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UFC 196: Is Conor McGregor’s frame too small to support his towering ambitions?

It was, by now, a familiar pattern for UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor.Little more than a week before he was due to challenge Rafeal dos Anjos for the lightweight belt at UFC 196, the Brazilian pulled out injured.

Conor McGregor after winning the featherweight belt at UFC 194

McGregor, the as-yet unstoppable Crumlin man, was now faced with the prospect of accepting a last-minute replacement for the fourth time in his eight UFC bouts.

But despite already being billed to survey uncharted territory in the division above his normal weight class, The Notorious was not about to rein in his ambition – accepting a fight against welterweight fan-favourite Nate Diaz. Two weight classes above his own.

“The only weight I care about is the weight of them cheques,” he quipped.

Nate Diaz.

It is hard to bet against the brash McGregor, who has knocked out a who’s who of top UFC contenders on his way to the title in spectacular fashion.

Just ask Jose Aldo.

Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo at UFC 194 on December 12, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV. #DWCOTD

A video posted by Dana White (@danawhiteufc) on

There is, however, an air of scepticism that has begun to descend following McGregor’s increasingly lofty claims. These include that he is capable of beating the reigning 170-pound champion Robbie Lawler, despite being two divisions below him.

The rise of the self-proclaimed “mystic” McGregor has been something to behold, but is it really plausible to believe he has the remotest chance against untouchable boxer Floyd Mayweather?

Is his gift of the gab distracting us from the fact his size is a legitimate hindrance to his vaulting ambition?

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, he walks into the octagon against a man who is fully capable of slamming on the brakes of the McGregor hype train.

Nate Diaz boasts a size advantage over McGregor, most notably a two-inch reach advantage, as well as a sharp and unorthodox boxing style and a famed submission game.

Crucially, unlike almost every other man who has faced The Notorious one, he is not prepared to let McGregor get into his head.

For the 5ft 7ins fighter, whose ground credentials remain something of a question mark, Diaz’s size and skillset sound like a credible tonic to his winning formula.

Time and again, however, you will hear McGregor tell you why his size is an irrelevance in this discussion: he’s not like other fighters.

Away from his fight training with coach John Kavanagh and his team at SBG Ireland, Conor McGregor is a disciple of movement guru Ido Portal.

His fascination with understanding the pattern of a fighter’s movement, coupled with his willingness to make his own control of space as creative and unpredictable as possible has proved a compelling addition to the conventional martial arts roots of the UFC.

Most eerily, the effectiveness of this strategy was illustrated when footage emerged from the locker room before his 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194.

In it, McGregor can be seen mapping out the exact punch he would use to knockout the long-time Brazilian champion – suggesting he knew exactly what Aldo had planned.

The real question is whether the hard-headed Californian Diaz will fall into the same bracket of predictability.

Fortunately, we only have a matter of hours until we find out.

One thing is for sure, with the talent these two possess on the microphones and in the cage, even Bonfire Night is unlikely to produce as many fireworks. Check out the promo video for tonight’s epic bout narrated by no other than rapper DMX.

UFC 196: McGregor vs Diaz

UFC 196: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz | Holly Holm vs Miesha TateNarrated by DMX

Posted by UFC on Friday, 4 March 2016