Featherweight champion Max Holloway recently lost his bid to try and win a title at lightweight, dropping a highly entertaining back-and-forth war with Dustin Poirier at UFC 236.
Renowned MMA coach Firas Zahabi gave his thoughts on the match up, saying he thinks the key difference was in their approach. The Tristar gym coach, who picked Holloway to win the match up initially, felt that Poirier was just the more strategic fighter that night.
“Poirier fought smart, and Holloway fought with his heart,” Zahabi said on a recent AMA session.
“Holloway fought blood and guts, he fought with his heart. So did Poirier, but he fought with heart and brains. He was just more strategic than Holloway. He was playing the game, whereas Holloway was trying to win with pure heart and grit.”
Zahabi praised Holloway’s skills and accomplishments, but felt that he didn’t use all the tools that were available to him during the contest.
“It was a poor choice,” he continued. “I thought he could have done better. He forgot to move his feet, he forgot to move his head, he forgot to parry. He forgot all these things. Why? Because he was too busy egging on Poirier to hit him.
“And Poirier was more than willing to hit him. He landed the more powerful strikes, the cleanest strikes, and Poirier was more defensively responsible, he said. “Let’s just be honest, at the end of the day, Holloway was defensively irresponsible.
“I love the guy and I admire him as a fighter. I think he’s one of the greats. He’s gonna go into the Hall-of-Fame. The man is a brilliant fighter. He just, in my opinion, got too much in the heat of battle. It happens. It happens to the best fighters. The man is a brilliant fighter, however, Dustin was strategically superior,” he explained.
“I felt that Holloway was getting hit by the same shots and was not adjusting. He didn’t really kick too much, and I just feel like he was boxing with a really good boxer, where he should have been kicking and kneeing and elbowing,” he said. “I just felt that he had to mix it up more, use his other tools.”
Zahabi scored the contest the same as the other three judges that night, giving Poirier four rounds out of the five.