San Jose native Chris Cariaso was victorious on Wednesday night at UFC On Fuel TV 4: Munoz vs. Weidman, besting Josh Ferguson over three rounds for a clear-cut 30-27 decision. Cariaso moved to 14-3 for his career with the win, and is on a three-fight winning streak. He thoroughly bested Ferguson in the standup and had several impressive sweep takedowns to remain in control of the matchup.
Now, Cariaso has bested Takeya Mizugaki, a perennial top-ten Bantamweight, and taken Michael McDonald to a very close split decision. Those two fights are still the best of his career, but this win over Ferguson has shown that he needs to take another step up. Mizugaki hasn't been great in the UFC, so Ferguson wasn't necessarily a "step back," but more of a side-step. Then again, it was at a new weight class (as the fight was contested at Flyweight).
And Cariaso is very happy with that weight class, saying in the post-fight interview that the weight class seemed right for him. So where does Cariaso go from here? Will he ever be able to compete for UFC gold? Well, he's still got a ways to go. Judging from this fight, it seems that Cariaso needs to develop a little bit better of a killer instinct and fight with a little bit more urgency. Top flyweights like Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall would almost certainly out-pace him right now.
But again, he does need a step up. So where does he go?
The UFC's Flyweight division isn't deep by any means. There are some fantastic fighters at the top-end, but the division is so new there isn't even a champion yet, as Demetrious Johnson is set to fight Joseph Benavidez for the right to be crowned the first-ever champion for that weight class in the UFC. Who is available after the top guys, though?
Well, there's John Dodson, Tim Elliott, Louis Gaudinot, John Lineker, Darren Uyenoyama and Yasuhiro Urushitani. Urushitani is a possibility, given that he was in the Flyweight tournament, but lost to Benavidez via second-round TKO. But Urushitani also lost his previous fight, and if the UFC doesn't want to match up fighters who have lost against fighters who have won, that's out of the question. That also disqualifies Lineker and Elliott, leaving Dodson, Gaudinot and Uyenoyama.
Dodson was supposed to fight Uyenoyama, but instead fought Elliott after Uyenoyama pulled out of the bout with an injury. Out of those listed, Dodson would certainly be the biggest test for Cariaso, but it's likely that the UFC wants to continue to bring him along slowly. It's still a new weight class for "Kamikaze," and it really might be best for him to take on either Gaudinot or Uyenoyama, while Dodson might be taking a step up to fight someone like McCall or the loser of the championship fight.