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Shogun vs. Sonnen draws remarkable ratings on FOX Sports 1

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

FOX Sports 1 got off to an impressive debut Saturday night doing a 1.38 rating and 1.78 million viewers for the three-hour main card headlined by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Chael Sonnen based on Nielsen's fast nationals.

The rating is the key, because FOX Sports 1 was not in as many homes as FX. The company's most successful card on FX, the Jan. 19 show headlined by Michael Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort, did a 1.27 rating and 1.86 million viewers.  Essentially, on its first night in existence, the UFC show, had it been in the same number of homes would have beaten the highest-rated UFC card to date on FX, an established top-tier cable channel.

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The final rating will not come out until Tuesday, but is likely to vary little from the first number.

Even more remarkable was that the first night of a new station beat all four major networks on Saturday night in the key demographics, when it came to Adult 18-49 viewers as well as Males 18-34 and 18-49, the group UFC is expected to be strong in.

The show beat the usual FX prime time live card average by 49 percent in ratings and 38 percent in total viewers.

The difference is that the rating measures the percentage of the homes who have access to the station watching, meaning its a fair comparison tool for a station that is in less homes.  Total viewers is an absolute number where a show on FX would have an edge because of more clearances.

It also beat, in total viewers, the average that FX delivered for prime time live shows by 50 percent in the Male 18-49 demographic.

The show beating the FX average is impressive only because it was the first day of a new station.  But based on the card, it should have, because it was more heavily promoted and had a stronger lineup than most shows UFC has put on FX.