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Artem Lobov sees similarities between Chris Avila and the Diaz brothers, and not all of them flattering

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When UFC 202 takes places on Saturday night, it won’t just be Ireland’s Conor McGregor against Stockton’s Nate Diaz -- it will also be their training partners squaring off. McGregor’s longtime SBG gym mate Artem Lobov is fighting Diaz’s fellow 209 fighter, Chris Avila, during the prelims in Las Vegas on the same night.

For The Ultimate Fighter 22 runner-up Lobov – who has lost both his fights thus far in the UFC, including the Finale against Ryan Hall -- it is likely his last chance to prove he belongs in the UFC. The 22-year old Avila, who trains with the Diaz brothers at Cesar Gracie’s, will be making his UFC debut.

And though there’s been a lot of sniping back and forth between Diaz and McGregor about the quality of their training partners, Lobov didn’t even know who Avila was until that war of words got rolling. 

"No, I’d never heard of this guy before," Lobov said during an appearance on The MMA Hour. "But, having said that, obviously they know that this is a war, that they know that this is going to be a big one. So if they have chosen him, he must have skill. They must feel that he can beat me, so I am not taking this lightly."

Lobov (11-12) lost his last time out against Alex White at UFC Fight Night 82 in February, a decision that left him on the bubble to return. He even went so far as to put the feelings out for an opponent in Russia and had a fight lined up, should the UFC have cut him.

Yet matchmaker Sean Shelby kept him on, and Lobov said he believes that the booking had everything to do with the rivalry going on between Diaz and McGregor. He also knows that Avila is a bit of a Diaz clone when it comes down to fighting style.

"I can see by the way he fights he’s trying to copy the style of the Diaz brothers, which is understandable," he said. "They’re the same team. But I’ve said this before, it’s not a good style to copy. You know, people always talk about how great Nate’s boxing is, but if you look at his fights, he leaves most of his fights absolutely manhandled, blood everywhere. His style relies on being a very, very tough guy.

"It’s a great style to watch. I love watching his fights. But it’s not a good style to copy, especially if you’re going to face somebody like me. With the kind of power that I have — no one hits as hard as I do in the featherweight division. So, I don’t know. If he wants to copy that style against me, best of luck to him."

Avila (5-2) has won three fights in a row heading into his debut, all of them finishes in the Global Knockout promotion.

When asked if there was anything that impressed him about Avila, who made an appearance with the World Series of Fighting back in 2014 (a loss to Jason Powell), Lobov said there was one similarity between Avila and Nate Diaz that he can’t help but marvel at.

"There’s one thing that has always kind of amazed me about him and the whole team…he’s only 22 years old, but he’s got a dad bod," he said. "Yet his cardio is very good, I don’t know how they do it. That must be the munchies or something. They train hard, but their diet must be horrible. How else do they look so fat? I never understand that? How can you look so fat and have such good cardio? That’s one of the things that has always kind of amazed me."

As for whether or not Avila would be in the UFC if there wasn’t an extension of the McGregor-Diaz rivalry in play, Lobov said at this juncture there’s one way to find out.

"I guess we will see," he said. "But now, I don’t think he’d be in the UFC if it wasn’t for this fight."