Even though UFC 157 had far more mainstream publicity going into it, and scored significantly higher on pay-per-view than UFC 156, the prelims on FX were well behind the numbers of three weeks ago.
The UFC 157 prelims, a two-hour program that ranged in quality from a heavyweight snoozer main event where Brendan Schaub won a decision over Lavar Johnson and a potential fight of the year candidate with Dennis Bermudez winning a competitive decision over Matt Grice, did 1,267,000 viewers. The number is roughly average for what the prelim shows have been doing on FX.
The UFC 156 prelims set an FX record, and did the second-best numbers in the history of UFC pay-per-view prelims, with 1,897,000 viewers.
For reasons that aren't easy to explain, UFC fights on free television the night before the Super Bowl are a consistent winner. UFC prelims on Spike set a record in 2010, broke it in 2011, and then in 2013, nearly broke the 2011 record. Most notably, the 2010 and 2013 did ratings far beyond what the shows usually do, but neither pay-per-view that followed did average level numbers.
On Thursday, Bellator, with arguably the most explosive show in the promotion's history, did 737,000 viewers on Spike for a show headlined by Shahbulat Shamhalaev winning last season's featherweight tournament with a second0round knockout of Rad Martinez in the main event. The show also featured one of the biggest MMA upsets in modern history when Emmanuel Newton knocked out "King" Mo Lawal with a spinning backfist in the first round.
Bellator's lead-in, TNA Impact, did 1,350,000 viewers, which had to be disappointing numbers since the bulk of the show was spent teasing 59-year-old Hulk Hogan's first match in more than a year and it didn't end up happening.
The major sports competition for Bellator was an NBA game on TNT that did 2.45 million viewers. After six weeks, Bellator is averaging 786,000 viewers.