The famed Tristar coach has given his take on a rematch between the UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Conor McGregor.
I think it’s fair to say that the Irishman has lost some of his mystique since his comprehensive defeat to the current champ at 155lbs Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229.
Khabib had his way with his opponent for the most part before submitting him in the fourth-round with a neck-crank and now, Conor has been left without a UFC title to call his own for the first time since July of 2015.
And while there has been talk of a rematch between the two, it does seem likely that both will fight at least one more time before meeting inside the octagon again – provided that things play out in the manner needed.
Tristar head-coach Firas Zahabi – who, of course, is the long-time friend and mentor to the legendary Georges St-Pierre – broke down the supposed blueprint to beat Conor McGregor, using the possibility of a showdown with Max Holloway as an example.
Speaking during a recent AMA session (via Bloody Elbow), Zahabi gave his take on what he believes would happen in a rematch between Holloway and McGregor if it were to happen today.
“If I had to pick Max Holloway vs. McGregor today, I would pick Max Holloway.
“I think Holloway has grown leaps and bounds since then. In my opinion, Holloway would outpunch him, outwork him. He would do very much what Diaz did, but more,” he said. “I think McGregor got away with a lot of stuff, like the leg kicks against Diaz, but I don’t think he’ll have that against Holloway.
“Holloway has the same type of output as Diaz, the same kind of chin as Diaz. He’s more athletic than Diaz, he has more variety in his attacks, he has more kicking, kneeing and elbowing, and his chin is just phenomenal.
“So I really think he would take it in the later rounds. I think the blueprint for beating McGregor is more well understood by the roster.”
Although his pick is clearly the Hawaiian, the knockout threat that McGregor brings to the table each and every time he steps in there is not lost on Zahabi.
Despite the fact that it was the grappling that won it for Conor in their first meeting, the improvements that Max has made in the time since would make him too much this time around according to Firas.
“There’ll be a lot of striking of course, but there’s going to be a lot of clinching. I think that early in the striking McGregor wins, but later, it shifts all the way to Holloway. He’s got better conditioning, better durability.
“The grappling is gonna be on Holloway’s side — the clinch work, the knees, the elbows, the tie-ups. I think Holloway will start outworking and will outpace him to the point where McGregor is going to slow down.
“I like McGregor early, round one or round two, but after that, three, four, five, I think that’s going to belong to Holloway. Even one of the first two rounds could belong to Holloway. I really think Holloway now is in his prime, and it’s going to be very very difficult to beat him.”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena