__with no more weight cuts or loss of energy, o’neil ready to make ces mma debut in 185-pound division

In fact, he’s not sweating at all now that he’s moving up from 170 pounds to 185 to fight in the middleweight division, which means no exhausting weight cuts, no more trips to the sauna and no additional stress heading into Friday night’s nationally-televised bout against Daniel Vizcaya on the main card of “CES MMA XXXI” at Twin River Casino.

The difference in O’Neil’s appearance and demeanor is noticeable, especially

among the clients he works with as a personal trainer at Snap Fitness in Raynham, Mass., less than an hour from his hometown of Bourne.

“They all say I’m a fun-loving, good-natured person,” O’Neil said, “but they’re like, ‘You know, usually fight week you’re so down and miserable and you’re not having fun.’ Now I’m still smiling and everything.

“I feel good. I’ve got muscle still on my body. I haven’t been eating away at muscle for the last six weeks. I’m walking at a very comfortable weight. This weight cut should be way easier. I feel good. I’m exciting going into Friday to actually feel good and see what I’m able to do with that kind of performance.”

Some fighters switch weight classes for different reasons. Sometimes it’s a strategic move aimed toward taking advantage of a particular skill set (size, strength, speed, etc.). Sometimes it’s about money, seeing as though some weight classes are more densely populated than others, thereby offering more lucrative opportunities for big-time TV dollars.

Asked why he chose to move from welterweight to middleweight, O’Neil made it perfectly clear “it was all about the weight cut,” blaming some of his recent sluggish performances — even fights he won — on being physically exhausted come fight night.

“I was cutting a tremendous amount of weight,” he said. “I was able to rebound my weight back up, but I was just feeling worse and worse every time I was doing it, killing myself to get there. Like I said, my body wasn’t actually working properly, so after that last fight, it was time for me to be done at 170 pounds.

“I walk around lean at 205. Getting down to 170 was a six-week process, dieting down to 188 getting completely shredded and then cutting 18 pounds of water in the last day and a half, I wasn’t doing very well.”

His boxing coach, Dave Keefe, and even some of his stablemates, including Providence’s Eric Spicely, suggested he make the change while he’s still in his prime at the age of 30.

“Diamond Dave said it best: ‘You can own a Maserati, but if you don’t have the gas to drive it, what’s the point?'” O’Neill said.

“There are definitely going to be bigger guys and stuff. I’ll come out there and this guy might be a little bigger than me, but I’ve gone from being an extremely big 170-pounder to being a good-sized 185er. Eric Spicely is always saying, ‘Dude, you’re stupid for ever going down to 170. You look so big now.’

“I’m not worried about it. I train with big guys all the time. Strength-wise I’m a pretty strong guy, so I’m going to be able to deal with that. As far as punching power goes, I’m going to be able to crack. We’ll see if he can handle it.”

Credit the improved technique to Keefe, who taught O’Neil that the secret to tremendous knockout power is often more brains than brawn.

“When I first came to him, straight up, his words were, ‘You hit like a bitch.’ I’m like, ‘I thought I hit hard!'” O’Neil said. “I was just pushing punches for so long because I had muscle, but it doesn’t mean I know how to box, so now I’m turning punches over and everything and he says, ‘Power is an MFer.’ If you’ve got power, that can change a fight in a second. Being able to have more than just power in the right hand has been a big help, too.”

Vizcaya (8-3, 2 KOs) figures to be a worthy adversary and an appropriate first test for O’Neil in the middleweight division. The Aurora, Ill., native has won five of his last six fights, albeit over a four-year stretch, including a victory over Jack Hermansson at Bellator 84 in 2012.

Looking to rebound from his June loss to Dominique Steele in which he lost his CES MMA Welterweight Title, O’Neil now knows it’s mind over matter. He should be at his physical peak come Friday, no excessive fatigue from a torturous weight cut. The rest is up to him.

“I don’t ever look past the fight I have in front of me,” O’Neil said. “That’s all my mind is set on right now, Friday and dealing with this guy here and taking care of business. It’s really big in my mind to go out there and not only perform and win, but to get a finish, to go out there and make a statement that, ‘OK, this is my new division and this is where I belong.'”

Tickets for “CES MMA XXXI” on Friday, Oct. 30th, 2015 are priced at $50.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and available for purchase online at www. cesboxing. com or www. twinriver. com, www. ticketmaster. com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254, or at the Twin River Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.

The vacant CES MMA Welterweight Title is on the line in the main event as Plymouth, Mass., vet Chip Moraza-Pollard (10-8, 5 KOs) battles Sao Paulo, Brazil native Gil de Freitas (17-5, 6 KOs) in a five-round bout.

Also on the main card, Providence, R. I., heavyweight Greg Rebello (18-6, 10 KOs) faces Syracuse, N. Y., vet Mike Mucitelli (7-2, 1 KO); Woonsocket, R. I., native Andre Soukhamthath (8-3, 4 KOs) returns in a bantamweight bout against Carlos Galindo (10-3, 3 KOs) of Woburn, Mass.; and bantamweight Dinis Paiva (7-5, 4 KOs) of East Providence, R. I., looks to extend his four-fight win streak against Cumberland, R. I., vet Kody Nordby (4-3).

Providence middleweight Eric Spicely (7-0, 2 KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line in his toughest test to date against Charlotte, N. C., vet Aaron Johnson (13-9, 1 KO) and Remo Cardarelli (5-2) of Milford, Mass., makes his CES MMA debut in a flyweight bout against New York native Darren Mima (6-4, 1 KO).

The preliminary card includes a flyweight bout between Carlos Candelario (1-0) of New Britain, Conn., and Jesse Gutierrez (1-1) of West Roxbury, Mass., in addition to a middleweight bout between Buck Pineau (0-1) of Ashland, Maine and Berkley, Mass., native Pat McCrohan, who is making his professional debut. Flyweights David Baxter (1-0) of Bellingham, Mass., and newcomer Brandon Warne of Ovid, N. Y., battle in a three-round bout and featherweight Shane Manley (2-2) of Cortland, N. Y., battles Taylor Trahan (5-3) of Littleton, N. H.

For more information on “CES MMA XXXI” visit www. cesmma. com, follow @CESMMA on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the official CES MMA Facebook fan page.

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