Juneau’s Complete Warrior MMA Academy fighter Christian Rotola won a unanimous decision over Fairbanks’ Frostbite Vale Tudo battler Darren “Death Row” Snow on Wednesday at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
“I am not feeling too bad today,” Rotola said. “I actually don’t mind being all bruised up here and there. It comes with the territory.”
The three ringside judges scored the fight 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 in Rotola’s favor and the action was nonstop as the two used their wrestling backgrounds to entertain the crowd.
“He was a really strong wrestler and had good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” Rotola said. “My coaches knew it was going to be a really tough fight.”
Snow was actually a higher caliber late substitution for scheduled opponent Jordan ‘Sugar Glider’ Thickstun who had to pull out with a knee injury.
Snow is scheduled for the Bantam Weight title shot in January so came in to the fray without worrying about dropping any strength with weight reduction.
“It was a surprise to see him come up and take the fight with me,” Rotola said.
Snow had the first clean blow with an uppercut to the face in round one and then brought Rotola to the ground. An attempted guillotine by Snow was lost on a brilliant half guard by Rotola.
“I won the first round for some odd reason but I definitely would have given it to him,” Rotola said. “Things were going his way in the first round. The plan was to go out there, fake some shots to make him think I was trying for the take down and catch him with some right handed strikes because he is a southpaw. That was pretty much what I was trying to do but the fakes weren’t working. We ended up clinching and he brought me to the ground.”
Snow kept control on the ground until the final seconds when Rotola rolled to the top.
“This was the first time in any of my fights somebody had me on my back,” Rotola said. “It caught me off guard for a bit and that whole first round I was working my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu escapes to find top positions.”
Rotola tried to connect on elbows in a ground-and-pound assault to take Snow’s mind off of wrestling to end the first session.
Rotola read a flying knee by Snow that opened round two and brought the Fairbanks’ fighter to the ground.
“I was pretty much awake now,” Rotola said. “I wasn’t going to let him get me down again. He was really strong and scrambly but I just kept locking my hooks in and keeping my hips heavy to keep the counter pressure on whichever side he tried to escape from and finding my strikes where I could.”
The two grappled with Rotola staying firmly on top and peppering Snow with elbows and strikes to Snow’s face and side. Rotola continued in control, landing short ground-and-pound strikes whenever Snow attempts to improve his bad positioning. Rotola got the round on points.
Wrestlers prefer the canvas and these two were back in grappling mode shortly into round three.
“I knew he was going to be coming out there and try to make up for the first two rounds,” Rotola said. “We were both throwing strikes and I caught him with a solid kick that caught him off guard. After that he didn’t want to really work that range with me so we ended up clinching up.”
Pinned against the cage in a single leg, Rotola defended superbly and delivered a knee to the chest of Snow. After a Rotola body kick and some Snow strikes the two were back on the mat with Rotola scoring.
Rotola used an ankle hook takedown, using his leg to hook Snows’s leg, elevate it and pull him off the cage to the mat.
“From there I ended up on the top of his guard with his legs wrapped around my torso and I was working ground-and-pound from there,” Rotola said.
Snow attempted better positioning or submission holds but the constant shots from Rotola broke his concentration.
Back on their feet by referee call the two exchanged kicks.
“He caught me with a straight push kick to the chest but I closed the distance, walked through it and clinched up again,” Rotola said.
Rotola pinned Snow against the cage but neither fighter could win a takedown to the ground as the final bell rang.
According to AFC owner Sarah Lorimer, Rotola will be invited back.
“For sure,” Lorimer said. “He wanted the toughest fight I could find for him and unfortunately his original opponent was injured a week before the fight, so I brought the extremely talented Snow down from Fairbanks. We want to find more opponents for Christian and get him into the mix so he can fight for the 145-pound belt.”
The AFC season runs September through May with title fights every month among various weight classes. Maurice Mitchell currently controls the 145-pound belt. Thickstun is the number one contender.
“It takes three or four fight to get someone in the mix,” Lorimer said. “Christian is well on his way, he is extremely talented and will do very well. He just needs some contender bouts.”
Rotola is trained by Complete Warrior MMA Academy’s Jonathan Morford in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Fernando Pintang in Muay Thai and Kickboxing, and Derek Lofstrom in Boxing.
“We are really proud of him,” CWMMAA owner Harmony Morford said. “Hopefully this will get him to a title fight up there in the future.”
Rotola’s background includes being a successful state middle school wrestler for Dzantik’I Heeni, and football, hockey and track for JDHS (2010 graduate). Kickboxing and Muay Thai training complements his standing power.
“Wrestling was always something I was really comfortable with,” Rotola said. “When I started mixed martial arts after school it just kind of came back. I also started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at that time and it was like the other half of wrestling. It was just really great for me.”
Rotola is hoping to get a fight in January with Thickstun.
“I am going to continue to fight whoever they put in front of me,” Rotola said. “But I am definitely going to get that belt. I confidant I can have good outcomes if I stick with my coaches and play a smart game.”