Merab Dvalishvili lay at the center of the octagon with Ricky Simon atop him, kicking his legs again and again in hopes of creating some space.
The New Hyde Park resident was stuck in a deep choke after spending much of the previous 15 minutes as the aggressor in his bantamweight bout at UFC Fight Night 128 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The horn rang and Dvalishvili appeared to have survived, sending the fight to the judges’ scorecards. Instead, he fell backwards and was surrounded by doctors. The official stood over Dvalishvili and waved his arms, calling off the fight after the horn and awarding Simon a TKO victory in a controversial ending.
Dvalishvili, an immigrant from the country Georgia, was searching for his first UFC win in his second fight with the promotion after being on the wrong end of a split decision in his debut last December. He lost that bout to Frankie Saenz despite leading in strikes landed, takedowns and fight time controlled. Luck wasn’t on his site again Saturday as he dealt with his second debatable finish in as many fights.
Had the fight gone to the scorecards, Dvalishvili would have won by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28).
“He took me down and I couldn’t move,” Dvalishvili said of Simon. “I just waited because there was only a short amount of time left. When it was finished, I was just tired and stayed down. I knew I had won. The doctors told me to stay down. I don’t know why they gave it to him. I feel I’m the winner. I didn’t lose this fight. I just want more fights. I want to stay busy.”
Dvalishvili opened with some creative striking, using a few spinning attacks to set up a takedown. He took Simon’s back one minute into the round and did not relent, working to get his opponent to the canvas. Dvalishvili dropped Simon with a big right hand with just over two minutes left and began to swarm, not giving Simon much room. Once Simon gathered himself, he swung for a big shot of his own, only for Dvalishvili to duck it and engage in the clinch. Dvalishvili looked to get in his opponent’s head late in the round, screaming in Simon’s face after a failed flying knee by the UFC debutant.
Dvalishvili started just as aggressively in the second round, throwing a variety of strikes and keeping Simon moving backwards. Simon seemed to have the advantage midway through the round, taking Dvalishvili down and taking the back briefly, but the Serra-Longo product was able to recover and take the center of the cage, stalking Simon around the canvas once again before landing a takedown of his own. Simon attempted to scramble out of it, but Dvalishvili again would not give in easily, briefly giving up position before returning to his feet with a smile on his face.
A groin strike to Simon briefly paused action early in the third, but Dvalishvili was undeterred, continuing his slow march forward and bringing the fight to the cage. Dvalishvili kept looking for takedowns, but Simon was able to defend with better success, even landing his own midway through the round.
As the clock reached the final minute, Dvalishvili shot for a takedown, but Simon reversed the position into a choke. Dvalishvili was in trouble, but would not tap, kicking his legs in an attempt to keep air and blood flowing. The horn sounded, seemingly sending the fight to the judges, but after Dvalishvili was unable to get up at the end of the bout, the referee waved the fight off, causing some confusion.
When the result was announced, the judges were not needed as Simon had been awarded the victory.