision to forgo his collegiate football career and start his path to becoming a Professional Martial Artist. In just two years Cheeks had achieved his Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate and had won his first professional MMA fight. Fast forward 8 years and Cheeks has become one of the more highly touted Lightweights on the regional scene, having fought for fellow UFC feeder; LFA. Cheeks makes the move down to Featherweight for his chance to taste CES gold when he squares off with hometown favorite and UFC veteran; Matt Bessette! 

Breakdown: Following his run in the UFC, Hartford’s Bessette has returned to the promotion where he earned his call to the next level, with ambitions to regain the CES Featherweight Belt he walked away from just two years ago. Although the belt remains vacant, after former champion Bruce Boyington vacated the title following his split-decision victory over Dan Dubuque at CES 56 last May, Bessette looks to prove the Featherweight belt belongs around his waist, having never been defeated as CES Featherweight Champion. Bessette welcomes a talented challenger in the athletic and physical Charles Cheeks III, Cheeks will need to bring the fight to Bessette if he hopes to score the upset of fan favorite. However “The Mangler” does some of his best work when the pressure is on, as he searches for his 16th career finish against the man who stands in the way of his return to the CES Featherweight throne.