"There are two guys that come to mind, Georges St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar. It's not that they are amazing at what they are doing. They are amazing at blending it and it keeps their opponents off balance. They can shoot from far out or be right in your face. They mix it up. It keeps them completely off balance. They can both box you inside or take you down and then let you back up. It keeps them off balance and it wins rounds. And it's fun to watch and makes for great fights because of the scrambles. I think a lot of fighters aren't having that connection. They think striking, then they think wrestling, and then they think grappling, instead of blending it to fit MMA more. The guys that do blend it do very well," stated Neil Melanson, head grappling coach at Xtreme Couture, who talked about Ryan Couture, Chael Sonnen, and much more. Check it out!
PC: Neil, how is everything going my man?
NM: Everything is going good, Percy. I can't complain.
PC: You are the main guy over there in terms of ground work at Xtreme Couture. What has it been like to see the growth of Ryan Couture, who recently picked up a huge win?
NM: I love training Ryan. He is very easy to coach, he is very good on the ground, he applies what he learns very good, and it's been kind of a trip because I got to train his father. And to train a father and son combination is interesting. I think Ryan has done a great job of handling all of the pressure and the things that come along with the Couture name. It's such a huge name in MMA. I think he keeps a good level head, and although he's in his mid-twenties, he's very mature. I know a lot of fighters that screwball their training by doing something stupid, but Ryan doesn't; he's very professional. He shows up for his training sessions and doesn't complain and does his job. He really knows how to keep it all together and learn from everybody else's mistakes. But yeah, he keeps on progressing. In every single camp, he's a little better. Just a couple of fights ago, he made a huge jump to the next level and I think he's hanging in there. He just has to keep cleaning it up so that he can execute his game plan every time he wants to, but he's doing really well.
PC: And of course you have been working with Chael Sonnen. What would you like to see Chael do next?
NM: Whatever makes him happy. I think there are a lot more fights out there for Chael and a lot of fights he can win at 185 and 205, but he has to want to do that. I think he's got other talents. I think he can be either a great commentator or broadcaster or something on television. He's just got the whole look and attitude and he's good at it. So it's up to him if he wants to fight again. I think he will do very well, but I don't know. I haven't really talked to him since the fight. I don't know what his plans are. I kind of felt like he was walking away from fighting, but he hasn't announced anything as far as I know.
PC: What was the preparation like heading into the rematch against Anderson Silva?
NM: I was only in the camp for about 2 weeks, and when I was in the camp, I tried to gear the camp more towards wrestling and Chael's strengths. And since I'm a ground guy, that's pretty much all I was teaching him. But I think...I said this in a couple of other interviews, Chael did a lot of things right training-wise for the fight, but I think he needed to work on his wrestling a little more. Maybe that would have allowed him to get that takedown in the 2nd that he needed. He did take him down right away and Anderson did adjust, but on paper, Chael beats Anderson in my book every time. And I thought that fight was very winnable for him. I think when his takedown got stuffed, that's when his game plan went to crap. So I think that might have been one of the big elements during training camp that should have been addressed more for that fight.
PC: I understand exactly what you are saying, but some people feel Chael is such a superior wrestler that he should have worked other things. Explain what you mean when you say a guy like Chael should have worked his wrestling more, because he is such a high-level wrestler?
NM: Well, it's a perishable skill. If someone is shootingÂ…I was an Air Marshall and we had to shoot all the time, and the reason for that is because once you get to a good skill with that weapon, you have to keep up the maintenance and fine tune that trade. If you don't continuously practice shooting, what happens is your aim is going to go off and your shot is not going to be as good and it's going to deteriorate. It's not like a computer program where once you have it, you have it for life. It's a perishable skill; same as grappling or boxing or whatever. Lifting weights, if you took a few months off of lifting weights and you go back to lift, you feel different. It wouldn't be the same because it's perishable. I think the attitude was, "Hey, Anderson vs. Chael in a wrestling match, Chael beats him every time. Let's try to work on other areas." My attitude was a little different. Every time I see a pure wrestler not wrestling that much, I see it backfires on them. I think it did. I can't say it did for sure, but he couldn't get him down in the 2nd. But yeah, it is definitely a perishable skill and I wish Chael's camp would have focused more on it. I think he would have had a better camp and it would have been a little bit easier for him.
PC: Being that you are a ground specialist, I have to ask you this because we are seeing mixed martial arts kind of take a turn towards becoming kickboxing matches with very few clinches and even less grappling. Do you see it ever going back to the true form of mixed martial arts, where fighters really mixed it up and kept each other off balance because of it?
NM: No, I understand what you are saying, and yeah, I hope it does change because it hasn't been as entertaining as it could be. You see high-level fighters not looking their best. One of the reasons why Randy and I clicked so well when I started training him was because I brought him back to doing things that he used to always do. I brought him back to wrestling; standing on the ground. Once he got back to that element, he zeroed in very easily because it was familiar ground and he understood it and he had some great fights. What happens is a lot of guys in these fights start standing and things like that, and a lot of fighters do work on their standup a lot, whether they are wrestlers or grapplers. They feel they have to work on their striking. But what can happen is they're not paying attention to the aspect of time. So you have 5-minute rounds and as soon as that bell rings, the time is starting to tick off. And as they are striking or kickboxing, they are trying to get a rhythm. What happens is you can be all the way through that round, or even halfway through that round, where you haven't landed any significant strikes and neither has he. So the round is left there and it's really gonna come down to something meaningful. The guy cuts you or something like that. But someone usually scores a takedown or something at the end of the round and that person usually gets the round because of that. What happens if you get a good wrestler and he goes in there and strikes and tries to knock a guy out, time is ticking down. And then he tries to take the guy down in the last minute and he doesn't get it, and now that round is questionable. And we get these weird fights and these weird split decisions. Instead of going out there and executing a game plan, some fighters just don't pay attention to the time and it bites them in the ass.
PC: I think the idea of guys throwing punches and kicks with 4 oz. gloves on is exciting, but I think without the dynamic of the takedown involved, you get cautious fights because of the fact that it doesn't take the best shot to land in order to be clipped with those small gloves.
NM: Well, the guys that do it bestÂ…there are two guys that come to mind, Georges St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar. It's not that they are amazing at what they are doing. They are amazing at blending it and it keeps their opponents off balance. They can shoot from far out or be right in your face. They mix it up. It keeps them completely off balance. They can both box you inside or take you down and then let you back up. It keeps them off balance and it wins rounds. And it's fun to watch and makes for great fights because of the scrambles. I think a lot of fighters aren't having that connection. They think striking, then they think wrestling, and then they think grappling, instead of blending it to fit MMA more. The guys that do blend it do very well.
PC: Is there anyone you have coming up?
NM: Ryan was the last one, so I'm getting a little break right now, so I'm just gonna relax. I'm waiting to hear back. They have a couple of camps that might be interested in flying me out and utilizing me because I'm a heavyweight, so I'm waiting to get confirmation on those.
PC: Thanks for your time. I appreciate the interview and be sure to let me know what you have going on. Is there anything else you want to say in closing?
NM: That's it. Thanks for calling and let me know if you need anything.