Nate Andrews put on the performance of a lifetime Friday, escaping from near defeat to capture the vacant CES MMA World Lightweight Title at CES MMA 49 live on AXS TV from Twin River Casino.
Andrews (13-1) finished off the dangerous Chris Padilla (9-4) of California via rear-naked choke at the 2:04 minute of the second round, but not before Padilla nearly used the same hold to end the bout in the opening round.
Just when it appeared Andrews might tap to the rear-naked choke, the East Providence, R.I., escaped and regained his composure in the closing seconds to make it to the final bell.
Andrews came out strong in the second, landing his straight left hand early to send Padilla backpedaling. Andrews scored a takedown early in the round and quickly locked in the choke. Padilla escaped the first time, but Andrews stayed calm, sunk it in deeper the second time and finally forced Padilla to submit.
Andrews, who has now won seven consecutive fights, fell to the canvas, overcome with emotion, as he and his team celebrated the biggest win of his career.
In the main event, Cincinnati’s Chris Curtis (18-5) retained the CES MMA World Welterweight Title with a convincing, 49-45, 50-44, 48-46, unanimous decision win over New Jersey vet Jason Norwood (18-5).
Curtis has now successfully defended the belt twice since winning it in his first appearance with CES MMA in 2016. The reigning title-holder has also won eight of his last nine bouts. The key to his success Friday was his superior boxing ability. Curtis peppered Norwood throughout the fight, opening a cut over Norwood’s right eye, which rapidly worsened by the fourth and fifth rounds.
Norwood lost a point for repeated low blows, but it did little to deter Curtis, who continued to circle the cage with ease and outbox Norwood to bring the belt back to Cincinnati.
Binghamton, N.Y., flyweight Matt Almy (4-2) scored a major upset on the main card, submitting previously-unbeaten Milford, Mass., native Richie Santiago (6-1) 51 seconds into the opening round via D’Arce choke. Almy knocked the wind out of Santiago with a kick to the midsection, then pounced as his opponent crumbled to the canvas. Santiago survived the initial onslaught of lefts and rights, but Almy kept his composure and finished with the submission for his first win since October of 2016.
Philadelphia welterweight Jeremiah Wells (4-1, 2 KOs) followed with another stunning finish, knocking out fan-favorite Gary Balletto Jr. (5-2) of Cranston, R.I., with a hard overhand right 57 seconds into the opening round. Balletto feigned a left and tried to backpedal as Wells went in for the kill, but the Philadelphia native landed directly on Balletto’s jaw. Referee John English wisely stepped in and waived it off as Balletto hit the canvas. The loss snapped Balletto’s five-fight win streak while Wells won for the first time since 2014.
Providence native Sean Soriano (11-5) made a triumphant return to Twin River on the opening bout of the main card, submitting Jonathan Gary (13-10) of Oklahoma City via rear-naked choke at the 1:21 mark of the opening round. Soriano clipped Gary on the chin with a big overhand right early in the round and immediately went in for the kill, landing a few more shots before locking in the choke and forcing Gary to tap out. The victory was Soriano’s first win by submission since 2012.
Facing his toughest test to date, unbeaten Providence bantamweight Marquis Brewster (5-0) kept his perfect record intact by grinding out a 29-28, 29-28, 29-27 unanimous decision win over the tough Shawn Mack (6-3) of Lansing, Mich. Brewster used his superior wrestling ability to win the close rounds, utilizing takedowns and effective ground and pound to wear out his opponent over the final two rounds.
Female strawweight Kaline Medeiros (9-6) of Fall River, Mass., won in dominant fashion on the main card, beating Brooklyn’s Jenna Serio (3-3) by unanimous decision, 30-27, on all three scorecards. Medeiros controlled the cage the entire fight, peppering Serio with jabs and scoring big with takedowns in the second and third rounds to nail down her first win since September of 2016.
Lightweight Pat Casey (2-0) of Springfield, Mass., making his CES MMA debut, won for the second time in as many bouts and kicked off the preliminary card with a dominant, 30-27, 30-27, 30-26, unanimous decision win over Ryan Castro (0-1) of Patchogue, N.Y. Casey connected early and often with strikes, opening a cut over Castro’s right eye in the second round, and dominated on the ground whenever the two hit the canvas.
Carlos Rodriguez’s pro debut against flyweight Jose Lugo (2-0, 1 KO) of Woonsocket, R.I., ended abruptly when the Bronx, N.Y., native suffered a left leg injury 17 seconds into the second round. After a spirited exchange in the center of the cage, Rodriguez grabbed his knee and fell to the canvas writhing in pain, unable to continue. The bout was officially ruled a knockout due to injury in favor of Lugo, now 2-0 since making his professional debut in November.
Unbeaten bantamweight John Douma (3-0, 2 KOs) stole the show on the preliminary card with his second consecutive knockout win, stopping the game Zach Burhans (3-2) of Homer, N.Y., at the 2:51 mark of the second round. Both fighters landed clean shots early on, but Douma began to get the better of the exchanges in the second round and eventually sent Burhans to the canvas, where he finished him off with unanswered strikes before referee Keith Peterson jumped in and stopped the bout.