The main card for Friday’s CES MMA 25, which took place at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI, was one worthy of a debut on AXS TV and their national audience. Top to bottom, the card had some of the best current fighters in the New England-based organization, and they put on a show. The evening featured a lot of different personalities, and a few unexpected finishes.
Tateki Matsuda and Robbie Leroux squared off in a bantamweight fight which started off looking like Leroux would take his Japanese opponent. He started off manhandling Matsuda, throwing him to the mat with his characteristic power. Matsuda, however, showed he was comfortable on the ground, and turned the tables on Leroux. He was able to gain an advantage with some knees to the side of Leroux, and get a submission with a choke move. Both fighters gave a good accounting of themselves in their debut for the national audience.
Charles Rosa and Jake Constant went head-to-head in a much-anticipated featherweight match. Looking to be called up to the UFC, Rosa has been looking forward to the AXS TV debut and the chance to be on the national stage. Featured in an Alpha Fight column earlier this week, Rosa is a Florida-based fighter originally from outside of Boston who came in looking to keep his undefeated professional record. His opponent, Jake Constant, a fighter out of Illinois, was a last-minute replacement after two different fighters who were originally scheduled to face Rosa dropped out. It appeared early on that the lack of a chance to prepare for Constant might actually be a factor in the fight. Constant landed some solid blows, causing Rosa to stumble briefly, but Rosa settled in and finished the job. He gained a submission by arm bar. It is a favorite technique for him, and he actually used it to win his last match despite the fact that he was suffering from a separated shoulder at the time. Though he showed a few more vulnerabilities than is the norm for him in this fight, he was still able to come home with his ninth straight professional win and maintain his undefeated record.
Gil de Freitas and George Sheppard took each other on in what was a fan-favorite fight of the AXS TV debut. This lightweight bout provided lots of action and an exchange of powerhouse blows from both sides. As was the theme for the night, this one featured another turnaround of fortunes. Sheppard came in as the favorite, and started off looking strong. He landed some blows which had the Brazilian looking, from the state of his face, like he was going to be beaten. Not one to give up, however, de Freitas turned it on and came with a barrage of low kicks that gave Sheppard no room to recover and left him open to some head blows which were his undoing. Both fighters battered, de Freitas was finally able to emerge on top.
Julian Lane and Luis Felix battled for the vacated lightweight title and made it a battle worth watching. The two were fairly evenly matched to begin the fight, and it looked like they would go the distance. Lane had a nice takedown in the third round, and Felix came back pounding Lane’s body with some squarely landed kicks. The AXS TV announcers continued to say that they thought Lane looked tired toward the end, and many thought he would end up falling to the legs of Felix, but he gambled and was able to land a powerful blow to the head that stunned Felix with his right. He followed up quickly, taking Felix to the mat and unleashing a relentless assault of blows that ended the fight. It was a turnaround right in keeping with the rest of the night’s contests.
The UFC may be on a brief hiatus, aside from the freak show that Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier are becoming, but the CES MMA 25 provided plenty of action for those suffering withdrawal. The fact that they were able to gain a national audience with the fights being televised on AXS TV means that the entire nation got the chance to see a few of the fighters who may just be on their way to Dana White’s playground very soon.
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Commentary By Jim Malone