Firas Zahabi: Max Holloway Was ‘Defensively Irresponsible’ At UFC 236

Photo: John David Mercer for USA TODAY Sports
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Max Holloway fought a “blood and guts” style while Dustin Poirier fought more strategically during their UFC 236 encounter according to MMA coach Firas Zahabi.

Poirier shocked many in the MMA world when he defeated Holloway via unanimous decision to become the new interim lightweight champion on April 13 from Atlanta.

“The Diamond” rocked the Hawaiian multiple times in the first few rounds before ending the fight strongly to win via 49-46 scorecards. It was undoubtedly the most damage Holloway had taken in his UFC career as well.

Looking back at the contest, Zahabi, who notably trains Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald, believes Holloway was fighting purely on heart:

“Poirier fought smart, and Holloway fought with his heart,” Zahabi said in a recent AMA (via Bloody Elbow). “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.”

Not Using All Of His Tools

UFC lightweight contender Al Iaquinta recently assessed the fight and claimed Holloway did not use all the tools at his disposal against Poirier.

Zahabi seems to agree, adding that Holloway was also defensively irresponsible.

“It was a poor choice. 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. Let’s just be honest, at the end of the day, Holloway was defensively irresponsible.”

That’s not to say Zahabi doesn’t respect “Blessed” as a fighter, but he believes Holloway simply could have mixed things up more.

“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. I just felt that he had to mix it up more, use his other tools.”