At UFC Fight Night: Barnett vs. Nelson, after Josh Barnett went the distance with “Big Country” Roy Nelson, he made a declaration in his post-fight interview. After being announced the winner, he said “Pro wrestling is strong…” Without pro wrestling, we would not have MMA (and certainly not your favorite website MMASucka.com). For those that think pro wrestling is only WWE, there was a time when pro wrestling was treated as a legitimate contest. Promotions such as Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWFi), Pancrase (Guy Metzger is on record saying that some of the MMA matches were worked), and Inoki Genome Federation would showcase pro wrestling in a realistic style. There was nothing wacky presented. That is what Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport is about.
There will be no pins or count outs. Matches can only be won by TKO or submission. Don’t expect any evil clowns or spamming of superkicks. If you hate the cartoony pro wrestling that inundates your weekly television, Bloodsport will be the right show for you.
Optional homework: If you have an Amazon Prime Video subscription, you can get a feel of what Bloodsport will be about by watching some UWFi episodes. It’s under the title “Bushido: Way of the Warrior.” You can also find matches from UWFi, IGF, etc. on YouTube. Here are highlights from last year’s Bloodsport main event between Minoru Suzuki and Matt Riddle.
Dominic Garrini vs Phil Baroni:
Dominic Garrini is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, fighting out of Team East Coast BJJ in Canton, Ohio. He has competed at the Pan Ams, ADCC, and Worlds. At one point he was ranked top 10 in no-gi, but put his career in BJJ to a halt and decided to bring his submission skills to pro wrestling.
Just like in BJJ competition, he looks for that quick submission win. That is why he has earned the nickname “The Bone Collector.” He is also a versatile striker, also using kickboxing to set up those submission attempts. Baroni would be smart to not go to the ground with Garrini or else he might be going to sleep before it’s even nightfall.
Phil Baroni has many nicknames. “The New York Bad Ass”, and “The Poet.” He has earned those two for good reason. The former UFC fighter and Long Island native is not coming to make friends. He’s looking to knock some teeth out. And the nickname “The Poet” is well earned due to his trash talking, which he has already been doing to Garrini. Baroni is going to want to keep this standing and look for that knockout. He can’t submit Garrini so unless he manages to get some good ground and pound, Baroni should try to finish with those strong kicks or punches.
Prediction: Dominic Garrini by submission
Chris Dickinson vs. Andy Williams
Chris Dickinson is one of the hardest strikers in wrestling. “Dirty Daddy” has a taekwondo background and isn’t afraid to get close to an opponent to knock them out. The former Evolve Tag Team champion will look to make mince meat out of Andy Williams’ face and chest with brutal chops, strikes, and kicks. Dickinson can take it as well. Opponents have had a difficult time putting him down due to his strength and willpower.
If the name Andy Williams sounds familiar it should come of no surprise. The brawler is a guitarist for the punk band Every Time I Die. Looking at him without knowing that, you might think he is the band’s bodyguard. Donning a handlebar mustache and tattoos, “The Butcher of Buffalo” is not someone who you’d want to meet in a dark alley.
Williams is a relative newcomer to the ring, debuting in 2016. Dickinson has been wrestling since 2002. That doesn’t mean he should be taken lightly. He is a tough guy wiling to go toe-to-toe with anyone. He might not have the experience of his opponent, but he’s going to make a statement, delivering a beating to Dickinson if he’s not too careful.
Prediction: Chris Dickinson by knockout
Simon Gotch vs. JR Kratos
Simon Gotch has been bred directly from one of the fathers of pro wrestling, Karl Gotch, despite having no familial relation. He has a strong shooter background, along with some muay thai kickboxing. That makes him capable of delivering a knockout or submission. He also may not look it, but he is incredibly strong. If his opponent is not careful, Gotch could stretch that neck out in positions that will not be for the feint of heart.
JR Kratos’ name should tell you enough about him. Like Kratos from the “God of War” video games, he is a big, strong man. At 6’0” and 260 pounds, he already has 40 pounds on Gotch. But with all those muscles he’s going to want to end this match early and pace himself accordingly. If he doesn’t, he’s liable to get caught in a submission or knocked out. With Kratos’ brute strength, Gotch better keep that chin tucked and hands up or else he’ll be looking up at the lights.
Prediction: Simon Gotch by submission
Jonathan Gresham vs. Masashi Takeda
Jonathan Gresham may not be the biggest guy in the ring, but don’t let that fool you. He can stretch any opponent from here to Sunday. Once he locks on his patented Octopus Stretch, you better tap out or make an appointment with a chiropractor. The former CZW world heavyweight champion will look to take a limb home as a trophy if his opponent lets his guard down.
So here’s the thing about “Crazy Kid” Masashi Takeda. He’s a deathmatch wrestler. What does that mean? Well, click this NFSW match to see (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIOLENCE).
