In sports, you analyze your opponent, build a strategy and execute it. This happens of a period of time. In the martial arts, this happens in an instant. In the old days martial artists never gave exhibitions and there were never audiences to their matches. Public displays of your skills came about during the Meiji era when schools became public but prior to this time public displays of your skills were always forbidden and the only time an opponent got to see not only your ability level or your skills is when they challenged you to a duel.
When a potential opponent approached you on the street, you had to be able to ascertain not only what style they studied (and people rarely studied more than one style), how long they have been studying, who their teacher was and what their ability level was. All this had to be done in a blink of an eye because there are no second chances. When a opponent came and challenged you to a duel at your school it was customary for them to announce all that information prior to the bout. You would announce your name, your style, your school, your teacher and then your rank or years of study (most schools never gave out rank).
Martial artist then had to be well read as to what each style was capable of. In the movie The Grandmaster, before Ip Man goes to duel with the master from the North he goes and sees all the masters from the South. When they spar they show him what potential styles he may come up against so that he won't be surprised.
Today it is fun to talk about style versus style and who might win, but in the end it comes down to the individual and how she is capable of adapting her style to the situation. This is based on training and studying. Today we have a wealth of information available to us. In the old days it was primarily based on word of mouth.
When I was in Japan recently, someone asked me why Sensei wore his hakama so long and allowed it to drag. I told him that Sensei did that to hide his foot work. That person quizzically looked at me and said, "Oh, that's smart and old style." To me it made perfect sense but the look on this guy's face said other wise.
The martial arts should not be treated as a sport. There is nothing wrong with sports, but a true martial artist has a different mindset. In the martial arts you have to be ready for anything as well as there is no time to get ready so you always have to be ready. This require assiduous study and discipline.