Big “Bang” Theory: Duane Ludwig’s Made An Impact With Team Alpha Male

By Raphael Garcia

In most professional sports, the individual who wears the “coach” hat is overlooked; the consistent mantra is that coaches are “hired to be fired.” That isn’t the case in combat sports, however, where coaches do more than just give instruction from the sidelines. These professionals are often deep in the trenches, training with their fighters on a daily basis. And one such coach, Duane Ludwig, has had a profound effect on Team Alpha Male, serving as an example of the value of high quality coaching in mixed martial arts.

Team Alpha Male is widely considered one of the top MMA teams, especially for fighters in the lighter weight classes, with standouts that include Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, and Chad Mendes. Though their natural athletic gifts helped them get very far in their respective UFC careers, it seemed that the members of the team were unable to get over the final hump and become titlists in the promotion. Now, with four fighters surging, either receiving title shots or on the verge of receiving them, it’s clear that Ludwig has provided the guidance that the group needed to truly unlock its potential.

Since “Bang” was named the head coach of Team Alpha Male in December of 2012, team members Faber, Benavidez, Mendes, Danny Castillo, and T.J. Dillashaw have amassed a 13-0 record inside of the Octagon. Looking deeper into these figures reveals an improvement across the board when it comes to TAM’s striking statistics.

Figures provided by Fight Metric show that Ludwig has been able to incorporate his talent in Muay Thai into his striking training for each fighter. For example, Urijah Faber has turned in his highest accuracy rankings in his last two bouts. At UFC Fight Night 26 he landed 81.9 percent of his strikes against Iuri Alcantara and landed 59.5 percent at the Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale against Scott Jorgensen. These are his highest totals in bouts that have gone the distance since he fought Jens Pulver in 2008.

Ludwig’s influence doesn’t stop there. Dillashaw has earned knockout victories in his last two fights while landing nearly 50 percent of his strikes. And though Joseph Benavidez’s striking accuracy numbers have not risen because he’s throwing such a high volume of strikes, he has earned stoppages in his last two fights. Perhaps the biggest impact has been Mendes, who has finished three straight opponents since beginning to train with Ludwig. What’s even more interesting is that he has only attempted three takedowns in this same timespan, which is a stark contrast to the wrestling-heavy attack of the early phase of his career.

When the mixed martial arts media comes together at the end of 2013, there should be no argument about which coach deserves the “Coach of the Year” award. Duane Ludwig has helped Team Alpha Male fighters reach a level that could potentially put gold around their waists by the end of the year, or in early 2014. The numbers speak very highly of his abilities as a coach, and illustrate why he has become one of the biggest stories of 2013.

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