Sun Feb 24 03:10am EST
If charisma alone could determine one's place in mixed martial arts, Bob Sapp would be a world champion.
In Japan, it made him a multimillionaire and one of the most famous American sports stars ever in that culture. But in his first fight near his Seattle home, where he was an All-Pac 10 football star at the University of Washington, training trumped personality, physique and interview ability.
South Africa's Jan "The Giant" Nortje stunned the partisan crowd by dominating Sapp en route to a 55 second victory in the main event of the Strikeforce event on Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome. Nortje, who came in with a 1-5 record in MMA, said he trained hard the past seven weeks, dropping 40 pounds, and working on moving to avoid the takedown.
Sapp, with a bad hamstring, couldn't even come close to taking him down, and it was evident quickly that if it stayed standing, it wouldn't be pretty. Nortje, who was 10-0 as a pro boxer, rocked Sapp with punch after punch, pitching a shutout by connecting on 21 punches to 0 for Sapp. Nortje knocked him down and finished him off with four solid blows on the ground before it was called off, stunning a crowd of 7,000 fans.
The 6-4, 356-pound Sapp, now 9-3-1 under MMA rules, but fighting for the first time in his career in a cage, got a thunderous reaction when he did his Ric Flair-style ring entrance. He entertained the HDNet TV audience with his comedy promotional ability throughout the show, but once the bell rang, none of that mattered, and there was no more cheering.
Nortje, who Sapp had nicknamed the Tyrannosaurus Rex, because of his short arms for such a huge man, was billed at 6-11, although he's probably closer to 6-8, and came in at 333 pounds, making it one of the biggest, in terms of combined size and weight, matches in North American MMA history.
Nortje, who is actually friends with Sapp from their days together on the K-1 circuit, as well as having both done pro wrestling in Japan, was largely handpicked as a large and not particularly dangerous opponent. But Sapp never recovered from the opening flurry.
The loss could prove to be devastating for Sapp, who was about to finalize a multimillion dollar new contract to fight in Japan. Even though it shouldn't matter, the loss won't help his image for pro wrestling in Japan, where he's the highest paid American attraction.
The local audience had a lot more to cheer about earlier in the evening as local product Maurice Smith beat Rick "The Jet" Roufas in a battle of American kickboxing legends. Between the two stars, whose heyday were a generation ago, they have more than 200 professional matches and 11 world championships.
But there was no kickboxing at all in the match. Smith, 46, the first major kickboxer star ever to switch over to MMA in the early '90s in Japan, and a former UFC heavyweight champion in 1997, took Roufas down and finished him with a straight armbar in 1:53.
Roufas, 41, beat Smith, in Japan in 2003 in kickboxing, but Smith said he didn't feel this win avenged the earlier loss because it's in a different sport. Smith, at 235 pounds, looked physically not at all different from his late '80s prime.
Smith, the first person to lose a UFC championship to Randy Couture, is now 13-12 in MMA. It was Roufas' debut under MMA rules.
Former UFC welterweight contender Joe Riggs, 27-10, was also upset, losing to local fighter Cory Devela, 8-1 in 1:22. Riggs, who has suffered from back problems for some time, was wincing in pain within seconds. In attempting a takedown, Devela blocked it and turned it into a judo hip toss. Riggs (27-10) tapped almost immediately after landing and had to be carried out on a stretcher because of his back problems.
In other results: Zack Skinner (3-2) def. Scott Shaffer (1-3) via unanimous decision; Mike Hayes (1-0) def. Matt Kovacs (1-1) via unanimous decision; Lyle Beerbohm (4-0) def. Ray Perales (9-14) via submission with a guillotine in 1:19 of round two; Mychal Clark (5-3) def. Josh Bennett (3-2) via doctor stoppage due to his left eye being swollen shut after the conclusion of the second round; Jorge Masvidal (13-2) def Ryan Healy (9-3-1) via unanimous decision; Eddy Ellis (11-12-1) def. Steve Berger (20-18-2) via unanimous decision.
Posted Jun 28 2012
Posted Jun 26 2012
Posted Jun 25 2012