The Best Fights You've Never Seen: Wallid Ismail vs. Eugenio Tadeu
While mixed martial arts is at its essence an individual sport, occasionally rivalries emerge that go beyond the two men in the ring at any given time. Such fights tend to bring out the absolute best in the competitors, as they find themselves fighting not only for themselves, but for the honor of their entire team or discipline.
Heated rivalries between Chute Boxe and Brazilian Top Team were a huge part of the appeal of PRIDE Fighting Championships. Go back a bit further and styles clashed and feuded, matching Kazushi Sakuraba's pro-wrestling against Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. While UFC 1 is generally credited as bringing the 'style vs style' storyline into the light, the fact is that this rivalry had been playing itself out in for decades before anyone had even heard of the Octagon. Japanese judoka would travel to Europe and take on the best catch wrestlers, Muhammad Ali fought Antonio Inoki in a fiasco of a 'mixed-rules' bout, and in Brazil, practitioners of Jiu-Jitsu fought against Luta Livre stylists to determine which art was superior.
While the UFC brought Gracie Jiu-Jitsu into the public consciousness, for years a competing form of submission grappling had been flourishing in Brazil as well. Luta Livre - or 'free fight' was a grappling-based style derived from catch wrestling. While Jiu-Jitsu is famous for its positional game, Luta Livre tends to be a bit more loose in its approach, aggressively hunting submissions over position in many cases, with many stylists specializing in guillotine chokes and leglocks.
While highly regarded within their respective circles, this match pitting Luta Livre's Eugenio Tadeu vs Jiu Jitsu legend Wallid Ismail occurred while both were very new to mixed martial arts (and as this was 1991, mixed martial arts as a sport was still in its infancy, as one can observe by both the atmosphere and the fight itself). Tadeu had won his only previous fight seven years earlier, while Ismael was making his mixed martial arts debut.
Both men only fought a handful of times following this bout. Tadeu made an appearance at UFC 16, losing a brawl against Mikey Burnett, but he is most famous for another Jiu-Jitsu vs. Luta Livre contest against Renzo Gracie. After nearly fifteen minutes of combat, the crowd collectively lost their composure, resulting in the infamous fight result of No Contest (Fans Rioted)
Ismail appeared sporadically in MMA as well, losing to Yoshiki Takahashi at UFC 12 and going 1-2 in PRIDE, as well as fighting on a pair of IVC cards. Despite his respectable 9-3 record in mixed martial arts, Ismael is probably best known for his performance in pure grappling, as he famously choked Royce Gracie to submission via clock choke in 1998. Ismael went on to found the Jungle Fight promotion and is rumored to compete against Royce Gracie when the UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro.