The first televised fight on Versus on Sunday will be a battle of strikers: in particular, welterweights Duane “Bang” Ludwig and Amir Sadollah. At first glance, it seems like Ludwig may be in just a little bit over his head. Ludwig has a grand total of three wins against UFC-quality opponents in his 31-fight career: Jens Pulver in 2003, Jonathan Goulet in 2006, and Yves Edwards in 2008. Meanwhile, he’s lost to such opponents eight times, including recent defeats to Jim Miller and Lyle Beerbohm, along with a loss by ankle injury to Darren Elkins. (Ludwig was particularly overwhelmed against Miller, who is legitimately one of the world’s best lightweights.) Ludwig scored an emotional victory last time out, as he won a decision against Nick Osipczak at UFC 122 in Germany just days after the birth of his second child.
The Osipczak fight just doesn’t bode well for Ludwig though; that was a war against a very low-level UFC welterweight. Amir Sadollah isn’t exactly a high-level welterweight, but he’s certainly at a higher level than Osipczak, as his career 5-2 record has been forged entirely in the UFC. Sadollah is noteworthy as the only fighter ever to win The Ultimate Fighter with fewer than five career professional fights on his record. He’s done it largely with a Muay Thai attack, but also with a very competent ground game that keeps him out of trouble more than anything else.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a great idea of how good Sadollah is. His losses are to Johny Hendricks and Dong Hyun Kim: no shame there. His wins are against C.B. Dollaway, and then a list of VERY low-level UFC fighters in Phil Baroni, Brad Blackburn, Peter Sobotta, and DaMarques Johnson. That’s largely to the UFC’s credit, as they’ve mostly avoided throwing Sadollah into the fire in the first few years of his career. However, Sadollah now has seven UFC fights and is in his fourth year of fighting, so it’s time to start moving him back up the ladder. There’s a whole lot of room between DaMarques Johnson and Dong Hyun Kim as far as UFC opponents are concerned. Duane Ludwig may be a step up from Johnson, but we can still go further.
The challenge for Sadollah in this fight will be whether or not he can beat Ludwig in a striking battle. To this point, Sadollah hasn’t faced a striking-oriented fighter like Ludwig, and while Ludwig is far from a world-class striker in MMA, it will be interesting to see if Sadollah can still do well against somebody who makes that part of the game his specialty. That’s not to say that Sadollah can’t win by submission: in fact, he has two wins by submission and three by decision, although that includes one submission due to strikes.
SILVA PREDICTION: AMIR SADOLLAH (30.74) OVER DUANE LUDWIG (25.05)
The biggest difference between Sadollah and Ludwig is that Sadollah has a well-rounded MMA game and Ludwig doesn’t. Even if Ludwig proves to be the better striker (and this is far from guaranteed), Sadollah has the option to play either the clinch game or the ground game, where he should be superior to Ludwig. To be a bit more harsh, Ludwig really isn’t a UFC-caliber fighter, and Sadollah should display why on Sunday night.