NEW YORK — Frankly speaking, it wasn't even close.

For an unprecedented third straight year, rail-thin Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi out-gorged the competition Friday in the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest, downing 44 1/2 dogs and dominating adversaries three times his size.

Kobayashi, the Michael Jordan of wiener wolfing, twitched and twisted to finish his franks at the rate of one every 16 seconds in a 12-minute display of gastronomic supremacy at the annual Fourth of July extravaganza.

Once again, the American competitive eaters were left to fight for second place as a Japanese champion was crowned for the sixth time in seven years. Runner-up Ed "Cookie" Jarvis of Nesconset, N.Y., 6-foot-6 and 420 pounds, trailed the champion by 14 dogs.

Celebrity contestant William "The Refrigerator" Perry, the 410-pound former NFL star, dropped out after just five minutes and only four hot dogs.

The 145-pound Kobayashi, of Nagano, Japan, employed his trademark "Solomon method" — snapping the dogs in half before swallowing them — to destroy the 19 other contestants.

He once again raised the mustard-yellow championship belt above his head in victory, flashing thumbs-up to more than 3,000 fans outside the original Nathan's in Coney Island. The contest was first held in 1916.

Kobayashi downed his first frank in five seconds and his 13th within two minutes as he sprinted to the lead.

But the 5-foot-7 Kobayashi, who sports a 30-inch waist, was disappointed that he failed to break his own record of 50 1/2 dogs. Kobayashi banged the table holding the hot dogs, and put his hands to his head in dismay.

"I feel sad I didn't break the record," he said through an interpreter. "I came here to set the record."