Change of plans puts Paiva, Smith in driver’s seat for world title at CES 62

Orlando, FL – Life comes at you fast, and opportunities like this can come at you even faster.

When bantamweight contenders Dinis Paiva (13-8, 7 KOs) and Joshua Smith (9-6, 5 KOs) arrived at the Caribe Royale Orlando on Thursday afternoon to weigh in for their CES MMA 62 world title eliminator showdown scheduled for tonight, they had no idea what wild, unpredictable detour fate would serve them over the next several hours.

The original plan was simple: Win Friday and await the winner of the second eliminator bout between Andrew Whitney and Diego Silva for a championship bout at a later date, but when the Whitney-Silva bout fell through late Thursday due to weight issues, the stage was suddenly set for Paiva and Smith to step to the plate for an unexpected development.

When the dust finally settled and the sun rose this morning, Paiva and Smith found themselves facing each other not for the right to fight for the belt later on this year, but for the title itself; tonight’s eliminator has been upgraded to a five-round world title bout for the vacant CES MMA World Bantamweight Championship in addition to the main event of CES 62, a much-welcomed change of plans for both fighters.

“I’m stoked,” Pavia said Friday morning. “It’s crazy how things shake out.”

Tonight’s preliminary card begins at 7:30 pm ET with the main card starting at 8. To sign up for UFC FIGHT PASS, visit ufcfightpass.com, or download the UFC app.

This is a major opportunity for both fighters, but only one has been this close to the title before. Paiva fought for this same belt in 2018 against Andre Ewell at CES 50. That fight didn’t end how he’d hoped it would, but it was a teachable moment in many ways, and perhaps part of what got Paiva back on track to eventually lead to this opportunity tonight. CES 62 is his record-setting 21st appearance with the promotion and could be his most important fight to date.

Standing in his way is the Pensacola native Smith, a late-bloomer by MMA standards who didn’t turn pro until 2014 when he was 26 years old. At 33, Smith is as confident as ever. Prior to the last-minute change of plans, Smith spoke vividly about his dreams and the process of getting to this point. Now it’s as if destiny has taken over. Instead of having to grind through an additional fight, escape with the win, and then wait for that inevitable title shot, it’s here now for both he and Paiva.

“I’m speaking it into existence,” Smith said Friday morning. “Like I said earlier this week, it’s so my time.”

Also on tonight’s card, Pensacola’s Dahlen Wilson (4-3, 2 KOs) battles Gary Balletto III (5-2, 2 KOs) of Rhode Island, the son of iconic pro boxer and former The Contender reality television star Gary “Tiger” Balletto, in a three-round welterweight bout. Middleweight submission specialist Adriano Capitulino (7-4) battles Long Island’s Hugh McKenna (3-4), a three-time CES MMA veteran, and bantamweight Joe Penafil (5-2) of Orlando faces North Carolina’s Da’mon Blackshear (8-4, 1 KO). Also highlighting the main card is the second of two all-Florida showdowns between bantamweights Carlos Espinosa (5-4, 3 KOs) of Tampa and Coconut Creek veteran Leo Carvalho (3-4).

New Haven, CT, light heavyweight Yuri Panferov – an undefeated amateur, Moscow native, and former Golden Gloves and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation champion – makes this professional debut in a three-round bout against North Carolina’s Gregory Smith (0-1). Flyweight Anthony DeLorenzo of Belleville, NJ, makes his debut against fellow newcomer Christian Tyler-Foster of Concord, NC.

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