Looking back over last year, despite a hiccup or two, featherweight Chris Cariaso feels it was a success.
“Going into the UFC, I feel like towards the end of the year I got my bearings underneath me,” he said. “I went 2-1 in the UFC, so it was a pretty good year.”
While he’s happy overall with how the year turned out, admittedly he still feels he’s not quite where he wants to be with his performances inside the cage.
“I definitely feel like I have room to improve,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “I’ve tried out some news stuff and have grown off that last fight (against Vaughan Lee at UFC 138).”
Things in 2012 won’t get any easier for Cariaso as he heads to Saitama, Japan, for UFC 144 on Feb. 26 to face Takeya Mizugaki in what could be a turning point match for his career.
“I think it’s the highest profile fight of my career, but not necessarily the toughest fight of my career,” said Cariaso. “It’s definitely super-important that I go out there and prove to the UFC that I’m a contender.”
Stylistically Cariaso sees similarities between he and Mizugaki, but also one area he feels he has an advantage in.
“We both like to stand up and fight, and I think you’re going to see a lot of that,” said Cariaso. “Being the shorter fighter, I’m definitely going to have to get in on him. With my style, I’m going to have to let him come in on me, and that’s how I’ll get inside.
“As far as grappling goes, I feel I have the edge on him. I feel like I’m more technical than him on the ground. He has good wrestling and anti-jiu-jitsu, but he’s not going to be a big submission guy.”
Cariaso feels that this fight could definitely set the tone for his year, and help him achieve his main goal.
“I want to be ranked in the Top 10 this year, and hopefully by next year be fighting for the belt,” he said.
“I think that if I go out there and get a finish against Mizugaki, that will definitely put my name on the map and into contender status.”