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BJJ Instructional Videos
John Danaher Leglocks
John Danaher Back Attacks BJJ
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Using the Cradle to Smash BJJ

Using the Cradle to Smash BJJ


OK, so it often doesn’t really help to compare styles, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. What is helpful however is surprising people with a style they don’t know and exploiting their lack of experience to our own advantage!

When Judo 7th Dan Mitsuyo Meada went to Brazil he already had a wealth of experience in no holds barred and vale tudo challenge matches. He formulated the concept of phases of combat

Now with the popularity of MMA the theory that different fighters have different strengths and weaknesses at different ranges is obvious, but this simple fact has often been ignored by many schools of martial arts.

The initial success of BJJ was due to understanding that phases of combat and exploiting your opponents weakness was a strong indicator for victory. When a trained BJJ fighter gets someone on the ground who has little experience there it’s an incredibly one-sided fight, and the unlucky opponent has almost no way of changing the range of combat, unlike with standing styles of fighting. 

What Maeda found was that even within grappling there are different ranges and different styles and so was an early cross-trainer, expanding his incredibly high level Judo with the wrestling and Catch Wrestling he found in America.

It’s the wrestling and Catch Wrestling approach to ground work that we’re looking at today with legendary coach Neil Melanson.


Neil Melanson has an incredibly rich grappling pedigree so it’s great to have him with us here at BJJ Fanatics teaching his unorthodox and incredibly effective style.

Neil has trained UFC athletes at the highest level, including Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Dominick Cruz, he was coach at the Alliance MMA and Blackzilians teams and many many more. 

The Cradle is a basic wrestling concept used mainly for pinning but it’s one not often taught within the BJJ context. Neil shows us a great system for striking in MMA, or taking the back in BJJ, setting up submissions, passing guard and passing Butterfly guard while totally immobilising our opponent. Also check Blackout Hybrid Cradle Gi System by David Petrone

Check out the Melanson Collection!


The first concept Neil introduces is paying attention to the shape of our opponents body.

If we are in side control and our opponent is bunching their body up into a ball and framing or shrimping it’s going to be hard to get past this and we may want to try opening up their posture somehow. What Neil is showing however is how to use this defence against our opponent, as they are already in position for the cradle.

As with many things; timing is key and we want to attack our opponents weak points, not their strong points.

The cradle is another tool in our tool kit that allows us to turn our opponents strength into a weakness.

To give an example of the cradle concept Neil starts in half guard and uses an arm drag to set up the cradle. Bernardo is playing an open half guard and framing well to keep Neil at a distance and prevent him from taking underhooks. This is the situation Neil is going to use to his advantage. 

Taking a grip on Bernardo’s bottom wrist he pins Bernardo’s wrist to the mat in what could be the set up for a figure four grip. This means that mechanically Bernardo is now unable to sit up and begin attacks from half guard while Neil maintains this grip. This is a good way for Neil to buy some time and start hunting for a cross grip and arm drag. 

As Neil pulls Bernardo’s arm across his body he threads his other arm under Bernardo’s top leg and feeds his hand under Bernardo’s top arm. Taking a ‘C’ grip on the inside of Bernardo’s bicep Neil has now begun compressing Bernardo’s arm and leg together.  

As soon as he does this Neil has opened a window for him to pressure down onto Bernardo with the weight of his chest to temporarily crush down on his opponents posture and further reduce his mobility. 

Taking his remaining knee off the ground puts more weight into his opponent and as Neil does this he loops his arm around Bernardo’s head and connects both his hands. At this point Bernardo’s ability to move is being severely restricted.

Here it’s helpful to pay attention to grips.

Neil recommends using an ‘S’ grip, sometimes called a finger roll grip, because this grip hides all of our fingers and makes stripping our grip off incredibly difficult for our opponent. If we ‘C’ grip our own wrist in the cradle we only have one active gripping hand and our fingers are exposed to be peeled, so we don’t want that. 

Neil has now taken his grips but there’s still some space for Bernardo to move his head. To counter this Neil is squeezing with his arm into his own body so that Bernardo’s head is against Neil’s pec muscles while at the same time expanding his own chest and taking his knees off the floor to drive his weight into Bernardo. 

From here Neil moves to the next concept in the cradle, which is bunching

We want as much as possible to bunch our opponent up like a paper ball so they are mechanically as weak and immobile as we can possibly get them.

To bunch Bernardo Neil takes his leg over Bernardo’s top leg and forces Bernardo’s face towards his own knee. If he were in a real match situation the option to smash your opponents face into their own knee is available here. 

Scissoring with his legs from here opens Neil up for an ideal position to take the back, or other nasty Catch compressions and rides. 


The Catch Wrestling Formula by Neil Melanson

To see Neil go into great detail with his own unique and highly informative approach to coaching check out ‘The Catch Wrestling Formula’ by Neil Melanson here!



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