Nortje Stuns Sapp with First-Round Onslaught

Nortje Stuns Sapp

By Dave Mandel Feb 24, 2008
TACOMA, Wash., Feb. 23 -- Emerging from four jets of flames and bursting fireworks in a glittering white cloak to the theme song from "2001: A Space Odyssey," Bob "The Beast" Sapp (Pictures) wanted to show that he was more than just a physical specimen Saturday in his first cage match in the United States.

It was a long way to go for a very big man. And for those 7,089 in attendance at the Tacoma Dome who remember when Sapp was a promising lineman climbing the ranks of the draft boards at the University of Washington, it was a homecoming of sorts.

Sapp -- who was born in Seattle, played all of one game in the NFL and has recently lived in Japan -- weighed in Friday at a monstrous 356 pounds. To the Japanese, he is an icon, the star of not just K-1 fighting but also movies, books and countless interviews on Japanese television. Outside professional wrestling fans, however, he is little known in the United States.

Tonight, several of his former Husky teammates -- including former NFL safety Tony Parrish -- came to the fight to cheer him on.

Parrish predicted a Sapp victory. "I know he's going to win, but the first round is going to be tough," Parrish said. "I'll take Bob in the second, with a knockout."

But Jan Nortje (Pictures) (2-5) had something to say about that. Fifty-five seconds into the first round, Nortje, who is undefeated in 10 fights as a professional boxer, spun Sapp around and then stopped him cold with a punch. The referee stopped the fight on blows, awarding Nortje a technical knockout.

After the fight Sapp was apologetic, saying he would train harder for his next fight and blaming his hamstring for the loss.

"Now I've got to get ready for the next fight," he said. "My hamstring just buckled under me, and I wasn't able to get back up."

The MMA world is going to have a hard time ignoring Cory Devela (Pictures) after his victory over Lodune Sincaid (Pictures) in December and tonight's massive first-round takedown of Joe Riggs (Pictures).

Just two minutes into the fight, Devela (8-1) swept Riggs' (27-10) legs out from under him and threw him forward onto the mat with a five-point judo throw. Devela jumped right on top of him and landed two huge right hands.

Riggs was slow to get up, and a stretcher was called to remove him from the cage. Fitted around the neck with a cervical collar -- Riggs had movement in his legs and could wiggle his toes - the 185-pound veteran was given morphine for the ride to St. Joseph Medical Center.

The middleweight endured a well-documented battle with pain medication following a lower back injury that required surgery on several discs. Saturday marked the third time Riggs has fought since returning to action in the second half of 2007.

Reaching down to catch a Devela kick, Riggs felt a shooting pain down his leg, said his manager Ken Pavia.

"Fighting for underhooks he had a warming sensation in his legs and the throw exacerbated the sensation," Pavia said.

Backstage, Riggs told his manager the pain was so bad that he tapped before hitting the canvas.

Riggs' trainer Billy Rush accompanied him to the hospital. Early Sunday morning Rush informed that Riggs' pain was "much better" and x-rays showed nothing was broken. Riggs was cleared to return home to Phoenix, Ariz., where he will see his orthopedic surgeon.

In a rematch battle of kickboxing legends, Maurice Smith (Pictures) exploited Rick Roufus (Pictures) early, gaining an armlock submission 1:53 into the fight.

Roufus was completely helpless on the ground in his MMA debut and never had a chance to use his considerable kickboxing skills. The high-flying, high-kicking fight that the crowd expected never came to pass either.

After the bout, Smith (12-10) said he had never felt so relaxed before a fight, which he attributed to his veteran status and lengthy break from MMA.

"I knew sooner or later I'd get him on the ground," he said, "and when I did, I knew the fight would be over."

Smith is now 2-0 in his current comeback attempt at the age of 46.
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