With the chaos after UFC 229, it is somewhat understandable that most talking points after UFC 229 was about the brawl and not the title bout itself. A lot of notable things did happen during the actual contest, and renowned coach Firas Zahabi gave a detailed analysis on the bout on his YouTube channel.
Apart from discussing their technique and game plans, among the things the Tristar gym coach pointed out were the amount of fouls that McGregor got away with.
“I know Herb Dean. He’s a great referee. The man’s a professional fighter as well, he knows what’s going on in there. He understands jiujitsu, he understands striking. But McGregor got away with so many fouls,” Zahabi said. “To the point that Khabib — he left his corner between round three and four to tell the ref ‘hey, why are you letting him get away with all these things?’
“First of, the worst foul: he kneed Khabib illegally from the bottom,” he explained. “Khabib was in side control and McGregor knees Khabib in the head from bottom side control. He should’ve gotten a stern warning, or maybe even a point (deduction).
“McGregor was holding the fence on the last takedown. When Khabib pulled to take his McGregor’s back, he was blatantly holding on to the fence. That was probably his seventh or eight foul that night.
“Before that, he had held the shorts. He had grabbed on to Khabib’s shorts as Khabib was trying to take him down,” Zahabi continued. “He has put his toes on the fence after being told not to. He was obviously grabbing Khabib’s gloves… maybe two or three times. Khabib was talking to the referee saying ‘he is holding my gloves.’
According to Zahabi, although it didn’t end up changing the result, deducting points were more warranted with the amount of fouls happening.
“He was doing foul over foul,” he said. “I think he should’ve taken a point, or at least a stern warning. Those fouls were just one too many.
“Especially holding the fence at the end. I would’ve let the action go, but if for some reason McGregor got on top, I would’ve stopped the action. I would’ve taken away a point,” he said. “You cannot do anything that interferes with the fight. It was a blatant fence hold. Everybody saw it. It wasn’t something that was insignificant. Khabib still got on top of him, but it was just not a fair tactic by McGregor.”
Zahabi also pointed out that this was very uncharacteristic of McGregor, who normally fights clean and well within the rules during most of his bouts.
“Why would McGregor do this? He doesn’t seem to do this in his other fights,” he said. “That’s a question for him, but I think he might have been fighting for his life. He might have felt ‘look, I am being overwhelmed here, I need every single ounce of help I can get.’
“He might have been in a panic mode, and I think I could understand. Being so smashed against somebody so heavy, so based, and you feel you can’t move him — you start to get desperate. You’ve never felt anything like that, a pressure like that. You might panic a little.
“I assume he was getting desperate. He probably felt like he was suffocating in there,” he said. “Khabib’s top game reminds me a lot of Georges (St-Pierre)’s game. I’ve felt this and know what it is. If you don’t have a good answer for that, it’s a very devastating position to be in.”
As for the unfortunate events after the actual match, Zahabi earlier noted that Khabib bullied a bully, and McGregor crossed the line many times.