How tough are the fighters of today?

Watching another UFC event on the weekend I couldn’t help but notice how much punishment these fighters took. Straight rights, full left hooks, roundhouse kicks to the head etc. were thrown and in most cases the fighters just shook them off. I even saw some throwback techniques, spinning back fists and spinning back kicks that connected and were shrugged off.
In the day (yeah, I’m middle-aged), the closest to MMA fighting was kickboxing. I remember the greats like Bill Wallace, Demetrius Havanas, Benny the Jet Urquidez and others. Knockouts were fast and furious and seemed to always have a lot of style and flair. I was at an Urquidez fight and watched him do a spinning back kick on his opponent that looked like it broke him in half. Needless to say, Benny won by a TKO.
But I’m beginning to wonder…could these greats inflict the same damage today to an MMA fighter? Did they hit harder in those days or was the level of fitness lower? Is there a tougher breed entering the MMA forum than the kickboxers of the seventies?
Let’s take a look at a couple of the questions.
First, there is no question that today’s fighters are better trained, more fit and are subjected to much more punishment than their predecessors. Someone like GSP has several trainers, nutritionists and coaches so comparing him to a kickboxer from the seventies is a non-starter.
Did they hit harder in the old days? Anyone who has ever participated in karate, taekwondo or any other Asian martial art knows two things: kicks to the head are common; but they are hard to land effectively. Kickboxers are of course trained to aim high and without the worry of being taken down can really unleash the kicks. Someone like Bill Wallace, infamous for his lead, left turning kick to the head, would probably find this technique ineffective fighting someone with a lowered head charging in to grab the leg. So in a sense, the old guys might have at least kicked harder because they had the time to do so.
Finally, are the fighters of today a tougher breed? I have to say yes and here’s why.
The fighters of the seventies invariably had backgrounds in the Asian arts. Respect, discipline and control are standards in these schools so many join to better themselves physically and spiritually and fighting is merely an aspect of the art. But MMA is different. Sure some join for the above but more join because they want to learn how to fight. Consequently, the practitioner fits a different profile than the traditionalist.
Throw all this together and you have a tougher, meaner and better trained fighter. But before I dismiss the past greats think about this…what could those guys in the past have done if they had access to the UFC machine?

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