John Salter answered Bellator MMA’s call and reaped the rewards.
A short-notice fill-in for the injured Melvin Manhoef, Salter submitted Chidi Njokuani with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their Bellator 210 headliner on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Salter (16-4, 6-1 Bellator) drew the curtain 4:32 into Round 1, as he won for the eighth time in nine appearances.
Njokuani (18-6, 5-2 Bellator) tried to keep the Alabaman at bay with lateral movement, stiff jabs and quick punching combinations. Salter closed the distance, secured a takedown and advanced to the back. Once there, he was in his element. The 33-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt set his hooks and cinched the choke for the tapout.
In the welterweight co-main event, organizational mainstay David Rickels leaned on output and aggression in taking a unanimous decision from Guilherme Vasconcelos. All three cageside judges sided with Rickels (20-5, 13-5 Bellator): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Vasconcelos (10-5, 3-2 Bellator) was effective in spurts but spent too much time playing defense. Rickels cut loose with two-, three- and four-punch combinations, all while integrating knees, leg kicks and standing elbows against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Vasconcelos made a final pitch to the judges late in the third round, where he executed a takedown, opened a small cut above Rickels’ left eyebrow with an elbow strike and followed up with ground-and-pound. However, his efforts went for naught.
Rickels, 29, has won three of his last four fights.
Meanwhile, American Elite MMA representative Kristina Williams took the latest step forward in her development, as she laid claim to a unanimous decision against Bruna Ellen in a three-round feature at 125 pounds. Williams (3-1, 3-1 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Ellen (4-2, 2-2 Bellator) adopted a hit-and-run approach but lacked the firepower necessary to give the lanky Oklahoman pause. Williams delivered kicks to the leg, body and head and often beat the Team Nogueira-trained Brazilian to the punch, either with clean counters or quick-on-the-draw volleys. Ellen tried to turn the tide with attempted takedowns and a dogged clinch, only to have her counterpart calmly create space and get back to work.
The loss snapped Ellen’s two-fight winning streak.
Elsewhere, former King of the Cage champion Juan Archuleta flexed his superiority in all phases of mixed martial arts, as he cruised to a lopsided unanimous decision over Jeremy Spoon in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Archuleta (21-1, 3-0 Bellator): 30-25, 30-26 and 30-26.
Nothing Spoon tried worked. Archuleta overwhelmed him with volume punching on the feet, mixed in takedowns and pummeled him with ground-and-pound. Spoon (20-5, 2-3 Bellator) seemed to be in survival mode from the start and found himself on the verge of being stopped on more than one occasion, as evidenced by the multiple 10-8 rounds the judges levied against him.
Archuleta, 31, has rattled off 16 consecutive victories.
In undercard action, Goiti Yamauchi (23-4) eked out a split decision -- 30-27, 27-30, 29-28 -- over Daniel Weichel in a three-round lightweight scrap; Joe Schilling (3-5) was awarded a technical knockout over Will Morris (4-1) via corner stoppage in between the first and second round of their middleweight tussle; Costello van Steenis (11-1) edged Chris Honeycutt (11-3) by split decision -- 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 -- in a three-round middleweight encounter; Shawn Bunch (8-3) struck Joe Warren (15-8) into submission 1:42 into the first round of their bantamweight confrontation; Mike Shipman (13-1) submitted Scott Futrell (8-6) with an anaconda choke 2:58 into the first round of their middleweight tilt; and Noad Lahat (13-4) took a unanimous decision from Brian Moore (11-7) in a three-round featherweight pairing, drawing 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27 nods from the judges.