Because of his infrequent fighting, many might not know the name Montel “Quik” Jackson. But, this 30-year-old bantamweight, who stands 5’10, is a name to keep on your radar. Jackson is 5-2 in the UFC, with two finishes and three decision wins. Julio Arce, 33, is also a dangerous bantamweight with a 5-3 UFC record consisting of three finish and two decision wins.
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- Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
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Jackson opened as a 2:1 favorite and has remained steady throughout the week.
Jackson has been an under-the-radar fighter in one of the deepest and most competitive decisions because of his infrequent fighting and a few slip-ups against competition he was expected to beat. But his skillset and fight IQ is incredibly impressive. Jackson is a high-level and highly successful wrestler. He averages an impressive 4.2 takedowns per fight with an even more impressive 78% success rate. He is big and strong for the division and uses his size advantage on the feet well to set up his imposing wrestling. Jackson, a southpaw, uses his jabs and feints to draw a reaction out of his opponent. Once his opponent reacts, Jackson will either look to land a cracking combination or shoot for a takedown. His striking has sometimes been criticized as passive, but, like other counter strikers who look to elicit an ill-advised strike from an opponent, Jackson’s lower volume is a strategy, not a problem. As stated, Jackson tends to feint as he moves in the octagon to place his opponent where he wants them. Once he places his opponent where he wants them, Jackson has the speed and technique to land on the button with real power.
If Jackson decides the place better suits his wrestling, Jackson will feint to set up his takedown. His ability to set up a takedown rather than blindly shooting is a key reason for his success on the mat. Once down, Jackson is adept at holding control time for several minutes while working for, but not rushing, a finish. The gaps in Jackson’s game come when he isn’t the one leading the dance. While he is a counter striker, he fights better when he is the one moving forward. Moreover, in the fights where Jackson is put on his back foot, opponents have been able to get him against the cage, nullify his reach advantage, and even take him down. When he’s moving forward, though, Jackson is methodical and dangerous.
Arce, once a featherweight and now a bantamweight, is also big for the division. He is a solid and versatile kickboxer with good defensive wrestling and jiu-jitsu to round out his skillset. Similarly to Jackson, on the feet, Arce can be a slow starter who can be lulled into an overly patient approach and drop close rounds, especially early. Unlike Jackson, Arce’s low volume is a result of passivity, as he does not used feints as regularly to set up combinations or takedowns. When Arce is aggressive, he has shown solid striking with good power. He has very fast hands, especially when countering an over-extended opponent. Specifically, Arce’s counter check hook seems to come out of nowhere, land in an instant, and land with real emphasis.
Defensively, Arce relies on athleticism and fluidity, moving his head and feet rather than closing his guard. This allows him the freedom to counter from odd angles but also risks him getting tagged by a technical striker who can throw in combination. Arce rarely looks to initiate grappling himself, but has the skills to control opponents in transitions and on the mat. He boasts an impressive 94% takedown defense and has sneaky submissions if the fight does hit the mat. Arce’s biggest issue, and the reason for his losses, is he can absorb a concerning amount of damage. Even though he lands with his own strikes, Arce has struggled against technical strikers who throw in combination. He tends to get hit more and wear more damage than his opponents.
I think these odds are a bit wide. Jackson hasn’t beaten anyone on Arce’s level and Arce has faced a respectable level of competition himself. That being said, this is a tough stylistic matchup for Arce. Jackson should be able to hurt Arce on the feet with technical kickboxing and combination striking. Then, if the fight hits the mat, easier said than done, Arce may play guard and lose valuable minutes from his back. I’m going with Jackson here to get the win and put his name on the map for the more casual fan.
Pick: Montel Jackson to win by decision (bet now at MyBookie)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.