Ikuhisa Minowa: The Top Ten Freak Shows
“Kidding on the square.”
If you’ve read Al Franken’s entertaining-yet-nit-picky book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," you probably remember the phrase.
It means kidding, but also really meaning it. And I could not think of a better term to begin this article with.
In other words, yeah, I’m making fun of the fact that Ikuhisa Minowa has stepped into the ring with more freak shows and circus attractions than the Ringling Brothers. But I’m also paying tribute to a career that has to have more outlandish stories and snapshots than Verbal Kint and Albert Finney’s "Big Fish" character combined.
What a career. The man has a professional record of 43-30-8. He’s fought Cro Cop, Wanderlei, Sakuraba (in tighty-whities, no less), Rampage, Filho, Funaki, Tamura, Semmy Schilt (who is the only freak too good to be considered a “freak show”), Evan Tanner, Chris Lytle, Phil Baroni twice, and Yuki Kondo.
He even, somewhat fittingly, fought MMA iron man Travis Fulton to a draw back in 1998.
And that’s BEFORE we get to his sideshow attractions. Of course, none of this would be fun without pictures, so without further ado, I give you the top ten (yes, there are TEN).
10. Dave Legeno
We begin our list with Legeno, who has appeared in movies such as Snatch, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Batman Begins. He's also fought stoic referee Herb Dean, a 49-year-old Dan Severn (Legeno was 43; that has to be a record for combined age), Kimo Leopoldo (more on him later), and our friend Ikuhisa. Throw in the above picture and do you know what you have? You have the perfect person to kick off our list.
9. Errol Zimmerman
To be fair, Zimmerman is a respected K-1 fighter. But he makes the list for two reasons.
First, he had never fought in MMA before, and hasn't since. And second, I wanted an excuse to run a picture of Minowa in a suit. You just know he has his Speedo on under there. Anyway, Minowa won in 1:01 via toe hold. Of course he did.
8. Min Soo Kim
Again, to be fair, Kim was a great judoka back in the day, winning the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
But if you've ever seen him fight, you know that he is little more than a heavy bag with lungs. Sadly, Minowa could not handle the Kim-ster, succumbing to punches in under four minutes.
Yes, I watched this. No, I still can't believe it. I guess it was a tough matchup for Minowa, whose trademark leglocks were a moot point against an experienced judoka like Kim.
7. Kimo Leopoldo
Kimo is best known for carrying a full-sized cross on his back to the cage at UFC 3. He's also known for steroid use, and his reported death that turned out to be a hoax. I'll let his Wikipedia page take it from here:
"Various media outlets reported that Leopoldo had died from complications from a heart attack at age 41. Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports reported on his Twitter that Leopoldo's publicist refuted reports that Leopoldo was in Costa Rica and instead was seen alive in Orange County the night before."
I read that and thought "wait, Kimo has a PUBLICIST?!?!?"
Minowa won by achilles lock in 3:11 as Kimo flopped around on the floor like Vlade Divac.
6. Mike Polchlopek
He's fought everyone under the sun, but this is only the second time Minowa fought a WWF guy, Bart Gunn from the Smoking Gunns.
I'd say more, but this fight was an unwatchable decision win for Minowa. Plus, I have never and will never watch American pro wrestling. These two even look bored in the picture. Can you tell I can't get excited to write this paragraph?
5. Kwan Bum Lee
When you look at Lee, do you say things like "Yeah, that guy should totally fight MMA, he looks like a beast?" Or do you think, "Are fighters allowed to wear adult diapers in the ring?" I bet you picked No. 2. I bet you did.
Minowa kneebarred him (ouch!) in 1:25.
4. Hong Man Choi
Let me say that I actually respect Hong Man Choi. He's posted a 12-6 record in K-1 and was only KO'd once (by the "hits-like-a-nuclear-bomb" Mighty Mo). He even defeated heavyweight mainstay Semmy Schilt.
He's a legitimate 7'2", he took Fedor down simply by falling, he's appeared on Japanese game shows, and he recently began a singing career with supermodel Kang Soo Hee in Korea under the name of Beauty & The Beast.
There's just a lot to like. I could totally see him sitting around and saying things like "Beauty & The Beast? I like it...but if anyone else calls you beast, I'll rip their lungs out."
Anyway, this particular fight cracks me up because when you think about it, Minowa is actually a really tough matchup for Choi considering that a) this is MMA and Minowa can do leglocks, and b) that's' like a 15-inch reach advantage for Choi. Minowa is literally too small for Choi to hit him solidly. It's like how Muggsy Bogues could see passing angles that no one else could because he was 5'3".
Minowa won by heel hook 1:27 into round two.
By the way, we've officially entered the "wouldn't it be funny if someone brought this fight in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission?" part of our list. Keith Kizer would spit his venti soy latte all over the table.
3. Eric Esch
If this list were titled "Ikuhisa Minowa's Ten Most Awkward Post Fight Pictures," this one with our old pal Butterbean would take the cake.
What this picture fails to convey is that it took Butterbean roughly six solid seconds to stand up after Minowa tapped him with an armbar 4:25 into the first round. By the way, have you noticed how Minowa keeps beating these guys? He's like the Bill Russell of freak show fights.
This was the fight where Minowa came out and did his patented...something. What exactly would you call that move? A flying donkey stomp? Let's just run a picture of it for feces and giggles.
And ... it lands! Minowa better be happy Butterbean wasn't at his "king of the 4 rounders" fighting weight ... he might have been the first fighter in MMA history to get knocked unconscious by a punch to the leg.
Phenomenal mullet sported here by Minowaman.
Also, what the hell is the cameraman wearing? Did he buy Joey Fatone's 1998 wardrobe on eBay? And why is former fighter/ref Minoru Toyonaga wearing suspenders? There's a number of things wrong with this picture, and Zulu might not even be in the top five.
Minowa's corner threw in the towel in round three after they realized that Zulu could possibly suffocate him if he was on top of him for any longer.
1. Paulo Cesar da Silva
Minowa began this fight by doing one of the single coolest takedowns I've ever seen: He did a barrel roll/half somersault into a deadly accurate single leg. Did he complete the take down? You're damn right he did.
He proceeded to knee Silva's body and head repeatedly until the ref gave us one of MMA's all time funniest looking stoppages at 2:24 of the first round.
And if you still don't believe that Minowa is a completely insane, one-of-a-kind fighter, we're going to end this tribute with a quote.
"I'd like to have an honest fight with an alien. If it had six arms, it would be difficult to strike with them but if it has legs like a human, I could submit it with leg-locks." - Ikuhisa "The Punk" Minowa
Couldn't have said it better myself.