‘McGregor has to get a killshot’: Legendary GSP coach Zahabi speaks on UFC 264 headliner versus Poirier (VIDEO)
Slumping to 3-3 record since dethroning Jose Aldo at the end of 2015, the Irishman is attempting to get his career back on track after Poirier sentenced him to a first-ever knockout loss in the UFC in Abu Dhabi in January.
Their third meeting is, in essence, an eliminator to face new 155lb ruler Charles Oliveira, and Zahibi, who is most famous for guiding the career of welterweight great Georges St. Pierre, has given his thoughts on the contest.
"I think [McGregor] needs to, number one, take the leg kicks off the table. I hope for him he is training around the clock not to get leg kicked," Zahibi told his YouTube channel.
"Then after that, he has to keep the volume low. He doesn’t have to throw as many punches as Poirier. He has to keep the volume low.
"He has 25 minutes to get a kill shot or he most likely loses a decision… if he gets into a trench war with Poirier, I think Poirier’s going to win. In my opinion, this is a 50-50 fight.
"The three things I think Conor McGregor needs to do to win: one, take the leg kicks off the table. He’s fighting a southpaw, that’s going to be a tricky thing. He hasn’t fought many southpaws in his career, so you have that power leg kick that’s usually not there when two fighters are in an open stance.
"Two, he’s got to control the volume. He doesn’t have to try to keep up with Poirier in the pocket. If Poirier lands ten shots to five, I wouldn’t be worried for Conor. Conor’s going to win via killshot, knockout, or he’s going to lose via decision."
Zahabi then moved on to McGregor's foe.
"What are the keys for Poirier to win?," he asked.
"I love what he did in the second fight. He got a takedown early. Even if he doesn’t get it… who cares? Keep Conor clinching, keep Conor in the clinch war, knee him, elbow him, tie him up, pull on his neck, pull on his arms, make him work.
"Take away that natural explosivity. Take away his ability to land a killshot and knock you out. If you get close to a double leg, do it.
"Of course, if he can get on top of Conor and hold him down, that’s the safest place to have Conor McGregor. Conor’s so dangerous on his feet. "The other thing is, set up those leg kicks.
I feel like one calf kick from Dustin Poirier would prevent me from standing for the rest of my life.— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) January 24, 2021
"That’s an easy one, we all know that one. Conor McGregor didn’t react well to the leg kicks. And in my opinion, take the fight into the later rounds. That would be the big number three for Poirier.
"In my opinion, Poirier’s the best at trench wars. If you’re in round three, maybe round four, things get more fatiguing. Obviously fatigue accumulates and you’re less explosive. It’s hard to keep the distance. It becomes really difficult to keep the distance. Conor needs that distance," Zahabi concluded.
Elsewhere, welterweight contender Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson, who will face Gilbert Burns on the same card at UFC 264, has also offered his advice to 'Mystic Mac'.
"I think the person that has to do more changing of the fighters is definitely Conor," Thompson told Submission Radio this week.
"I mean, Dustin Poirier has been fighting pretty much the same way for the longest time. He’s got great boxing, good timing, he’s tough as nails, he likes to sit in the pocket and he’s intelligent."
5 years ago today, Conor McGregor took down Aldo in 13 seconds 😳 pic.twitter.com/JP5gMhvXSF— BetOnline.ag (@betonline_ag) December 12, 2020
"I think [Conor] kind of lost something in his last fight," Thompson posed.
"I think it was all the boxing that he was doing. He doesn’t have that movement anymore that you normally saw.
"Like when he fought Jose Aldo. It was the movement that won him that fight. And he was kind of standing there in front of Dustin Poirier and he took a lot of low calf kicks, and that’s what settled it, sealed the deal."
Wonderboy calls out McGregor. pic.twitter.com/3Mf1tkuJBk— MMA Gone Wild🥋 (@mmagonewild) January 18, 2020
"So, he’s got to get back into moving like a karate guy. He’s got to get back into getting on his bike, using that in and out movement, switching sides, playing that game, if he’s going to go out there and beat him again. He can draw out Dustin Poirier’s strikes with his movement.
"And him being such a good counter puncher, can counter off of that. So out of the two, Conor’s got to get back to that.
"I don’t know how hard that is and how long he’s been doing the boxing stuff, but he’s got to get out of that and get back to his movement. If he can do that, Conor can win."