ONE Championship lead commentator and Fox Sports presenter, Steve Dawson, breaks down a massive matchup between former title challenger and ex-World Champion.
The last time I saw Nobutatsu Suzuki in Kuala Lumpur, it was past midnight, and he was walking with his entourage towards Changkat Bukit Bintang with the ONE Championship belt over his shoulder.
The Japanese athlete had just claimed what had been the inaugural ONE Welterweight World Championship, after 25 minutes in the cage with the imposing figure of Brock Larson. Always a thrilling combatant, Suzuki unfortunately lost his belt to the highly-skilled Ben Askren five months later.
The 39-year old makes his return in the city of his greatest success, albeit at a different weight, on Friday, 18 August, at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS.
His opponent, 28-year old Malaysian hero Ev Ting, has just come off an enthralling contest with ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang, and begins his route back to a title tilt with a tough mountain to climb.
Suzuki, in coming down a weight division, will undoubtedly be smaller than we’ve seen him before, but will still be naturally bigger than Ting. This is the perfect preparation for Ting’s bid for a second crack at Folayang, a champion who is far stronger than most lightweights.
For Suzuki, Ting will be an excellent first opponent in this division. The speed of a genuine lightweight will be a wake-up call, even for the Japanese, who was certainly no slouch at welterweight.
This will be a stand-up war for the crowd at the Stadium Negara, and quite possibly the best bout of the evening. Ting can finish his opponents in impressive style and a variety of ways, but his last three bouts have all gone the distance.
That conditioning and experience will stand him in good stead against the bigger man, who may be tougher to handle than even Folayang, Kamal Shalorus, and Rob Lisita, all of whom resisted submission with guile and strength.
Suzuki is an impressive 11-2-2 and has good power, as he showed against Phil Baroni in 2013. His naturally larger state may exacerbate this problem for Ting. It’s speed against power, in simple terms. Youth against experience may also characterise the massive matchup.
Inactivity and age aren’t potent bedfellows, but Suzuki carries that relationship on his shoulders. Ting (13-4) is arguably at his peak, and has developed rapidly since his first major step up in class against Marat Gafurov in 2015.
Suszuki can win this, but with every minute that passes, the outcome is likely to move towards the advantage that Ting’s mobility will create. A third-round submission would be a satisfying result for Ting, and if this was a five-round contest, I would have him as the firm favourite.
Over three rounds it looks closer, but the Malaysian should still have the presence of mind to stay out of range in the early going, and jump back in when he knows his time has come.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.