by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
A lot has happened since Carlos Newton and Renzo Gracie faced off against one another at PRIDE’s first Bushido show in October of 2003.

Newton went through a very difficult period that saw him try to balance his medical schooling with his fighting career, leading to a 1-3 record since defeating Gracie. Renzo also went through hard times, battling injuries, he has only fought twice since their initial meeting, losing to BJ Penn in 2005 and beating Pat Miletich this past September.

The sport of MMA has also changed a lot over the past three years. The Bushido series changed from a loose team competition to becoming the premier venue for PRIDE’s 160 and 183-pound weight classes, to now becoming defunct in the coming year.

Numerous MMA promotions have come and gone, including K-1’s increased emphasis into the sport, the WFA’s return and demise, the rise of both the Strikeforce and BodogFight promotions this past year, as well as the formation of the IFL, the company Newton and Gracie now compete in.

The UFC has seen a huge rise in success, breaking into mainstream television markets and showing record returns in both attendance and revenue. Conversely the promotion that Carlos and Renzo first met in, PRIDE, has lost its Japanese TV deal and could see itself be sold in the coming year.

Yet through all the changes in the sport, the highs and lows both Carlos Newton and Renzo Gracie have seen, they remain much the same they were three years ago when they fought to what many consider one of the best matches in Bushido’s history.

When Newton and Gracie fought at Bushido 1, they put on a technical ground display that saw them both gain, lose, and reverse multiple submission attempts. So close was the action that ultimately when the fight went the distance, Carlos won by a split decision.

Three years later both fighters have remained proficient on the ground, where the majority of their wins have come. But to say this fight could be solely a ground affair would be discounting both fighters’ stand-up skills.

While it is true you won’t see either put on a blazing display of technical Muay Thai or even one-shot knockout power, both are willing to stand and trade – whether to their advantage or detriment – and set up the eventual takedown and submission games.

Newton in particular has grown more brazen standing. During his lone win since these two first met, Carlos managed to TKO Tokimitsu Ishizawa in just over 20 seconds, making it his first win ever not via submission or decision.

Time could also play a key factor in the fight. Both Carlos and Renzo have spent an extended amount off over this past year, rejuvenating themselves physically after years of heavy abuse in the ring. The fighter that is the fresher physically could push the pace more, and in a fight where the competitors possesses very similar skill sets, that may very well be the key determining factor leading to victory.

A win in this fight could go a long way towards further cementing a place in the current era of MMA for either Newton or Gracie. Both are great examples of the recent past of the sport, but with the continued evolution of MMA, proving what you can do now – rather than relying on past glory – could very well ultimately determine their place in the overall history of the sport.

Carlos is still young and it’s feasible that he could make another run at an individual championship, or continue to take superfights as he hopes to lead his IFL team, the Toronto Dragons to an eventual World Team Tournament title.

Renzo on the other hand is closer to the end of what is career that will most surely have him recognized as “the fighting Gracie” among a family of legends. With a proposed match upcoming against Frank Shamrock in Showtime’s new MMA promotion, EliteXC, next year, we may be witnessing the last great run of a truly great ambassador of our sport.

A lot of things have changed in the three years since Carlos Newton and Renzo Gracie first fought. Names, faces, outlets, things have come and gone, but Newton and Gracie have remained relatively the same. And if the fight remains the same as it did before, then the IFL and fans alike will be treated to a great show of skill, respect, and entertainment from these two tremendous competitors.