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Scouring the scoring: Michael Johnson vs. Jamie Mullarkey at UFC Vegas 58

Michael Johnson vs. Jamie Mullarkey came down to the last 109 seconds of Round 1

Michael Johnson lost a decision to Jamie Mullarkey at UFC Vegas 58
Michael Johnson lost a decision to Jamie Mullarkey at UFC Vegas 58
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Michael Johnson’s last two-fight winning streak came in 2018 when he earned decisions over Andre Fili and Artem Lobov. Johnson went winless in his next four fights. The UFC vet ended that skid in May when he scored a knockout win over Alan Patrick. On Saturday, Johnson was on the losing end of a split-decision outcome against Jamie Mullarkey. Johnson, who has been with the UFC since 2010, took no solace in the fact the exciting bout took home “Fight of the Night” honors.

With Johnson — and numerous MMA media members — disagreeing with the official result of the fight, I did a deep dive on the first round of the fight. The only round where the three judges disagreed.

For background on the “Scouring the Scoring” series and details on the review process, GO HERE.

The first thing one needs to do in scoring a fight is mute the commentary. Biases can seep into commentary and even worse, the UFC commentary team sometimes provides incorrect information as to the scoring criteria, which can influence those who hear it. The second thing one needs to do is get familiar with the prioritized criteria in MMA scoring — especially the first criteria, which is “effective striking/grappling.”

Effective Striking/Grappling

“Legal blows that have immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute towards the end of the match with the IMMEDIATE weighing in more heavily than the cumulative impact. Successful execution of takedowns, submission attempts, reversals and the achievement of advantageous positions that produce immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute to the end of the match, with the IMMEDIATE weighing more heavily than the cumulative impact.”

It shall be noted that a successful takedown is not merely a changing of position, but the establishment of an attack from the use of the takedown.

The first three minutes of this fight were tense. Johnson’s speed was on full display and he seemed to be getting close to working out the timing of his opponent’s kicks and jabs. Meanwhile, Mullarkey was connecting with those kicks and jabs.

If I had to judge the first 191 seconds of the matchup, I would have awarded the round to Mullarkey with a score of 10-9. However, the outcome of the round came down to the final 109 seconds of the stanza.

With 1:49 left in the first, Johnson landed a right hook that he followed with a crushing left that caught Mullarkey flush and snapped his head back. The impact of that blow sent Mullarkey tumbling toward the canvas. While the Australian was on his way down to the seat of his pants, Johnson landed another left. The American then threw a flurry of ground strikes before settling into a front headlock. While in that position, Mullarkey was able to reset and recover from the blows that hurt him.

While the two combatants were in that position, UFC commentator Michael Bisping said, “Mullarkey is tough, because I could have sworn it was going to be over there. He hit the canvas hard.”

With 1:12 left in the round, Mullarkey got back to his feet. Judging from his movement, stance and willingness to engage Johnson, he had fully recovered by the time the two got back to striking.

The next big exchange occurred with 21 seconds left in the round. Mullarkey connected with a well-timed counter right that was followed with a big left hook that caught Johnson flush while he was trying to step back. That left landed while Johnson had all his weight on his back foot, but it clearly wobbled him. The blow resulted in Johnson diving in for a single leg takedown. While latched onto Mullarkey’s left leg, Johnson ate several elbows to the head before the fighters got back to their feet and exchanged some sloppy, but heavy, strikes.

On the rewatch, I scored the round for Johnson because I felt the strikes he landed were closer to ending the fight than the blows Mullarkey landed later in the round.

From the camera angle, Johnson’s knockdown blows landed cleaner and took Mullarkey off his feet, while Mullarkey’s strikes landed while Johnson was slightly off balance and did not result in a clean knockdown. With that, Johnson’s strikes had more potential to immediately end the fight than Mullarkey’s blows.

This is the point in my analysis where I have to point out that the judges are watching from cageside and the angle they are judging from is not the same angle we see on the broadcast. They also can not slow down the action frame by frame to look at things such as foot placement and balance like we do on a rewatch.

Final thoughts:

While I saw the first round — and therefore the fight — for Johnson, by no means could the scores in Mullarkey’s favor be considered robberies. Now, if one wants to talk about how the UFC is hanging onto the incorrect idea that the show and win purse structure it employs has any legitimacy, then we can talk about what is quite literally robbery.