With the fight on the line, Nate Andrews saved his best for the third and final round Wednesday in CES MMA’s year-end Thanksgiving Eve spectacular.
In a tremendous, back and forth main event at “CES MMA 40,” the Providence, R.I., lightweight submitted George Sheppard (15-12) via rear-naked choke at the 2-minute, 3-second mark, capping a wild night at Twin River Casino in the finale of the 2016 season.
Sheppard disputed the verdict, pleading his case to referee Kevin MacDonald, who stopped the bout when he declared Sheppard tapped. The win improved Andrews’ record to 10-1. He’s now won his last four since suffering his first career loss in 2014.
The first two rounds were close with Andrews dominating the striking in the opening round and Sheppard scoring a late takedown and near submission in the second before the final bell.
Fighting for the first time since losing his CES MMA Featherweight Title bout to Matt Bessette in August, Johnston, R.I., native Joe Pingitore (7-3) earned a first-round submission win over Hawaii’s Spencer Higa (4-7), forcing Higa to submit via guillotine choke with only six seconds remaining in the round.
Early on, it appeared Pingitore might score the knockout after he caught Higa with a looping, overhand right, opening a cut over Higa’s left eye, but the Hawaii vet kept pressing and refused to back down. The two exchanged blows until Pingitore landed a right uppercut to the body, dropping Higa to the canvas, where he then executed the guillotine to finish the fight in the closing seconds of the opening round.
Not to be outdone, East Providence, R.I., bantamweight Dinis Paiva Jr. (8-6, 5 KOs) made his triumphant return to the cage, stopping Las Vegas’ Zane Behrend (2-2) at 1:23 of the opening round, knocking Behrend to the canvas three times before referee Dan Miragliottastopped the bout.
Paiva, who hadn’t fought since “CES MMA 31” in October of 2015, showed no signs of rust, knocking Behrend to the canvas with hard right hands in the opening seconds. Behrend survived the initial onslaught and continued to exchange until he hit the deck a third-time courtesy of a straight left. Paiva pounced on Behrend and landed a series of unanswered lefts to finish off his fifth career knockout win.
Also on the undercard, Cranston, R.I., welterweight Gary Balletto Jr. (2-1, 1 KO) earned his second consecutive win and first by knockout, stopping upstate New York’s Montoyia Swilling (0-4) at 2:33 of the opening round due to unanswered strikes.
Balletto came out strong, driving Swilling into the cage and scoring the quick takedown just seconds after the opening bell. Balletto tried to take Swilling’s back and score a quick submission, but instead gained full mount and hammered away with rights and lefts until Miragliotta stopped the fight.
In the bantamweight division, Milford, Mass., native Kris Moutinho (2-0) remained unbeaten with a dominant unanimous decision win over New York native Michael Karam (0-1), 30-26, 30-26, 30-27. Moutinho, who won his debut at “CES MMA 38” in September, landed the cleaner strikes and also dominated on the ground, nearly submitting his opponent in the final round to punctuate a near-flawless performance from the opening bell.
The first two bouts of the evening ended with first-round submissions. Columbus, Ohio bantamweight Raymond Yanez (4-8) earned his fourth career win, forcing fan-favorite Joe Reverdes (2-3) of Pawtucket, R.I., to tap via guillotine at 2:59, and Hollis, N.H., lightweight Dylan Lockard (2-0) earned his second win under the promotional guidance of CES MMA, submitting Detroit’s Russell Campbell III (0-3) via rear-naked choke at 1:20. Lockard won his pro debut at “CES MMA 37,” beating Mak Kelleher by unanimous decision.