Fifth-ranked lightweight Michael Johnson appeared to have done more than enough to garner a decision win over twelfth-ranked Beneil Dariush. When the scorecards were read revealing that the judges scored the fight for Dariush by split decision, an expression of disbelief came across the face of Johnson, those in attendance at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and those watching the event on television at home.
Johnson dictated the pace of the fight and outworked Dariush. He stuffed every one of Dariush’s takedown attempts and knocked the Iranian down with a left hand in the opening round.
The second frame looked a lot like the first. Johnson was the more active fighter. He defended Dariush’s takedown attempts and backed his opponent up with punches.
Dariush rallied in the final round by picking up the pace and his output. He landed his jab regularly and may have won the round, but not the fight.
Boos from the crowd filled the arena after the decision was read, and Dariush said that he understood why.
“I understand why the crowd is booing. It was a close fight. He hit me with some hard shots. It’s perfectly understandable. I felt like I was landing a lot of jabs, but he was landing some hard shots. I knew it could go either way,” said the 26-year-old. “Maybe the difference was the kicks. I landed more kicks. I really don’t know. If they had raised his hand, I would have understood.”
Like many others, UFC commentator Kenny Florian couldn’t understand.
“I’m trying to wrap my head around this decision, which really was a poor one. I really don’t know how you have Michael Johnson losing this fight. I have no idea,” said Florian following the fight. “Michael Johnson was very effective. I don’t think there really was a round that he really lost. The third round, Dariush was more effective, but how a guy like Michael Johnson loses a fight like this; I mean, it’s scary.”
Johnson was riding a four-fight winning streak heading into the bout and was hoping to get himself into title contention. The judges dashed those hopes.
Regardless of the decision, Dariush proved that he could compete with the top of the division.