Terrence Wheat, left, charges Jose Rodriquez during their MMA fight at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Wheat won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Terrence Wheat, left, charges Jose Rodriquez during their MMA fight at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Wheat won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Young fighters slam, choke, punch to victory at Beatdown

Lauth, Ropati go the distance in headliner

With an electrifying full body slam and a submission by chokehold, rookie fighter Terrence Wheat separated himself from a field of green fighters Friday at AK Beatdown 33.

Wheat defeated Hoonah kickboxer and Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art) specialist Jose Rodriquez in the first round. A little over two minutes in the fight, Rodriquez found himself up against the cage, Wheat’s arms wrapped under his legs.

Wheat raised his opponent over his shoulder, then slammed him to the mat.

[Photos: AK Beatdown 33]

“I knew once he hit the ground, it was going to hurt,” Wheat said after the fight.

The move knocked the wind out of him, Rodriquez said after the fight. Wheat capitalized, jumping on Rodriquez’ back to secure what’s called a rear naked chokehold.

Rodriquez raised his hand to his neck, in what he said was an attempt to break Wheat’s grip. Fight officials took that as a tapout, a gesture of submission.

“When he went with the submission, I didn’t have any energy to fight back and turn him over,” Rodriquez said.

The sequence — just a few seconds into one of two mixed martial arts fights — highlighted a night of unpredictable Beatdown bouts.

[Juneau boxer setting examples in and out of the ring]

Promoters scheduled eight fights Friday. More than half the contenders, Rodriquez and Wheat included, brought with them 0-0-0 records.

A rear naked chokehold (executed by wrapping the neck with both arms and the lower body with both legs, bending an opponent backward) ended the only other MMA bout. In just 25 seconds, Joe Alley defeated Erick Whisenant.

It was one of the fastest wins in AK Beatdown history, announcer Jamiann Hasselquist commented.

“I’m coming for the belt,” Alley, now 1-0-0, told Hasselquist on his way out of the ring.

Boxers Brian Lauth and Fritz Ropati headlined the night. The pair went the distance for three rounds of two minutes.

The 6-foot-3-inch Lauth, with a 7-4-0 record coming into the night, held an advantage in reach over 6-foot Ropati. Lauth said before the match his strategy was to use that reach to stay away from Ropati’s “heavy hands” — the newcomer had knocked his previous opponent out.

“First round, I was scared to get knocked out. But honestly, once I felt it, surprisingly it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” Lauth said.

Lauth stayed far enough away from Ropati’s hard punches to outlast his opponent. Lauth won by split decision: two of three judges scored the match in Lauth’s favor (30-27, 28-29, 30-27).

“I just stuck to strategy,” Lauth said afterward.

Ropati said it was tough to “chase” Lauth down.

“He made me work for it,” Ropati said.

[Local fighter makes statement with quick defeat of Anchorage fighter at AK Beatdown]

Joe Smith started the night off with a boxing win over Richard Jim. Smith knocked Jim down halfway through the first of three rounds and won by unanimous decision.

Seth Elisoff, whose only other Beatdown appearance was in an MMA fight, beat Darrel Whisenant in a boxing match. Elisoff knocked Whisenant out with a straight right hand 14 seconds into the second round.

Moa Maka won by unanimous decision over Steven Roberts in a boxing match. The larger Maka knocked Roberts down 30 seconds into the third round.

Kordell Searles knocked out newcomer William Milton in a heated boxing match, securing Searles’ second AK Beatdown victory.

Michael Pitaro, who entered the ring skipping to the Britney Spears classic “… Baby One More Time,” triumphed over James “The Beast” Roberts in a heavyweight boxing match.

Leisholmn Jr. set for Anchorage debut

MMA belt-holder Alonzo Leisholmn Jr. attended the fights, bringing the belt he earned after going undefeated in five AK Beatdown appearances. Leisholmn Jr., a 144-pound grappling specialist, was last seen at AK Beatdown knocking out Tyson Duckworth with a kick just 25 seconds into an August match.

He’s set for a debut at Alaska Fighting Championships (AFC) in Anchorage on Jan. 16. Originally from Metlakatla, the 20-year-old will challenge Jason “Forget-Me-Not” Flowers in the welterweight division.

AFC is seen by Southeast fighters as the next logical step toward MMA success. Leisholmn said he saw some good things in Friday’s raw fighters.

Leisholmn Jr. has high hopes for his own young career, he said during a break in the action. February will be two years since his MMA debut.

“The sky’s the limit. That’s the aim,” Leisholmn Jr. said.


• Kevin Gullufsen is a freelance writer in Juneau. Contact him at kevingullufsen@gmail.com.


Richard Jim sits exhausted after being knocked down by opponent Joe Smith at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Smith won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Richard Jim sits exhausted after being knocked down by opponent Joe Smith at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Smith won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Michael Pitaro, right, takes on James Roberts at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Pitaro won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Michael Pitaro, right, takes on James Roberts at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Pitaro won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Brian Lauth, right, connects on Fritz Ropati in the main event at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Lauth won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Brian Lauth, right, connects on Fritz Ropati in the main event at the Beatdown 33 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. Lauth won the match. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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