Being a fight fan at my age means having followed this sport from the very beginning and keeping it dialed in through the many evolutions that the UFC has gone through to today.
Money, business model and hype machine aside, my eyes and interest always come back to the fighters and the fights. The game was built to succeed on the backs of the old school fighters like Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Tank Abbott, on down to Matt Hughes, BJ Penn and Randy Couture.
It seems every generation of fighters is replaced seamlessly by the next with some exciting new tricks and some familiar styles. Many of our favorite, old school fighters have been replaced by a younger version of themselves, much to the delight of the fans.
It can be a similar style, attitude or career path that mirrors the old and the new.
Here are some old school Fighters and their new school Equivalents.
In this new era of the sophisticated athlete who gets astronaut-like training before a fight and a game plan that would rival Mission Impossible, isn't it refreshing that we still have Pat Barry?
Tank Abbott came on the scene at UFC 6 and immediately showed us that bar room brawling and brash bad-mouthing could gain you some wins and a following in the sport. Tank rarely game planned anyone, and you knew what his weapon of choice was going to be at all times.
Enter Pat Barry today, and while Barry prefers class and comedy when he steps up to the promo mic, his fighting style offers no surprises or differences from Abbott's in his heyday. Both of these men made a name for themselves by coming out, planting their feet and swinging as hard as they could for the knockout.
When Mark Coleman burst on to the UFC scene back in 1996, the buzz was based on how a wrestler was redefining the game that had already been in place for five years. It started with Gracie jiu jitsu and yes, Dan Severn had already represented Greco-Roman on the world class stage.
Coleman was the first to come from a fully credentialed NCAA wrestling background, and then use bombs from the top to pound out opponents. He also introduced a big man with slightly better cardio than any in the past.
Fast forward to today and Daniel Cormier has that wrestling buzz around him right now. It is slightly different in a sense that no one, let alone Cormier, is considered a one trick pony anymore. Cormier is a highly decorated NCAA wrestler who has just recently started to train in all aspects of MMA and he is ripping through the competition so far. It's one thing to be able to get the takedown, but Cormier, like Coleman doesn't stop when he gets it. He pounds you out from the top
Coleman surprised everyone, with early wins over Gary Goodridge, Don Frye and Dan Severn. Cormier has surprised many with wins over Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett and now he gets to step up to Frank Mir in the very near future.
Both of these men have been very good and accomplished fighters in their respective careers but this comparison comes more from what they can do when they each open their mouths more than anything.
In my opinion, Frank Trigg was one of the original smack-talkers in the UFC. His ability to look the camera straight in the lens and spout out interesting and self-promoting smack fed a frenzy to one of the best original rivalries of all time with Matt Hughes. Trigg had skill yes, but his ability to get under Matt Hughes skin led to some very interesting sound bites in the earlier days of the UFC.
Chael Sonnen can talk himself into a gig better than anyone in the game today as evidenced by his recent foray into the lightheavyweight title hunt using nothing more than a microphone and some wit. Sonnen, like Trigg, has the skills to back it up on any occasion and the unique ability to generate fan buzz like no other.
Royce Gracie was the original badass of the UFC and introduced Brazilian and Gracie jiu jitsu to the masses when the UFC made it's debut in 1993.
Gracie mowed through the competition with his superior submission skills and was able to pull out victories against men who seemed much bigger and more imposing than he was standing in his gi. His punches were not effective as he liked the open hand slap to preserve his fingers and grip and his kicks were more for keeping things at bay.
Demian Maia is no where near the status and accomplishments of his fellow Brazilian, but he has gained his career using a very similar skill set and atttitude. Maia's submission skills are so slick and technically sound, that this comparison is not out of this world and he has used that game to secure his best UFC wins over Ed Herman, Nate Quarry and Chael Sonnen.
Don Frye is one dangerous and crazy SOB and his fighting style gained him fans all over the world. Frye was a master at using his wrestling and grappling to keep the fight on its feet so he could give the fans a show they would never forget.
Frye only fought briefly in the UFC before he made a name for himself in Japan and Henderson has taken the opposite route. He started in Japan first and is now a star and legend in North America based on wildly entertaining fights and a bombing right hand that can end the show in an instant.
Frye was never known for a boring fight and he took damage to entertain the fans and Henderson is cut from the same mold. It is tough to call a 41-year old fighter "new school" but with Henderson still performing at the top of his game, he fits the bill in this one.
