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chris-cariaso

In the wake of an injury to the UFC flyweight division’s contender apparent, champ Demetrious Johnson is moving on against a new opponent.

Johnson (20-2-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) will meet veteran Chris Cariaso (17-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC) next month at UFC 177. UFC officials confirmed the plans following a report from Yahoo! Sports. The fight is the flyweight champ’s fifth attempted title defense.

UFC 177 takes place Aug. 30 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif., and is headlined by a title rematch between champ T.J. Dillashaw and ex-champ Renan Barao.

Onetime title challenger and “The Ultimate Fighter 14? winner John Dodson, who is 5-1 as a UFC flyweight was widely expected to rematch champ Johnson despite his misgivings about a second fight, but a nagging knee injury to Dodson gave way to ACL surgery that will keep him out of action for a year, at minimum.

In Dodson’s spot goes Cariaso, who lost to onetime title challenger John Moraga and the highly touted Jussier Formiga in his earlier flyweight career, but has won his past three outings.

A former bantamweight in the now-defunct WEC and UFC, Cariaso beat several standout opponents such as Takeya Mizugaki and Vaughan Lee. But he fell short against top-rated competition such as Barao and Michael MacDonald and looked to greener pastures as a lighter fighter.

Cariaso was expected to take on Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC Fight Night 52, but he will now get his biggest challenge to date. Johnson is in the midst of his greatest success as an MMA fighter, having not lost a fight since dropping to 125 pounds and winning the inaugural UFC flyweight title. Most recently, he outpointed Ali Bagautinov at this past month’s UFC 174, which followed a knockout of Joseph Benavidez in a rematch of a 2012 meeting to decide the UFC’s first titleholder at flyweight.

Betting lines are likely to be steeply weighed against Cariaso, but as shown in an upset of Barao at this past May’s UFC 173, anything is possible when it comes to UFC underdogs.

For more on UFC 177, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

(Pictured: Chris Cariaso)

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