Neil Melanson is one of the most respected and sought after grappling coaches in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. The Xtreme Couture head grappling coach has trained some of the best in the world, including Randy Couture, Gray Maynard and current Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler.
Melanson worked with Chael during his camp for his last fight vs. Anderson Silva. Fightline’s Michael Stets spoke with Melanson yesterday on the Jones vs. Sonnen fight, and the rest of the UFC 159 main card as well.
Full audio of interview is at bottom.
What he thinks will decide the fight
“Chael has a nice style for this matchup. Chael is a better wrestler than Jon. I think everything is going to be decided on whether or not Chael can hold down Jon Jones. I think he might get him down. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chael gets him down even a few times. I don’t think he’s going to hold Jon down, I don’t think his top pressure is that good. I think Jones will find his way up. I think if Chael can’t hold him down, it’s just a matter of time before Jones picks up the win, in my opinion.”
Jones has advantage in the clinch
“Chael is good in the clinch too. I think Jon might have the advantage because of his length. Jones’ specialties are some of his snap-downs, headlocks and some of his trips. Chael really has to go out there and use some changes to get the takedowns and get inside.
Sonnen needs to hurt Jones
“He’s got to throw heavy and confuse Jon and try to hurt him. “We haven’t seen really hurt yet. If he hurts him we will find out what really kind of champ Jon Jones is. Does he get himself back together, or does he just kind of fall apart.”
Comparing the training camps and preparation
“It’s an interesting matchup. I think a lot of it has to do with did Chael go out there in his training camp…Did he wrestle? Did he bring in other wrestlers, long lanky wrestlers that push him? Is he really prepared? If he is, he’s in shape and he goes out there and hustles, he can win this fight. I think Jones probably brought in good wrestlers and probably trained really hard.”
Why Jones hits his submissions
Jones—the reason he hits a lot of those submissions and things—in my opinion, is because of his confidence. He goes out there. He knows he’s going to win. You have to be pretty relaxed if you go for those things. He was pulling guard I think, on Rashad or something like that. That’s not very common. You have to have confidence if you are going to do something like that. That allows him to be creative.”
How the fight will play out
“I’m going to guess that Jon’s going to catch Chael with a guillotine type choke similar to how he caught Machida. That’s what I think is going to happen. If Chael could keep him down, I would change my whole opinion about this fight. As of right now, I don’t think he’s going to be able to hold him down. I think Jones will get up and settle in. If Chael starts having some doubt in his mind, than Jones will take over.”
Candid thoughts on Sonnen’s ability
“I’ll be candid, I have nothing to hide. I don’t really care. I’m not interested in making friends, and I’ll say what I feel. Everything comes down to Chael. It comes down to him personally. I personally think he has all the abilitiy and tools to be one of the greatest fighters to live. Especially with the fact that he is such a good speaker, he’s charismatic the whole deal. He could be like a Muhammad Ali. The reason why Chael is not the greatest fighter who ever lived is not because of anyone else but Chael himself.”
Questioning if the TV appearances are effecting his focus
“If he gets on board and he pushes himself hard and he focuses just on fighting, I think he’s going to have a ton of success. I’ve never seen fighters a week away from their title fight on FOX TV or whatever, doing interviews, or doing commentating like he was doing. I know he loves being on TV and he’s really freaking good at it. I think he’s going to have a long career in that. I can’t imagine Randy Couture taking time out from a training camp a week out to host a show on television. He would be sitting around thinking about his fight, getting dialed in and doing his daily requirements and that’s it.”
If he’s focused and working hard, he can beat Jones
“Chael if he’s taking it serious beyond all the talking. If he’s really training his ass off, and he’s doing what he needs to do, he has a shot at beating him. If he’s doing a little bit here and there and he’s busy doing TV and doing all these other things, I don’t know how he can be the best prepared he can be. That’s my opinion, and I think it showed in his last fight with Anderson Silva.”
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