Vancouver, Washington’s Ricky Simon Wins UFC Debut But Not Without Controversy

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Mixed Martial Arts, as we know it today, is still a relatively young sport. The rules are evolving all the time and that means there is bound to be controversy in the cage from time to time. Former UFC champion Frank Mir won his first UFC title on a technical submission when he broke the forearm of then champion Tim Sylvia. Sylvia did not tap but referee Herb Dean heard the arm snap and called a stop to the action. George St. Pierre won an infamous rematch against BJ Penn after being covered in petroleum jelly throughout the fight. Though video evidence showed his corner rubbing the substance on his back, the fight was allowed to continue and Penn’s corner would eventually throw in the towel. In February, UFC standout Jeremy Stephens won an important fight against fast rising star Josh Emmett. The fight ended with an illegal knee and series of illegal elbows by Stephens. This past weekend the controversy snake reared its ugly head again. This time it affected Pacific Northwest standout Ricky Simon.

Ricky Simon has long been heralded as the next big thing in the Pacific Northwest. It was not a huge surprise that he was signed to the UFC following a successful title defense for Legacy Fighting Alliance last month. It was, however, a surprise that he was scheduled to fight only a month later at UFC Fight Night 128. The matchup seemed tailor-made for Simon. His opponent, Merab Dvalishvili, is a heavy-handed wrestler who had not shown great speed. Simon, a great wrestler in his own right, was believed to have the better wrestling game, speed advantage, and was entering the fight on a five fight win streak. The fight that played out showed that Dvalishvili was far better than advertised and he and Simon made magic in the Octagon.

The fight that played out had great back and forth action. Simon suffered some adversity in round 1 after being hit with an uppercut that sent him to the mat. He recovered nicely but it took the rest of the round and he was never able to turn the tide in his favor. Dvalishvili used this momentum heading into round 2 and was able to stifle the production of Simon by forcing several takedowns. The takedowns themselves were not terribly impressive, but the pressure displayed forced Simon on the defensive again and this gave Dvalishvili the edge heading into round 3. Here’s where the fight really heated up. Simon came out looking to force the action. He pressed Dvalishvili, secured a takedown, landed clean shots to the body, and forced his opponent to become reactive. This reactive mindset is what set up the most important moment of the fight. With about a minute left in the final round, Dvalishvili shot in for a takedown and Simon was able to secure a guillotine choke and role his opponent over to a mounted position. Simon held the choke for nearly a minute while Dvalishvili flailed his legs and panicked his way to the bell.

This is where things get a little crazy. Simon was telling referee Liam Kerrigan that his opponent was out throughout the choke attempt. To his credit, Dvalishvili showed the referee on two separate instances that he was in fact still awake. Then it happened. The round ended and it was completely clear to some that Dvalishvili was actually out. His left leg was spasming and he was not conscious, but about a second and a half later, he came to and expressed that he was ok. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that Simon held the choke, Dvalishvili squirmed and moved the entire time and when the round ended he had not tapped and was not out, it’s as simple as that.

As it turns out, the referee agreed with Simon. He believed that Dvalishvili was out when the round ended and the rule states; a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round. Since the referee saw that the fighter was out, it was his decision to call the fight in that moment and awarded Simon the TKO victory. But that’s just the thing, that rule is not one that is known in most households. This rule even proved to be something new to a number of fighters who openly criticized the decision on social media. There was no question that the fight was exciting and thanks to Simon’s choke and Dvalishvili’s stubbornness, fans got their money’s worth. This won’t be the last controversy we see in the cage. There are plenty of little known rules just waiting to surface and get fight fans debating.

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About David Golden 145 Articles
David Golden is the Senior MMA Columnist for Oregon Sports News. David’s articles have been featured on,,, among other major websites. David has covered mixed martial arts since 2013 and in addition to his work with OSN David is a past contributor at Cagepotato.