Neil Melanson doesn't pull any punches.
The Xtreme Couture grappling coach has self-admittedly stated that he can be brutally honest to a fault at times, but that's what makes him such a great interview.
The author of "Mastering Triangle Chokes" took over Chael Sonnen's training camp before UFC 148, the biggest rematch in UFC history against middleweight champion Anderson Silva last Saturday night, and while Sonnen failed to capture the gold for the second time, there was plenty of lessons learned from the overall experience.
Melanson has already stated that he thinks Sonnen might be done fighting after the high profile loss and yesterday he discussed some of the issues in the pre-fight training camp that he felt could have led to the title challengers demise in the second round.
Taken from his appearance on The Verbal Submission, today, Melanson explains why the spinning back fist was such a poor choice of an attack, whether or not he feels Silva cheated with the vaseline (regardless of what Sonnen's other coach thinks) and lastly, he gives some insight into Sonnen's personality, taking off the mask and revealing a little more about the man behind the promos.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I really want to go back to that spinning back fist. I don't think I can ever remember seeing Chael throw that strike in a UFC fight. Is that something he actually worked on in camp or is that something that he just felt like throwing, that he hadn't really trained and he was just off balance because he wasn't use to throwing something like that?
Neil Melanson: I don't know. I've never seen him do that in training but I only witnessed his mitt sessions with his coach Clayton, who's a very straight up boxer. Clayton actually was a pretty outstanding boxer in his pro career and the one thing Clayton understands and I've been very impressed with him was understanding striking for MMA. Understanding that you can jab a guy 20 times but if he hits yo hard, you're going down.
It's a different attitude of MMA striking and I've never seen him work any time of spinning fancy move or anything like that. Now, I don't know since he was out if that was something Scott [McQuarry] was working on with him or it was just something Chael felt like taking a risk and going for it. I have no idea where it came from and it was a mistake. When you're going against such a high level fighter, you can't deviate from the gameplan at all. You've got to stay on course and unfortunately, that little move cost him the fight and if he's done fighting, it cost him his career.
Regardless, it's always exciting to see those two again and it would be awesome to see them fight a third time even if Chael had to fight a few guys first. I was impressed with Anderson's composure at the end. I'm glad he tried to make it right with Chael and it was pretty cool of him, even if it was fake and a show, it doesn't matter. It was still the right thing to do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There were a couple things Anderson Silva was doing during the fight. There was the shorts grabbing, the attempt to grease himself at the start of the fight by wiping the vaseline off his face and onto his chest and arms. What did you make of that? Do you think that had any factor whatsoever or was it just little things that didn't really matter in the end?
Neil Melanson: That's a good question and I actually have some insight to this. There is a lawyer and I've worked with him a few times and his fighters but he's most famous for doing the case for B.J. Penn. He was B.J.'s lawyer for the Georges St. Pierre fight where they put the vaseline on St. Pierre's shoulders and he was the one that went to the commission and made the rule happen that only cutmen can handle vaseline and keep people from getting hurt like that.
I went to him and asked him about this maybe a year ago about Anderson spreading vaseline on his arms and his shoulders and he went to the commission and looked into it and he told me what they said was, the amount of vaseline that they put on the face by the cutman when they walk in is expected to be all over the body. They expect that amount of vaseline to be moved because they're gonna be grappling, it'll be transferred to your opponent's body, to your own body so by Anderson taking the vaseline and spreading it to his own body, that is okay because it's such a small amount and it's gonna spread anyways. They don't feel it's gonna make too much of a difference. Once they put it on, trying to wipe it off with a towel is not gonna do a damn thing. The vaseline does not come off like that.
It looks kinda shady and he's not hiding the fact that he's doing it but I kinda agree with the commission. The little bit of vaseline on your face, if you get a guy in a guillotine it's gonna get all over your body and things are gonna get slippery but it's really not foul play in my opinion. I don't think it played any part of the takedowns or anything like that. Anderson's hips were really good and his base was wide and low. No, I don't think it was any foul play. I know it looks funny but it's been looked into and as far as I know, it's fine at this point.
Gerry Rodriguez: You mentioned you worry about his train of thought of this magnitude. Did you see Chael after the fight? Did you have anything to say him, any encouraging words?
