Two heavily experienced combat sports veterans will duke it out this Friday night (January 20, 2012) as recently crowned UFC fastest knockout record holder Duane Ludwig takes on 11 fight UFC veteran Josh Neer in the co-main event of UFC on FX: "Guillard vs. Miller" in Nashville.
Duane "Bang" Ludwig has experienced a huge career revitalization since moving up a weight class to welterweight, winning his past two fights including a very strong performance against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season seven winner Amir Sadollah at UFC on Versus 5. He's looking for his third straight UFC victory against a highly experienced foe in Josh Neer.
Josh "The Dentist" Neer has been competing off and on in the UFC since 2005. His current stint in the promotion is his fourth, primarily due to his dominance of fighters on the regional circuit (21 first round stoppages outside the UFC) and his extremely fan-friendly and aggressive fighting style. Neer returned with a crushing victory over Keith Wisniewski this past October and is hoping to even his UFC record with a victory over Ludwig.
Will Duane go out with a "Bang" against Neer? Can "The Dentist" make his fourth stint last the longest with a strong showing? What's the best path to victory for both men on Friday night?
Let's find out:Duane Ludwig
Record: 21-11 overall, 4-2 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 followed it up by taking on Ultimate Fighter season seven winner Amir Sadollah and severely outstriking him over the course of three rounds in his best performance in the UFC since his return to the promotion.
He'll get an opportunity to keep the momentum rolling on Friday night.
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 Neer, a man known for being more of a scrapper and "in-your-face fighter than a technician on the feet.
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 likely be the larger man this time out as both fighters have competed at lightweight and welterweight throughout their career, so clinching would not be a bad idea as he'll likely tire Neer's shoulders out.
The key for Ludwig is to keep Neer from setting the pace of the fight and to utilize his technique advantage in every exchange.
Record: 32-10-1 overall, 5-6 in the UFC
How he got here: Josh Neer has been here before, this is actually his fourth stint in the UFC for the 28 year old Midwestern scrapper. "The Dentist" originally entered the UFC after accumulating a 13-1-1 record on the regional circuit, but was submitted in his UFC debut by Drew Fickett in the inaugural UFC Fight Night event.
He was brought back four months later most likely as a feeder to Melvin Guillard, but Neer surprised fans and UFC execs by submitting "The Young Assassin" in the first round and then following up his victory by defeating Ultimate Fighter season two winner Joe Stevenson, halting his nine fight win streak.
Neer would find himself on the outside looking in after two straight losses including a submission defeat to Nick Diaz, but would work his way back once more by going 6-1 in regional shows over the next year. In his third stint with the UFC, the native Iowan defeated Din Thomas, lost a close split decision to Nate Diaz and then tapped out Ultimate Fighter season 6 winner Mac Danzig with a triangle choke to earn some high profile fights.
He found himself on the receiving end of consecutive decisions after being controlled by wrestlers Kurt Pellegrino and Gleison Tibau which again left him looking for work outside the UFC. Neer bit off a bit more than he could chew in losing to Eddie Alvarez in a Bellator "superfight" but worked his way back to the UFC with four straight first round stoppages. He performed admirably against Keith Wisniewski in his return, elbowing his opponent into oblivion which forced a doctor stoppage at the end of the second round.
With the victory, Neer gladly accepted a bout against fellow veteran Duane Ludwig.
How he gets it done: The biggest difference in skill for this fight is on the ground, but can Neer put Ludwig there, and would he want to? Josh Neer is the type of fighter who loves to stand and scrap if he's able to, and scoring a big fight against a striker like Duane Ludwig might present a challenge that he wants to conquer.
If he chooses to stand and "Bang," Neer absolutely needs to put a ton of pressure on Ludwig. He can't sit around on the outside trying to match technique for technique because he's going to get destroyed that way. The key for Neer in the stand-up is to constantly be moving forward, force Ludwig to fight from his heels and really get in the Grudge fighter's face.
If the fight enters the clinch, Neer has two options: he can try to work those vicious elbows which helped put him over the top against Keith Wisniewski his last time out, or he can work for takedowns whether it's some sort of throw or if he can try to drag the Muay Thai fighter to the canvas. Once on the ground, he should have a serious edge and scoring a submission would be a real possibility but again, he has to actually want to put the fight on the ground.
"The Dentist" might wait until he's absorbed a ton of punishment before trying and by then, it could be too late.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be striking technique. Josh Neer is one hell of a scrappy brawler, and he loves to stand and bang, but he could seriously be biting off more than he can chew this time around if he wants to just trade blow for blow with the former I.S.K.A. Muay Thai World Kickboxing champion. Even if Neer attempts his in-your-face style and puts a ton of pressure on Ludwig, "Bang" should be very comfortable up close due to his proficiency with short elbow and knee attacks in Muay Thai from all those years of sparring and competing.
If this turns into a stand-up fight and Josh Neer is too stubborn to utilize the rest of his skill-set, he could be in some major trouble.
Bottom Line: Both of these men put forth tremendous efforts every time out and their biggest weakness (strong wrestlers) is almost certainly not going to be exploited here. This fight almost has the perfect recipe of a fan-friendly stand-up battle. Both Neer and Ludwig are likely expecting to come forward and throw down with big punches and kicks, so despite not having much of an impact on the welterweight division, this should be the type of fight that viewers are tuning in to see. Expect some fireworks.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller? Tell us your prediction in the comments below!