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Saturday, September 14, 2002
Mixed Martial Arts--- The fight at the recent "Pride Shockwave" event in Japan between 200-pound Heavyweight Champion Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira and the 6-foot-8, 380-pounds-of-muscle Bob Sapp was in some ways the best mixed martial arts match I have ever seen, and certainly the most amazing to watch. Sapp looked virtually unbeatable in his previous fights against lesser opponents, and he received the test of a lifetime against the #1 submission artist in the world. Going into the fight, I honestly expected Minotauro to dispose of Sapp quickly via submission like he has done to so many other opponents. However, it quickly became clear that Sapp wasn't kidding when he said that he had been doing extensive submission-counter training with Josh Barnett and Maurice Smith, who are no slouches in their own right.

The sight of the Brazilian tirelessly going for takedown after takedown until he finally took the big man to the mat is something that I will never forget. Equally memorable was the sight of Bob Sapp showing off his submission-countering skills and simply overpowering Minotauro at every opportunity. After the first few minutes of the fight, as I watched Sapp pound on a bloody Minotauro and counter every submission attempt with raw strength, I thought that there was no way in hell Minotauro could possibly win the fight. Minotauro kept going for triangle choke after triangle choke, at which point Sapp would simply lift him up and slam him down violently-- and any one of those slams could have rendered Minotauro unconscious (see Hughes vs. Newton #1 for an example).

Going into the second round, I was amazed simply by the fact that Minotauro was still conscious and still fighting. I certainly didn't expect to see what I saw near the end of round two, nor could I believe my eyes as the events unfolded. Here's Minotauro, working for and finally getting the full-mount position on top of Sapp, raining down blows as Sapp doesn't know what to do and looks almost helpless for the first time in his career. I see one of Sapp's arms... extended, out of position a little bit to the left, and it causes me to immediately blurt out to the person I was watching the show with: "Oh my god... he's got an armbar."

Sure enough, in a matter of moments, Minotauro seizes the arm of Sapp in one swift motion that seems to happen in fractions of a second, and certainly happens quickly enough that Sapp doesn't have enough time to react. By the time Sapp moves to defend his arm, it's too late. Minotauro already has his body wrapped around the arm, and he's ready to sink in the armbar. An armbar pits the strength of one man's torso, arms, and legs against the strength of another man's one arm, and that's not a fight that any one arm is prepared to win. Try as he may to overpower Minotauro yet again, Sapp is only able to do so for about ten heart-wrenching seconds. The arm bends back, the elbow is hyper-extended, and Bob Sapp taps out honorably before any serious damage is done to his arm.

Minotauro gets up, battered and bloodied, with a back that was injured by one of Sapp's slams, but he's now even more of a hero than he already was to millions of his countrymen in Brazil, as well as MMA fans around the world. At this point, I discover all over again why I came to love mixed martial arts so much in the first place. It was the most dramatic finish to any MMA fight that I have ever seen, which is fitting given that the fight itself was about as emotional and gut-wrenching as it gets. I remain inspired and amazed that Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira never went unconscious, never asked for a doctor's stoppage, and never gave up. He persevered and accomplished what seemed impossible just a few minutes earlier.

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