Which fighter is most famous for delivering the head kick knockout and who is one of the only fighters that is a threat to do that today? Mirko CroCop, meet Anthony Pettis.
The head kick is a very tough strike to execute against a highly trained fighter in the heat of a fight but Mirko CroCop showed all in the early days how it is done. The threat of that vicious blow from Cro Cop caused many a fighter to hesitate and doubt themselves when in the cage against him and he landed it for big wins over Yuji Nagata, Aleksander Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva.
Today, the head kick is even tougher to land effectively and many don't even try it for fear of ending up on their backs for the rest of the fight. Not many fighters have the skill or confidence to use that strike at any moment, without tipping it off in the process. Anthony Pettis is an exception.
Pettis has the most lethal kicking game in the business and can switch levels on that in the blink of an eye. Many fighters are armed with the vicious leg kick but Pettis can turn it up and throw it high with as much speed and balance as many can a leg kick.
Benson Henderson and Joe Lauzon know what I'm talking about.
Anderson Silva is still at the top of the mountain and is the greatest fighter of all time, but he is now 37 years of age and that qualifies him as "old school." Silva burst on the scene with a length, style and dominant skill that is rarely seen in the game of mixed martial arts.
His Muay Thai footwork and ability to use his limbs with speed and accuracy is a rare sight seen only when few enter the octagon to fight. Silva rose up the ranks as quickly as we have seen an unknown fighter until a man they call "Bones" came along.
Jon Jones has a body type and striking style that makes him a beefed-up version of the current G.O.A.T. Silva. Jones can come at you and strike before you are anywhere close to in your range and then plant his feet back to center for balance.
Silva is the undisputed champion of his division with only a controversial loss on his resume and is thought of as the pound for pound best fighter in the game today.
Jones is the undisputed champion of his division with only one controversial loss on his resume and is thought of as the best fighter in the game today. Sound familiar?
When Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba entered the ring to fight you always knew exactly what you were gonna get as a mixed martial arts fan. You knew "Saku" was gonna take some damage, you knew it wasn't going to stop him from giving it everything he had, and you knew no matter what time or point in the fight that he had a chance to pull out a win.
Sound like Frankie Edgar?
Edgar has cemented his place in the game as the new school Rocky Balboa but remember, Rocky is only from the movies folks. If you really want to see who this tough as nails New Jersey native reminds me of, just watch some Sakuraba in Pride.
They have much different fighting styles as Saku loved leg kicks and slick submissions over Edgar's superior footwork and boxing, but the fighting heart and spirit in these two makes them a spitting image of each other.
Let me start this slide by saying that for this article I am talking about the original "Natural Born Killer" Carlos Condit, and not the game-planning, Greg Jackson student we saw in his fight against Nick Diaz.
Condit has always been one of my favorites based on his willingness to go in and just fight a fight using all the tools that he has to throw at you. Condit was a true killer in his time in the WEC and for most of his fights in the UFC. It is only recently that we have seen a bit of caution and methodical efficiency in his game. His ability to transition between the many skills without pause or predication makes him one of the most well rounded and dangerous fighters today.
He is not the interim champion for nothing.
Rory MacDonald is the ultimate new school fighter who can do it all in the cage and he has the confidence in his game and attitude to throw caution to the wind. MacDonald and Condit have already faced each other in the cage and it was hard to tell which fighter was which throughout that tilt.
These two are also on a collision course to meet again in what will be an epic clash of similar styles. That is if the "original" Condit comes to fight.
Having the Diaz brothers on this list may be akin to TRT, steroids or any other performance enhancing substance you can think of because it is cheating in a roundabout way.
These two have lived and trained together all their lives so it is easy to see how little brother would become the spitting image of his mentor.
Nick Diaz has a style and personality that is all his own and it has made him into the enigmatic fighting star that he is today. He talks trash, disrespects you, gets in your skull and intimidates—and he does it all while inside the cage during a fight. No one can do it like Nick does it. His walking forward, arms straight up in the air and chin out is one of the greatest fighting taunts of all time and I have never seen him knocked out because of it.
Little brother Nate is an "old school" fighter in the new age UFC and he is picking up right where his oft-unpredictable brother has left off. Many times when an older sibling reached the quality and status that Nick has the younger one struggles to find the same success and style but such is not the case when you talk about Nate.
Nate has put himself right in the same company as the best in his division and he has done it with the same style and entertaining game that Nick has before him. The taunts, the boxing and the slick and sound submissions have all become part of the younger Diaz' game.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report MMA and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.