Canseco a nightmare on DREAM card

Jose Canseco lived to fight another day. But hopefully we’ll never see him in the ring again.

The 1988 American League Most Valuable Player, who came to the ring holding a baseball bat, lasted one minute and 17 seconds in losing to 7-foot-2, 330-pound Hong-man Choi on Tuesday at the Yokohama Arena.

The 44-year-old Canseco, in his mixed martial arts debut, was the ultimate television ratings stunt for a desperate promotion. The bout aired on a prime-time Japanese network broadcast of the DREAM promotion.

Canseco was every bit the fish out of water one would imagine.

With no real MMA fight training, he came to the ring with an entourage and corner that consisted of one person – his girlfriend.

The former baseball star, who according to Japanese reports earned a six-figure payday, connected with some punches and a kick to the body, which didn’t even come close to fazing the lumbering giant.

Canseco moved out of the way just in time to avoid a knee from the clinch, which Hong-man has finished people with in the past. Canseco took one solid jab that hurt him, and then started on his bicycle.

While trying to run away, he appeared to trip on the bottom rope and injure his knee. He attempted a kick to Choi’s thigh and went down again, favoring the knee. Choi (2-2) unloaded with punches on the ground, and after eating a few of those blows, Canseco tapped out.

Choi looked considerably thinner than the monstrous 367-pounder who had a memorable loss to the world’s top-rated heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, on Dec. 31, 2007, in Japan.

Nicknamed the “Techno Goliath,” The South Korean Choi was the most physically imposing fighter Japan had seen, with sheer size at first overcoming lack of speed or technique.

Choi’s freakish size was the result of a tumor near his pituitary gland. After the tumor was discovered in a California State Athletic Commission physical prior to a planned fight in Los Angeles with Brock Lesnar in 2007, he had an operation to remove the tumor. He has looked lethargic, lacking both speed and aggression to go along with his loss of size, since returning.

The DREAM promotion, the leading MMA group in Japan, has been struggling with mediocre-to-bad television ratings since its inception last year as Japan’s follow-up to the once-popular PRIDE promotion.

Canseco was part of a show themed, “Let Me Entertain You,” and a “Super Hulk” gimmick tournament that will end on New Year’s Eve, which was largely a David vs. Goliath theme.

Canseco was the only “David “who didn’t win in the first round of a tournament featuring all quick matches.

Bob “The Beast” Sapp (10-4-1), at 6-foot-4 and training down to 319 pounds, his lightest body weight in a decade, lasted only 1:15 before tapping out to an Achilles tendon lock against popular journeyman Ikuhisa “Minowaman” Minowa, who weighed in at 196. Minowa (42-30-8), known for leglocks, scored what was considered an upset by reversing Sapp on the ground and hooking Sapp’s leg.

Sapp, who next faces former pro wrestling star Bobby Lashley (3-0) on a June 27 U.S. pay-per-view event from Biloxi, Miss., seemed disappointed at being caught so quickly after spending the past month in isolation at a judo dojo in the Japanese mountains. Sapp, who came to camp at about 370 pounds, said beforehand he hoped to cut to 330-340 pounds, concentrating on conditioning, which has always been a weakness.

Jan “The Giant” Nortje, a 6-foot-8, blubbery 352-pound former boxer, kickboxer and pro wrestler from South Africa, lasted little time on his feet before being taken down by former UFC fighter Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (6-4). Sokoudjou, who lost to Lyoto Machida and Luiz Cane in UFC as a light heavyweight, weighed 224 for the match.

Once on his back, Nortje (2-6 in MMA) was like a giant turtle, and was ground and pounded into the mat at 2:29. Sokoudjou threw at least three punches after the ref had called off the fight, which caused Nortje’s corner, particularly Samoan kickboxing star Ray Sefo, to nearly start a second unsanctioned brawl in the ring.

The final tournament match saw the most complete fighter in the brackets, former DREAM middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi (25-2-1), who weighed in at 218 pounds, finish 286-pound Mark Hunt (5-6) quickly on the ground. Mousasi took Hunt down with a single leg and finished him at 1:19 with a straight armbar.

The crowd of 15,009 fans saw a significant upset as former world Greco-Roman wrestling champion Joe Warren, in only his second fight, won a split decision over Japan’s most popular fighter, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (17-2, 1 no contest) in the second round of a featherweight (138.6 pounds) tournament.

The 5-foot-2 Yamamoto’s combination of top-level striking and wrestling had made him unbeaten when fighting mostly lightweights during his career, and was widely considered among the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters. Because of inactivity he has not been listed among the top 10 in the world, but for the past two years, many saw a fight between Yamamoto and Urijah Faber as the ultimate lighter-weight battle. But injuries to his elbow and surgery to repair a torn ACL have kept Yamamoto out of action for 17 months.

He landed hard punches and kicks to Warren, who showed an ability to take punches that was every bit as impressive as his wrestling. Warren was rocked by punches that have knocked out men 20 pounds heavier with regularity. He took Yamamoto down several times, giving him a nasty cut below the left eye. Warren could get Yamamoto down, but Yamamoto was able to tie him up and avoid much punishment on the ground.

By the end of the first round, the story was that the rookie fighter had lasted a round and was competitive. Warren won the fight in the last minute after connecting with a flurry of punches on the ground after a takedown, but it was still close enough that the decision could have gone either way.

In two pro fights, Warren has beaten the man many considered the best in the division as well as a first-round tournament win over former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe.

MTV’s “Bully Beatdown” lead Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s main event, in a battle for the middleweight title Mousasi vacated by moving out of the weight class, ended in an unsatisfying manner.

Facing jiu-jitsu wiz Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (10-2, 1 no contest), Miller (22-6, 1 no contest) threw an illegal kick at Souza’s forehead when he was down, splitting it open. The cut wasn’t in a dangerous position, but it was deep. They attempted to allow the fight to continue, but Souza was bleeding so heavily that it was called off and ruled a no-contest just 2:00 in.

Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, May 26, 2009