Theft review: Jamie Mullarkey vs.  Michael Johnson at UFC Vegas 58

Theft review: Jamie Mullarkey vs. Michael Johnson at UFC Vegas 58

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than incorrectly recording a fight, although the term “stealing” tends to be thrown carelessly and often steeped in bias. With the Robbery Review, we’ll look at the controversial fights and determine if the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if critics need to examine their surprising reactions

Michael Johnson can’t get enough rest.

Always one of the most talented, skilful and unpredictable fighters in the lightweight division, it looked like Johnson might finally have turned the corner after scoring an impressive knockout from Alan Patrick last May. Booked into a favorable match with Jamie Mullarkey for UFC Vegas 58, Johnson could clearly have found himself celebrating back-to-back wins for the first time since 2018.

It used to not be.

Johnson and Mullarkey had themselves scrap, one that earned them an extra 50 Gs in Fight of the Night, but only Mullarkey would come out with a win bonus because he raised his hand by split decision. Unsurprisingly, given how competitive the fight was and that Johnson scored the match’s only knockout in the first round, there was disappointment for Johnson and controversy on social media.

Courtney Casey, who suffered a heavy loss on the cards to Antonina Shevchenko earlier in the evening, was particularly sympathetic and Johnson was happy to support her.

Sure, fans got their money’s worth with the sensational UFC Vegas 58 opener, but do the judges owe Johnson the money after that decision? Let’s take this to the theft review lab.

What was the official result?

Jimmy Mullarkey defeated. Michael Johnson via Divided Decision.

How did the fight go?

Johnson’s hands looked great from the start. He was quick to time Molarkey’s man’s kicks and flagged Molarkey several times when Molarkey tried to score low. It should be noted that Johnson wasn’t necessarily evading those attacks, but he was paying Malarkey for them.

With just under two minutes left in the first round, Johnson’s perfectly-timed left hook hit Molarkey and put him on his butt. Johnson hit some good ground and pound, then focused on wrestling Mullarkey, but Mullarkey recovered well and managed to get to a neutral position. This was a testament to Molarkey’s chin, but it was also a missed opportunity for Johnson.

It looked like it was going to be an obvious first-round run for Johnson, and then disaster struck the lightweight veteran as he ate a combination that weakened him and triggered a one-leg reaction. Molarkey spread out and hit some elbows on the side of Johnson’s head, then finish the backround on the feet and swing.

Mullarkey, in classic wounded animal style, came out in the second round raising his heavy right hand. He also had a solid hit, and like Johnson in the first round, he seemed to have a solid grasp of his opponent’s timing. Johnson stuck to boxing, but Molarkey scooped points with a variety of techniques. One arched knee pulled Johnson back and Mollarkey advanced with another high knee on goal. Johnson wasn’t shy about scraping, but Molarkey hit a high kick, another combination, and another big knee that closed the round for him.

Johnson propped up Mularkey with a straight left streak to start in third. The first two minutes of the final round were close together as both fighters stood in the middle of the octagon, engaged each other, and traded. Johnson’s hands were as sharp as they were in the first round, while Mullarkey continued to throw powerful punches and kicks to the leg and body. That left hand of Johnson completely shocked Molarkey on several occasions. He hit Molarkey with a hard blow to the chin at the end of the round, and Molarkey walked through it. Geez. A very enjoyable and entertaining fight from start to finish.

What did the judges say?

Mike Bell Johnson scored 29-28.

Derek Cleary scored 29-28 Mullarkey.

Anthony Manes scored 29-28 Mullarkey.

The first round was the decisive one, with Bill scoring for Johnson, and Cleary and Manes scoring for Molarkey.

What do the numbers say?

(Stats with UFC stats)

A closer look at the striking stats paints a positive picture for Molarkey, who won on aggregate 96-66 and had the advantage in all three rounds (Round 1:20-18, Round 2:45-18, Round 3:31-30).

However, Johnson scored the only fight-out knockout in the first round and was much closer to Mullarkey when calculating total headers (Mullarkey 54, Johnson 42), which is usually a strong indicator of who gets to land the most damaging attacks.

Johnson also did well in the body-kicks category, taking a slight 22-21 advantage, while Molarkey’s leg-kicks time was evident in his 21-2 advantage there.

What did the media say?

The media supports ‘Danger’.

Sixteen of the media scores on MMA decisions in favor of Johnson, while four score for Molarkey. All scores were 29-28 seconds, except for Seán Sheehan of SevereMMA.com, who scored 29-27 Mullarkey.

What did people say?

(Data drawn from MMA decisions and MMA referee)

Fans of MMA Resolutions overwhelmingly registered the fight 29-28 in favor of Johnson, with that option receiving 75.3 percent of the vote. Mullarkey’s 29-28 win came with 14 percent, while 6.5 percent saw the fight as a draw.

Voters on the Verdict MMA app scored the match narrowly for Johnson.

This scoring system takes the cumulative total of each fan score submitted (filtering outliers like 10-7 random seconds if they understand less than one percent of the total) in each round and dividing by the amount of scores submitted to determine the winner in each round as well as in their entirety.

The first round went to Johnson by just 30 points, while Mullarkey escaped in the second round at plus 87. Johnson then won the third round by a similarly large 77-point margin. This adds up to a 20-point win for Johnson, which isn’t definitive (the closer to a 100-point win under MMA rule, the more compelling the case for victory).

How did you register it?

This was a fun fight, I hate to do this robbery review, but I got so many messages asking me to take a closer look and there was no disregard for the scoring from fans and media afterwards.

After watching critically (with liberal use of the rewind function to check pivot exchanges), I scored for Johnson 29-28, giving him rounds 1 and 3. He was effective on early counterstrikes. Arguably the belated jolt by Molarkey was enough to match Johnson’s knockout, but I sensed Johnson was about to finish, so this was where he got me the nod.

Round two was the bigger round of the fight, and Mularkey definitely put it on Johnson for the majority of the period. However, I didn’t see enough for a 10-8 because I never felt Johnson completely dominating it (he responded with heavy punches here and there) and the fight wasn’t in danger of being waved.

Was it a theft?

In a close fight marked by several swings in momentum, I find it hard to justify a stealing call here. Johnson was understandably frustrated after the judges’ ruling, but he got a good number of clean shots in this fight and looked wounded and unbalanced on multiple occasions (he might have been totally fine, but the judges can only judge what they can see).

As I mentioned before, although I don’t think Mullarkey was closer to ending the fight than Johnson, you can make an argument for that. This is not boxing where a knockout automatically gives you 10-9. Round one was definitely heading in that direction for Johnson until he was hurt by Mullarkey’s late charge. Knockdown or not, I can see how two of the judges gave more importance to that close call.

This fight is an excellent example of how impact and damage are key parts of the criteria, but it’s also very subjective as there is literally no way for the judges to know how hard a blow actually is (hence, there is often a heavy focus on knockouts because otherwise, what Is the tangible visual evidence there?). Unless we want to hand our faculties of judgment to the infallible PFL SmartCage, this is an item we must accept.

If you thought Johnson’s knockout blow was the biggest moment in the fight, score it for Johnson. If you prefer Mullarkey’s first round spell, score it for Mullarkey.

As for the method…

Final verdict

Not theft.

vote

Was Jimmy Mullarkey’s win over Michael Johnson a steal?


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