Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions
Michael Johnson cannot catch a break.
Long one of the lightweight division’s most talented, skilled, and unpredictable fighters, it looked like Johnson might finally be turning the corner after he scored a sensational knockout of Alan Patrick this past May. Booked in a favorable matchup with Jamie Mullarkey for UFC Vegas 58, it was distinctly possible that Johnson could find himself celebrating back-to-back wins for the first time since 2018.
It was not meant to be.
Johnson and Mullarkey had themselves a corker of a scrap, one that earned them both an extra 50 Gs for the Fight of the Night, but only Mullarkey would walk out with his win bonus as he had his hand raised via split decision. Unsurprisingly, given how competitive the fight was and that Johnson scored the lone knockdown of the bout in Round 1, there was disappointment for Johnson and controversy on social media.
Cortney Casey, who suffered her own tough loss on the cards to Antonina Shevchenko earlier in the evening, was particularly sympathetic and Johnson was glad to have her support.
— Cortney Casey (@CastIron_Casey) July 10, 2022
Yes, I am! Keep you’re head up also. They don’t watch fights, I am certain! I would love to see photos of them not paying any attention. https://t.co/Iq2ILcBHhP
— Michael Johnson (@Menace155) July 10, 2022
Fans definitely got their money’s worth with UFC Vegas 58’s thrilling opener, but do the judges owe Johnson money after that decision? Let’s take this one to the Robbery Review lab.
What was the official result?
Jamie Mullarkey def. Michael Johnson via split decision.
How did the fight go?
Johnson’s hands looked great from the start. He was quick to figure out the timing of Mullarkey’s leg kicks and he tagged Mullarkey several times when Mullarkey tried to score low. It’s worth pointing out that Johnson wasn’t necessarily evading those attacks, but he was making Mullarkey pay for them.
With just under two minutes remaining in Round 1, Johnson landed a perfectly timed left hook that rocked Mullarkey and put him on his backside. Johnson hit some good ground-and-pound, then focused on wrestling Mullarkey down, but Mullarkey recovered well and was able to get to a neutral position. This was a testament to Mullarkey’s chin, but also a missed opportunity for Johnson.
It looked like it was going to be a clear Round 1 to Johnson and then disaster struck the lightweight veteran as he ate a combination that wobbled him and prompted a reactive single leg. Mullarkey sprawled and hit some elbows to the side of Johnson’s head, then they ended the round back on the feet and swinging.
Mullarkey, in classic wounded animal fashion, came out in Round 2 lobbing out his heavy right hand. He also had his jab going and, like Johnson in Round 1, seemed to have a solid grasp of his opponent’s timing. Johnson remained focused on his boxing but Mullarkey won the fight with many different techniques. Johnson was forced to retreat after a clinch knee, and Mullarkey responded with another high kick right on target. Johnson was not afraid to get into the scrap but Mullarkey struck a high kick and another combination that secured the round.
To start the third round,
Johnson supported Mullarkey with a straight left. Both fighters were in close contact for the first half of the final round. They stood at the center of the octagon and sized one another up before exchanging blows. Johnson’s hands were as sharp as they were in Round 1, while Mullarkey continued to throw power punches and kicks to the leg and body. Johnson’s left hand cracked Mullarkey a few times. Mullarkey was hit by a hard punch on the chin from Johnson at the end. Mullarkey was able to walk right through the pain. Geez. Super fun and entertaining fight from beginning to end.
What did the judges say?
— UFC News (@UFCNews) July 10, 2022
Mike Bell scored it 29-28 Johnson.
Derek Cleary scored it 29-28 Mullarkey.
Anthony Maness scored it 29-28 Mullarkey.
Round 1 was the decider, with Bell scoring it for Johnson, and Cleary and Maness scoring it for Mullarkey.
What did the numbers say?
(Statistics per UFC Stats)
A raw look at the significant striking stats paints a positive picture for Mullarkey, who won the overall score 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 knockdown of the fight in Round 1 and was much closer to Mullarkey when counting total head strikes (Mullarkey 54, Johnson 42), which are typically a strong indicator of who is landing the more damaging attacks.
Johnson also did well in the body strike category, holding a slight 22-21 edge, while the time Mullarkey put into leg kicks was evident in his 21-2 edge there.
What did the media say?
The media backs up “The Menace.”
Sixteen of the media scores on MMA Decisions are in Johnson’s favor, while four scored it for Mullarkey. All the scores were 29-28s, except for Sean Sheehan of SevereMMA.com, who scored it 29-27 Mullarkey.
29-27 Mullarkey for me @MMADecisions
Round 1: Either way
Round 2: Definitely Mullarkey, borderline 10-8/9
Round 3: Definitely 10-9 Johnson #UFCVegas58
— Sean Sheehan (@SeanSheehanBA) July 10, 2022
What did the people say?
(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)
Fans on MMA Decisions overwhelmingly scored the fight 29-28 in Johnson’s favor, with that option receiving 75. 3 percent of the vote. A 29-28 win for Mullarkey comes in at 14 percent, while 6. 5 percent saw the fight as a draw.
Voters on the Verdict MMA app narrowly scored the bout for Johnson.
It was close but the Verdict Scorecard showed that Michael Johnson defeated Jamie Mullarkey.
— Verdict (@VerdictMMA) July 10, 2022
That scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted fan score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also in totality.
Round 1 went to Johnson by just 30 points, while Mullarkey ran away with Round 2 at plus-87. Johnson then won Round 3 by a similarly large margin of 77 points. That adds up to a 20-point win for Johnson, which is anything but definitive (the closer you are to a 100-point win under Verdict MMA scoring, the more convincing a case you have for a victory).
How did I score it?
This fight was so much fun, that it almost made me hate doing this Robbery Review. However, there were many messages asking that I examine the score and I couldn’t ignore the skepticism of fans and media.
After a critical viewing (with liberal use of the rewind function to examine pivotal exchanges), I scored it for Johnson 29-28, giving him rounds 1 and 3. The knockdown in Round 1 was enough for me to lean towards Johnson, plus he was effectively counter-striking early on. The late flurry by Mullarkey was arguably enough to match Johnson’s knockdown, but I felt that Johnson was closer to finishing, so that’s where he gets the nod for me.
Round 2 was the biggest round of the fight and Mullarkey 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 that Johnson was being completely dominated (he responded with solid punches here and there) nor was the fight in danger of being waved off.
Was it a robbery?
In a close fight that featured several swings of momentum, I’m struggling to justify a robbery call here. Johnson was disappointed by the verdict of the judges. However, he received a lot of good shots and appeared off-balance on several occasions.
It is possible to argue that Mullarkey finished the fight closer than Johnson. This is not boxing where a knockdown automatically gets you a 10-9. Round 1 was certainly trending in that direction for Johnson until he was hurt by Mullarkey’s late charge. I don’t care if it was knockdown, but you can clearly see that two judges gave this close call more weight.
This fight is a perfect example of how impact and damage are key parts of the criteria, but also highly subjective as there is literally no way for the judges to know just how forceful a strike actually was (hence why there’s often a heavy emphasis on knockdowns because otherwise, what concrete visual evidence is there to go by?). Unless we want to hand over the judging reins to the infallible PFL SmartCage, this is an element we have to accept.
*If Johnson’s knockdown was your favorite moment in the fight, score it for Johnson. If you favored Mullarkey’s Round 1 flurry, then score it for Mullarkey.
The final verdict
Not a robbery.