Ludwig has been the key to Alpha Male's success in 2013.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Team Alpha Male and Duane Ludwig. One year and the creation of the perfect storm. The team from Sacramento, under striking supremo Ludwig has gone 13-1 thus far in the UFC with nine of those victories coming by way of knockout, TKO or submission.
We are probably looking at a clear ‘Coach Of The Year’ contender in the 35-year-old, who transplanted himself seamlessly from his own Muay Thai/Mixed Martial Arts School, "BANG Muay Thai Inc." at 303 Training Center in Westminster, Colorado, to the mob from Sacramento.
That extraordinary run of success continued last weekend as Chris Holdsworth graduated from soldier to officer as men’s winner of The Ultimate Fighter 18.
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We knew he was equipped on the ground, earning his black belt in jiu-jitsu as a teenager, but the kick which blew away opponent Davey Grant’s equilibrium in that decisive second round bore all the hallmarks of Ludwig’s tutoring and expertise.
Indeed, Holdsworth has been open in his praise of how ‘Bang’ has brought him on. Strike, stun, and submit has been a key over the last twelve months for several high profile Team Alpha Male fighters in the UFC.
The fingerprints of Ludwig’s successful careers in both Muay Thai and Kickboxing – and that fastest KO of Jonathan Goulet recognized by Dana White and the UFC, in 6.06 seconds – have been plain to see in the performances of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, and Chad Mendes, from flyweight through bantam, to featherweight.
The only high-profile defeat has come with TJ Dillashaw’s loss to Rafael Assuncao in Brazil in October, and even that fight could have gone the way of the American on another day.
We knew the Alpha Males were consummate wrestlers, teak tough, and with a work ethic to rival any camp in the world.
But what Ludwig has given them is an understanding of clever footwork, how to close down opponents, and strike with efficiency and accuracy, allowing them to become both potent and threatening at distance and up close. Results have born that out. And some.
Thus, in Sacramento at UFC On FOX 9 on December 14, the real acid test will take place with the camp’s three most high-profile men in significant bouts: notably Benavidez’s second tilt at Demetrious Johnson, for the UFC flyweight title, after a close first encounter. This year, Benavidez has noticeably targetted the body with knees and kicks. He looks a different fighter, and is 3-0.
On the same night in twelve days time, Faber faces Michael MacDonald in a contest which, if victorious, could take him toward another bantamweight title shot against the winner of Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, who collide to decide the outright bantamweight champion, on Feburary 1, 2014, at UFC 169.
Moreover, on the Sacramento card, featherweight No 1 contender Mendes faces Nik Lentz, and victory will see him on course for another title shot.
The ‘perfect storm’ has seen Ludwig become the last piece in the jigsaw for the team of wrestlers, with Ludwig’s influences having come from Bas Rutten and Greg Jackson, who have both coached him.
Think about it: combine those two and you get crystal clear game planning and a ruthless desire to finish fights.
Team Alpha Male had been good enough, most have thought, for years, the fighters acting as coaches. But now they have an edge, a coaching supremo. It was Faber who brought the quietly industrious Ludwig into the fold.
Even Ludwig himself would not have been contemplating this when he faced Che Mills on September 29, 2012 at UFC On FUEL TV 5.
The bout was stopped after Ludwig was unable to continue after tearing a knee ligament. At the time he was looking to defend a takedown. After the agony in that opening round, I witnessed both his pain and disappointment from a few feet away.
I was working behind the scenes that day, and you could see his deflation as he had his knee examined by the medical staff next to the FUEL TV interview studio.
That day, he faced a painful decision: to stop fighting and begin coaching. Joe Silva’s loss has been a huge gain for a group of fighters.
"We were always good fighters and a good team, no matter what we did, but we pretty much did that without a coach and without structure," Benavidez told FOX Sports reporter Damon Martin early in the fall.
"We had great teammates to train with everyday, but we got that close, split decisions away from a world title when we really didn’t have all the other luxuries that other fighters have, which is just a coach.’"
‘"People take all that for granted. Just having somebody to watch video, watch your opponent, we’ve never had that before. If we were that close and we were getting better with him this might be the year we add some gold. He’s 100 per cent the missing link at Team Alpha Male." Spot on.
Regardless of what happens in Sacramento, Ludwig already has my vote for ‘Coach Of The Year’. ‘Bang’ has earned his stripes.
We were always good fighters and a good team, no matter what we did, but we pretty much did that without a coach and without structure.
If we were that close and we were getting better with him this might be the year we add some gold. He’s 100 per cent the missing link at Team Alpha Male.