by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
There’s been no doubt that the 145-pound weight class has become one of the most popular in mixed martial arts over the past couple of years. Often featuring faster, more athletic action than the sport’s heavier weight classes, the 145-pound division has opened the door for an array of talented fighters to be featured on larger shows.

Hoping to follow in the success of the featherweights, the 135-pound division looks to make the coming year its time to shine.

Like its slightly heavier contemporary, the 135-pound bantamweight division usually showcases fast, high-paced action, often delivering excitement to any card.

Looking to make his mark as one of the division’s top talents, undefeated San Francisco-based fighter Chris Cariaso steps into action on March 21 as part of EliteXC’s ShoXC Challenger Series against highly regarded Mark Oshiro in a hybrid 140-pound showdown.

“I’m feeling great,” exclaimed Cariaso heading into his Showtime television debut. “I’ve been having great training this year so far, so I’m feeling good and I’m definitely itching to get back in (the cage).”

He is coming of a very successful 2007 campaign that saw him display his strong striking skills en route to winning all four of his fights.

“I had a great learning year for me,” commented Cariaso. “I’m definitely going to step it up another notch this year.

“I’ve definitely tried to improve my power and my grappling game. I expect to see some power punching and more takedowns and work on the ground (this year).”

As he explains, going out and having a good showing on his first nationally televised fight is imperative for his young career on multiple levels.

“It’s very important to me, because I always want to win, but I’ve had a great training camp and learned a lot of stuff, so I want to go out there and show everybody what I’ve learned,” explained Cariaso.

“This is one of the moments that I’ve been training for. I can’t wait to get in there and I’m ready to go.”

At ShoXC, he will have no easy task in Mark Oshiro, an extremely well-rounded fighter who has won all but one of his professional fights.

“I’ve seen a couple of videos of him and he’s definitely pretty scrappy,” said Cariaso of Oshiro. “He likes to stand up and that works right into my forte, so I think we’re going to have a great stand-up war.”

As he mentioned earlier, Cariaso’s been working on developing his overall game, and looks to showcase that along with his already reputable striking skills.

“I want to go and push the fight to some of my new strengths, definitely, but I’ll take the fight and see how it goes,” he commented.

“But when I keep it standing, that’s definitely my strongest point, and if we want to go to the ground I’ve got some new tricks up my sleeve.”

When it comes to goals for the remainder of the year, he looks to grow as the weight class grows, and prove he belongs near the top of the division.

“I just want to propel myself to the top of the 135/140-pound weight class and show everybody the skills that I have,” said Cariaso.

“I think the 135’s are definitely going to be making a big impact. A lot of organizations like the WEC and EliteXC have been featuring the little guys, and I think we’ve been doing a great job showcasing the talent we have.”

When it comes to the March 21 ShoXC Challenger Series, the fight to watch could very well be Cariaso’s throwdown with Oshiro in a weight class that could very well be experiencing its breakout year.

“Obviously I want to thank the fans, and want them to come check me out on March 21 on Showtime,” closed out Cariaso. “It’s going to be explosive and it’s going to be fun.

“I want to thank KTFO, Show Your Roll, Fight & Fitness, Ralf Gracie, Cardinale Volkswagen and Purified Soul.”