Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The prelims to UFC 154 did similar numbers to those of the four previous pay-per-view shows, while Bellator's number was almost identical to last week. However, after two encouraging weeks, the Ultimate Fighter numbers on Friday were the second lowest in the history of the series.
It was not a big weekend when it came to ratings for UFC and Bellator.
The biggest show, the live prelims for UFC 154 on Saturday night and headlined by the Patrick Cote vs. Alessio Sakara fight, did 980,000 viewers on FX. That is the normal level the prelims to pay-per-view events have been doing since the 1.8 million number pulled by the UFC 148 prelims. That show was on July 7, leading up to the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen middleweight title fight, which has been UFC's biggest show so far this year.
But the difference between this and the shows since is UFC 154 featured the return of Georges St-Pierre, the company's biggest drawing card. In theory, with more people expected to be buying the pay-per-view, more would be home watching the prelims. Yet, that didn't happen here. The numbers for the prelims would make sense to correlate with the ups and downs of pay-per-view numbers, but very often that is not the case. It is too early to get pay-per-view numbers but expectations going in were for the show to be among the biggest of the year.
The prelims for UFC 149, 150, 152 and 153 (there was no 151) ranged from 955,000 to 1 million viewers.
After two straight weeks of encouraging numbers, 'The Ultimate Fighter' (TUF) on Friday fell to 643,000 viewers for two tournament quarterfinal fights. The audience was down 30 percent from the 921,000 viewers on Nov. 9. Friday's show saw Neil Magney and Colton Smith advance to the semifinals, scoring dominant unanimous decision wins over Bristol Marunde and Igor Araujo, respectively. The show only placed tenth in its time slot in males 18-34, the show's target demographic. It was the second-lowest audience number in the history of the 16-season show.
It beat only the Oct. 12 show that did 624,000 viewers. But that show had far stronger sports competition with Major League Baseball playoffs. The only major sports competition for TUF was NBA basketball on ESPN that did 2.04 million viewers, a number that is nothing out of the ordinary for Friday night sports competition.
Bellator on Friday, featuring lightweight tournament semifinals, did 149,000 viewers, almost identical to last week's 148,000. Marcin Held advanced with a submission win over Rich Clementi and Dave Jansen scored a controversial decision over Ricardo Tirloni, to set the two up for a tournament final tentatively set for Dec. 14. Bellator is averaging 166,000 viewers this season with three live events remaining on MTV 2 before the January move to Spike. There is no live show this weekend, with MTV 2 airing a season recap on Friday and live shows returning on Nov. 30 with the Lyman Good vs. Andrey Koreshkov welterweight tournament final.
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