After winning three of his first four UFC contests, featherweight contender Julio Arce knew that he had a tough challenge ahead of him in Hakeem Dawodu. Fighting once again in Madison Square Garden, the fight took place on arguably the biggest card of the year.

UFC 244, known primarily for the debut of the “BMF” championship bout between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz, was stacked from top to bottom with prospects and veterans competing under the bright lights of MSG.

Unfortunately, the night would begin and end with a split decision loss for Arce.

“It could’ve gone either way,” Arce told The Painted Lines. “Unfortunately it went to him. I think I probably could’ve done more. I could’ve been like ‘The judge this, the judge that’…In reality, I think if I would’ve done a lot more, I would’ve sealed that round, but he got the win and now it’s just back to the lab. Back to just getting better.”

Despite winning two rounds on one judge’s scorecard, the remaining two judges scored the contest 29-28 for Dawodu.

A pivotal moment came in round one when Arce appeared to be affected by a Dawodu leg kick. Arce details it was a nerve issue which visibly hindered him.

“There’s one where he kicked me, and it was one of those freak things like he hit the nerve, so the bottom part of my left leg just went completely numb. And I just lost the feeling in it. So I had to back up against the cage to not fall over because every time I thought my foot was flat, it felt like it was folded. It was just one of those freak things, and he caught me right on the right spot.

“I got the feeling back in my leg during the second round, and then after that I was good. It was just one of those things. Just weird. I think it happened to (Henry) Cejudo in one of his fights and also Michael Chandler. You just hit that nerve and your leg shuts off, and it’s like…it sucks.”

Two tough losses.

The loss placed Arce with a 3-2 record in the UFC with both losses the result of a split decision. Dawodu improved to 4-1 with four straight wins.

“I felt like I had it. I know in his interview he was kind of shaking his head. But, you know, they gave it to him and I can’t be mad about it. You can’t leave it in the judges’ hands, and that’s exactly what I did, so it just slipped out of my hands right there. I could’ve engaged more, a little more chain wrestling, a little more takedown attempts. I could’ve done more. So in my mind it kind of bothered me a little bit, but it was just one of those fights where we went to the end and he ended up getting the win on the judges’ scorecards.”

Following the loss, Arce only wants to focus on improving his craft and coming back a better fighter. He stated that he came away from the fight relatively unscathed minus a few bruises.

Studying his own loss has been a part of the improvement process.

“I watched the fight a couple times, and I take notes. I kind of look at it in a more curious way of what I could do better rather than beat myself up about it or get upset. I’m just like okay, why did I do this? How can I make it better? I’m just looking forward to improvements.”

Arce has no preference as to whom he’d like to fight next. His only expectation is that it’ll likely be someone ranked near him. He knows that he cannot expect a ranked opponent coming off of a loss.

However, Arce contends he would like to stay close to home when that fight comes.

 “Whoever’s there, whoever they want to give, I’ll be ready to take them. I know they have a show in Brooklyn next year. They usually come around to Brooklyn, so if I can fight in Brooklyn, that’ll be great. Or if they ever come back to Long Island or just anywhere in the New York area would be pretty awesome.

“Whatever they give me, I’ll be ready for it.”