Back in August 2013, a 25-year-old Conor McGregor defeated a 21-year-old Max Holloway at featherweight. The Irishman won exchanges on the feet early on, and as he tore his ACL, he outwrestled and outgrappled Holloway en route to a decision victory. Both men would go on to significantly improve their game and win championships.
On a recent ‘ask me anything’ session, Firas Zahabi was asked about the prospect of Holloway moving up to try and avenge his last defeat from almost six years ago. It is where the renowned MMA coach stated that the “blueprint” to beating McGregor is more understood these days.
“If I had to pick Max Holloway vs. McGregor today, I would pick Max Holloway,” Zahabi said.
“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.”
Zahabi, who made sure to note that it certainly wouldn’t be an easy fight, predicts that if they fought at 145 or 155 lbs, Holloway would win six or seven times out of ten.
“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,” the Tristar gym head coach explained. “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,” he said. “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.”
McGregor and Holloway are now 30 and 27-years-old, respectively. Conor won seven of his nine fights since their first meeting, becoming a two-division champion, before most recently losing a title bout to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Holloway on the other hand, stayed at featherweight, where he has been on a dominant 13-fight win streak that includes TKOs on four straight title bouts. Many have started calling him the best featherweight in MMA history, and UFC personalities have offered a possible move up to lightweight next.