The Ur-Brazilian MMA Feud: BJJ vs Luta Livre and the Style They Never Saw Coming

I found a better video from one of the events that I referenced in yesterday's history lesson so here's Fabio Gurgel vs Denilson Maia of the classic BJJ vs Luta Livre battles from the 1991 "Desafio - Jiu-Jitsu vs. Luta Livre" event:

Again note that Gurgel wins by dominating position -- Maia gets the first takedown but can't pass guard. Gurgel takes a while but he does pass guard and once he gets mount it's all over. Pretty static fight really -- the two styles had grown up together over several decades and were very incestuous.

Here's a 1992 fight featuring Marco Ruas, one of the best fighters associated with the Luta Livre camps. He was originally a Muay Thai fighter. His combination of striking and submission prowess made him a trail blazer of MMA. He was a long time rival of Rickson Gracie but sadly the two never fought. Ruas would later be a UFC champion.

The cool thing was, in 1995 at the next Desafio event, the BJJ/Luta Livre rivalry ran smack dab into another native Brazilian style -- Capoeira in the form of Mestre Hulk. The tourny was set up very much according to a stock formula, one Lutra Livre guy (Pedro Otavio), one BJJ guy (Amaury Bitetti), a couple strikers and a couple brawlers (including legendary Rickson rival Rei Zulu). Hulk refused to play into the unprepared striker stereotype and surprised them all, especially Bitetti. Here's a Brazilian TV report from the time:

And here's a highlight reel of Hulk:

Moral of the story -- strikers with enough ground skill to not get overwhelmed have an excellent chance in MMA. Plus Capoeira, while not a high percentage style, does have some wicked cool moves.

More MMA History posts in the extended entry.

Previous installments of MMA History:

XXII: Catch Wrestling and Kazushi Sakuraba's Early PRIDE Run
XXI: The Amazing UFC Championship Run of Frank Shamrock

XX: Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock Emerge at Ultimate Japan
XIX: The Humbled PRIDE of Nobuhiko Takada
XVIII: The Losses of Luta Livre
XVII: The Lion's Den Roars
XVI: Rico Chiapparelli and the RAW Team
XV: Pancrase, RINGS, and Shooto 1996
XIV: Boom and Bust in Brazil
XIII: Coleman Gets His Kicks
XII: End of the UFC Glory Days
XI: Carlson Gracie's Mighty Camp
X: The Reign of the Wrestlers
IX: Strikers Attack
VIII: From Russia With Leglocks
VII: A New Phase in the UFC
VI: A Dutch Detour
V: The Reign of Royce
IV: Rickson Brings Jiu Jitsu Back to Japan
III: Proto MMA Evolves Out of Worked Pro Wrestling in Japan
II: The Ur-Brazilian MMA Feud: BJJ vs Luta Livre and the Style They Never Saw Coming
I: UFC 1 Pancrase meets BJJ

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