Unfazed by the crowd noise as he stepped into enemy territory Saturday in Hartford, Bruce Boyington did what champions are supposed to do, handling his business in one of the region’s most entertaining title fights in recent memory.
Photo by Will Paul
The Brewer, Maine, native successfully defended his CES MMA World Featherweight Title live on UFC Fight Pass in the main event of CES MMA 56, defeating the overwhelming crowd favorite Dan Dubuque of nearby Waterbury by split decision, 47-48, 49-46, 48-47. Boyington has now won his last three, improving to 17-11, while Dubuque drops to 8-3 with his first loss in five fights.
The Boyington-Dubuque main event highlighted a tremendous lineup on Fight Pass, which also featured the CES MMA debut of Milford, Conn., lightweight Nick Newell (15-2) and the return of electrifying welterweight prospect John Gotti III (4-0, 4 KOs) of Oyster Bay, N.Y. Both won in impressive fashion as Newell submitted Antonio Castillo Jr. (10-12) 2 minutes, 6 seconds into the opening round via rear-naked choke while Gotti III remained unbeaten with his fourth consecutive first-round stoppage by slamming David Espino (3-3) to the canvas 96 seconds
The main event – a regional crossroads battle between Boyington, the cagey, 40-year-old veteran, and the relentless up-and-comer Dubuque – lived up to the hype with the champion and challenger standing toe-to-toe for five hard rounds.
Boyington’s taekwondo allowed him to establish an early pace as he sent Dubuque to the canvas in the opening round with a roundhouse kick to the midsection and followed with a hard overhand right upstairs. The champion continued to come forward and apply pressure, bruising Dubuque’s left leg with hard kicks that temporarily slowed the challenger’s progress.
Having out-boxed Antonio Castillo in his previous bout at CES 55, Dubuque leaned heavily on his standup to charge his way back into the fight, but fatigue eventually set in on both sides. The fight got sloppy at the halfway point, but remained wildly entertaining, whether the two were on the ground, in the clinch or standing in the center of the cage trading blows.
Boyington’s versatility and adaptability was the difference. In addition to his taekwondo, he scored more takedowns and was simply more aggressive by pressing the action for the duration of the fight. In his aforementioned win over Castillo, Dubuque widened the gap by utilizing his jab, but failed to do so against Boyington. The champion kept his foot on the pedal and came out on top during the majority of the exchanges, also mixing in uppercuts and elbows whenever he didn’t enough space to launch his kicks.
Also on the main card, Waterbury welterweight prospect Jesse James Kosakowski (4-0) remained undefeated with his fourth submission victory in as many fights, submitting the hard-charging Ryan Jett (4-6) of Charlotte, N.C., via armbar 1:22 into the opening round. Jett caught Kosakowski with a right hand within seconds of the opening bell and the unbeaten prospect appeared dazed, but he quickly transitioned while on the canvas and caught Jett, forcing his opponent to tap. Jett immediately rose to his feet protesting the stoppage, but replays clearly showed he tapped with two fingers, sealing Kosakowski’s fourth consecutive win.
The relentless Jessy Miele (8-3), also from Waterbury, put on a striking clinic in the later rounds against former UFC featherweight contender Elizabeth Phillips (7-7) of Spokane, Wash., earning a 28-29, 30-26, 29-27 split-decision win. Phillips got off to a solid start, but ran out of steam early while Miele piled on with a non-stop barrage of overhand lefts and rights to batter her opponent in what was arguably the most entertaining bout on the main card aside from the headliner.
Heavyweight Parker Porter (9-5) of Hartford, one of the few active fighters who participated in CES MMA’s inaugural event in 2010, returned to his home state with a dominant win over Colorado’s Kevin Sears Jr. (8-6), earning the submission with the kimura at 2:29 of the second round.
New Haven female atomweight Marisa Messer-Belenchia (3-0, 1 KO) highlighted the preliminary card with a third-round knockout win over Idaho’s Stephanie Hernandez (0-1), earning the stoppage with unanswered strikes at the 4:46 mark. Middleweight Hugh McKenna (2-4) of Syosset, N.Y., submitted Jesus Cintron (0-8) of Hartford via arm triangle choke at 1:38 of the opening round and bantamweight Jornel Lugo (1-0) of Miami won his pro debut against Joshua Oxendine (0-1), submitting the Pembroke, N.C., native via guillotine choke at 2:59 of the opening round. Also making his pro debut, bantamweight Ashiek Ajim (1-0) of Long Island earned the win over Will Smith (1-1) of Springfield, Mass., by unanimous decision, 29-27, 28-27, 28-27.
