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Julio Arce: The Unlikely UFC Bantamweight Mainstay

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New York, New York – There has never been an easier path to fighting in a major organization like the UFC than there is today.  Given the UFC’s nearly weekly slate of fight cards, more bodies are required to keep the machine running at full tilt. Add into the mix other fight-canceling variables such as weight misses, COVID-19, injuries, etc. and the UFC has many of the same challenges as any other MMA promotion in obtaining talented yet inexpensive MMA prospects on demand.

Just like any other business, the UFC’s resources are not infinite. To make room for the new crop of younger, cheaper talent, the promotion will regularly cull from its ranks. In 2022 alone excluding retirements, there have already been 13 contenders from just the UFC’s bantamweight division that have been released from the promotion.

The reality of the situation is the UFC Bantamweight division is an embarrassment of riches. While the UFC brass may be reluctant to shed themselves of an underperforming fighter in shallower weight classes, that to not be the case in this division.

If you are a 135lb contender, not only must you win, you must continue to impress. One bad performance or lackluster outing is all it takes to get a pink slip in these parts. One could even say that in the UFC’s bantamweight division, simply retaining a spot for nearly half a decade is a Herculean effort in and of itself but for veteran bantamweight contender Julio Arce, he manages to take it all in stride.

January 2023 will make it five years since UFC 220 Miocic vs. Ngannou when Julio Arce made his UFC debut. Since making that walk for the first time, one might argue that Arce has not only grown accustomed to swimming in the 135-pound shark tank but he’s also thrived in it.

Reflecting on his career to date, Arce explained to MMA Sucka, “My teammates are why I am here at the highest level and are always there to push me in training” Arce said, “Tiger Schulmann’s MMA has turned me from an average, chubby kid who had no confidence and got bullied to a UFC fighter.”

While there’s no question that training alongside some of the top fighters in the country like Solomon Renfro, Shane Burgos, and Mike Trizano has only helped him level up as a fighter, Arce has proven repeatedly that not only can he compete at this level, but he can beat anybody on any given day. Even in his 30s, Arce is continuing to evolve as a fighter looking more calibrated and refined every time he sets foot into the cage to compete.

Lessons Learned & Back to Winning

On November 13, 2021, in what was arguably the most high-profile bout of his UFC career, Arce took on Team Alpha Male’s Song Yadong. After a slow start in the first round and down on the scorecards, Arce began to pick up the pace in the second frame when he suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a head kick that managed to stagger him and ultimately set up the TKO victory for his opponent.

For some fighter’s getting back on the horse after getting finished may have been a tough feat, but Arce was unfazed, “It was easy to get back after that loss. I got caught and it’s what happens in this game, we can get caught. It was a hard loss, but I made my adjustments and came back [to win my next fight].”

Five months later at UFC 273, Arce would get the opportunity to put his adjustments to the test when he took on UFC debutant Daniel Santos (10-1). Out of the gate, Santos would immediately take center control of the cage and throw everything but the kitchen sink at Arce, but it was Arce’s footwork and excellent boxing technique that greatly hindered Santos’ output. As the bout would progress, Arce would go on to use Santos’ aggression against him and land several unanswered counterstrikes and combinations against his opponent. At the end of 15 minutes, it was Arce who would come away with the unanimous decision victory in what was one of the more impressive bell to bell outings of his UFC career.

The Path Ahead

At UFC 281 in front of his hometown city, Arce will have the opportunity to make it two wins in a row when he takes on Montel Jackson (11-2).

Solely focused on his upcoming opponent Arce explained, “Jackson is the next person I have to beat in order to move up the ladder in this stacked division.  Right now, he is my focus and after that fight, we will see who is next.”

With victories over the likes of Dan Ige, Julian Erosa, and Andre Ewell under his belt and still very much in his athletic prime, one can’t help but wonder if Arce is on the cusp of making a serious run in the division if he can manage a win over Jackson.

Julio Arce 18-5 faces Montel Jackson 11-2 at UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira on November 12, 2022. The preliminary bouts begin at 6 PM ET and are available to stream via ESPN+.

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Tyler Little has been covering MMA since 2021. In addition to writing for MMA Sucka, he is the creator and founder of the Mom's Basement MMA podcast. He lives in the Washington D.C. area with his wife and children and his black lab Molly. Follow him on Instagram @moms_basementmma

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