But before these fighters came along, others had to pioneer new technical-hybrid styles of fighting that would foreshadow what was to come.
Former Welterweight Champion Carlos “Ronin” Newton was one of those fighters. If you look at his decade-long MMA career you can see flashes of GSP emerging, not just because he is from Canada but because he was a smart fighter (and college educated as well) with great ground skills.
Even though Newton finished 13-13 he exemplified the type of fighter that has come to dominate the UFC today. Smart, quick, and patient.
He won his first MMA fight at age 21 and became known for his “Dragon Ball Z Jiu-Jitsu” style. Some of his notable wins include Jose Landi-Jons (Pride19), Renzo Gracie (Pride-Bushido 1), Pat Miletich (UFC 31 Welterweight championship 01), and Pete Spratt (UFC 40).
His losses were just as notable. Dan Henderson (UFC 17) where at age 22 he pounded Hendo but couldn’t finish him and lost by decision. Sakuraba (PRIDE 3) where he tried to out-wizard his Japanese rival but fell to a knee-bar. The famous Matt Hughes fights (UFC 34/38), and an awesome fight vs. Anderson Silva (Pride 25), where Newton took Silva to the ground and dominated but...
Unfortunately, Newton was primarily a ground fighter. His major weaknesses were highlighted in his losses, particularly to Silva. By nature he was not a KO killer but a Jiu Jitsu master worth remembering as a transition fighter.
I think The MMA world has now become the land of hybrids. Single style fighters are disappearing (the Titos and Chucks) and hybrids are dominating (GSP and Silva), but "The Ronin" should not be forgotten for his DBZ-BJJ wizardry and class.
This is my favorite highlight reel (hard to find for some reason).