After women had powered UFC's ratings on FOX to high-level marks in 2016, the final numbers for Saturday's UFC on FOX show, headlined by Valentina Shevchenko's second-round submission win over Julianna Pena, were the second-lowest in the history of the series.
The show averaged 2,189,000 viewers on a night that aside from an NBA game on ABC, had little in the way of major sports competition. The Kansas vs. Kentucky college basketball game was over 27 minutes into the main card broadcast, and HBO boxing started after the show went off the air.
The lowest number for a FOX prime time show was 1,983,000 viewers for the Aug. 27 show headlined by Demian Maia's win over Carlos Condit. But that show was preempted in 15 markets due to preseason NFL coverage. The previous low mark was 2,380,000 viewers for a January 27, 2013, show featuring Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga for the flyweight title.
There were a few reasons for the low numbers. With quick fights, three second-round finishes, and the Francis Ngannou win over Andrei Arlovski lasting 92 seconds, the amount of actual fight time was less than usual. In addition, the show ended at 10 p.m. For maximum ratings, the key is often a long main event that goes as far past 10 p.m. as possible. This show ended at 10 p.m.
Still, the key factor was less interest in the main event and overall show than most of the prior FOX offerings.
The main event drew 3,003,000 viewers.
Shevchenko's main event win over Holly Holm on July 23 headlined a show that averaged 2,975,000 viewers and did 4,687,000 for the main event, both all-time records for a UFC summer show. The Dec. 17 show headlined by Michelle Waterson's win over Paige VanZant, bolstered by Urijah Faber's retirement fight, averaged 3,178,000 viewers and did 4,800,000 for the main event quarter. It was at the time the most-watched UFC event on television since Jan. 25, 2014.
The prelims, on FOX Sports 1, headlined by Sam Alvey's win over Nate Marquardt, did 619,000 viewers. The pre-show on FS 1 did 145,000 viewers. The post show aired live on FS 2 and did 75,000 viewers, and was replayed after midnight on FS 1, where it did 128,000 viewers.
Bellator, on the other hand, had surprisingly good numbers on Friday night, doing 720,000 viewers for a show headlined by Anthony Njokuani's easy decision win over Melvin Guillard. That's well above what they usually draw for a regular show.
It was the third most-watched sports program of the night, trailing an NBA game with Houston vs. Philadelphia on ESPN, which did 1,543,000 viewers, and X games coverage on ESPN, that did 828,000 viewers.
The show peaked at 904,000 viewers for the David Rickels vs. Aaron Derrow fight.
The key to the number was probably momentum coming off its third-biggest audience in history six nights earlier for the Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen fight.