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CES 55 makes Connecticut History
Matt Bessette, left, versus Tim Dooling on March 29 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
Photo by John Fulcher

By Brian Woodman Jr.
(March 29 -- Hartford, CT)

   The Connecticut Convention Center hosted the state’s first sanctioned MMA event on Saturday – CES 55. Connecticut favorite and Bellator veteran Matt “the Mangler” Bessette (23-9) was among the winners that evening.
   Two scheduled fights, including a light heavyweight fight between William Knight (4-0) and Carlton Little (7-6), were scratched from the card.
   The event featured nine fights, including two title fights. A welterweight title fight between then-champion Jeremiah Wells (6-2) and challenger Vinicius De Jesus (7-3) capped the card – it ended with the later winning the belt following a victory by unanimous decision.
   The other title fight, which opened the main card, was a bantamweight championship fight between belt holder Tony Gravely (17-5) and Darren Mima (10-8). It ended with Gravely retaining the championship.
Gravely appeared to dominate the first round of the bout, dropping Mima twice. Mima attempted a leg triangle choke but Gravely escaped and appeared dominant as the round ended. Mima attempted a guillotine early in the second round but Gravely escaped and eventually submitted him with a rear naked choke at 4:54.
   The main event opened with a cautious stand-up battle as Wells and De Jesus felt each other out. Wells put De Jesus off balance with a kick in the first round and grabbed him from behind by the waist twice but the pattern was still tempered back-and-forth standup. 
   After a brief stoppage during the second round, Wells tried to Grab De Jesus’s legs for a takedown. De Jesus threw a few kicks as the round ended.
   Wells briefly picked up the pace during the fourth round and tried to dictate the flow of the fight with his punching, later throwing a high kick that went over De Jesus’s head. De Jesus continued trying to corner and chase Wells. 
   Wells again tried to be more aggressive, throwing a spinning back fist that De Jesus block. The former champion also tried to rush De Jesus and the challenger side stepped him before attempting to pounce on him as he fell.
   Bessette, who recently completed a brief stint with the UFC, earned a victory by unanimous decision over fellow featherweight Tim Dooling (7-5) during the co-main event. Looping threw a high kick early in the first round, but Bessette side-stepped it while bobbing and weaving around punches. Bessette tried to pounce on Looping but he recovered. The two slipped each other during a punching exchange and the fight eventually went to the ground with Bessette on top. 
   Bessette wound up in Looping’s half guard as the fight went to the ground during the second round. Lopping ended the round by trying to hit Bessette with a cartwheel kick – something he tried again in the third round. 
   The pace increased and the bout went back and forth as the last round ended.
   The evening opened with a middleweight bout between Carlos Rivera (2-4) of Meriden and Mike Diorio (1-4). The latter secured a bully mount during the first round and launched some ground-and-pound during the second after sprawling his way out of a double-leg takedown and winding up on top. But Rivera, who wound up on top himself during much of the ground game, secured the winning end of a split decision with all three judges scoring it 29-28.
   The next fight was a lightweight bout between Gil Pinheiro (0-3) of Naugatuck and Tom Connollly (1-0). Connolly ground-and-pounded his way to a quick knockout victory at 19:17 in the first round. 
   The next fight was a flyweight bout between Justin Valentin (2-1) of Meriden and Jason Huntley (6-8) that closed the opening card. Huntley’s grappling skills and takedowns appeared to dictate the pace of the fight as he went for a guillotine late in the first round, a leg triangle in the second and a rear naked choke in the third. Valentin held his own well enough for one judge to score the fight 28-28 – the other two scored it 30-26 and 29-27 and Huntley secured a majority decision win. 
   Following the bantamweight title fight, the televised/streamed card featured a strawweight women’s fight between Hilarie Rose (3-1) and Rosa Acevedo (4-4). The fighters hit the ground often and each often appeared dominant during the fight. Rose went for a heel hook in the first round and a rear naked coke in the second. Acevedo took Rose’s back twice during the fight and attempted a rear naked choke in the second round. The fight went to a split decision in favor of Rose.
   The next fight as featherweight bout between Dan Dubuque (8-2) of Waterbury and Antonio Castillo Jr. (10-9). The fighters engaged in cautious back-and-forth strikes during the first round, which briefly went to the ground with Castillo attempting to take Dubuque’s back. The pace increased during the second round as both fighters continued to exchange strikes and clinch – Castillo brought the fight to the ground for a short time near the end of the round. 
   Castillo took Dubuque’s back again during the third round and later went for a guillotine. But Dubuque’s consistent striking appeared to win the win and he earned an unanimous decision win.
   A middleweight bout between Eric Spicely (11-4) and Caio Magalhaes (10-7) of Bethel preceded the co-main event. Magalhaes briefly unloaded on Spicely, who recovered prior to a brief stoppage. Spicely picked up the pace after the fight resumed and dropped Magalhaes, throwing a few more punches before the referee waved the fight off at four minutes in the first round.
Vinicius De Jesus, left, versus Jeremiah Wells during the main event at CES 55.
Photo by John Fulcher
MMA fighters Matt Bessette and Tim Dooling
Photo of MMA fighters Vinicius De Jesus and Jeremiah Walls