Prior to UFC 257, Firas Zahabi gave Conor McGregor a 60-40 edge to beat Dustin Poirier. The renowned MMA coach thought it would be a lot closer than people predicted, but praised McGregor technical advantages and ultimately felt that Poirier’s style would play into his counterpunching game well.
McGregor had a good opening round, but things of course didn’t end well for him. Poirier remained calm, invested in calf kicks, and eventually got a knockout victory in the second round.
Zahabi has released his post-fight breakdown and according to the Tristar Gym coach, it looked like McGregor just quit when things didn’t go his way.
“In the second round, when McGregor was getting hit along the fence. I found it strange that he wasn’t — it seemed like he had already gave up on the fight,” Zahabi said on his YouTube channel. “Before he hit the canvas, I felt like he had given up on the fight, because things were getting tough.
“The fight was getting tough. His left hand didn’t work, and he’s not used to that. He’s not used to hitting guys with the big left, and then (they) keep fighting,” he said. “McGregor, in the second round, dropped his best card. He landed that perfect left hand, the one he’s relied on his entire career. But for one reason or another, it didn’t work.
“Poirier did not go down, and it seemed that McGregor got emotional about it. He started covering up, he was getting hit, but it didn’t look like he was trying to circle out and survive,” he explained. “He looked like a guy who was like ‘this is the end, I better do something.’ He threw a few punches, but they were like — almost desperate.
“He seemed to get emotional. I looked at his face and he was very very emotional. Whereas if you contrast that with Poirier, when Poirier got hit... he was cool and looking for his next move.”
According to Zahabi, the biggest difference shown in the fight was that Poirier has much “more heart,” while he thinks McGregor just isn’t used to overcoming adversity.
“I gave McGregor so many pluses. I told you guys he’s a better boxer, he’s a better counterpuncher, he has better reach, and he’s faced Mayweather in boxing. He has so many advantages, but one thing I said, Poirier has the biggest heart. You can’t deny that,” Zahabi explained.
“We saw the will to win overcome skill and technique. McGregor has beautiful skill and technique, punching mechanics. Even towards to the end, his head movement was excellent.
“In my opinion, he’s not used to weathering storms,” Zahabi stated. “All the hard fights Poirier had, they all led him to this win last weekend. All those hard fights, those blood and guts fights he’s had, they’ve toughened him up mentally. The barrage of punches he was taking would’ve put a lesser seasoned fighter out.
“If you look at McGregor. The punches he took at the end of the fight, that would not have put Poirier out. If you disagree, please look at the Poirier-Hooker fight. You can see that what happened to McGregor at the end of the fight, was happening all for 15 minutes between Poirier and Dan Hooker.
“When McGregor gets into a heated battle, it seems like he folds. It seems like he will fold faster than Poirier by far.”
Whether it’s heart, cardio, or a combination of other factors, it’s not unfair to point out how McGregor has had significant dips in performance when he couldn’t put people away early — even on bouts he was winning. McGregor himself has addressed this in the past as something he’s looking to overcome, but for what it’s worth, he recently proclaimed his cardio issues as a “myth.”
With this loss to Poirier, McGregor’s overall MMA record drops to 22-5, with him going 1-2 in the UFC’s lightweight division. Once holding two UFC titles simultaneously, McGregor now just has one victory in over four years.