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UFC Fight Night 152, which is set to take place inside the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York, will serve as an opportunity for Julio Arce to get back to his winning ways. After winning seven straight, the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight has designs on bouncing back from his November loss to Sheymon Moraes.
In many cases, a split decision loss could leave a fighter filled with frustration and regret. But Arce, 29, doesn’t view his UFC 230 defeat to Moraes as a failure. In his mind, he made every effort he could to win and, in the process, left a bit of himself in the cage -- literally.
“I wasn’t upset,” Arce told Sherdog about his split decision loss. “It was a competitive fight, and I left it all in there. Blood; everything. There was really no loser in that fight, because I left a clone of myself in that cage.”
The bout itself was highly competitive; it could be argued that Arce did more in the fight based on the statistics, as he landed more total strikes – 46 to 35 – and hit the lone takedown in the bout. However, Arce understands that several factors played against him in swaying the judges’ opinions on fight night.
First off, Arce suffered two knockdowns at the hands of Moraes, one in the first round and one in the second round. The three-time Brazilian kickboxing champion sent his opponent to the mat on both occasions with a stinging right hand. Arce looks back on those moments and recognizes pivotal mistakes in aggression.
“Every time I rushed in to land my strikes, that’s when he caught me and clipped me with that right hand,” recalled Arce. He feels that he was impatient and that it was likely poor strategizing against a fighter with such a decorated striking background. Yet, despite being floored twice, he recovered quickly and tried to take back the momentum.
“The guy hit me with everything he could, and I am just getting up and still standing. I went into zombie mode with him,” Arce quipped. He even got Moraes to the mat after the first knockdown, and he came close to locking in a rear-naked choke. Although he comprehends the optics of a knockdown to a judge, he wishes that they would have put more emphasis on his recuperative ability and his aggression immediately thereafter.
Along with the knockdown in the second, Arce incurred a cut on his forehead that affected the fight on two fronts. First, despite it not being a grotesque gash, the cut leaked as if it were, which tends to give the impression of a bloody fighter being pummeled – a look Arce admits did not help him on the scorecards.
“I think the amount of blood that was pouring out of me made it seem like more damage,” Arce averred. “[The judges] were probably like, ‘Man, this guy’s losing a lot of blood, the other guy looks like he has the advantage.’ They see it a different way, and that’s something I can’t control. It probably did sway them a little bit.”
Not only did the blood likely affect the course of the action for the judges, it also had an affect on Arce’s strategy. Although he did gain confidence in how he fared standing with the team Black House fighter, he knew that he would have the advantage on the ground. In the third round, knowing that the fight was close, he attempted to take Moraes down. However, with the three rounds of sweat and quite a bit of plasma on each man, a takedown proved impossible.
“I did want to take it to the ground, but when I tried to wrap my hands around him it was so bloody,” Arce explained. “Everything was so slippery; I couldn’t even get a good grip on him. I’m covered in blood, he’s covered in blood, it makes it so difficult to get a grip on anything.”
With going to the mat out of the question, Arce stood with the Brazilian muay Thai champion and won the round on two of the three judges’ cards. Although he did not get his hand raised after three rounds of back and forth action, Arce doesn’t have any hard feelings for the judges. He sees the fight as closely contested and has accepted it as a learning experience.
“It could have gone either way,” said Arce. “He could have gotten it. I could have gotten it. We left it all in there. I didn’t get my way [but] I was just like, ‘This is how I learn.’ The guy’s good. He was a multiple-time muay Thai world champion.”
After taking a couple of weeks off to recover, Arce has been on a mission to get back in the cage, which has actually proven to be more frustrating and problematic than his loss in November. It seems the logistics of featherweight matchmaking in the UFC has been just as favorable to him as the scorecards were at UFC 230.
“I was looking to get another fight. I really just wanted to get back in there, but it [was] hard to find an opponent,” Arce admitted. “A lot of [fighters] were already matched up, or other [fighters] haven’t been fighting. I’m seeing contracts being handed out left and right. This guy’s got a fight, and this guy’s got a fight, and I’m like, ‘When is it my time?’ The people that are like above me [in the rankings], they can pick and choose their fights.”
The frustration grew when he thought that he was set to compete at UFC Fight Night 150 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and then that fight fell through. Subsequently, he expected to compete at the promotion’s following show in Ottawa, Canada, but that did not come to fruition, either. “[It got] kind of frustrating because I just want to fight,” said Arce.
After over six months of waiting, Arce will finally get his wish of once again competing inside the Octagon. He will do so against Julian Erosa, a fighter who has lost his first two UFC appearances. A third straight loss could put “Juicy J” on the UFC roster chopping block, which means that he may bring a nothing-left-to-lose energy into the cage. The Team Tiger Schulmann fighter plans to be ready for that possibility.
“I’m going to be ready for anything. If his back is against the wall like that, I know he’s going to come out looking for the finish and really push the pace. But I am going to be ready for this,” Arce asserted.
Arce is instilled with confidence not just from the experience gained during an impressive 15-3 run in the sport, but also from his development over 17 years spent as part of the burgeoning MMA powerhouse that is his home gym. Tiger Schulmann is a name familiar to many in the New York and New Jersey areas courtesy of the commercials that have been airing since the 1990s advertising its youth martial arts classes. When the gym started producing mixed martial arts fighters, there were skeptics. However, the gym has become the longtime home of several very talented fighters currently on the UFC roster, and Arce is proud to have been a part of the journey to turn Team Tiger Schulmann into a name that garners respect in the sport.
“They’d hear our name and they didn’t take it seriously. But now, we have people in the highest levels. Shane [Burgos] is now Top-15 in the featherweights. Jimmie Rivera is a top bantamweight in the world. And we’ve got many others [like] Michael Trizano and Lyman Good. Many up-and-comers [too]. I think now, people are like, ‘Oh crap, these guys are a legitimate gym.’ We’re not here to play around. We’re going to fight you. We’re going to bring it to you.”