Firas Zahabi: Alex Pereira could’ve ended Israel Adesanya’s career at UFC 281 if referee didn’t intervene

Tristar Gym head coach Firas Zahabi believes referee Marc Goddard did Israel Adesanya a huge favor by jumping in to stop his UFC 281 fight with Alex Pereira.

Down 3-1 on the judges’ scorecards, Pereira (7-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) rallied to finish Adesanya (23-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) by TKO in the fifth round to capture the middleweight title this past Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Pereira rocked Adesanya with a right hand and had him badly hurt with just minutes remaining. Although Adesanya was still standing, Goddard didn’t like his body language and proceeded to stop the fight. Adesanya disagrees with the stoppage, but Zahabi thinks he would have only taken more damage.

“Pereira could have very possibly ended Adesanya’s career if the referee did not intervene,” Zahabi said on his YouTube channel. “Guys, if the referee did not intervene, a scissor knee was coming. Guys, the greatest scissor knee I have seen in all of combat sports, ever, is Alex Pereira. …

“It’s an incredible knee from a giant, who’s incredibly explosive. He throws it incredibly quick. I thought when Adesanya was dazed like that, the knee was coming. If Marc Goddard did not step in, it could have been a serious concussion, broken jaw, broken orbital, fractured skull even. It could have been something that ruined or ended Adesanya’s professional career. So I’m very grateful that Marc Goddard stopped it.”


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While Zahabi is on board with the decision to stop the fight when it was, he praised Adesanya’s performance overall and especially lauded the moment he almost got the finish himself at the end of Round 1.

“Adesanya fought beautifully,” Zahabi said. “Brilliant. He was winning three rounds to one. He was losing Round 1 and came back with an incredible right hand, left hook combination.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie