Bruce Boyington and his supporters can exhale.
The CES MMA featherweight champion retained his title with a contentious split decision over Dan Dubuque in the CES 56 headliner on Friday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Scores were 49-46 and 48-47 for Boyington, 48-47 for Dubuque.
In a sloppy but entertaining 25-minute match marked by wild exchanges on the feet, in the clinch and on the ground, Boyington (17-11, 2-1 CES) more often than not came out stronger on the other side. The 40-year-old Maine native attacked Dubuque's lead leg with kicks, mixed in an effective jab and integrated spinning attacks across all five rounds. He also threw in a few takedowns against the challenger. Dubuque (6-3, 2-1 CES) had his moments — he pinned Boyington to the cage with knee strikes in the second round and had him reeling with a left hook in the third — but not enough of them to make up the difference on the scorecards.
In the lightweight co-main event, World Series of Fighting and Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Nick Newell submitted Antonio Castillo Jr. with a first-round rear-naked choke. Castillo (9-10, 0-2 CES) conceded defeat 2:06 into Round 1.
Newell (15-2, 1-0 CES) struck for a takedown inside the first 40 seconds, threatened with a Von Flue choke and then scrambled to the back. In a matter of seconds, the choke was in place and Castillo's situation had become hopeless. Newell secured his position, tightened his squeeze and prompted the tapout.
The 33-year-old Newell has won four of his last five fights, a failed turn against Alex Munoz on DWTNCS his only hiccup.
Meanwhile, Long Island MMA prospect John Gotti III kept his perfect professional record intact, as he put away David Espino with a thunderous slam and follow-up punches in the first round of their welterweight showcase. Espino (2-3, 0-1 CES) bowed out 96 seconds into Round 1.
Gotti (4-0, 4-0 CES) — grandson of the late mob boss John Gotti — cut loose with body-head combinations, sprawled out of an attempted takedown and wheeled around to the back. From there, he hoisted Espino from the gut-wrench position, slammed him to the canvas and mopped up what was left with unanswered punches.
The 26-year-old Gotti has finished all four of his opponents inside one round.
In other action, Jesse Kosakowski (2-0, 1-0 CES) submitted Ryan Jett (4-5, 0-1 CES) with an armbar 1:20 into the first round of their welterweight pairing; Parker Porter (7-5, 2-1 CES) submitted Kevin Ray Sears (8-5, 0-2 CES) with a kimura 2:29 into the second round of their heavyweight scrap; Jessy Miele (8-3, 2-1 CES) eked out a split decision — 28-29, 30-26, 29-27 — over Elizabeth Phillips (6-7, 0-1 CES) in a three-round featherweight battle; Ashiek Ajim (1-0, 1-0 CES) took a unanimous decision from Will Smith (0-1, 0-1 CES) in a three-round bantamweight affair; Jornel Lugo (1-0, 1-0 CES) submitted Josh Oxendine (1-0, CES) with a guillotine choke 2:59 into the first round of their bantamweight tilt; Marisa Messer-Belenchia (2-0, 2-0 CES) disposed of Stephanie Hernandez (0-1, 0-1 CES) with punches 4:46 into the third round of their atomweight confrontation; and Hugh McKenna (2-2, 1-1 CES) submitted Jesus Cintron (0-1, 0-1 CES) with an arm-triangle choke 1:38 into the first round of their middleweight clash.