If Marc Goddard were sitting at home Saturday night and someone sent him the video of the end game in the fight between Ricky Simon and Merab Dvalishvili at UFC Atlantic City, he said he would feel the same way he does now.
The veteran MMA referee thinks Merab Dvalishvili was indeed unconscious at the bell of the three-round fight, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. Goddard said he fully believes that referee Liam Kerrigan, who was the third man in the cage of the bout, made the right call by ruling Simon as the winner by finish.
The key phrase, Goddard said, is “at the bell” — not “after the bell.” Goddard said when Kerrigan broke up Simon from his mounted guillotine choke on Dvalishvili, the referee saw Dvalishvili was unconscious and waved off the bout.
“This is the point that everybody missed,” Goddard said. “This is the point that everybody doesn’t get and I’m not new to that as a referee. Liam, I see Liam walk off and then come back. And then out of camera shot, I saw him wave the fight off. I’m like, ‘Oh god, he’s waved the fight off.’ I was actually convinced as well without any replays, watching it live for the first time, I was semi-convinced at that time that Merab was out.”
Goddard said he only got involved in what was going on, as the ringside referee, because UFC announcer Bruce Buffer came over to the commission table to ask for scorecards. Goddard said he told Buffer that no scorecards were needed, because Kerrigan waved the fight off. Simon had won.
Dvalishvili has said he definitely was not out and was just riding out the round, because he knew he had already sealed a decision victory. It’s very difficult to see from the video whether or not he was unconscious. Dvalishvili was still moving — and pedaling like he was on a bicycle seconds before — right before the bell.
Goddard said he believes those movements Dvalishvili were making were not on purpose.
“Forget the bicycling as well,” Goddard said. “I’m telling you from my experience he’s doing that as an involuntary motion. He doesn’t even know what he’s doing. And that’s why the guy is convinced that he won, because he poured it all out there. He left his heart and soul in the middle of that Octagon and I have nothing but respect for him. He wasn’t aware of the position he was in, because the beginning of the end was when he had that compression, hit himself in the top of the head and the guillotine was on from there for the last 54 seconds.”
The sequence of events really starts before Simon got into mount. Dvalishvili took Simon down with about one minute left in the fight while Simon tried clasping on the guillotine choke. In the course of the takedown, the top of Dvalishvili’s head landed on the mat hard. And it appeared he might have gone out right then. At the very least, Dvalishvili was shaken up enough for Simon to sweep and get into a mounted guillotine.
“You’ll see Merab’s hands go flat to the mat,” Goddard said. “I believe now watching the video he’s actually out at that point. That’s what I believe. What I said to the referee is that if I’m reffing that fight, I’m stopping that fight before it gets to the bell.”
Under New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSAC) rules, Simon was the winner via TKO, though it is typically called a technical submission when the fighter in the submission is unconscious. Goddard said that is just “semantics” and “immaterial” and that the right call was made.
And for critics who have said Goddard should not speak on this matter, because he was not the referee inside the cage, the longtime official said it’s his constant goal to make sure everything goes rightly and fairly in the cage.
“I don’t give a f*ck what they think or what they say,” Goddard said. … “My children aside, mixed martial arts is such a pivotal part of my life. I’ve devoted a huge part of my life to this sport, OK? To say I’m passionate about this game is a huge understatement. And when I’m involved in any capacity at an event, whether I’m a referee or outside, all I want is the right thing and the right determination to happen.”
In his opinion, from his many years of experience, Goddard believes the correct ruling did indeed occur Saturday night.
“You’ll see he’s still kicking his left leg in involuntary fashion,” Goddard said of Dvalishvili. “He’s out. He is out. And I will bet my ass to a barn door every day of the week and twice on a Sunday and I would testify everywhere else he’s out. It’s as clear as day.”