Duane Ludwig (21-11) vs. Josh Neer (32-10-1)
In an explosive clash of welterweight sluggers, two longtime veterans could put on a showcase worthy of a "Fight of the Night" bonus.
Ludwig, 33, is now officially being recognized by the UFC for the fastest knockout in the promotion's history with his six-second trouncing of Jonathan Goulet in 2006.
The man appropriately nicknamed "Bang" made his UFC debut in April 2003 after submitting Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett and knocking out Jens Pulver, who was coming off wins over Caol Uno, Dennis Hallman and B.J. Penn and was widely regarded as the best lightweight in the sport at the time.
Ludwig would go on to fight for K-1 in Japan, as well as Strikeforce, earning wins over the likes of Genki Sudo and Yves Edwards, while dropping fights to Lyle Beerbohm, Takanori Gomi, Paul Daley, Josh Thomson, Tyson Griffin and Penn.
Initially schooled in the sport by mixed martial arts legend Bas Rutten, the Denver native, who bases his camp at Grudge Training Center and works closely with Nate Marquardt, returned to the UFC last year. He lost his first two 155-pound outings against Jim Miller and Darren Elkins before rebounding with successive decision victories over Nick Ospiczak and Amir Sadollah as a welterweight.
Ludwig is a former professional muay thai champion with an offense that combines power and technique. His weakest area would be his ground game, but the crafty veteran always has a trick or two up his sleeves.
Neer, 28, is a longtime pupil of Miletich Martial Arts, training under former UFC champion Pat Miletich. He joined the UFC in 2005, splitting wins and losses along the way. Some of his marquee victories include Melvin Guillard, Joe Stevenson, Din Thomas and Mac Danzig, while his conquerors include both Diaz brothers, Gleison Tibau, Kurt Pellegrino and Josh Burkman.
Back-to-back losses led to his release from the UFC in 2009. He amassed a 7-1 record competing for other organizations with his lone setback coming against then-Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez.
"The Dentist" returned to the UFC this past October, putting on an elbow clinic against Keith Wisniewski en route to a doctor stoppage at the end of the second stanza.
With newfound success in the welterweight division, both fighters will be looking to put on a show to continue their ascent to the top.
Neer's wrestling and underrated submission game could come in handy. If the technically superior kickboxer Ludwig is lighting him up standing, Neer can always pursue other avenues to notch a victory. Neer is no slouch on his feet, however, and he will likely go toe-to-toe for 15 minutes.
Expect a thrilling back-and-forth battle that could come down to the wire as Neer maintains constant pressure and secures a takedown or two along the way to eke out a decision.
Verdict: Neer via decision