This was a big win for the 27-year-old, who puts himself back on the path towards fighting a contender in the Top 15.
The New South Wales native entered the fight having his two-fight knockout streak broken at the hands of Jalin Turner (13-5) back in March.
But when coming up against the experienced veteran, Mullarkey looked to make a massive statement.
The fight began at a relatively slow pace with both combatants feeling each other out. Following the measured start to the contest, the action suddenly livened up when Johnson knocked Mullarkey down to the canvas as the Aussie was moving into range.
Mullarkey was able to work his way back to his feet, where he looked to have regained his composure, which was shown when he knocked Johnson down with a big left hook with 20 seconds left on the clock.
The round finished with the two standing toe to toe, swinging until the bell.
Round two was all Mullarkey, who was mixing up his strikes more effectively and being the far busier of the two.
The Aussie was starting to find a home for his shots more comfortably with added precision. This showed as he outlanded Johnson, with a recorded 45 significant strikes in the second round compared to the American’s 18.
The ‘Hooligan’ looked close to finishing Johnson after landing a brutal knee which he followed up with a barrage of elbows in the clinch. When the two fighters broke apart the damage showed on Johnson’s swollen and bloodied right eye.
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Johnson turned the fight back in his favour in the third and final round, landing the far more impactful strikes. While both fighters looked visibly fatigued, the output was just as high as the previous rounds.
To cap off a memorable fight, the two athletes finished the contest leaving it all in the octagon, swinging leather for the final seconds.
But when it came down to the scorecards, It was Mullarkey who slightly edged his American foe by split decision.
The judges scored the fight 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29 with the opening round proving to be the most decisive, after all three judges gave Mullarkey round two and Johnson round three.
In his post-fight interview with Michael Bisping, Mullarkey spoke about how much of a battle the fight was.
“I had to dig deep for that one, I knew he would take me into the trenches,” he said.
“It was a big test for me, a big step up in competition against a guy whose really been around forever.”
After a thrilling contest, both men received Fight of the Night honours which came with a fifty-thousand dollar bonus.
Now back in the winners column and having put on a memorable performance against a UFC veteran in Johnson, Mullarkey could see himself being matchup against another veteran in Clay Guida (37-22) which would have excitement written all over it.
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