After watching that, you might think that he only depends on weapons to beat opponents. Not true. Takeda acutally has an MMA background. He is 11-4-1 and fought as recently as 2015. His non-deathmatch fights are very hard to find. How can Gresham prepare for a wrestler he knows nothing about? That’s what makes Takeda scary for this match. It’s that unknown factor. He can certainly take punishment and deliver it in his deathmatches. His body has so many scars it should be considered a modern art masterpiece. That’s the major advantage Takeda has. We don’t how he can beat Gresham, but he is very capable of doing so. We’ll have to see what he does.
Prediction: Masashi Takeda by submission.
Killer Kross vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.:
The son of the late great British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith Jr. has the pedigree to prove he is one of the best shooters working today. Not only is he a member of the dastardly New Japan Pro Wrestling faction Suzuki-gun, led by Pancrase founder and king of the Japanese shooters Minoru Suzuki, Smith Jr. has also trained under Josh Barnett. Look for Smith Jr. to use his strength to work a limb, especially an arm or leg. He will look for that tap out or worse case scenario, Kross could be going home with a broken bone.
Killer Kross may not have the shooter and submission background as his opponent, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be taken seriously. He looks to punish his opponent by any means necessary. Whether that is knocking them out while they stand or choking them into unconsciousness, he looks to come and deliver a beating. Look for Kross to likely want to keep it standing and deliver that knockout blow to his unsuspecting opponent.
Prediction: Davey Boy Smith Jr. by submission
Timothy Thatcher vs. Hideki Suzuki:
Timothy Thatcher is a unique pro wrestling specimen. When everyone was doing flips and dives, he was grounding down his opponents with painful submission maneuvers. A student of the catch wrestling game, the former Evolve Champion likes to wrench and twist limbs like it’s a hobby. He is not afraid to stand and strike though. He has deadly palm strikes that can break a cheekbone or worse knock you out. There are many ways Thatcher can get the win in this match and rest assured he’s got a few game plans in his back pocket.
Hideki Suzuki has been called “the last disciple of Billy Robinson.” Robinson was one of the last old school teachers of catch wrestling. Born in England, he brought his catch wrestling knowledge to Japan, where the lineage is still kept alive. Suzuki wrestles for Big Japan Pro Wrestling, and is part of their Strong BJ division. An accomplished submission artist, he is also incredibly strong and can deliver punishing strikes. There is a reason why he is a two-time Big Japan world strong heavyweight champion and won the Tokyo Sports Technique Award in 2017. Like Thatcher, he can win this fight with deadly strikes or a painful submission.
Prediction: Hideki Suzuki by knockout
Frank Mir vs. Dan “The Beast” Severn
At a time when heavyweights were just thought of guys who just were knocking people out, Frank Mir was an anomaly. He was a non-Brazilian fighter submitting guys with these crazy moves. His resume includes breaking the arm of “Big Nog” with a kimura and giving Brock Lesnar his first MMA loss by kneebar! Basically, his grappling game is strong. Frank Mir is the younger of the two (Mir is 39 and Severn 60), but he also has been knocked out a few times in MMA. His best bet to win would be to catch Severn in a ground based submission or a counter if the decorated wrestler tries to score a takedown. Even though this will be Mir’s first pro wrestling match, all of his fighting and grappling experience will make him easily fit into the sport.
Dan “The Beast” Severn is a UFC original. Before there were weight classes, he was fighting when the promotion was still booking freakshow fights. He has an astounding 127 fights with 101 wins (17 by T/KO and 60 submission) and 19 losses. His last fight was in 2012, which he won. Though he is known as mixed martial artist first, he has also been a veteran of the pro wrestling circuit since the 90s. His highest accolade was winning the NWA world heavyweight championship twice. Like Mir, Severn has a deadly submission game. If Severn wants to choke you, snap your arm, your toe and any other limb he can do so with ease. His age can play a factor and he might tire out so he should look to end this fight quickly or else he can be potentially defeated by the debuting Mir.
Prediction: Frank Mir by submission
Josh Barnett vs Minoru Suzuki:
Your main event is a catch wrestling fan’s dream match. To MMA fans, Josh Barnett needs no introduction. Barnett is a former UFC heavyweight champion. He has finishes over Dan Severn, Randy Couture and Frank Mir. He is also one of the best submission grapplers in the world, tapping out top ranked BJJ artist Dean Lister at Metamoris.
What you might not know about Barnett though is that after his first UFC run, he joined NJPW as a pro wrestler. There he faced Ken Shamrock, Yuji Nagata, and Scott Norton, among many other opponents. He is adept at the stand up and even more so on the ground. Barnett could make it into a striking match, but he will most likely take it to the ground. He will want to prove that he is the best by getting that submission win over his opponent.
Minoru Suzuki is one of the unsung heroes of MMA. One of the co-founders of Pancrase, he helped usher in the modern MMA style. He was known for his dangerous heel hooks, scissor chokes, and kneebars. Now a full-time pro wrestler for NJPW, he uses those same techniques in those matches. Barnett will have the size advantage but once Suzuki grabs a limb, big or small, you will feel the pain. Check out what he did to then IWGP Intercontinental champion Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the belt. Barnett better be working on his defense for those submissions or else he’ll be playing Warhammer 40,000 with one arm potentially.
Prediction: Minoru Suzuki by Submission.