Neil Melanson: I just sent him a text message because I actually went home to watch the fight. I'm deaf in one ear and blind in one eye so when I get in a stadium-type environment between the sound and the lights, it makes me pretty dizzy and I don't enjoy being in it. I actually went home and after the fight I texted him just thanking him for letting me be a part of his camp and I was here to talk if he wants to talk, everything's gonna be ok and stuff like that. His response came right away, it was really quick. Just, "Thank you. I got beat fair and square and I'm moving on."
The "moving on" part is what gave me the lasting impression that he's not gonna fight anymore. Maybe he'll move on to another opponent but that just didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. I don't know. I don't really know what his back-up plan was. I didn't really talk to him liek that. To me, as a coach, that would be kind of a defeatist mindset so for me, everything was about winning the fight.
Gerry Rodriguez: Chael was very gracious in defeat. Is that the real Chael Sonnen? Is that really who he is?
Neil Melanson: I've known Chael for a few years and the people he's been around like Randy and Matt Lindland and all those guys, I've known them for many years and they've all said the same thing and I got the same impression that Chael's a real gentleman. If you ever get around him, he's a guy that, I don't think I've ever heard him use a curse word. He's never touched alcohol his whole life. He's a real small town kind of momma's boy. He's a nice guy through and through to his core. He's a really kind human being.
Apparently he has a real mind and knack for the promos just like the pro wrestling promos and he really enjoys it. He has a lot of fun. To me, I remember being taken aback because we were in training camp and I was trying to organize his schedule and he said, "Well I need this day off," and I said, "Why?" and he goes, "Well I'm doing this smack talk competition on this radio show." I was like, "Okay?" and to me, in my mind I was thinking, "Shouldn't we be focusing on fighting?" but the reality is, it's like some people going fishing. He really enjoys it. It's good for his mind. He has a lot of fun with it. I think a part of it is entertainment. I'm sure he feels that way to a certain extent and I don't think he's lying but he is a very warm-hearted human being. He's very open and honest and I've always been really impressed by the way he handles himself and other people in person. When they put a microphone in front of him, the transformation is pretty hilarious to the people that know him best. I'll tell you that much.
Gerry Rodriguez: Let's take the focus off Chael and onto Anderson. What did you make of his post-fight shtick where he invited Chael over for a barbecue?
Neil Melanson: I think that was all show. Anderson was pretty upset and he had a right to be. Chael was talking about his wife, his country, him, his manager. It was pretty funny stuff because I'm Chael's friend but if I was Anderson's friend, I wouldn't be thinking it was funny at all. The whole thing about the barbecue, that was a little overindulgent about the whole "Let's be friends" bit but I think Anderson just wanted it to be over too. I think that was probably pretty genuine and even if it was an act, I know Chael respects him as a fighter. Even if he doesn't admit it, you have to. The guy is a great fighter and I think they just wanted to end the quarrel. It was the most hyped fight I can remember. I watched the countdown show and I was like, "Man, I'm so excited. I'm so excited."
The weigh-ins were crazy and I think Chael probably will be a little tickmarker in the timeline of the UFC where the sport is gonna change. People, whether they like it or not, it sold. The smacktalking and everything sold. People wanted to see him either get shut up or they wanted to see him back it up and I think other fighters are gonna see that and say, "Look, I want to make it to the Hall of Fame. I want to try to get a bigger paycheck. I want to get a title shot. If I've got to play the bad guy, I'm gonna do it." I think a lot of fighters are gonna start going that way. I know a lot of fighters like Tito have tried to talk smack and it was funny at the time but he doesn't have the personality that Chael has where he can cut a promo. That was crazy.
We'll see. This is how it happens. Pro wrestling was real once. There were two guys grappling for three hours like two out of three falls and eventually they started selling the fights and throwing the fights to make it more entertaining and it got out of control but I know the UFC will never go that way because of the commissions, people go to jail for that kind of crap but as far as hyping the fights and the people becoming more characters, I bet that's gonna happen to a certain extent. Not everybody but a certain extent, it's gonna happen.
You can follow Neil Melanson on twitter @NeilMelanson.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Do you feel like you know Sonnen a little bit better now? Which coach do you agree with, McQuarry who's demanding a rematch and wanted to file an appeal or Melanson who thinks Sonnen lost fair and square?
To listen to the complete audio of our talk with Neil Melanson, click here (interview begins at the 70:00 mark).