In professional sports the individual who wears the “coach” hat is often overlooked. In most other major sports the consistent mantra is that coaches are “hired to be fired.” That isn't the case in combat sports where coaches do more than just give instruction from the sideline. These professionals are often deep in the trenches training with their fighters on a daily basis. What Duane Ludwig has done for Team Alpha Male stands as an example in the value of having 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; it's clear that many of these fighters are athletic in more ways than one. That athleticism helped them get very far into their UFC careers but there was a certain level where it seemed the team was unable to get over the final hump and become titlists in the promotion. Now, with four fighters either receiving title shots or considered number one contenders, it's clear that Ludwig has offered a level of guidance that the group needed.
Since being named the head coach of Team Alpha Male in December of 2012, the team has amassed a 14-2 record inside of the Octagon. This includes the roster of Faber, Benavidez, Mendes, Danny Castillo, Bryan Caraway, Meisha Tate and T.J. Dillashaw. Caraway and Tate are the only two individuals who have suffered any forms of defeat as Bryan went down to a controversial split decision and Tate was stopped by Cat Zigano. When looking deeper into these figures one would notice an improvement across the board when it comes to TAM's striking statistics.
Figures provided by Fight Metric show that Ludwig's talent in Muay Thai has transitioned well into his head coaching role. 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 again Iuri Alcantara of his strikes while landing 59.5 percent at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale against Scott Jorgensen. These are his highest totals in bouts that go the distance since fighting Jens Pulver in 2008.
Ludwig's influence doesn't stop there. Dillashaw has earned two straight knockout victories while landing nearly 50 percent of his strikes in both fights. Perhaps one of the biggest changes is in Mendes who has finished three straight opponents since December of 2012. What's more interesting is that he has only attempted three take downs in this same time span, which is a stark contrast to his wrestling heavy attack during the early phase of his career. While Joseph Benavidez's striking accuracy numbers have not risen because he's throwing such a high volume of strikes, he has earned two of his four stoppages since being under the Zuffa brand.
When the mixed martial arts community comes together at the end of 2013 there shouldn't be an argument as to which coach deserves the “Coach of the Year” award. Duane Ludwig has helped Team Alpha Male reach a level that could potentially put gold around three to four of their team members by the end of the year. The numbers speak very highly of his abilities as a coach and have helped him become one of the biggest stories of 2013.