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How close was Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson’s first title fight?

It’s been described as the greatest flyweight title fight of all-time, but just how close was Demetrious Johnson’s first encounter with John Dodson? Not as close as you’d think once we consider how judges score fights.

Do you remember January 2013? As an L.A. boy, I remember it being one of the colder "winters" we'd had in a while. Some nights it was so cold I couldn't walk the dog in my usual basketball shorts and flip flops. But mixed in-between, there was a special night where cold, warm, shorts, pants didn't matter, when we got to witness a fellow named Mighty Mouse on free TV starting one of the great title defense runs in UFC history.

The lightning-quick version of an Energizer bunny, Demetrious Johnson, who finally found and flourished in his appropriate weight class, met the impossibly older yet somehow young, upstart, Ultimate Fighter winner, John Dodson, who was ready, willing and able to snatch the strap. Dodson put Johnson to the test early, leading many of us to the edge of our couches or bar stools, but ultimately faded down the stretch to lose a 48-47, 49-46, 48-47 unanimous decision.

We know the official scorecards but was this really a close fight? From one perspective, when the eventual loser knocks down the eventual winner there's a feeling of closeness in a "maybe he could've taken it" kind of way. But if we accept that they went the distance and evaluate the five rounds from a judging perspective, was it close?

You know how we do this at Bloody Elbow. We bust out RoboJudge, who evaluates more than 20 round-by-round performance metrics and represents the typical sentiments of a typical judge. RoboJudge is by no means perfect and doesn't take account of any judge-specific tendencies, but he can provide a good idea of a fighter's odds to take the all-important nod in any given round as well as the overall fight whenever 10-8's aren't a factor.

First, let's see how Johnson and Dodson performed in each round.

Gift - UFC on FOX 6 - Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson 1 - Round 1 Stats

Both men came out strong to start. While Dodson had his moments, there just weren't enough of them. His best was an arguable flash knock down which actually seemed to be more of a trip on Johnson's part. Other than that, Dodson got out-landed and out-volumed in basically everything, jabs, power strikes, significant strikes and total strikes, as well as briefly out-grappled.

Most media members and one official judge on MMA Decisions scored this round for Johnson, and I'd have to agree. A typical judge has a 76.1% chance of scoring this round for Johnson.

Gift - UFC on FOX 6 - Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson 1 - Round 2 Stats

In the 2nd round, Dodson caught Johnson with a flush cross to the head causing him to squat down and spring backwards to the canvas in an off-balance manner. FightMetric only scored one knockdown for Dodson this round and I'm guessing this wasn't it. About 20 seconds later, Dodson sends Johnson's face careening towards the canvas.

This looked like a pretty clear-cut round for Dodson, but it wasn't fully dominant and RoboJudge will recognize this. Johnson spent more than half the round basically repeating his 1st round performance. In the world of odds, this means uncertainty. While you and I know it was Dodson's round, the more time Johnson spent chipping away, the more likely a cage-side judge would somehow score in his favor. This didn't happen as all three judges gave the round to Dodson, but it factors into the odds nonetheless. A typical judge has a 19.5% chance of scoring this round for Johnson.

Gift - UFC on FOX 6 - Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson 1 - Round 3 Stats

The 3rd round was arguably the closest of all. Dodson countered more effectively, threw decent volume for 3 ½ minutes, out-landed Johnson with power and busted up his lip (while not officially classified as damage, we know judges give extra points for bloody faces). I had him winning until the final 1 ½ minutes when Johnson took the round back with grappling, a little ground-and-pound and standup action. A typical judge has a 57.6% chance of scoring this round for Johnson.

Then come the championship rounds and, for the short short version, Johnson goes all "Here I come to save the day!" on Dodson's ass.

Gift - UFC on FOX 6 - Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson 1 - Round 4 Stats

Gift - UFC on FOX 6 - Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson 1 - Round 5 Stats

With each fighter's five performances locked in, here's the RoboJudge summary of Johnson vs. Dodson 1.

Gift - UFC on FOX 6 - Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson 1 - RoboJudge

All 10-9's aren't made the same and this is important when it comes to a fighter's overall odds of victory. There are different levels to winning a round. Was it a close one where judges (and the rest of the world) could legitimately disagree? Was the round winner pretty obvious but where a judge or two could disagree depending on viewing angles, striking sounds, monitor usage, crowd noise, etc.? Was it one of those rounds where the only way a judge can go astray is if they're daydreaming about what a glorious dinner they're going to have later? Or was it a round where no living, breathing judge with a pulse could possibly screw it up?

At 99.6% and 100%, Johnson unequivocally took the 4th and 5th rounds. When one fighter gets two rounds of a five-round fight on absolute lock down and is at least competitive in two others, they earn a huge mathematical advantage. And that's exactly what Johnson did on that cold, long-pants-wearing night in 2013. Even though he ended up with two 48-47 scorecards, he had a monstrous 98% chance of keeping his title when the horn blew at the end of the 5th round.

Dodson put Johnson to the test early and had us on the edge of our seats with a knockdown (or two). The 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds may flutter around our brains whispering, "Close, so close, pretty close, kinda close." But when we consider Johnson's utter domination of the 4th and 5th rounds and the fact that he only needed to take one more round from just two judges, this fight was anything but close upon inspection of the odds.

I've got Johnson at 61.7% to "and still" the strap in the rematch tonight. Whatever the outcome, here's hoping Dodson's gas tank is primed and ready to go so we can hopefully hang on every strike for five rounds instead of three.

Gentlemen, let's do this, and show the world why they should love the little guys.

Be sure to check out all the pre- and post-fight UFC 191 coverage right here at SB Nation throughout the weekend. Enjoy the fights!

Paul is Bloody Elbow's analytics writer. All mistakes are his own and they've been known to happen sometimes. Follow him at @MMAanalytics. Fight data provided by FightMetric.

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