The world middleweight championship is up for grabs Saturday, March 18 as CES MMA makes its long-awaited return to Foxwoods Resort Casino.
The Collins-Caron bought is one of seven pro fights on the March 18 card, which also features six amateur bouts headlined by a lightweight showdown between Connecticut natives Tristian Turrano and Cullen Johnson and fellow unbeaten lightweights Justin Graves of Connecticut and Worcester’s Artur Minev. Showtime is 6:30 pm beginning with the amateur showcase.
Collins’ ascension to main-event status comes just nine months after the 37-year-old made his return to the cage following a 10-year layoff. The father of a 12-year-old daughter and former U.S. Air Force veteran, Collins battled alcoholism during his time away from MMA, but soon quit drinking and returned to the sport in June, defeating Deran Martinez via first-round knockout at CES 69.
At 5-0 with each victory coming by submission or knockout, Collins now faces his toughest test to date against the 35-year-old Caron (12-5, 5 KOs), a five-time Bellator vet who last fought for CES in 2018 and also made an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series that same year. After taking time away from the sport in 2018 to open his own gym in New Hampshire, Caron has won three of his last four and four of his last seven dating back to 2019.
In his last two fights, Caron won a unanimous decision over 7-2 Salaiman Ahmadyar and beat 9-3 Alton Cunningham in August, setting the stage for his first career title fight after a schedule championship bout in January of 2020 was scrapped just hours before the event.
Also returning at CES 72, Southampton, MA, featherweight Nate Ghareeb (7-2, 5 KOs) looks to start a new win streak in the co-main event against Queens, NY, native Damion Nelson (4-1, 1 KO). Ghareeb rebounded from his first career loss with a sensational submission victory over the tough Antonio Castillo Jr. at CES 71 in November. Nelson enters March 18 fresh off a win over previously-unbeaten Thomas Picciano in December.
CES 72 also features an exciting flyweight showdown between Gilford, CT, native Harris Bonfiglio (5-1) and New York’s Giorgi Kudukhashvili (5-4), neither of whom are a stranger of the CES cage. Kudukhashvili made his promotional debut at CES 60 in January of 2020 – which, coincidentally, was his last fight – while Bonfiglio returns for the fifth time; he’s 3-1 lifetime with CES, including a big submission win over Richie Santiago at CES 69.
Also on the main card, Terryville, CT, flyweight Casey Norton (2-0) puts his perfect record on the line against Dave Juliano (2-2) of Cedar Grove, NJ; and Meriden, CT, flyweight Justin Valentin (3-2, 1 KO) battles the dangerous Tim Flores (2-1) of Springfield, MA, in an all-region showdown. Valentin is coming off a win over Brandon Neiford in early January and returns to CES for the first time since 2019.
In one of the more intriguing stories at CES 72, Waterbury, CT, bantamweight Mike Kimbel (4-3, 2 KOs) faces Texas’ Daniel Arriaga (1-2) less than two months after making his professional boxing debut with a fourth-round knockout win over Robert Banks on the undercard of CES Boxing’s Winter Brawl event in January. This will be Kimbel’s first MMA bout in almost a year; he last fought in April of 2022 at CES 67, beating Tristan Lindi by first-round submission.
Flyweight David Durao (0-1) of Meriden faces Winter Park, FL, native Adrian Haly (0-1) as both fighters aim for their first professional win. Durao returns for the first time since September of 2021 after losing a close decision to Israel Galvan at CES 64.
Full fight card details are available online. Follow CES MMA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @CESMMA.