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Mackenzie Dern’s UFC debut draws most viewers on UFC 222 undercard

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Saturday night’s prelims before UFC 222 did 905,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1, and another 12,029 streaming, both major increases over the show three weeks earlier.

With the top pay-per-view matches being Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega, the prelims topped the UFC 221 show headlined by Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero by 30 percent in television viewers and 49 percent in streaming viewers

The streaming numbers were the second-largest ever for a UFC pay-per-view prelim show, trailing only UFC 217, the show headlined by Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping.

The numbers were almost identical to UFC 220, which also did 905,000 viewers and 11,009 streaming. But that was for, what was on paper, a far more attractive pay-per-view show, with the Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou heavyweight title fight and the Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir light heavyweight title fight. It’s also not far off from UFC 219, with Cyborg vs. Holly Holm, where the prelims did 914,000 viewers.

A key to the numbers may have been the UFC debut of Mackenzie Dern, since her fight with Ashley Yoder was the high point of the show with 1,076,000 viewers.

Prelim numbers often correlate with pay-per-view buys, although there are exceptions to the rule. The earliest estimates of the pay-per-view itself are that the numbers will be nowhere close to the 350,000 to 400,000 range for UFC 219 and 220, but will handily beat UFC 221.

The show went against significant sports competition. ESPN had the University of North Carolina vs. Duke college basketball game at 3,369,000 viewers. The NBA on ABC had Boston vs. Houston doing 3,193,000 viewers. The NHL on NBC with Toronto vs. Washington did 1,107,000 viewers.

In addition, there were major boxing shows on both HBO and Showtime. The HBO show, with Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin, did 599,000 viewers for the main event itself, but that went head-to-head with the UFC pay-per-view show and aired after the UFC 222 prelims were over. Showtime had the biggest fight of the night, with Deontay Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title defense against Luis Ortiz, which did 1,055,000 for the fight itself and averaged 730,000 for the show. The portion of the show that went head-to-head with the UFC prelims did about 550,000 viewers.

While Dern vs. Yoder had more viewers than Wilder vs. Ortiz, it should be noted that FS1 is in 83.8 million homes, HBO is in 36.0 million homes and Showtime is in 28.1 million homes.

The UFC pre-fight show did 431,000 viewers and post-fight show did 177,000 viewers, which was down from the 188,000 for the Rockhold-Romero show three weeks earlier.

Bellator on Friday night on the Paramount Network did 465,000 viewers that night, and 531,000 including DVR viewership over the next three days for the show headlined by Darrion Caldwell’s bantamweight title defense over Leandro Higo. The peak rating, including DVR viewership over the next three days, was 745,000 viewers.