NEW YORK – Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) top ten ranked Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso, a Filipino American mixed martial arts fighter (MMA) will take on reigning champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson on Saturday, Sept. 27 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the UFC’s flyweight title. UFC highlights that night’s line-up of top-ranked fighters of the world as UFC 178, which will be streamed live in a Pay Per View television channel.
Cariaso, the 33-year-old challenger from Tucson, Arizona, has a three-win streak record going into this main card event. In May 2014, Cariaso defeated Louis Smolka in Cincinnati, Ohio in a split decision. He trounced Danny Martinez in a unanimous decision in Newark, New Jersey in February 2014. His big win was his fight with Illiarde Santos, stopping Santos at 4:31 in the second round in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Johnson looks for his sixth successful defense of his 125-pound title.
Although odd-makers consider Cariaso an underdog against Johnson in a 25-minute over five rounds bout, Cariaso dismisses this notion and said that he is a very competitive fighter and has the capacity to pull off an upset.
“I want to be the best in everything I do,” Chris told the Philippine Daily Mirror in an interview when asked how he felt being referred to as the underdog. “He (Johnson) is regarded as the best in the UFC,” Cariaso said. “But I am totally focused on this fight 100 percent. My goal has always been to win it (the championship).” He considers his strengths in Muay Thai, leg kicks and his being a Golden Gloves champion as his assets.
Cariaso has a record of 17 wins, 5 losses, and 0-draw in his professional career as an MMA fighter. This is his seventh flyweight fight after leaving his bantamweight (135 pounds) perch in 2012. He has been the IKF US SanShou Champion, ISKA California Champion, SF Golden Gloves Champion and a current ICSF MMA World Champion.
Johnson of Parkland, WA, 28, has a record of 20-2-1 and is going for his 6th title fight in two years. He is the first flyweight champion in UFC’s history and is known for his speed, conditioning and technique with his footwork.
Richard, Cariaso’s father, who is an MMA enthusiast and fitness buff, introduced his son Chris into this sport when he was five years old. “I watched Bruce Lee films and wanted to do what he was doing,” he said, and earned his “Kamikaze” moniker, which is added to his name as an MMA fighter. “It’s the way I consider myself to be – the ultimate fighter,” he said.
At age 11, he said he started training Muay Thai, and a few months later he had his first fight. “Since then, I had been hooked,” Cariaso said.
According to Wikipedia, Muay Thai “is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along the various clinching techniques.” It is a “physical and mental discipline which includes combat on shins” and is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterized “by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient.”
Cariaso was born in Mountain View in San Jose, California and at age 10, his family moved to Tuczon, Arizona. His grandmother, Ampy, who hails from Manila, took care of him. He has a sister and a step brother. Besides being an MMA fighter, he raced BMX in his entire childhood until he was 17-years-old. He is a former World Cup Cycling champion.
When he was asked why he is with UFC instead of the other promotions, he said “UFC is the biggest and most prestigious.” In preparation for his fights, he trains with his Muay Thai coach Neugsiam Samphusri, Alexander Crispim for grappling and Darren Uyenoyama, his longtime coach and training partner. His typical day of training includes grappling and strength-training in the morning. In the evening, he runs and does his stand-up training and spars with Anthony Birchak, his main sparring partner.
Cariaso said he never went to college, which is not commonly heard of in Filipino family setting. “I learned business by working for the late Alex Gong and now I own one of the top Muay Thai gyms n the nation,” he said. “I didn’t need to go to college. I have always known what I wanted to do and I have never doubted my decision.” He said the only job he ever had since he was 16-years-old was teaching Muay Thai and working in gyms.
Besides Cariaso, there are two other popular Filipino American MMA fighters. One is Mark Munoz, who is currently fighting in UFC’s Middleweight division, is known for his wrestling abilty and relentless ground-and-pound. As of January 17, 2014, he is #7 in official UFC Middleweight rankings and ranked the #8 Middleweight in the world by Sherdog.
Another is Brandon Vera, who used to fight with the UFC promotion, is now with Singapore-based One Fighting Championship (FC). His debut will be on December 5, 2014 at the SM Mall of Asia in the Philippines with yet an unnamed opponent. Vera was released from the UFC on June 17, 2014, ending his eight-year run with UFC. He has formerly competed for the UFC and the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). Vera is the former WEC 13 Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion.
PHOTO CAPTION AND CREDIT
LEG KICK: Cariaso (R) delivers a leg-kick to his opponent, Louis Smolka (L) enroute to winning a split decision. (Photo courtesy of UFC)