Fatherly experience and wisdom? Or youthful spirit and low miles?

On one hand, Randy Couture and Anderson Silva seemed to age like fine wine. On the other hand, nobody would complain about having the skill set and conditioning of a Jon Jones or Anthony Pettis. Although fans never have and probably never will get to see any of these fighters face off, at Bellator 101 in Portland, Ore., everyone will get to see a fight that comes pretty close.

At 16 years the elder, Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis is literally almost old enough to be Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy’s dad. In fact, he didn’t even begin his pro MMA career until he was six years older than Sarnavskiy is currently. Friday night brings a battle of old vs. young to the last of four Bellator lightweight tournament quarterfinals, all of which air on the evening’s main card.

Sarnavskiy, who hails from Omsk, Russia, is a young phenom. Fighting since he was only 19, he has built up a 23-1 record, with his only loss coming by a very oddly judged split decision to Rich Clementi at Bellator 77. Sarnavskiy has only been to decision five times, stopping 19 of his opponents. He was the M-1 Global Eastern European champ when he was only 21 years old. Most of his fighting has been done on Russian soil against Russian opponents, and his first fight outside his home continent was his loss to Clementi. Since then, he has won twice in Bellator and once back in his home country. This is a very different path than that of his next opponent.

Davis is an old-school UFC vet. A pro boxer for most of his 20s, the Maine native made his pro MMA debut two days before his 30th birthday. He began karate as a child and eventually took up boxing at 14, so he has been involved in fighting for almost his entire life. Davis first entered the Octagon in 2005 on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. After a loss on the show and subsequent loss in the finale, he was not brought back to the Octagon for a year. During his main UFC run, he spent a little over four years on the biggest stage in the sport, racking up five “of the Night” honors. He posted eight wins and just one loss before hitting a rough patch in which he went 1-4 in a year and a half and was released from the promotion. He has been on various stages since, putting together a 5-1-1 record. Friday night will be his second bout under the Bellator banner, and he will be looking to go all the way in the tournament.

Both of these guys are big stars in their own right. Davis is a household name among MMA fans and has fought some world-class talent, including Nate Diaz, Dan Hardy, Melvin Guillard and Mike Swick. Sarnavskiy has mostly fought relative unknowns, although in Russia he is an extremely feared fighter who has also gotten rising attention through his Bellator performances. At Bellator 101, the American and the Russian are going to throw down in a big way.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Wrestling: Sarnavskiy – 10, Davis – 9

Davis is a very powerful fighter. His thick build has made him a fairly decent wrestler, even though this is the area in which he has the least amount of formal training. However, in his TUF appearance, which was very early in his career, Joe Stevenson, an established grappler, handled him with ease. Davis’s clinch is pretty solid, but his takedown defense is below .500 and his takedowns are fairly rudimentary.

Sarnavskiy, for having no formal wrestling training, has amazing wrestling abilities in the MMA setting. He has showcased some top-notch skills, between his quick and effective double-leg takedown and his creative trip techniques. On the ground, he makes it very difficult for his opponents to improve their positions, and in the clinch, he stays active without giving up control.

The wrestling department is probably the most lopsided aspect of this fight. Sarnavskiy has illustrated mastery in the subject, whereas Davis’s wrestling plays a smaller part of his well-rounded arsenal.

Submission Grappling: Sarnavskiy – 10, Davis – 10

Wrestling may not be Davis’s strong suit, but when it comes to submission grappling, the respective skill sets begin to converge. Davis has extensive training with some top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, including friend and third-degree black belt Jorge Gurgel. Should this one hit the mat, Sarnavskiy should plan to see some significant submission defense and would be wise to protect his neck and joints, even though Davis is traditionally a boxer. Fortunately, that should not be a problem for the Russian.

Sarnavskiy has finished over 50 percent of his opponents by a variety of submissions, and he has never been stopped. Ten of those submission finishes have come in the first round and in Russia, which is a region known more for its wrestling and grappling prowess than anything else. Sarnavskiy is a slickster on the ground and can almost always find a way to submit his opponent, should it turn into a grappling contest.

It would be easy to hand this one to Sarnavskiy, especially with his longer frame, but Davis has proven time and time again that he is not to be counted out on the ground. In terms of submission grappling, this could go either way.

Striking: Sarnavskiy – 10, Davis – 10[/box_light]

Davis is known for his pro boxing career prior to entering MMA. As a boxer, he earned a very impressive 17-1-2 record, and his only loss came at the tail end of his career by sixth-round knockout. In MMA, he surprisingly has only won a quarter of his bouts via knockout and has actually been knocked out three times.

Davis is a forward-pressing fighter, like most boxers are, and his lack of elusiveness is probably why he hasn’t done as well in MMA striking as he has in boxing. Boxing skills aside, his striking arsenal is not very well-rounded, but his kicks and knees have improved greatly over the years through his training under Team Sityodtong’s head coach and owner Mark DellaGrotte. DellaGrotte is arguably one of the best striking coaches in the United States, with extensive Muay Thai training in Thailand under Kru Yodtong Senanan. Davis’s three-inch height disadvantage could pose problems against the 5-foot-11 Sarnavskiy, but his Muay Thai training is second-to-none.

Sarnavskiy is an extremely dangerous striker. His head coach at RusFighters Sport Club is famed knockout artist and longtime veteran of MMA Alexander Shlemenko. Sarnavskiy, like Davis, has six wins by knockout, but his have been a variety of knees, punches and even spinning backfists. One of his trademark moves is his flying knee, which, against shorter fighters like Davis, can be a game-changing weapon.

Davis has a huge experience advantage in this one, having faced more world-class strikers, whereas Sarnavskiy has mostly faced subpar talent. However, Sarnavskiy has showcased more elusiveness and range, which could swing this one either way. Much like submission grappling, the striking game is also a toss-up.

[alert type=white ]X-factor

The x-factor here is the age difference. Having gone through essentially two full-length fighting careers, Davis has a lot of miles on his chassis and has sustained a ton of damage in 20 years. Now 40 years old, he’s really nearing the end of his run as a pro fighter. Sarnavskiy is young, talented and just getting started.

While it would be fun to see Davis end his career on a high note, much like Chris Lytle did two years ago, there’s no comparison between Dan Hardy on a losing streak and Tiger Sarnavskiy on a meteoric rise. As Anthony Pettis and Jon Jones have proven, young, highly skilled fighters are always a force to be reckoned with, and more often than not, youth has prevailed.

Total: Sarnavskiy – 30, Davis – 29

Verdict: Davis has had a great career. Even though he never got the chance to fight for a title, he has always been entertaining and brings the heat to his opponents. When he fought on his team’s home turf in Boston at UFC 118, he was put to sleep by Nate Diaz when he refused to tap. That may be considered irresponsible by traditional grapplers, but it proves he has the true heart of a fighter. That being said, his heart may not be enough against his Russian opponent.

Sarnavskiy is a fiery up-and-comer with a ton of experience for a 24-year-old, even if most of his experience is against less-than-world-class opponents. In addition to his training in his home country under Shlemenko, he and his team have been spending their fight camps at some of the top West Coast facilities, including Reign Training Center and HB Ultimate Training Center with many of the best fighters in the sport. Pairing a well-rounded training camp with his natural skills, deep gas tank, low miles and height advantage, Sarnavskiy brings an arsenal that will most likely be too much for Davis to handle. Sarnavskiy should take this one by submission in the first or second round.

Photo: Alexander Sarnavskiy (top) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)