American John Salter used his grappling skills to win a unanimous decision over Canadian middleweight Aaron Jeffery and then announced his retirement Friday night at Bellator 293.
The judges scored it 30-27 for the 38-year-old Salter, a former NAIA wrestling champion who laid his gloves on the canvas after the bout.
“This is my last fight. It’s been an absolute honour and I’ve been so blessed,” said an emotional Salter, who made his pro debut 14 years ago.
Salter (19-6-0) took Jeffery down in each of the three rounds, controlling him on the ground while negating the threat of the Canadian’s striking.
“I know that was boring but if you’ve ever felt Aaron Jeffery you know why it was boring,” said Salter. “He’s impossible to hold down. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever fought. He’s the future of the sport. Thank you for the fight.”
It was the first loss in three Bellator outings for Jeffery (13-4-0).
Jeffery, dubbed the Maple Leaf Mullet, came into the fight ranked seventh among Bellator’s 185-pound contenders while Salter was No. 3.
Salter fought in the UFC and Strikeforce before compiling an 8-3-0 record before Friday in Bellator. Salter had lost his two previous outings, against elite opposition in former middleweight champion Gegard (The Dreamcatcher) Mousasi and current middleweight champion Johnny (Diamond Hands) Eblen.
Jeffery turned heads in August when, fighting on eight days notice, he stopped then-No. 2 Austin (The Gentleman) Vanderford in 85 seconds at Bellator 284 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Vanderford was coming off a loss to Mousasi.
The 30-year-old from Tillsonburg, Ont., came out stalking Salter but paid for his aggression when he was taken down in the first minute. Salter crunched Jeffery into the fence, keeping him pinned to the ground. The Canadian managed to reverse position at the end of the round, firing punches from above.
Jeffery pressed again to start the second but ended up being taken down again midway through the round. Salter stuck to him like glue, controlling Jeffery without doing much damage.
Salter grabbed hold of Jeffery early in the third, locking in a body triangle while hanging onto his back for a chunk of the round.
The main event at the Pechanga Resort and Casino featured Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Golm and American Daniel (The Predator) James.
Randi (Rose City Phoenix) Field of Windsor, Ont., won on the undercard. But lightweights Lance (Fearless) Gibson Jr. of Port Moody, B.C., and Mandel (Rat Garbage) Nallo of Vancouver both lost.
The six-foot-two Jeffery had won 11 of his previous 13 fights with the two losses coming in Dana White’s Contender Series. He was submitted in the first round by Brendan (All In) Allen in July 2019 and lost a decision to Brazil’s Caio (The Natural) Borralho in September 2021.
Allen has since gone 9-2-0 in the UFC while Borralho reeled off four straight wins, including three in the UFC.
On the preliminary card, Russian Vladimir (Vova) Tokov knocked out Gibson 62 seconds into the first round, handing the 28-year-old lightweight from Port Moody, B.C., his first loss.
Tokov (8-2-0) felled Gibson with a left jab while the Canadian was launching a kick. Gibson (7-1-0) went down and the Russian landed several more blows before the referee stepped in.
Gibson, who had won his first five Bellator bouts, comes from a fighting family. Lance Gibson Sr. fought in the UFC and stepmother Julia (The Jewel) Budd is a former Bellator champion now competing in the PFL.
American Adam (The Bomb) Piccolotti (13-5-0) submitted Nallo (9-3-0 with one no-contest) at 4:26 of the third round.
Nallo landed kicks and counterpunches as Piccolotti stalked him in the first round. But Piccolotti took him down in each round.
Nallo was taken down early in the third with Piccolotti taking his back and looking for a choke. He then moved into mount position, punishing Nallo from above. Piccolotti kept turning the screw and took Nallo’s back again, applied a body lock and eventually forced Nallo to tap to a rear-naked choke.
It was Nallo’s first submission loss.
Field won a unanimous (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) decision over American Ashley (Smashley) Cummins in a bout contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds. It was Cummins’ first fight since September 2020.,
Field (4-1-0) found her range early in the first round, only to have Cummins take her down later in the round. But Field escaped damage via some good defence off her back. Field continue to land strikes in the second round and punished Cummins’ lead leg with kicks.
Cummins (7-7-0) took Field down with two minutes left in the third round but could not take advantage.