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With limited star power, UFC still beats its average Saturday night TV number

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On a show that lacked established star power past the name of Benson Henderson, and went against solid NBA All-Star skills drills activity, UFC did well above usual numbers for prelims and slightly beat its usual average for the main card.

The Henderson vs. Brandon Thatch main event from Broomfield, Colo., paced the Valentine's night UFC Fight Night to a 913,000 viewer average, slightly above the FS 1 average of 888,000. Henderson overcame a significant size difference to finish Thatch in the fourth round of a main card that went three hours and 24 minutes.

The prelims, headlined by former Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero's decision win over Rodrigo de Lima, averaged 775,000 viewers, up significantly from the 537,000 average, which shows that a strong percentage of the audience was with the show for nearly five-and-a-half hours.

The UFC programming led FS 1 to be the prime time leader in viewers for Saturday night among cable sports channels, and it was the seventh-most watched Saturday over the 24-hour period, in the history of the station.

An interesting note is that it wasn't Henderson vs. Thatch, which started just before 1 a.m. Eastern time, that was the high point of the show.  The high point was 90 minutes earlier for the Daniel Kelly vs. Patrick Walsh fight, that peaked at 1,070,000 viewers.

It wasn't quite as good for Bellator in its second show of the year. The Friday night card from Fresno, Calif., headlined by Alexander Shlemenko's knockout win over Melvin Manhoef, averaged 565,000 viewers. While it didn't work out here, Bellator's avowed goal at the beginning of the year was to have a championship fight on every Spike show.

The number was well below the roughly 700,000 viewer average Bellator has been doing on Fridays. Including DVR viewers over the next three-day period, the show had 606,000 viewers, and peaked at 967,000.

UFC returns to FS 1 for a Sunday show this week headlined by Frank Mir vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva from Porto Alegre, Brazil. Bellator's next show is Feb. 27 from Uncasville, Conn., headlined by light heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton defending against Liam McGeary in a show billed as "The British Invasion."