The knee to the chin is starting to become the go-to move for reigning CES MMA Bantamweight Champion Andre Soukhamthath.
For the second consecutive fight, Soukhamthath stopped his opponent with a knee upstairs, this time knocking out Cambridge, Mass., vet Kin Moy in a rematch of their 2014 fight to defend his title in the main event of “CES MMA 37” at Twin River Casino on AXS TV.
Soukhamthath originally won the crown in March when he knocked out Kody Nordby in the fifth and final round with a flying knee.
Friday’s stoppage occurred at the 2-minute, 32-second mark of the second round after a back-and-forth opening round in which both fighters exchanged blows in the center of the cage. Soukhamthath (11-3, 7 KOs) continued to land cleanly in the second until he floored Moy (8-3) with a knee to the chin and finished the fight with unanswered strikes.
The second of two title bouts occurred in the co-feature between Stafford Springs, Conn., native Matt Bessette (20-7), the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in New England, and underdog Joe Pingitore (6-2-2) of Johnston, R.I., who took the fight on a week’s notice, for the vacant CES MMA Featherweight Championship.
As expected, Pingitore came out swinging, clipping Bessette with a right hand that sent his opponent to the canvas and nearly finishing the fight with effective ground and pound until Bessette made his way back to his feet. The two continued to exchange blows in the opening round and picked up the pace in the second, this time with each fighter sporting a cut below the eye.
Pingitore picked up where he left off late in the second with another hard right that dropped Bessette and again appeared to be in control, but Bessette recovered and did what he does best, submitting Pingitore via heel hook at the 4:38 mark to capture the vacant title.
In a stunning finish, Surprise, Ariz., native Ashley Gooch (10-4, 7 KOs) stunned Providence’sGreg Rebello (20-7) in the vacant CES MMA Heavyweight Title bout, absorbing punishment for two rounds before stopping Rebello with a straight right hand at the 1:10 mark of the third round.
Quick on his feet while expertly defending takedowns, Rebello peppered Gooch in the first two rounds, even stunning Gooch momentarily toward the end of the second. Gooch took Rebello’s best and landed the finishing blow early in the third when Rebello went in for the leg kick and left himself open for the overhand right.
Gooch has now won eight consecutive fights dating back to 2013, including a win over Connecticut’s Josh Diekmann at “CES MMA 32” in January. Rebello had won his last four entering Friday.
Russian submission specialist Ruslan Melikov (4-1) added a third submission victory to his resume on the main card, defeating the previously unbeaten Pat McCrohan (2-1) of Berkeley, Mass., via bulldog choke at the 4:44 mark of the second round.
Fighting for the third time in the middleweight division after spending most of his career at welterweight, Bridgewater, Mass., vet Chuck O’Neil (17-8, 6 KOs) held nothing back in an explosive performance against Florida’s Roy Jones (7-5), stopping his opponent with unanswered strikes at the 2:24 mark of the opening round.
Jones, fighting for the first time in nearly four years, scored an early takedown and nearly locked in a guillotine choke, but once he escaped and passed guard, he pummeled Jones until referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in and stopped the bout. O’Neil celebrated by calling out Worcester, Mass., native and Bellator vet Mike Zichelle live on AXS TV during his post-fight interview with color commentator Pat Miletich.
Bantamweight prospect Marquis Brewster (2-0) of Providence, R.I., remained undefeated in his second pro bout with a submission win over Pennsylvania’s Roosevelt Archie (0-2) via arm triangle submission at 2:17 of the second round to highlight the preliminary card.
The early candidate for Knockout of the Night occurred in the third and final prelim bout when middleweight Mike Rodriguez (4-1, 3 KOs) of Quincy, Mass., flattened New Jersey’sStepfond Ewins (3-4) with a flying knee at 3:38 of the opening round. Rodriguez has now won back-to-back fights since suffering his first career loss in January.
Also on the preliminary card, Derry, N.H., featherweight Dylan Lockhard (1-0) impressed in his professional debut, defeated five-fight vet Mak Kelleher (2-4) by unanimous decision, 30-26, 30-26, 30-27. Kelleher’s exceptional wrestling and ground game was the difference as he scored several early takedowns to slow the pace and prevent Kelleher from utilizing his striking. Anytime Kelleher picked up some momentum with his standup, Lockhard stemmed the tide with a key takedown, including one in the closing seconds to punctuate his dominant victory.