UFC 178: Chris Cariaso Welcomes Underdog Role Versus Demetrious Johnson, Believes “Hurting” the Champ Early Key to Winning
By Kelsey Mowatt
Several months ago, not a lot of people were predicting Chris Cariaso would be the next man to challenge UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson, and as their September 27th scrap nears, not many are saying he’ll win either. When you’ve been fighting for as long and hard as Cariaso has, however, chances are being the underdog isn’t anything new.
“You know, I don’t worry about it, because it seems like every fight I’m the underdog,” Cariaso relayed on Full Contact Fighter Radio, while discussing the fact Johnson will be a heavy favorite when they fight at UFC 178. “My last fight I was the betting underdog. I don’t know what it is. It seems like everybody’s always got me as the underdog but for me I feed off that. I like that.”
“I’m just playing the game man and it takes all the pressure off me,” furthered Cariaso, who was originally booked to fight Johnson at UFC 177 on August 30th, until the bout was moved to UFC 178, after Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier was re-booked for January 3rd. “It puts all the pressure on Demetrious because they’re expecting him to win.”
Although Cariaso has scored consecutive victories over Ilarde Santos, Danny Martinez and most recently Louis Smolka, the flyweight wasn’t widely being cited as a possible challenger for Johnson. Cariaso is currently ranked #8 in the UFC’s flyweight division, and many believed John Dodson would be tapped for a rematch with Johnson, until it was revealed he’s out until 2015 with a knee injury.
“I was surprised because I was already booked to fight in September, so I was just getting focused and ready for that,” noted Cariaso, while referring to the fact that initially he was scheduled to fight Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC FN 52 on September 22nd. “So when they called me I was like ‘oh yeah, for sure I want it.”
Cariaso (17-5) will face Johnson (20-2-1) at a time when the champion’s standing has never been higher. The dynamic fighter is coming off a clear cut, decision win over Ali Bagautinov in June, after finishing Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga in consecutive fights. As a result, Johnson has worked his way into the UFC’s top five, pound-for-pound rankings and currently sits at #4.
“It’s kind of the basics how you take away someone’s speed,” said Cariaso, when asked how he plans to shut down Johnson’s explosiveness and agility. “One thing is you’ve got to match his speed, match his pace. For me, I’ve got to hurt him right? We’ve got to hurt him and just slow him down. Otherwise he’s going to be trying to outpace and outwork. I think that’s the main thing; getting out there, hurting him early, and slowing him down.”
It will be interesting to see how Johnson approaches the noted striker, and how much the champion looks to take Cariaso down.
“Obviously you’re expecting for everything,” said the 33 year-old challenger. “He’s always trying to make a statement every time; whenever he fights he’s always trying to finish fights. I expect him to bring a pretty diverse game. I expect him to come out wanting to strike with me, trying to lure me into a striking game and then trying to set up his takedown.”
UFC 178 will be hosted by the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.