The Neilsen ratings for Saturday's UFC on FOX show were the highest in one year, but not two years, when the final numbers came out Tuesday.
The show, headlined by Anthony "Rumble" Johnson's first-round win over Alexander Gustafsson that earned Johnson a title shot at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, did a 1.8 rating and 3,049,000 viewers. That beat the past three shows on FOX, but was slightly down from the 1.9 rating and 3,200,000 viewers for the Jan. 26, 2014, show headlined by Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson.
Because of the greater number of homes that FOX reaches as compared to Fox Sports 1, the Jan. 18 number for Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver, while slightly less in terms of viewers, was actually significantly more impressive.
It is almost a sure thing that had this show lasted as long as last year's show, which had a main event that went the full five rounds instead of 2:15, most of which took place after 10 p.m., that it would have beaten last January's ratings. For MMA, the two factors in the ratings are, first and foremost, anticipation in the show, and after that comes competition on television and the amount of fight time. Viewers tune in most during actual fight time, particularly fight time involving fighters they know.
Going shorter than usual and having only 22 minutes of fight time with four fights were going to hurt the overall rating. In comparison, last year's January show had 60 minutes total of fight time with three fights going the distance.
As expected, the audience peak was for the Gustafsson vs. Johnson main event, with 3,646,000 viewers.
Unusual for UFC, the strongest demographic was Males 25 to 54, which did a 2.1 as compared to Males 18 to 49 at 1.8. Overall, the real strength was Males between the ages of 35 and 54.
The show beat everything on television, both network and broadcast, on Saturday night in every key male demo during the two hours and easily won the night when it came to network competition in the 18-49 demo, although not in overall viewers.
Based on the overnight ratings, they showed Saturday's show being UFC's strongest on FOX since the January, 2013 show, but that was because the overnights measure 8-10 p.m. and the main event last year took place after 10 p.m.
The three-hour prelims from 5-8 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 averaged 607,000 viewers. The show featured fighters with no substantial marquee value, with the top match being Albert Tumenov vs. Nico Muoske. The Jan. 26, 2014 prelims in the same time slot did 713,000 viewers.