This Sunday night (August 14, 2011), there will be another welterweight battle of youth versus experience as Amir Sadollah and his seven professional fights takes on 31 fight veteran Duane "Bang" Ludwig in the opening bout of UFC on Versus 5.
Sadollah was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter season seven, but has yet to put together a really nice run in the UFC. He's looking to extend his winning streak to three and is coming off his first stoppage victory in nearly three years.
Duane Ludwig has been fighting professionally for over 11 years now, and also has significant kickboxing experience. He's coming off his first UFC victory in nearly five years and is hoping that his jump to the welterweight division will rejuvenate his stalling career.
Can Sadollah finally string together a nice series of victories? Does Ludwig still have one last "Bang" in him? Who will score a much-needed victory on Sunday night?
Let's find out
Record: 5-2 overall, 5-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Despite not having had a professional fight, Amir Sadollah and his 4-0 amateur record made it onto season seven of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). He blitzed through the competition using his surprisingly well-rounded skill-set of striking and submissions off his back, defeating the likes of Matt Brown, Gerald Harris and C.B. Dollaway. He would face Dollaway for a second time in the show's finale after the Jesse Taylor fiasco, defeating him with an arm bar again.
After having his first real UFC fight cancelled twice due to injury, Sadollah finally made his return over a year later after dropping down to the welterweight division. Unfortunately, Johny Hendricks was his return fight and the former Oklahoma State national champion wrestler blasted him with punches, earning a technical knockout (TKO) in just 29 seconds.
The TUF season seven winner would bounce back strong, showcasing solid Muay Thai skills against re-signed UFC veteran Phil Baroni and taking a unanimous decision. It would be more of the same against journeyman Brad Blackburn in his next bout before Sadollah squared off against his toughest foe yet, the South Korean Dong Hyun Kim.
Kim would utilize superior wrestling and judo, repeatedly taking Sadollah down and keeping him there for three consecutive rounds to earn a unanimous decision.
The TUF champion has rebounded nicely since then, scoring a decision victory over Peter Sobatta at UFC 122 and then, after Duane Ludwig got hurt, he blasted DaMarques Johnson with vicious elbows to the face on the ground at UFC Fight Night 24 to earn his first finish since his UFC debut.
Now, nearly five months later, the fight with Ludwig is back on.
How he gets it done: Sadollah has two very impressive skills, his Muay Thai striking has improved by leaps and bounds since his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter and he's got a sneaky Sambo background as well.
He should really not be afraid to use his size in the Octagon. Duane Ludwig has spent much of his career as a lightweight, which should give Sadollah an advantage if the fight were to go to the clinch or on the ground.
Expect to see the Throwdown fighter work his Muay Thai kicks from a distance and if the fight gets up close and personal, he'll be more than happy to use his nasty elbows and knees.
The TUF winner also has a black belt in Sambo, which is something that could be very effective if he wanted to take the fight to the ground and bash Ludwig's brains in with elbows like in his last fight. He pulled off a nasty arm trap against Damarques Johnson, something that showcased his creativity and ability to improvise depending on the situation.
Don't be surprised to see the return of Sadollah's submission arsenal as well. Ludwig has been tapped out five times in his career and the 30 year old Brooklyn native has a strong enough Brazilian jiu-jitsu game to pull one off if the situation arises.
Record: 20-11 overall, 3-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Duane "Bang" Ludwig has spent a lengthy career in both mixed martial arts and kickboxing. He actually started both professionally at about the same time back in 2000, when he fought five times in MMA and at least three kickboxing matches.
His overall kickboxing record was 48-7-1 but he's no longer a regular competitor in the sport, instead choosing to focus on MMA.
After a successful run outside of the UFC, including a brilliant knockout of former UFC champion Jens Pulver, he made his UFC debut against Genki Sudo, winning a close split decision. In his return to the UFC nearly three years later, he would go on to score the fastest knockout in UFC history against Jonathan Goulet, so fast that the timekeeper didn't realize the fight was over already and the knockout is still officially recorded as 11 seconds despite happening nearly twice as quickly.
Ludwig spent much of the next three years competing in Strikeforce as well as the Colorado MMA promotion ROF before again returning to the UFC against Jim Miller in early 2010, losing via arm bar in the first round. His return fight against Darren Elkins would be cut short after a freak injury to his ankle while defending a takedown forced a stop to the fight.
After healing up for eight months, the Grudge fighter moved up to welterweight and eeked out a close split decision victory over Nick Osipczak in Germany. He was forced out of his original fight against Sadollah with an injury and now, about four and a half months later, the bout is back on.
How he gets it done: Duane Ludwig loves to strike. What more can be said about the man with the fastest knockout in UFC history as well as 56 professional kickboxing matches?
He's got a strong base in Muay Thai kickboxing and he'll be looking to use his excellent technique against Sadollah, a man who's been clipped in the stand-up department before against a significantly less technical striker.
Don't be fooled by his six career submission victories, most of them were from exhaustion or from strikes. Just like his nickname, Ludwig will want to stand and "Bang."
Expect to see the Grudge product move to the center of the Octagon and stand in the pocket, ready to trade blow for blow. He will not be the larger man, so it wouldn't be the wisest decision to clinch and tire his shoulders out. He'll need every last bit of his strength and power if he wants to best Sadollah.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this fight is the amount that each man has improved over time. Sadollah's biggest weakness right now is wrestling, something he doesn't have to worry about against Ludwig. Amir Sadollah has grown by leaps and bounds since his UFC debut and has discovered quickly how to use his excellent reach 75 inches in the welterweight division.
The same can't be said about Ludwig. He's stagnated considerably and that's to be expected when he's had nearly 100 professional fights (including kickboxing) over the past 10 years. The veteran may still have a few tricks up his sleeve, but he'll have to be extra crafty if he wants to win on Sunday night.
Bottom Line: If this fight stays standing, it's anyone's game. Both men are talented strikers while Ludwig holds a tremendously significant experience edge. Don't be surprised to see Sadollah either close the distance or attempt to take this bout to the ground, an area he'll have the biggest advantage. Depending on the gameplan of both men, this could be an entertaining stand-up battle, or a one-sided blowout. Either way, it should still be fun.
Who will be victorious at UFC on Versus 5? Tell us in the comments below!