Besides a main event between UFC 7 champion Marco Ruas and UFC 2 finalist Patrick Smith, WVC 4, promoted by Frederico Lapenda on March 16, 1997 at the Maksoud Plaza Hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil, also had an eight-man tournament in the 80kg (176 pound) division, featuring four Americans and four Brazilians. While all the spotlight was on the biggest rivalry in Brazilian vale tudo to date, between Jose Landi-Jons (muay Thai) and Jorge Patino (jiu-jitsu), whose rematch opened the tournament, luta livre talents Johil de Oliveira and Marcelo Aguiar ruled the night.
Ruas Taps Smith in 39 Seconds
Four months after his draw with Oleg Taktarov in WVC 2, a superfight where the Russian demanded special rules forbidding low kicks, Ruas returned to Maksoud Plaza Hotel to face Smith. Once again, the “King of the Streets” used his trademark approach: “If you punch and kick, I grapple. If you grapple, I punch and kick.”
Ruas started with a low kick immediately answered by the American kickboxer, which took Ruas off balance. In the ensuing sequence the Brazilian clinched and took Smith down, trying to mount, but Smith defended and ended up on top in Ruas’ guard, silencing the cheering. But before Smith could start any ground-and-pound, Ruas grabbed Smtih’s left leg and applied a heel hook. Smith fell back, tapping immediately.
According to the promoter, Lapenda, his plan was to promote the WVC 5 superfight between Ruas and Mark Kerr, who had burst onto the scene by winning the WVC 3 heavyweight tournament. But that fight ended up never happening, as “The Specimen” was hired by the UFC in the following months, winning two more open tournaments in a row at UFC 14 and 15. In 1998 Ruas and Kerr would start to train, together with Bas Rutten, in a “Dream Team” formed by the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club leader in Los Angeles.
The Birth of IVC
Considered by many as the realest vale tudo event ever, International Vale Tudo Championship, promoted by Sergio Batarelli, was born from Lapenda´s WVC. Batarelli was actually hired by Lapenda to help him with refereeing and promotion of the first four editions of WVC. Right after WVC 4, however, Lapenda had a disagreement with Batarelli and both decided to not work together anymore. Four months after WVC 4, Batarelli would promote the first edition of IVC bringing “The Beast” Dan Severn to face Ebenezer Fontes Braga in the superfight. It would be the first of 14 IVC events he promoted.
After the breakup with Batarelli, Lapenda started to promote his WVC in his hometown of Recife and also Aruba and Jamaica. The fact is that the disagreement between Lapenda and Batarelli, was excellent not only for Brazilian MMA but for the sport in general. WVC and IVC were venues for many UFC and Pride fighters like Pedro Rizzo, Kerr, Wanderlei Silva, “Pelé,” de Oliveira, Chuck Liddell and many others.
“Pele” vs. “Macaco” 2
Until November of 1996 the Chute Boxe name was respected only in the world of muay Thai, but when Landi-Jons defeated Patino, the No. 1 representative of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Brazil under 80kg at that moment, via TKO in front of his noisy local crowd of 10,000 people in the final of BVF 6 tournament, the situation totally changed. In the first fight “Pele” performed a “humping motion,” very similar to the one Israel Adesanya did to Paulo Costa 24 years later in UFC. That attitude from the Chute Boxer angered “Macaco” and the jiu-jitsu faithful, creating one of the biggest rivalries in the history of Brazilian vale tudo. Aware that all fans wanted to see the rematch, Lapenda opened his 80kg tournament with that fight.
With total support of the local jiu-jitsu community cheering him on, “Macaco” started clinching, taking “Pele” down and mounting where he inflicted huge punishment on the muay Thai representative. Macaco even had the opportunity to apply a rear-naked choke, but decided to release it in other to further punish his rival with head butts, elbows and punches. Landi-Jons even lost a tooth, but survived until the moment he was able to escape and bring Patino back to the stand up fight.
From that point on, it was a repeat of the first fight. Very tired, “Macaco” was unable to take “Pele” down again. From that point on, Landi-Jons started to use Chute Boxe´s famous muay Thai clinch to knee and also high kick his foe until referee Batarelli stopped the fight at 9:37, declaring Pele´s win via TKO.
