In 1988, actor Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in a movie called “Bloodsport”. For us ‘90s babies, this cult movie was one of the coolest films ever, because it was based off of a true story of martial artist Frank Dux. In the movie, Dux, a Captain in the U.S. Army and a student of the ninjutsu fighting style; went against the wishes of his commanding officers, went absent without leave (AWOL) and joined an illegal and prestigious martial arts tournament in Hong Kong called Kumite.
The coolest thing about the movie, is that Kumite featured fighters from all around the world, who specialized in their own fighting style and techniques. Each fighter was the best in the world at their particular style.
As I watched this movie over the weekend, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the NFL. How so? Well, the NFL is comprised of 32 teams, all with their own unique styles. These styles are often referred to as systems or philosophies.
On offense, you have the West Coast offense, Erhardt Perkins, Spread, Option, Wing-T, etc. Within these offenses, you have run schemes such as power, zone, run-pass option (RPO), etc. On defense, you have 4-3, 3-4, Nickel, Dime, Zone, Man, etc.
Each week these different systems/philosophies, create intriguing matchups, just like the matchups in the movie “Bloodsport,” which of course gave me the idea for this article.
What if each character in “Bloodsport” was paired with a team from the AFC? The fighting style of the character and the AFC team’s playing style would match, and each pair would be represented by the AFC team’s playoff seeding. To see this through, I will predict each round of the AFC playoffs, and ultimately pick the AFC Champion.
One Seed: Kansas City Chiefs/Chong Li
Chong Li—just like the Kansas City Chiefs—is the reigning champion. The Chiefs can beat their opponents with power or speed—a team impeccable on offense and defense, possessing killer instinct. Chong Li is known for killing opponents in the ring, while the Chiefs are known for ending their opponents. Both the Chiefs and Chong Li are supremely confident, and they should be. “Bricks not hit back.”
Two Seed: Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux
Dux and the Bills are the new kids on the block and are a real threat to the reigning champions. They are just as good as the champions, but are relatively unknown. Both had to prove themselves to be a real threat to the title. The Bills had to win on primetime against good teams, and Dux had to break one brick from a stack of bricks to prove that he was a student of Senzo Tanaka, the Ninjutsu fighting-style master.
Three Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers/Pumola
Pumola is fearless, big, and strong, just like the Steelers. This paring possesses impenetrable defense and has a history of physically dominating opponents. Because of their physical nature, they’re always a threat to win it all.
Four Seed: Tennessee Titans/Paco
The Titans and Paco are the perfect match. Tennessee’s uniform is stylish and flashy just like Paco and his shorts. They’re both extremely versatile on offense, but do nothing terribly special. Paco’s kick-boxing style is very direct and specific, similar to the Titans’ run and play-action gameplan. They both have a gritty and straightforward approach, but defensively can be had. Still, Paco and the Titans are extremely underrated.
Five Seed: Baltimore Ravens/Ricardo Morra
Of all the pairings, I think this is the best one. Both the Ravens and Ricardo Morra have a really unique style on offense. The Ravens run and pass the ball out of different formations; Morra attacks his opponent in the same manner, using his famous “Monkey Style” fighting technique. They present a formidable challenge to any opponent, because their style is so unique and unpredictable.
Six Seed: Cleveland Browns/Ray Jackson
The Browns and Jackson are friends of the Bills and Cpt. Dux. Because of the seeding, they most likely cannot face each other until the championship match, so it’s easy to root for one another. Both the Browns and Jackson bring a physical approach to the tournament. Extremely strong and fearless, they still lack the technical skills to seriously threaten top seeds. They are, however, determined and full of heart, and can be dangerous against similar opponents. If you’re looking for a street fight, the Browns and Jackson are the pair for the job.
Seven Seed: Indianapolis Colts/Hossein
The Colts just like Hossein, are last to the party. Neither should probably be in the tournament based on their skills, but are in it because of rule changes. Both are dangerous with the skills they do possess, approach and do enough things well enough to be sneaky dangerous.
AFC Wild Card Round/Kumite Round 1
- (2) Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts/Hossein
The Buffalo Bills and Cpt. Dux should win this rather easily. Their opponent is simply outmatched. However, if the Bills and Cpt. Dux aren’t at their best and are unfocused, the sneaky pair of the Colts and Hossein can pull off the upset.
Winner: Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux.
- (3) Pittsburgh Steelers/Pumola vs. (6) Cleveland Browns/Ray Jackson
Grit versus grit, power versus power. This matchup will be a good one. I have the Browns and Jackson pulling the upset here. I just believe this pair has the most heart and resiliency to pull it off.
Winner: Cleveland Browns/Ray Jackson
- (4) Tennessee Titans/Paco vs. (5) Baltimore Ravens/Ricardo Morra
This matchup is the one I’m looking forward to the most. Both pairs offer complementary styles, so the matchup will be competitive. In the end, I have to give the edge to the Titans and Paco as they just bring a little bit more to the table, and are adaptable.
Winner: Tennessee Titans/Paco
AFC Division Round/Kumite Round 2
- (1) Kansas City Chiefs/Chong Li vs. (6) Cleveland Browns/Ray Jackson
The Browns and Ray Jackson makes this interesting early on, but the Chiefs and Chong Li just have too much firepower and class. The Browns and Jackson can keep up and although they would have a good showing, they come up short.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs/Chong Li
- (2) Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux vs. (4) Tennessee Titans/Paco
In the matchup of the week, The Titans and Paco both come out hot and try to pull off the upset. The matchup is a good one as both pairs give it their best shot, but neither is on their game. It’s a sloppy match, but the Bills and Cpt. Dux pull out the hotly contested game, as they make fewer mistakes. It’s not evident at the end who’s better, but the Bills and Cpt. Dux were both better on that day.
Winner: Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux
AFC Conference Championship/Kumite Final Round
(1) Kansas City Chiefs/Chong Li vs. (2) Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux
Can the Bills and Cpt. Dux dethrone the champion? Yes! In this juggernaut of a matchup, the Chiefs and Chong Li dominate the match, but the scrappy and equally talented Bills and Cpt. Dux wouldn’t go away. The pair pull off a heroic ending and upset the reigning champions.
Winner: Buffalo Bills/Cpt. Frank Dux.
Okay, so there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my little spin on the AFC playoffs. If you haven’t watched “Bloodsport,” I highly recommend you seek it out. Plus, this piece will make much more sense when you can better relate to the film’s characters. And yes, I realize the photo attached to this piece is not from “Bloodsport.” Enjoy the game this weekend. Go Bills!