Firas Zahabi believes the Nov. 16 UFC welterweight title bout between champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger Johny Hendricks came down to one round.
The Tristar Gym head coach believes Hendricks clearly won rounds two and four, and St. Pierre, whom Zahabi trains, clearly won rounds three and five. That leaves the first in dispute.
“Round number one was really razor close,” Zahabi told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Friday. “Some people could say it could have went either way, and I’m not saying it can’t, but I do lean towards Georges. Why? He landed one significant strike more and he attempted a guillotine. When he took Johny Hendricks down, he actually progressed forward. Johny didn’t. When Johny got his takedown with Georges, he didn’t try to pass the guard. He didn’t throw one punch. Georges did more with his takedown than Johny.”
In Zahabi’s view, there wasn’t much significant action in the first, but he does believe St. Pierre’s guillotine attempt was a genuine threat.
“Johny, when he got cinched up in the guillotine, he rolled to his back,” Zahabi said. “You don’t roll to your back unless the guillotine is tight. When you put your back to the floor, you’re protecting yourself from the guillotine. You’re defending. I think there wasn’t a lot in that round, but that’s why we’re splitting hairs because we’re trying to say, hey, who won round number one? And what happened? Nothing’s incredibly significant. Nobody got stunned. Nobody got knocked down. The most significant strike from Johny, I believe, was maybe the elbows. People are talking about the elbows against the cage. They think that was the most significant, but also Georges landed a very flush head kick. He connected with a super good head kick, and head kicks are more likely to knock you out, hurt you, damage you than elbows up against the fence.”
If you give St. Pierre the first, that would make the fight even entering the fifth and final round. St. Pierre outworked Hendricks in that last period, which is why Zahabi says he was “super confident” the champion was going to win the decision.
“I knew it was a close fight, but I really believed it came down to the last round,” Zahabi said. “If you hear me talking to Georges between rounds, between rounds four and five, I’m telling Georges, ‘It’s tight. We don’t know who’s winning. You need to go get this round. This is the round. Finish it strong,’ and I believe if he finished it strong, he would get the win. Even Johny admitted himself that he lost round number five.”
Hendricks would likely argue he had the fight won despite the fifth round, but Zahabi disagrees.
“I was surprised that in the fifth round he didn’t go hard,” Zahabi said. “He didn’t fight like hell. I believe that looking back now, I really believe he thought he was ahead more than he was. He should have played that round like it’s everything. Maybe he did and he was just too tired? I don’t know. Because he was really inactive in round five. I really felt like Georges really started to dominate, and Johny’s will wasn’t up to par with Georges’. Georges was still fighting for victory, and Johny was just kind of cruising the round.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 26:42).