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[1998-03-03-MUGA] Yuki Ishikawa & Osamu Nishimura vs Tatsumi Fujinami & Shinichi Nakano

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You look at this matchup, taking place in MUGA, and you think „this sounds like a lot of matwork“. And you'd be correct. Pretty much a purist's dream match with all four guys hitting the mat hard. Perfect blend of shootstyle, 80s NJPW and MUGA psychology. Ishikawa fits like a glove here and looks great. Aside from all the great arm whips, headscissors and armbars and slick grappling they knew how to make basic holds meaningful and spice things up with struggle. Really liked the young guys getting the advantage and old guy Fujinami busting out a huge kneedrop off the top to break up a submission nearfall. Also Nishimura looks awesome and as good as he was in the 2000s. Match is a little short (17 minutes) but as good as it looks on paper.

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Very neat match-up, with plenty of grappling, very limited strikes exchanged, slick takedowns, and some throws that felt big. Some of the submission holds didn't feel too life threatening but the struggle to escape or counter was done well throughout, especially with Nishimura and Ishikawa. But there was some cool stuff like Fujinami attempting to wrestle with one arm and Nishimura's bridge escape toward the end that took a lot out of him. Really liked the finish too, with Nishimura and Nakano fighting for the game ending Northern Lights hold, and Nishimura winning out. MUGA rules.

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This was so mat-focused that Nakano's snap mares and even sometimes the knee lifts kind of took me aback. The Fujinami vs. Nishimura chess game bits were captivating, and I love the progression in Fujinami's career from between the athletic junior to rolling on the mat using his weight advantage to stay on top a younger guy. I loved Nishimura using the keylock on the arm so Fujinami had more trouble using the weight, made him come off really smartly trained. I have a huge soft spot for any bit of any match that's centred around trying to get a cross armbreaker in; you can get several minutes out of the struggle alone, and then build on it. Fujinami hurries to put the arm over when Ishikawa gets in, holding it behind his back almost to bait Ishikawa but then gets caught off guard anyway. Such a great brief exchange. The match could have been elevated by having a violent and heated inter-promotional/Battlarts -esque end run but who can complain with what we saw here.
 

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