Mousasi retains Bellator title after TKO of Salter

MMA news

Gegard Mousasi‘s near-perfect run as a Bellator MMA middleweight continued on Friday, as he defended his 185-pound championship against John Salter in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Mousasi (48-7-2) earned a TKO finish at 2:07 of the third round, via unanswered strikes on the ground. The 36-year-old veteran weathered an early, grappling-heavy approach from Salter (18-5) before dominating him from top position in the second and third rounds.

The middleweight fight headlined Bellator 264 inside Mohegan Sun Arena.

A former NAIA national wrestling champion, Salter went for broke in the opening round with takedown attempts. He did manage to get Mousasi down, but appeared to wear himself out in the process. Mousasi was clearly the fresher of the two after the opening five minutes, and easily imposed his will the rest of the way.

“I didn’t want to put myself at risk [in the first round],” Mousasi said. “We were still fresh, not slippery, not sweaty. I didn’t want to give him my back. I felt I was pushing his head down and I knew that conditioning was on my side. I’m stronger than people think. Maybe I look skinny, but I’m a lot stronger physically. I just put my pressure on him and hurt him with punches.”

A former champion in multiple organizations, including Strikeforce, Mousasi has compiled a record of 6-1 since he signed with Bellator in 2017. Prior to his arrival in the Bellator cage, Mousasi was one of the top middleweights in the UFC, and was well on his way to earning a title shot in that promotion before accepting an offer with Bellator.

He is a two-time middleweight champion for Bellator. He won his first belt in 2018 and defended it once, before losing a grappling-heavy matchup to Rafael Lovato Jr. The Dutch champion reclaimed his title by defeating former welterweight champ Douglas Lima last October.

Other than surrendering a takedown in the opening round, Mousasi was clearly prepared for Salter in every area. He showed little respect for Salter’s striking, as he basically walked him down the entire fight, landing jabs and right hands. Once he gained top position in the second and third rounds, Salter’s only recourse was to cover up defensively.

Mousasi snaps Salter’s three-fight win streak with the victory. He’s expected to face undefeated No. 1 contender Austin Vanderford (11-0), who was in attendance, in his next defense.

“He’s a legend in the sport,” Vanderford said. “I thought he went in there and took care of business. I’m excited to get out there and test myself.”

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