Ricky Simon’s victory over Merab Dvalishvili will stand.
The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) denied Dvalishvili’s appeal of the result of the UFC Atlantic City fight Friday in a letter penned by Commissioner Larry Hazzard, Sr.
Hazzard wrote that results can be overturned due to a clear referee error, but in this instance the NJSACB found that referee Liam Kerrigan did not make one.
“In summary, I do not find that Mr. Kerrigan committed a self-evident and palpable error; or even any error which comes close to that standard,” Hazzard wrote. “Solely because a decision is disputed does not make such facially incorrect.”
The letter was sent to Dvalishvili’s representative Matthew Culley and made public by the NJSACB.
In the final minute of the bout last Saturday, Simon grabbed a mounted guillotine choke on Dvalishvili and held onto it for more than 40 seconds until the third round expired. Kerrigan separated the two fighters and, at some point thereafter, ruled the bout to be a finish — and not going to the scorecards. Kerrigan seemingly felt that Dvalishvili lost consciousness and called the fight for Simon via TKO by technical submission, the parlance used in New Jersey.
Hazzard said he consulted with Kerrigan, referee Marc Goddard and NJSACB counsel Nick Lembo immediately after the fight about Kerrigan’s decision.
“I was cageside and formed my own opinion that the conclusion was correct,” Hazzard wrote. “This was only reinforced as I watched the large monitor which was supplied in front of my cageside seat. Referee Marc Goddard provided his input to me cageside after he heard Counsel Lembo calling for the collection of the judges cards and the scoring of the third round. Mr. Lembo was of the opinion that the fight should be scored. There is nothing untoward about Goddard providing his input. “Polling” of cageside officials is an accepted practice. However, in this case, it may be irrelevant, as Goddard was only in agreement with Kerrigan’s original call and my review. There was no disagreement with Goddard about the attempt to determine the proper victor.”
Dvalishvili argued afterward that he was not unconscious and simply riding out the rest of the round in the choke. He knew if he had made it to the final bell without tapping, he would have won the bout by decision. Goddard said Monday on The MMA Hour that he believes Dvalishvili was out at the bell and Kerrigan made the right call.
While in the choke, Dvalishvili was moving and pumping his legs right up until the final bell. He was still when the fight ended. But, even after replays, his state is difficult to determine. Dvalishvili was awake and conscious about one second after Kerrigan broke the athletes up. Hazzard wrote that, because of the nature of the choke as more of a crank, it would have made it easier for a fighter to come to quickly.
“Please be reminded that we do not need multiple seconds of unconsciousness,” Hazzard wrote. “Also note that it is common for a contestant to have a momentary loss of consciousness but no recollection of such.”
Hazzard wrote that the NJSACB is aware of the controversy around the decision, but it will stick with Kerrigan’s initial ruling because of the belief that it was the correct call in the moment.
“We fully are aware of the disparity of the viewpoints of the declared outcome,” Hazzard wrote. “This is true even after days of discussion by fans and media and countless video reviews. I can only state that Kerrigan was unwavering in his call, and that I believed him to be correct, or at least well within his discretion to make such a call. Despite the variety of opinions, we note that veteran referee Marc Goddard was cageside and agreed with the call. Furthermore, the most experienced referee in the sport’s history, John McCarthy (who watched offsite via television) felt that the outcome was just and proper.”