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Merab Dvalishvili to appeal controversial Ricky Simon loss, expects UFC rematch

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Simon vs Dvalishvili
Merab Dvalishvili expects to rematch Ricky Simon next.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Bantamweight prospect Merab Dvalishvili is planning to appeal the controversial loss he suffered to Ricky Simon at UFC Atlantic City.

Up on the scorecards and on his way to capturing his first Octagon win, Dvalishvili was caught in a Hail Mary mounted guillotine by Simon in the closing minute of his fight at UFC Atlantic City on Saturday night. The native Georgian somehow persevered through the choke and never tapped, however that didn’t end up mattering. Dvalishvili officially lost via TKO at 5:00 of the third round — the latest stoppage in a three-round fight in UFC history — after officials for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) ruled that he had been rendered unconscious by Simon’s submission upon the fight’s conclusion.

The ruling was an instantly divisive one, with some within the MMA world defending the NJSACB’s decision — like veteran referee Marc Goddard — and others decrying the commission’s decision as a robbery. The official scorecards released post-fight showed that Dvalishvili would have captured a split decision win if the call had not been made by acting referee Liam Kerrigan. And on Monday, a still frustrated Dvalishvili admitted on The MMA Hour that he and his team are planning to file an appeal regarding how things played out.

“I just feel like they took a win from me,” Dvalishvili told host Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Because, my opinion, I think I won. I won the fight. I never tapped. I never was choked. I don’t know what’s happened. I don’t have an answer for what’s happened. I never tapped. I was still in, I was just waiting for my time, when time’s finished, and that’s it. I won it. I was winning the whole fight. I was conscious for the fight.”

The fight-ending sequence itself was a bizarre and harrowing one.

Dvalishvili secured a takedown on Simon with approximately 56 seconds left in the fight, however his head smashed onto the canvas in the process. Dvalishvili said that he suffered a stinger in his shoulder and neck from the impact, which allowed Simon to tighten his choke and easily swing himself into mount for the mounted guillotine.

From there, the race was on.

Dvalishvili effectively had to survive 53 seconds of hell to last until the horn, and he ultimately did just that — all the while, keeping his legs pumping like he was riding a bicycle as a means to show the referee and fight fans that he was still active and conscious.

“I know I have to just wait one minute, and when time’s over, I win. And that’s what I did,” Dvalishvili said. “I showed the referee I’m good, I’m fine. I was moving my feet, I showed everyone I’m good. And when the referee tried to touch me [to see if I’m conscious] and he told me to ‘show me your hands,’ I showed him my hands, whatever, my eyes, everything. I was in. I never was out, so I feel very bad. And I took my time, I was ready for when time was over, and finally, thank God, time was over.

“[The referee] said, ‘Oh, he’s out.’ I said, ‘I’m not out, I’m in. What are you talking about?’ I tried to stand up, and as soon as I started to stand up, the doctors were coming and they told me to stay down, stay down,” Dvalishvili continued. “Of course, the fight was over, I knew I won and I trusted the doctors and I stayed down, and a couple seconds later I said, ‘I’m fine, I’m good, can I stand up now?’ They said, ‘No, stay down, stay down.’

“I [kicked my] legs [during the choke] because I wanted to showed everyone I’m in. I showed everyone I’m in, I’m fighting, I’m not sleeping and I’m doing [something]. Maybe I’m not moving my head because it was too tight, somehow it was too tight, but I showed everyone as soon as he started to choke me. That’s why I was moving, all of the time, my legs. You can watch the video and you can see. Even when time was over, I still was moving my legs. I was moving, I showed everyone, I was in. I don’t understand.”

Kerrigan has not publicly commented on his decision to award Simon the win, however Goddard has. The veteran referee was seated cageside for the fight and argued that “it was pretty clear” Dvalishvili was unconscious once the fight ended.

To that point, Dvalishvili vehemently disagrees. And he’s frustrated by the lack of answers he’s received from the commission since everything went down Saturday night.

“I don’t have an answer for this, what happened, even now,” Dvalishvili said. “People ask me. People ask me, MMA fans, my friends, everybody. I don’t know answers, why judges judged like this. I don’t have answers. The fight was over. If I tapped before the fight [was over], even at 4:59 if I tapped, okay, I lost. Okay, I agree with this. If I sleep, if I’m not active, if I don’t show referee [that I’m] moving, I’m asleep or something, yes, I understand, I lost. But I never stopped. I showed everyone I was active. I was moving. The fight’s over and I stayed down. That’s it. I was breathing. I deserve one second to breathe, right? The fight’s over.”

Fortunately, there was some good that came out of an otherwise disappointing weekend.

Dvalishvili and Simon both cashed an extra $50,000 after receiving ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses for their back-and-forth scrap, and Dvalishvili said UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby already told him backstage that a chance to avenge his controversial loss is up next.

“Thanks to the UFC, I know they gave me ‘Fight of the Night.’ I appreciate it, and I appreciate also all of my fans, all the people who — everyone, I feel, everywhere, they believe me, they said I win the fight and I appreciate it,” Dvalishvili said. “This is more than a win. People, everyone believes me and everyone respects me, and this is more than a win. That’s why I’m happy. I just want to continue. I will be happy if they give me a rematch. Also, Sean Shelby told me he’s going to give me a rematch, and it would be great for me. And I’m ready for a rematch. I’m ready for my next fight.

“He was sorry about this happening and said he’s going to try and make this fight again. I really appreciate both him and the UFC for this opportunity.”