Having returned to the bantamweight division just over a year ago, UFC 281’s Julio Arce was feeling at home and looking to improve on a 2-1 record since returning to the weight class. Opposite Arce on Saturday was the taller, longer Montel Jackson, coming in off a pair of wins — albeit the most recent was over a year ago.
Jackson, sporting a height and reach advantage, opted to almost immediately change levels and hunt for a takedown in this preliminary card scrap. A long stretch of fence work commenced, with the ref briefly halting the action when a knee by Jackson strayed low. Jackson immediately apologized, the ref left them in position, and the entire ordeal lasted mere moments.
Back underway (if you even considered them as having stopped) the clinch work against the cage continued. After warning the pair to work the ref finally brought them back to center. From there, Arce looked to counter, as both fighters landed. Arce ripped the body, then landed a late takedown. In a close round, that could loom large.
Round two saw Arce working his shape, leading the dance early. Jackson landed a low kick, but Arce hit home upstairs. Arce’s movement and feints seemed to give Montel Jackson fits, though he would land a right hand that Arce definitely reacted to. Arce, however, was slipping punches with ease, while Jackson’s output was just too sluggish. Jackson’s jab was there for him when he used it — it simply wasn’t used often.
With just over a minute to go in the second frame, Jackson shot in on a takedown, driving Arce into the fence. He’d hit the bodylock, but Arce simply refused to go down. Arce showed some impressive balance, reversed against the fence, and they finished the bout up against the cage.
In the third round saw the momentum shifted in a heartbeat. Jackson dropped Arce care of a jab, then got on top, looking to finish him off! Arce threw up an defensive arm-bar that simply wasn’t there, but it bought him some time. Jackson stayed on him, but couldn’t find the room to work, and had to contend with a better arm-bar attempt moments later. Jackson, rather than backing off and welcoming Arce back to a stand-up battle, simply sat in place. And while he might be winning the third round in doing so, the first two frames were still question marks.
When Jackson finally did back off, there was just over two minutes to go. Arce, presumably, had recovered, though he was showing swelling by one eye. It didn’t appear to factor in, and instead, a slow kickboxing battle finished out the bout.
Come the scorecards, all three judges had it for Jackson, with two actually giving him all three rounds.
Official Result: Montel Jackson def. Julio Arce by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)