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Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock Shows How Much the UFC Has Grown

Tito Ortiz is the talk of the mixed martial arts world at the moment, and as you try to wrap your head around that incredible fact, take 20 minutes and watch Ortiz's UFC 40 fight with Ken Shamrock, which is currently available for free on

Re-living Ortiz's old fights is worthwhile right now because Ortiz is coming off a stunning upset of Ryan Bader at UFC 132 and preparing for a huge test against Rashad Evans in the main event at UFC 133, and watching the first fight in the Ortiz-Shamrock trilogy is always worthwhile because it's one of the most historically significant bouts in UFC history.

But the best reason to watch it might be to get a reminder of how much better the UFC is now than it was nine years ago, when UFC 40 took place.

I'm not knocking Ortiz or Shamrock when I say this, but the level of MMA skill on display in that fight doesn't hold a candle to what you see in any decent UFC fight these days. The sport has evolved so much since 2002 that what passed for greatness then doesn't seem like anything particularly special now.

In fact, probably the most interesting aspect of watching the fight and listening to the original commentary from Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan is the way they describe Ortiz as the young, complete mixed martial artist and Shamrock as the old guy who hasn't adapted to the modern times.

"This may very well be a case of old school vs. new school," Rogan says at one point. Goldberg then agrees that Shamrock hasn't "transformed into the renaissance fighter that represents the UFC in this modern day."

It's kind of funny, from a 2011 perspective, to hear Ortiz described as the "new school" "renaissance fighter." Ortiz was never anywhere near as skilled a fighter as the guys we'd describe as new-school renaissance fighters today, guys like Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo and Jon Jones.

It's also interesting to hear Rogan describe the crowd as "deafening" and Goldberg describe UFC 40 as "The greatest night in mixed martial arts history." According to Wikipedia, UFC 40 drew 13,265 fans for a total gate of $1,540,000 and 150,000 pay-per-view buys. That may have made it the greatest night in mixed martial arts history as of 2002, but it's chopped liver compared to what big UFC events do now.

I'm excited about Ortiz having one last big run in the UFC, and I've enjoyed going back and watching some of his old fights. But as we appreciate everything Ortiz has accomplished inside the Octagon, we should also appreciate just how much better the UFC is now.

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