If you look at a match like Hideki Suzuki vs. Josh Barnett on paper and you think: “Hey, these two would probably mesh well stylistically.” you’d be correct. Barnett is an MMA fighter with an extensive background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Catch Wrestling. Suzuki, on the other hand, is a Billy Robinson trainee who debuted for IGF in 2008.
Josh Barnett vs. Hideki Suzuki
The drama heightens early on when Suzuki overpowers Barnett to employ an abdominal stretch. Barnett spends a good portion of the match working over Suzuki’s ankle, laying in some nasty heavy-handed strikes along the way. When Suzuki finally manages to escape Barnett’s clutches he slaps his opponent, signaling that he’s not here to play games. Suzuki continuously pulls out short bursts of offense, but they never amount to anything significant, whether it be due to exhaustion or Barnett’s experience edge. Suzuki ducks a spinning heel kick, but Barnett musters enough strength to hit a powerbomb for a near-fall. At this point, Barnett becomes frustrated and attempts to dismantle Suzuki with a series of suplexes. Once Barnett realized the suplexes weren’t going to be enough, he rolled through and dropped Suzuki with a brainbuster for the win. Simple structure aside, something that stuck out to me was the struggle both competitors displayed over the simplest of holds. For example, at one point, Barnett placed the heel of his foot in between the fold of Suzuki’s leg to avoid taking a suplex. That kind of attention to detail makes it feel like the competitors are trying to win at all times. All of the sequences flowed well, and they were amplified in a way that elicited an emotional response from the crowd. When done properly, a “less is more” approach can add to a match dramatically. The simplicity lent itself well to the mat work here and they built to a satisfying finish when it was all said and done.