(Duane Ludwig [right] with one of his star pupils. / Photo via Sherdog)
An unlikely new coaching star, Duane “Bang” Ludwig has surged to the forefront of the competitive MMA coaching landscape after a fortuitous change of scenery. Ludwig is the obvious candidate for 2013′s “MMA Coach of the Year,” and few would question this, despite little fan awareness of his coaching prowess just one year ago.
Ludwig certainly had a tough 2012 that included three consecutive UFC losses, each one by first-round stoppage, the last of which added a fight-ending and career-threatening knee injury to the insult. But almost immediately after beginning the lengthy rehabilitation process, Ludwig got an unexpected phone call from Urijah Faber, and the creator of the Bang Muay Thai system suddenly migrated from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado to Sacramento, California.
Since Ludwig’s arrival at Team Alpha Male in December of 2012, his team’s fighters have been posting wins and highlight reel finishes at an unlikely pace. It’s even more unlikely, literally, when you consider the low share of TKO finishes that normally occur in the smaller weight classes where most Alpha Male fighters compete. The MMA media have been quick to point to the undeniable results of Team Alpha Male’s performance in the UFC as evidence that Ludwig was the missing ingredient to a team with championship potential. To be fair, the team already included former champions and contenders under Zuffa banners, but none that currently held a UFC belt. Now heading into this weekend’s UFC on FOX 9 card, Team Alpha Male has a chance to rack up not just four more wins, but capture its first UFC title of the Bang Era, and hold leading contender status in several divisions.
With all this hype around a team that is making a lot of noise, it’s a legitimate question to ask: Are they really better, or is this just a nice run of luck? The sudden emergence of Duane Ludwig as the MMA Coach of the Year is an extraordinary claim, and if Carl Sagan were still around (and an MMA fan), he would suggest that we demand extraordinary evidence before reaching such a bold conclusion. So I’m going to run the numbers in excruciating detail just to make sure.
The data analyzed here includes all statistics from UFC fights for Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, Danny Castillo, and TJ Dillashaw. Because WEC fights were in a smaller cage, stats from those fights will be skewed to contain more action and finishes. So this is an apples-to-apples comparison of the same five fighters in UFC fights only, before and after the arrival of their new coach. I’m not just interested in total wins and finishes, I want to know specifically how their performance in the Octagon has changed. I’ve got 21 fights for this group of fighters in the UFC leading up to December 2012, and then 14 more that have taken place since. Those are our before and after samples.
Now let’s see what they tell us.