Raposo, Ghareeb bring home the gold at CES 71

Just 68 days after producing the Fight of the Year in New England, CES MMA wrapped up 2022 with the best knockout of the combat sports season.

Fall River, MA, flyweight Mitch Raposo closed the show in style Thursday in the main event of CES 71 with a scintillating knockout victory over Brazilian Flavio Carvalho at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort to capture the promotion’s vacant world title live on UFC FIGHT PASS®.

Raposo (7-1) put Carvalho (7-5-1) to sleep with a thunderous overhand right 19 seconds into the second round of their scheduled five-round fight to become the first CES MMA World Flyweight Champion since Blaine Shutt, who won the inaugural crown in January of 2020.

The main event followed the first of two title fights at CES 71, a last-minute bump in status for Southampton, MA, native Nate Ghareeb and Ohio’s Antonio Castillo, who were originally scheduled to fight a three-rounder but were instead elevated to a five-round world lightweight title bout when weight issues forced the cancelation of the Eddy George-Angel Alvrez fight.

Having lost a narrow split decision to Dan Dubuque for the promotion’s bantamweight title at CES 70, Ghareeb (7-2) came out firing against “The Mexican Muscle” with a dominant first round before locking in a rare Suloev stretch hamstring submission at 4:34 of the second round – a move Ghareeb admits he watched just days before the fight on YouTube. Afterward, Ghareeb called out Dubuque for a rematch of their CES 70 classic, a fight that could happen in 2023, while Castillo (13-16) tearfully announced his retirement after 34 pro fights (29 in MMA, which includes four with CES, and five in professional boxing).

Elsewhere on the main card, lightweight Kaecy Raddon of Utah won a battle of unbeatens against Pawtucket, RI, native Dion Rubio via knockout at 4:56 of the second round. After a back-and-forth tussle for most of the match, Raddon got the upper hand in the closing seconds of the second round and flattened Rubio with a furious ground-and-pound assault before the referee halted the bout with only four seconds remaining on the clock. Raddon improved to 3-0 while Rubio dropped to 3-1 with his first professional loss.

“The Russian Polar Bear” Yuri Panferov continued his rapid climb to the top of the light heavyweight division with a methodical knockout win over 20-fight veteran Brian Imes (8-13) of Kansas City, earning the ground-and-pound stoppage at 2:21 of the opening round. The knockout victory was the first of Panferov’s unblemished professional career; he had won his previous three bouts by first-round submission. Panferov is now 4-0 and a major prospect to watch in 2023.

Highly-touted amateur welterweight Shane Dillehay, a former collegiate cheerleader who now trains out of Tri-Force MMA in Rhode Island, wore down Fort Lauderdale’s Kamil Meler in the professional debut for both fighters, earning the stoppage via ground and pound at 2:33 of the opening round. Also making his professional debut, Massachusetts light heavyweight Jon Ciampa earned a quick victory over Denver’s Jerell Nettles (0-2) via triangle choke submission at 2:17 of the opening round.