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UFC on FOX 26 overnight ratings: Quality dos Anjos-Lawler fight delivers poor numbers

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Rafael dos Anjos may have convincingly showed that he deserves a welterweight title fight by winning five straight rounds over Robbie Lawler, but it didn't move the masses.

Saturday night's UFC on FOX show from Winnipeg did 1.78 million viewers and an 0.6 rating in the 18-49 demo on the fast nationals, making it the lowest number ever for the sixth annual December network prime time special, and third lowest ever.

The number was down 34 percent from the huge success one year ago, with 2.69 million viewers on the fast nationals of a show built around the retirement fight of Urijah Faber, who beat Brad Pickett, and a Paige VanZant vs Michelle Waterson main event.

The lowest FOX number on the fast nationals to date was 1.64 million for the last show, the July card headlined by Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum.

The previous three December FOX shows, with main events of dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone (2015), Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic (2014) and Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez for the flyweight title (2013) all did between 2.25-2.29 million viewers based on the first reported fast national numbers. So by that standard, Saturday night's show was 21-22 percent below what would be considered normal December numbers.

The lack of undercard support hurt the show. Glover Teixeira, who beat Misha Cirkunov, has been around for years and has been a top light heavyweight contender, was the biggest name on the card aside from the headliners. Ricardo Lamas has challenged for the title in the past, but was not a marquee star. Opponent Josh Emmett was an unknown to the casual fans going into the fight. While Mike Perry vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio was looked forward to by hardcore fans, they weren't known to well enough casual fans.

Still, dos Anjos was a former lightweight champion who was unbeaten as a welterweight. Lawler is a former welterweight champion who is known as one of the great action-fighters of all-time, having won match of the year honors in many circles for all of the past three years. The stakes were also high as the winner would be established as the top contender for current champion Tyron Woodley.

The difference was the undercard. Last year you had Faber's retirement, and the No. 2 fight the prior three years were Alistair Overeem vs. dos Santos, dos Anjos vs. Nate Diaz and Faber vs. Michael McDonald.

The fast nationals only measure the 8-10 p.m. time slot in prime time on the East Coast, 7-9 p.m. Central, 6-8 p.m. Mountain and 8-10 p.m. Pacific. In other words, for the West Coast it measures what is on the FOX local affiliates in prime time, since the UFC show started at 5 p.m. In addition, the final three rounds of the main event, likely the highest rated portion of the show, took place after 10 p.m., so are not figured in. So the number should rise to closer to the two million range. The final ratings will be out Tuesday.

FOX tied NBC as the highest rated network in the key 18-49 demo. In its time slot, it beat everything in Males 18-49 aside from ABC's seasonal rerun of "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown" which tied it against the first hour. But FOX also drew the lowest amount of viewers for the four networks, although will surpass ABC when the final numbers come in. The first hour of the broadcast did an 0.5 in the demo, the same as ABC, CBS and NBC. The second hour tied Dateline on NBC with a 0.6 for first place.