Every hardcore fan has an assortment of exhilarating memories burned into their mind; a comforting melange of brutality and violence that we recall with heart-warming fondness. One of the first examples of a downright ass-whipping that sucked me into the sport and never fails to brighten my day was an early Duane Ludwig fight.
It was a time in MMA when the trappings of white tube socks and a pair of Vans were considered perfectly acceptable cage attire. Ludwig, who looked like a scrawny, prepubescent chieftain of the Earth Science club, enforced a short sequence on the ground, got to his feet and erupted into a harmonious whirlwind of Muay Thai devastation.
He pelted his opponent with a torrent of textbook combinations -- some still rare for today's standards -- as fluently as a bus-boy putting away silverware, only in fast forward: right low kick to left high kick, blinding punching combinations concluded effortlessly with cleaving low kicks and crushing knees to the body.
The swagger ran thick when, after his foe stumbled around clumsily in a daze -- clearly out on his feet and possibly aided by a deep surge of adrenaline or some sinister spell of necromancy -- "Bang" struck the fabled Karate Kid "Crane Stance" in the center of the cage before cascading more highlight reel destruction upon him.
It was the kind of movie scene that many aspiring young men have mentally devised and prayed to re-enact one day to impress women. That was eleven years ago when Ludwig was a wee twenty-one years old, so it's rather surreal to see him competing on the main card of the UFC on Versus 5 show this Sunday night against Amir Sadollah.
The welterweight alignment will pit two of the most talented Thai practitioners in the UFC against one another and has all the ingredients for a mind-blowing brawl.
Full analysis after the jump.
Ludwig is batting .500 in his last fourteen fights, which sounds worse than it is. His losses in that stretch include: Tyson Griffin, Josh Thomson, Paul Daley, Takanori Gomi, Lyle Beerbohm, Jim Miller, and Darren Elkins.
As you can see to the left versus Team Rough House's Nick Osipczak, his offensive prowess is still intact.
Sadollah is also quite capable and creative with his Thai onslaught, so the question is whether the former TUF alum will capitalize on the advantage of his submission grappling arsenal or treat the fans to trading hands with Ludwig.
"Bang" prefers to get in tight and light off combinations with his hands, often grabbing the collar tie to spear knees and transition to the full Thai plum clinch.
There, short forearms and more knees are hammered home with strong control of the head.
You can see to the right that his intent is to close the distance, overwhelm with his rhythm and spark a slugfest where his startling hand speed tends to carry him through.
It took me a while to get familiar with Amir Sadollah on The Ultimate Fighter until I realized that the so-called "Thai fighter" was the one submitting everyone from his guard.
In retrospect, Sadollah's pathway through the show is thoroughly impressive: he submitted his way into the house, finished Gerald Harris with strikes, submitted Matt Brown, then armbarred C.B. Dollaway twice.
Since the show, his kickboxing has not only improved, but he's retained a very distinct Thai style. To the left he employs the long front kick as a distance weapon.
Again using his length well in these animations against Peter Sobotta, check out the extension Sadollah gets on the lead right hand.
His sweet spot is initiating on the fringe of striking range, where Ludwig likes to settle in the pocket and duel at intimate quarters.
I imagine Sadollah will pick his spots and sting with crisp and stretched out volleys before drifting back out of reach.
He'll have the advantage from afar with a methodical selection of kicks and punches, and Ludwig's edge will be his blazing quickness and the ability to inflict a lot of damage in a short span of time.
On the ground, Ludwig became capable of surviving and scrambling back to his feet to wield his striking, and is even more capable presently, but has never represented an avid submission threat and technical guard like Sadollah.
On the same token, Sadollah is not known as a wrestler and doesn't have adroit takedowns to ground the fight at will.
Still, the ace in his hand is his Sambo background, and he can surely catch Ludwig off-guard with a duck-under double leg or set up trips from the clinch, as he does to the left against a similarly speedy striker in DaMarques Johnson.
Anything can happen in a standing shootout between two evenly matched strikers of this caliber, but Sadollah's dangerous ground game solidifies him as the favorite. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ludwig throw in some takedown attempts as a strategy Sadollah won't be expecting; even if he can't keep him there or mount much offense, the aspect of control and momentum will pay dividends on the score cards.
I really like and respect both of these guys and hope for a great turnout. Inside, I'll be cheering for Ludwig as an old sentimental favorite, but I think Sadollah's superior standing defense, more diverse skill set and current career trajectory make him the more logical pick. Anytime things get hairy on the feet, Amir also has a more appealing avenue to exercise on the ground.
My Prediction: Amir Sadollah by submission
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
UPDATE: Ludwig vs. Smith gif by Dallas Winston