Chael Sonnen may have said it best following his recent trouncing of Nate Marquardt at UFC 109 when he stated that Neil Melanson is one of the few people in this business that, when he talks, Chael is listening.
This Gokor Chivichyan influenced submission expert currently runs up the submission department at the widely respected Xtreme Couture training facility in Las Vegas and has single handedly been responsible for changing the way many – including UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture – have approached the game.
Neil is one of the select few submission practitioners that has already forgotten more about the not so delicate art of twisting limbs and constricting necks than other “experts” will learn during their entire time spent on this earth, and that’s exactly why FiveOuncesofPain.com consistently makes it a point to pick the morbidly gifted brain of Melanson at every opportunity we can get.
Come along as Neil discusses some of the fight-specifics to look out for when one of the fastest rising stars in the UFC, Goran Reljic, faces off with C.B. Dollaway in a middleweight match-up this evening during UFC 110 from Australia.
Cory Brady for FiveOuncesofPain.com: How did you come about training Goran for this fight against C.B.?
Neil Melanson: Well Goran was training a little bit with Xtreme Couture and he was working out with Nick Fekete, who kind of recommended him to me. Goran was working with [Robert] Drysdale at the time. So I met Goran and rolled with him one day, and he liked the way I grappled right away. So I started working with him for a few hours at a time. I really like him. He’s a really tough guy.
FiveOuncesofPain.com: So when you first rolled with him, were you impressed with his Jiu-Jitsu ability?
Neil Melanson: Yeah, he’s very fast. He’s a strong kid, and he’s very athletic. He’s rough. He likes to play kind of a rough game. I think I have a little bit of a reputation for being a rough guy to grapple against, so when I grappled with him I think he was a little shocked. He was like, ‘Wow! That was pretty terrible’. I started showing him some things that I like to do, and he was doing them really well. He has a great persona for it. He’s not afraid to get rough and aggressive, he’s a fast learner, he’s really good on the ground, and according to his boxing coach he’s got a really good stand up too. Honestly, he can be a serious threat at 185 for anybody. He’s a very good athlete with a huge wingspan. His reach is just insane, and he’s a southpaw. Goran is very self strong and I think he is going to be a really tough test for anyone to grapple.
FiveOuncesofPain.com: I know you practice a lot of different submission concepts that may look a little bit unfamiliar to those with the standard Jiu-Jitsu background, but was there anything specific you ended up showing to Goran that really had him scratching his head?
Neil Melanson: Yeah, I worked with him on a lot of different guard stuff. I worked with him on the shoulder pin guard system. I also tightened up his triangles. I made him drill his triangles a lot, so any time he gets in that triangle position, he should be able to finish it. We did a lot of drills to get him more proficient working off of his back. He is very flexible. He likes to go into the omoplata kind of game. I pushed him more toward the arm bar and triangle game because I think it’s a little higher percentage and bigger targets. We worked on defending some chokes and fighting from the turtle as well. With C.B. being a wrestler, he might do a good job at putting Goran in a position where he may have to turtle, and then C.B. can pound him or look for submissions. So we definitely worked a little bit on fighting from the turtle.
FiveOuncesofPain.com: What are some of the reasons you feel will enable Goran to come out on top against Dollaway in Australia?
Neil Melanson: I think that in this fight with Dollaway the most important factor is going to be that the fight starts standing up. Goran has good reach, he’s awkward, he kicks a lot, and he hits really hard according to his boxing coach. He has a lot of knock out power. And if Dollaway does get him to the ground, he’s going to have to deal with Goran on the ground. The guy has a wicked guard and if Dollaway takes him down he needs to make sure that he doesn’t land in it. I don’t think that C.B. is going to want to stand with him, and he takes Goran down, he’s going to be in trouble there too. Goran is going to come after him and be really rough and mean, and just tear him apart. I think this is a terrible fight for C.B., but if C.B. is smart he might make the fight very interesting and take it to a decision. I just don’t see that happening. I just think that Goran has a really big future at 185 pounds, and I think he could possibly hold the title in the near future; especially with the way he’s been developing and his mindset. I think that C.B. is going to be in some real trouble, but… I’ve been wrong before.
FiveOuncesofPain.com: With Goran recently dropping down to middleweight; what are your thoughts about a match-up him and Anderson Silva at some point down the road stylistically?
Neil Melanson: I’m looking forward to something like that. I think that I would have to work with Goran some more to give you an honest opinion, because Anderson is really, really talented. I don’t really cheer for him that much, but I really respect the hell out of him. I think that if Goran keeps developing the way he is now that he could be a really serious threat. Anyone that hits as hard as he does and has that kind of reach -knows his range – and can fight off his back, and on the ground; he’s a real MMA fighter. He’s the kind of guy where if you catch him in a submission, you’re going to have to break it. You’re going to have to. You’re going to have to put him to sleep because he’s not going to tap; there’s no way. When you get a guy with the right mindset like that, you have to make sure that your head is good to. Anderson has really good reach and so does Goran, so it would be kind of interesting. But I think that Goran has a lot to prove right now, and Anderson doesn’t have anything to prove.