Fabio Gurgel and Mark Kerr are two legends of their own grappling styles, as they represent BJJ and Wrestling respectively. Not only did they both achieve a lot of success in their original sports, but they also both embarked on a professional MMA career around the same time as well. They both grappled at a high level prior to adding strikes to their repertoire, and they continued competing under different rulesets in the years after they met as well. Even though their approaches to both grappling and MMA were markedly different, they have both gone down in history as fantastic competitors.
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Fabio Gurgel v Mark Kerr
It was still very early in the days of professional MMA when Fabio Gurgel and Mark Kerr met against one another, and the rules were still in their infancy. They met in the final of World Vale Tudo Championship 3 on January 19th, 1997, fighting in bare knuckle MMA for an organization that had very few rules and didn’t use rounds for any of their fights either. Kerr was already an NCAA Division I champion and a USA Senior Freestyle Wrestling Champion, but this tournament was his first taste of MMA. Gurgel on the other hand had won multiple high-level BJJ tournaments and was a UFC veteran with a 1-1 professional MMA record, along with being one of the founders of Alliance Jiu-Jitsu.
Fabio Gurgel and Mark Kerr were put on opposite sides of the bracket at World Vale Tudo Championship 3, and they both put in great performances in the first two matches. Kerr defeated Paul Varelans by TKO after around two minutes, and Sidney ‘Mestre Hulk’ Goncalves Freitas was disqualified from his fight with Kerr after trying to crawl out of the ring. Gurgel defeated both of his opponents by TKO, finishing Patrick Smith in under a minute and Michael Pacholik in just under 5 minutes. With short fights all round, both men were pretty fresh coming into the final fight and were able to put everything they had into beating one another.
Both men started with by feeling each other out, and most of the offense in the first minute consisted of leg kicks. Mark Kerr rushed forward to push his opponent towards the ropes, but Fabio Gurgel pulled closed guard once they got there. Gurgel did a good job of limiting Kerr’s offense but the wrestler was able to pressure forward and pass to half-guard. Kerr landed some shots from there but disengaged once Gurgel created some space, allowing him to stand back up with him. After a little striking, Kerr blasted into a quick takedown into closed guard that allowed him to start landing punches and heavy headbutts from the top.
Mark Kerr eventually managed to stand up and that allowed him to get a lot more power behind the strikes he was landing on Fabio Gurgel. Kerr disengaged again when Gurgel created some space and the pair returned to standing. There weren’t many strikes thrown while standing before Kerr shot in for another takedown, although he couldn’t land any clean shots before Gurgel pushed him off. Kerr stepped through Gurgel’s guard and into side control, but Gurgel turned to turtle and started trying to wrestle up on a single-leg. Kerr landed some shots to the body but Gurgel spun under him and set up a quick triangle choke.
Kerr escaped soon after and got into side control, but it wasn’t long before Gurgel recovered half guard. Fabio Gurgel was able to recover butterfly guard and then closed guard, but Mark Kerr landed a few strikes along the way. Kerr was heavy on top and although Gurgel was working hard to set up the armbar, he wasn’t able to put him in real danger. Kerr spent quite while landing strikes from closed guard, staying close enough to shut down most offense. The headbutts were particularly damaging to Gurgel, and they caused him to bleed pretty profusely.
After several minutes of that, Mark Kerr managed to stand up and started raining down more strikes on Fabio Gurgel. It was a short burst that caused a fair bit of damage, but Gurgel managed to bring him back down to his knees and limit the amount of power he could generate after that. Kerr got a deep underhook and started to stack Gurgel but he still couldn’t break open his closed guard. They stayed in that position until the end of the fight and Kerr was declared the winner by unanimous decision thanks to his sustained positional control and the volume of ground and pound he landed.
Mark Kerr had put on a fantastic display in his MMA debut by winning 3 fights in one night and taking home the title, while Fabio Gurgel had to settle for second place in the tournament. Kerr attracted the attention of the UFC and won another two tournaments in the octagon, before moving on to PRIDE to continue his career. He continued fighting until 2009 and eventually retired with a professional record of 15-11 (1), while also achieving big things on the ADCC mats. Kerr won the over 99kg division in 1999, became the double champion in 2000, won the superfight title in 2001, and became one of the inaugural members of the ADCC Hall of Fame.
While Mark Kerr was at the beginning of his MMA career, this would prove to be final fight that Fabio Gurgel had. He continued competing at the highest level in BJJ though and he eventually became a four-time world champion. Gurgel achieved a lot on the mats but some of his biggest achievements came in the training room, as he continued to grow his team. Over the next few years, Alliance jIu-Jitsu became one of the biggest teams in the sport and they developed multiple legendary competitors like Marcelo Garcia, Demian Maia, Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles, and many others.
The full match between Fabio Gurgel and Mark Kerr from World Vale Tudo Championship 3 was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of Mouseboxer’s Classic MMA: