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UFC on FOX 18 draws 2,685,000 viewers

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Both UFC and Bellator over the weekend did below usual numbers for shows that didn't look on paper like big ratings shows.

UFC on FOX on Saturday night averaged 2,685,000 viewers, a number slightly below the past three FOX events. The show would have likely done right about the usual numbers except the main event with Anthony "Rumble" Johnson vs. Ryan Bader in a light heavyweight title contenders fight only lasted 86 seconds. The quick fight meant no time to build a rating, and more importantly, the main event ended well before 10 p.m. The FOX shows usually do their best numbers when the main events goes long, as the numbers always get stronger after 10 p.m.

The number was slightly ahead of the 2.5 million viewers that the Danny Garcia vs. Robert Guerrero boxing match did on FOX the previous Saturday.

The previous three UFC on FOX broadcasts have ranged between 2,745,000 and 2,780,000 viewers, while the late January show last year, where Johnson also scored a quick knockout over Alexander Gustafsson, did 3,049,000 viewers. Gustafsson at that point, coming off his great performance in nearly winning the light heavyweight title from Jon Jones, was a bigger star than Bader.

The positive is that the prelims on FS 1 did 702,000 viewers, a show headlined by Tarec Saffiedine's decision win over Jake Ellenberger. That was up from 607,000 viewers for the Johnson vs. Gustafsson prelims last year. It was the best prelims on FS 1 number leading into a FOX show in two years.

The previous night, the Bellator show headlined by Paul Daley vs Andy Uhrich did 566,000 viewers. The show was no doubt hurt by the loss of original headliner Josh Koscheck, who pulled out due to an injury. It was an explosive event with three first-round knockouts in the top three fights. Short fights make for entertaining shows for the masses, but don't usually help with ratings, since the more fight time, the better the ratings will generally be.

Bellator usually does in the 650,000 viewer range for the non-tentpole Friday night events.

Another factor in looking at Bellator numbers going forward is a decline in homes getting Spike TV. Comcast cable in mid-January moved Spike from the basic tier to a premium tier, which requires a more expensive package. Spike TV officials said they didn't know yet how that decision will affect the overall number of homes the station reaches.