New England-based Classic Entertainment and Sports (CES) MMA is set to return tonight after a six-week hiatus to bring fight fans CES 69 from Lincoln, R.I.’s Twin River Casino. Friday’s card will be headlined by a CES MMA bantamweight championship fight between CES mainstay Ashiek Ajim and Mongolia’s Azjavkhlan Baatar and feature a co-main event between light heavyweights Jeremy May and Mike Rodriguez in Rodriguez’ return to CES after an eight-fight stint in the UFC.
Friday’s card will be available to be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
Weight has been made ☑️
Fighters have faced off ☑️
— CES MMA (@CESMMA) June 16, 2022
Ajim, a homegrown prospect inside the CES cage, has compiled a 5-1 record with four finishes to his name. The New York native has been a name to watch on the east coast regional circuit for years now, having accumulated seven wins as an amateur with five knockouts over a three-year span. He has since gone on to translate his success into a strong start to his pro career, with his only blemish coming against Kris Moutinho, who notably stepped in to fight Sean O’Malley on the main card of UFC 264 on one week’s notice. At 5-foot-8, Ajim trends tall for the weight class and loves to use his hands to put his opponents down. He was originally scheduled to fight another east coast regional mainstay in Jay Perrin back in March, but Perrin has since been afforded another opportunity in the UFC after dropping his promotional debut earlier this year.
Ajim will aim to put his length and power to the test against Baatar, who is returning to CES after taking a unanimous decision over Johnny Lopez in his first fight for CES at CES 67 after having previously fought in known international entities such as Combate, DEEP, and Rizin. He has come out on the winning end in each of his last four fights, which includes three finishes in addition to the victory over Lopez, though the victory that started his recent streak came as a result of his opponent getting disqualified due to strikes to the back of the head. Baatar’s best path to victory against Ajim might be on the ground, as he has won decisions in the past by maintaining top position and picked up a leglock victory over Denis Vasiliev back in 2019. If he can’t get the fight to the mat, he may be subject to three rounds of Ajim’s hands, or however long the fight lasts.
The co-main event of CES 69 will see Rodriguez make his return to the promotion to face May, who’s taking his first professional fight in over three years. Like Alim, Rodriguez was a home-grown product having fought all but two of his fights outside the UFC under the CES banner. “Slow Mike” put together an 8-2 record before going on Dana White’s Contender Series and bringing the UFC matchmakers to their feet with a flying knee knockout of Jamelle Jones back in 2017. The Muay Thai specialist entered the UFC with a ton of promise given his prodigious length and power, but proceeded to struggle against grapplers like Devin Clark and John Allan before an unfortunate turn of events cost him a win over Ed Herman in 2020. He went on to receive two more opportunities in the promotion before being released. The Joe Lauzon pupil is now 11-7 in MMA and will now look to show fight fans he has plenty left in the tank as he returns home to CES, a place where he holds a 75 percent winning percentage.
Rodriguez will find himself standing opposite of May on Friday night, who will look to shake off the cage rust to earn what would be the biggest win of his career. Prior to taking a three-year break from the sport, May had lost each of his last three bouts with the latest coming at the hands of UFC heavyweight Chase Sherman at Island Fights 52. The Sherman fight at the time had been May’s first in almost two years to that point, so inactivity has been a recurring theme in the career of the 35-year-old, though he did have a fight scheduled with Richard Odoms in Fury FC that was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Floridian will instead make his return in CES, where he will have a tall task (literally) in front of him in Rodriguez. May, however, stacks up favorably to Rodriguez size-wise, ceding only an inch in height and half-an-inch in reach to the Bostonian. If May is able to stick and move, he may be able to make better use of his length than Rodriguez, who does his best work up close where he can land punishing knees from the Thai clinch, some of the hardest currently in the weight class. Either way, he will likely want to avoid trading with Rodriguez in the pocket if he wants to spoil the eight-fight UFC veteran’s homecoming.
Rest of the Card
The remainder of the CES 69 features some intriguing names littered throughout the card. The featured fight will see New England bantamweights Richie Santiago and Harris Bonfiglio battle for position in the division behind Friday’s title fight. Santiago will look to snap a two-fight skid after himself making an appearance on the Contender Series, while ground specialist Bonfiglio is looking to win his third straight to make it a 5-1 start to his professional career. From there, fight fans will get a look at Jackson Wink MMA product Alex Cardenas and local favorite Tyrime Da Silva in the featherweight division, two fighters who have fought a combined three times professionally but are looking to keep their ‘zero’ in the loss column.
The middle of the card will be buoyed by an intriguing tilt between 5-0 Eddy George and tested veteran Jacob Bohn (10-9) at 155 pounds. George, who trains out of Fighting Arts Academy under Head Coach Nick Newell, has won all five of his fights inside CES and will be looking for his sixth against Bohn, who is someone that has fought all over the world and served as a test for future UFC standouts such as Joe Solecki, Pat Sabatini, and Shane Burgos. The remainder of the card will feature fun fights such as Dion Rubio (2-0) vs. Sam Watford (2-2) at lightweight, Nathan Ghareeb (5-1) vs. Javon Wright (5-5) at featherweight, and Chad Kelly (4-5) vs. John Douma (7-2) at bantamweight. Additionally, Worcester, Massachusetts native Fran Collins will make his return to the cage after a 10-year layoff and attempt to keep his unbeaten record (3-0) intact against professional debutant Deran Martinez.
CES 69 Results
Ashiek Ajim def. Azjavkhlan Baatar via Submission (Guillotine) at :46 of Round 1 — for the CES MMA Bantamweight Championship
Mike Rodriguez def. Jeremy May via TKO (strikes) at 3:25 of Round 1
Harris Bonfiglio def. Richie Santiago via Submission (Armbar) at 4:56 of Round 1
Yuri Panferov def. Jerelll Nettles via Submission (RNC) at 3:04 of Round 1
Dion Rubio def. Sam Watford via Submission (Guillotine) at 1:58 of Round 3
Nate Ghareeb def. Javon Wright via TKO (strikes) at :30 of Round 1
Tyrime Da Silva def. Josh Hardy via Submission (RNC) at 4:19 of Round 1