Business-like approach guides Boyington in title defense
Bruce Boyington is all business. While traveling to sunny Redondo Beach, CA, would be a vacation for most, CES MMA’s reigning featherweight world champion is there to sharpen his skills in preparation for his first title defense next Friday in Hartford, CT.
The Milford, ME native spent a week and a half training at Blackhouse MMA, home to UFC legends B.J. Penn, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, among others. On Friday, May 31st, 2019, he fights for the first time since capturing the then vacant CES MMA title when he faces challengerDan Dubuque (8-2, 2 KOs) in a five-round bout, headlining CES MMA 56 at the Connecticut Convention Center live on UFC Fight Pass.
Tickets for the event start at $35.00 and are available for purchase online at www.cesmma.com or www.ctconventions.com or by phone at 401-724-2253. All fights and fighters subject to change.
For Boyington (16-11, 7 KOs), there’s a noticeable benefit to training with some of the sport’s upper-echelon fighters. He first made the trip a year ago prior to his title bout against former UFC vet Sean Soriano, a fight in which he was a 4-to-1 underdog. Boyington pulled off the upset on AXS TV, submitting Soriano via rear-naked choke at CES 51.
Now the pilgrimage to southern Los Angeles is a must for Boyington, whose experience rolling with the likes of Machida and UFC welterweight contender Kevin Lee is the equivalent of a slugger swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle. In addition to expanding his horizons by training out west, Boyington also switched camps a year ago and now works with Titan Athletics in Brewer, which he says has put him in “a whole new category as far as being a fighter goes.”
“Nothing against Dan, but when you test yourself against fighters like that and then come back and fight a guy like Dan, it’s beneficial to know you’re not going against a guy who’s as good as those guys,” Boyington said. “Maybe he is that good, but he hasn’t gone to the UFC and fought guys like that. Mentally, it does a lot for me.”
Boyington, who turned 40 in May, uses whatever he can as motivation, whether it’s being labeled an underdog by the odds-makers like he was against Soriano, or quips about his age, which seems him to annoy him the most.
A lifelong athlete who has always kept himself in impeccable shape, Boyington feels better than ever as he puts the finishing touches on his latest training camp. He started taekwondo at a young age and enlisted in the U.S. Marines out of high school, eventually teaching taekwondo to corpsmen in between deployments. In his four years of active duty, he spent time in Afghanistan, Greece, Albania and Macedonia and was stationed in Kosovo during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Life in mixed martial arts has kept him equally well-traveled; in between bouts on the regional circuit, Boyington headlined a fight card in Russia and also faced Andre Harrison at Madison Square Garden four months later for World Series of Fighting. Both the military and MMA have had a profound impact on his life, teaching him discipline and routine and forcing him to adhere to a strict code of ethics he maintains both in and out of the cage. When he’s not preparing for an upcoming fight, he runs his own school in nearby Brewer, appropriately named Boyington’s Taekwondo Academy.
There’s no doubt what keeps him motivated — it’s his love of competition and the burning desire to keep proving people wrong. The underdog mentality has served him well through the years. “I think there’s a lot more pressure when you’re not the underdog,” he said. “I just don’t like being counted out. I don’t like people underestimating me. People talk about my age, as if that has anything to do with how I am as a fighter, and it fuels me to defy the odds.”
Dubuque, a Waterbury, CT, native, will have the crowd on his side as he enters the title fight on a four fight win streak, including his most recent bout at CES 55. But Boyington is more confident than ever in his training and tutelage. In the past, he’s had difficulty preparing for fights due to a lack of training partners, or with outside distractions, but his business trip out west helped clear his mind, which may end up being more important than anything else.
“Being out there allowed me to put all of my focus on my training,” Boyington said. “When I come home, I’m in a good place, and I get to come out on fight night with an entire team behind me. All of those things play a big role. Rolling with guys who are all pushing me, knowing my body is conditioned, puts me in a good place mentally. It feels great. I’m focusing on all the right things.”
CES 56 is available on UFC Fight Pass with Michael Parente handling play-by-play alongside color commentator and longtime UFC vet “Filthy” Tom Lawlor and Canadian MMA analyst Robin Black. Fights start at 6:30 p.m. ET with the live stream beginning at 8.
CES 56 also features the CES MMA debut of Springfield, Mass., lightweight Nick Newell (14-2, 2 KOs), who faces Texas’ Antonio Castillo (10-10, 1 KO), plus the return of Oyster Bay, N.Y., native John Gotti III (3-0, 3 KOs) in a welterweight bout against David Espino (3-2, 2 KOs) of Quincy, Mass.