The Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England, will host this Saturday's (September 29) UFC on FUEL TV 5 event. The 12-fight lineup will be neatly bisected with 6 matches airing bright and early on the UFC's Facebook page at 1:30 p.m. ET followed by the second half of featured bouts on FUEL TV at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Towering Dutchman Stefan Struve meets Croatian-American Stipe Miocic
UFC on FUEL TV 5 Main Card
Mills has been considered a legit up-and-comer since he dually torpedoed former DREAM welterweight champ Marius Zaromskis: first with a vicious knee in 2006, then again by counter high kick in 2008, both of which were 1st-round TKOs. Mills, who started his career at 1-2 but went on to win 8 of his next 9 along with a No Contest against the UFC's Paul Taylor, got his big break in the form of an invitation to The Ultimate Fighter 9, which carried the "US vs. UK" theme.
Because of his growing reputation as Zaromskis became a breakout star overseas, Mills was an early favorite to take the whole enchilada when the TUF cast was revealed. To the surprise of many, Mills only got a few minutes of airtime before eventual winner James Wilks fitted him with a heel hook and sent him packing in the first episode's elimination round.
Continued in the full entry.
Mills split his next 4 fights for an unflattering rebound sequence, which included a decision loss to "Judo" Jim Wallhead and a 1st-round armbar courtesy of Yuya Shirai. He regained momentum with 4-straight wins (accented by a decision win over the UFC's Jake Hecht) to earn a UFC contract, and Mills wasted no time by promptly throttling Chris Cope with a highlight-reel knockout in his long awaited debut. Top-of-the-food-chain welterweight Rory MacDonald would impose his relentless top-side assault to finish Mills with strikes in his sophomore effort, though he did look sharp on the feet before MacDonald battered him on the canvas.
"Bang" Ludwig predated Mills as a rising phenom. At the turn of the century when world-class striking was generally a myth of Bigfoot proportions in MMA, Ludwig flaunted the credentials of a Muay Thai champion with a legitimizing victory over Malaipet to validate his skill. Even more unique was the fact that, in an era populated mostly by one-dimensional standouts, Ludwig had set up shop with respected legend Bas Rutten to tailor his kickboxing to MMA and fortify his takedown defense and guard prowess.
The baby-faced youngster vaulted into the spotlight in 2003 when he trounced southpaw knockout artist Jens Pulver by 1st-round KO, who'd recently defeated Caol Uno to become the UFC's inaugural lightweight champion (and defended successfully against Dennis Hallman and B.J. Penn) but parted ways with the promotion due to a contract dispute.
The shocking upset expedited Ludwig to the Octagon where he notched an exhilarating albeit contentious decision over Genki Sudo in his premiere. Ludwig's sparkling luster was quickly tarnished by consecutive 1st-round stoppages overseas (Penn by arm-triangle in K-1, Sam Morgan by KO in Ring of Fire) and the rest of his career unfolded in see-saw fashion with mixed results, though he tackled A-list light- and welterweight competition regularly. The aforementioned see-saw effect is prevalent in his latest UFC run: it opened with consecutive losses as a lightweight (Jim Miller by armbar, Darren Elkins by TKO via injury), was revived with consecutive wins after a return to welterweight (decisions over Nick Osipczak and Amir Sadollah) but has recently fizzled with consecutive 1st-round defeats (Josh Neer by guillotine, Dan Hardy by KO).
Getting down to how Mills and Ludwig compare, they're both highly technical kickboxers yet Mills packs absurd single-shot power and his aptitude is more diverse overall. The following statement seems like it shouldn't hold true considering Ludwig's background, but Mills might have the cleaner delivery along with better balance and composure on the feet. All of this in addition to Mills' serviceable submission grappling means that Ludwig will have his hands full.
More UFC on FUEL TV 5 Dissections
As a thoroughly decorated veteran of the striking arts, Ludwig has superior kickboxing credentials but attacks aggressively and is unafraid to take risks; a crowd-pleasing mentality that's always plagued by defensive susceptibility. In any facet of MMA, a tried and proven formula is that, as a fighter increases their offensive output, their vulnerability to counter-offense increases at the same rate. This disclaimer applies to Ludwig's constant forward pressure as well as his phenomenal ability to chain a wide range of intelligent strikes together.
In fact, Ludwig's uncanny knack for knifing forward and unreeling a smooth succession of Muay Thai violence is is truly unparalleled. Many heralded strikers excel in cracking off precise combinations that consist of at least 3-4 strikes, but "Bang" can explode into action and lunge after his opponent with vicious mixtures of punches, kicks and knees like no other in MMA.
What sets Ludwig apart, even in light of his high mileage, is the breadth of his selection -- roundhouse kicks to all levels, spearing knees to the midsection, laser-straight rights and lefts and devastating hooks, both upstairs and down, are conjoined in any conceivable combination -- how smoothly he harmonizes his striking variety, and how every piece of flowing action is obviously calculated on the fly rather than rehearsed.
He's not on the throttle all the time though -- Ludwig will also hang back and counter-box with quick 1-2-3's and likes to slam his left hook around the guard or hard downstairs to close the combination. He switches stances freely, but not in the usual manner: if Ludwig, who stands orthodox, finishes a combination with his right foot forward, he'll immediately launch into another flurry from southpaw without resetting.
Mills is an all-business striker with methodical flash. He loosens his hands in short bursts of tight boxing and adds kicks from the fringe or slicing knees in close. He's a little more upright and compact than Ludwig and prefers to pivot and angle at phone-booth range, using more up-and-down level changes with a consistent and hands-heavy output. He should be a tad stronger with a slight wrestling and submission edge, but I expect the match to be dictated by standing exchanges and think Ludwig can hold his own in the defensive grappling department.
The pair have identical finishing ratios with submissions at 29% (4 of 14 for Mills, 6 of 21 for Ludwig) and they're a skosh apart in TKO percentage with Mills at 50% (7 of 14) and Ludwig at 48% (10 of 21). Mills will have a minor height advantage (6'1" vs. 5'10") but enjoy a significant 6" reach advantage (76" vs. 70"). Neither are bulletproof with striking defense though Mills is more conscious of protecting himself due to Ludwig's aforementioned aggression.
A growing concern with Ludwig nowadays is his chin. Though many of his TKO losses are entirely understandable (notorious sluggers Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, Takanori Gomi; one via ankle injury against Darren Elkins), Mills packs a wallop and just suffered the only TKO defeat of his career to MacDonald. He also has the kind of boxing-centric style that's caused Ludwig some problems in the past, especially at the very start and very end of his combinations or when he's breaking out of the clinch, as Ludwig tends to let his hands drift away from his chin.
Bang's questionable beard and striking defense along with his hot-and-cold consistency probably justify Mills' lead on the betting lines at an average of -200. I do agree with Mills being favored and think he's a safer bet, however, especially on the heels of Cub Swanson catching Charles Oliveira last week, I can't bring myself to pick against another all-time personal favorite.
My Prediction: Duane Ludwig by TKO.