There was any number of compelling stories at UFC Fight Night 89 in Ottawa Saturday, but one of the most feel-good moments had to be Joe Soto finally securing his first UFC win. With that win, a huge monkey was at long last off Soto’s back.

Soto had gone 0-3 in the UFC since his arrival in August 2014. That, despite being a former bantamweight title challenger. Of course, that title shot against T.J. Dillashaw came with just a day’s notice, after challenger Renan Barao was injured the day of weigh-ins. Soto stepped up, and made it to the fifth round against the champ before falling to a head kick and follow-up strikes. Despite the loss, many saw the fight as a big success for Soto, who most expected to be steamrolled in the fight. The fact that he held his own for five rounds against the top fighter in the world at the time — well, that was a good sign.

Of course, Soto has had a history of success. He was a featherweight champion in Bellator earlier in his career, eventually losing the title to Joe Warren. He was also a bantamweight champ in Taichi Palace Fights, a promotion known as a hotbed for talent in the smaller weight classes.

Then came the UFC, and his big opportunity. Coming off the Dillashaw loss, Soto just needed a win to establish himself.

It didn’t come. He lost to Anthony Birchak, a shocking first round knockout. Then, in January of this year, he dropped a split decision to Michinori Tanaka. Suddenly, Joe Soto was looking to be less a promising fighter, and more the answer to a strange MMA trivia question: which fighter fought for a UFC title without ever earning a win in the promotion?

That question, at least, no longer has Soto as the answer. With his win over Beal, he has the win under his belt, and the monkey off his back. Even more satisfying, it came by way of a submission finish in the third round, on a night where a record for third round finishes was set, in Ottawa’s first UFC card. Not too shabby, and a much better talking point than his losses.

Now, Soto can move forward, build himself back up, and maybe down the line, once again work himself back into the title picture.

Baby steps.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.