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Zahabi: Alex Pereira ‘could’ve ended’ Israel Adesanya’s career at UFC 281 if not for referee stoppage

For Tristar Gym head coach Firas Zahabi, referee Marc Goddard’s stoppage of UFC 281’s headliner was way within reason.

Referee Marc Goddard stops UFC 281’s headliner in round five to award Alex Pereira a TKO win.
Referee Marc Goddard stops UFC 281’s headliner in round five to award Alex Pereira a TKO win.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Tristar Gym head coach and renowned trainer Firas Zahabi is on board with referee Marc Goddard’s stoppage of UFC 281’s headliner between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira. But for Zahabi, Adesanya would’ve been in serious trouble had the fight gone on for a few more moments.

“It was fair. Some refs would’ve let it go longer, some refs would’ve stopped it. I think it was fair, I have no complaints,” Zahabi said in a video he uploaded on his YouTube channel.

“Pereira, he could’ve ended — very possibly — could’ve ended Adesanya’s career if the referee did not intervene. If the referee did not intervene, a scissor knee was coming. The greatest scissor-knee I’ve ever seen in all of combat sports ever is Alexander Pereira.”

Zahabi says “The Last Stylebender” could’ve been seriously hurt if Pereira landed the knee strike he previously referred to.

“He threw a few in the fight, grazing the chin of Adesanya. Not making contact, but getting quite close. In Brazil, they call this maneuver the ‘pedalada.’ Like you’re pedaling. It’s an incredible knee (strike) from a giant who’s incredibly explosive.

“He throws it incredibly quick. I thought when Adesanya was dazed like that, I thought the knee was coming. If Marc Goddard did not step in, it could’ve been a serious concussion. Broken jaw, broken orbital, fractured skull, even.

“It could’ve been something that ruined or ended Adesanya’s professional career. I’m very grateful that Marc Goddard stopped it.”

For his part, Goddard echoed a similar sentiment.

After UFC 281, Adesanya dropped to a record of 23-2. But he likely gets an immediate rematch where he is already a slight favorite, at least according to early odds.