Johil de Oliveira: From Alternate to Highlight
Even with all his vale tudo experience, de Oliveira, who had already 10 fights and only one loss, to Crezio Souza from Carlson Gracie’s team, was invited to make the alternate fight with American Kogi Lierman. The luta livre representative needed only 45 seconds to take him down and submit with a rear naked choke.
Pele´s opponent in the semifinal would be decided from the fight between Americans Rick Lucero, student of Joe Moreira (jiu-jitsu) and kickboxer Charles Kim. After 24 minutes Lucero was able to submit Kim with a guillotine choke, but got hurt, permitting de Oliveira to enter as the alternate and face “Pele” in the bloodiest fight of the tournament.
In the other side of the bracket, capoeira fighter Antonio Garra, a student of Sidney Goncalves Freitas, saw American Jason Canals dislocate his shoulder in the first punching exchange, obliging Batarelli to interrupt the fight in just six seconds. In the last fight of the first round, two-time Brazilian muay Thai champion and luta livre black belt Marcelo Aguiar earned the fourth semifinal berth in one of the best fights of the night against Smith´s student, John Quant, who had a impressive kickboxing record of 52 wins in 54 fights. After nine minutes of a very technical stand up battle, Aguiar was able to take Quant down and submit him with a rear-naked choke at 9 minutes, 50 seconds. While “Pele” and de Oliveira fought for 30 minutes in one of the bloodiest fights of vale tudo history to reach the final, Aguiar just needed 49 seconds to knock out Garra.
De Oliveira vs. “Pele”: When Head-Butts Were Allowed
As a representative of luta livre who grew up in the war between his style and jiu-jitsu in Rio de Janeiro, de Oliveira couldn’t believe that Macaco´s noisy jiu-jitsu cheering section were screaming his name when he entered in the ring to face “Pele” in the semifinal. The fact is that, at least in Sao Paulo, thanks to Landi-Jons’ two wins over “Macaco,” the Chute Boxe icon was already more hated than luta livre.
Aware of the physical wear “Pele” had suffered in the 10-minute war against “Macaco,” de Oliveira and his master Joao Ricardo devised a perfect tactic, using his better wrestling skills to neutralize Landi-Jons’ strong point, striking. As soon as the fight started, de Oliveira clinched and took “Pele” down. Very comfortable from the top, de Oliveira started to have a clear advantage in the fight, punishing “Pele” with punches, elbows and head butts. But even from the bottom the Chute Boxer kept his aggressiveness using his elbows to open cuts on Oliveira´s head. The fact is that in the first 12 minutes both men were badly cut, Pele´s face were totally deformed and the ring — as well as my photographer’s vest — was painted red.
At the end of the 30-minute first round, the fight was interrupted by the doctors, who didn’t allow “Pele” to return for the overtime round. Even totally deformed, “Pele” implored the referee, doctors and the audience, asking to continue, but was not allowed, so de Oliveira was declared winner. Unfortunately, after being checked by the doctors backstage Oliveira, who had many big cuts on the head including one in the eyelid, was not allowed to return to the final against his luta livre training partner Aguiar.
“I’m really disappointed with doctors decision, me and Marcelo had already agreed to fight. I just want to thank all the support you gave me,” an emotional de Oliveira said to the cheering crowd.
Aguiar, the great revelation of the event, ended up with the tournament title. Thanks to his win in the bloody WVC 4, published in Japanese Magazine Kakutougi Tsushin, Aguiar was invited to face Shooto idol Hayato Sakurai in Vale Tudo Japan of 1997 and got a draw. Two years latter “Pele” and de Oliveira would face each other again in another 30 minutes in the superfight of IVC 11. That time, however, Landi-Jons totally dominated the fight, winning via decision. Coincidentally, “Pele” left Chute Boxe in 2002, the same year “Macaco” started to take part in Rudimar Fedrigo´s squad. Still considered one of the biggest rivalries in the sport history, the bad blood between “Pele,” now 47, and “Macaco” (48) still persists and both still talk about a third fight.