The UFC finally put it all together on Fox TV last Saturday at UFC on Fox 5: Henderson vs. Diaz. In their prior Fox TV network television events they've either had strong ratings and disappointing fights (UFC on Fox 1 & 2) or weak ratings and fun fights (UFC on Fox 3 & 4).
For UFC on Fox 5, they had both excellent ratings and excellent in-cage performances. Dave Meltzer details just how well the main event did in the ratings in the latest Wrestling Observer (subscription only):
The 10 p.m. to 10:35 p.m. time frame when the main event was going on did a 3.3 rating and 5.7 million viewers on FOX. It grew the audience 1.2 million from the prior match, among the best audience growth numbers in MMA history, owing both to the fact they had 30 minutes to grow the audience, that the fight was exciting and people clearly took the championship seriously.
At 5.7 million viewers, it was the ninth most-watched MMA fight ever in the U.S. on television. The other thing is the real numbers in all those categories is likely up a few percentages from that, since it also aired live on FOX Deportes in Spanish. We don't have numbers available from that broadcast but it would have added a few hundred thousand more viewers. If the fight itself would have been a 30 minute television show on its own, it would have been the most watched show on broadcast or cable for the night.
Meltzer also detailed what a career redemption the Diaz fight was for Henderson. Here is a champion who just came off weak performance at UFC 150 in which many, if not most, observers thought he should have lost the decision to former champ Frankie Edgar. Even worse than Henderson's in-cage performance at UFC 150 was his anemic draw at the gate (only $619,000) and on PPV (only 190,000 buys).
The Fox showcase relieved Henderson from the pressure of having to sell PPVs and his utter domination of Diaz has made everyone forget his so-so fight against Edgar at UFC 150.
Meltzer also praised the performance of Rory MacDonald against B.J. Penn and described him as coming of "like a robotic serial killer like villain who was remarkably hated, but in a good way, and thrashed B.J. Penn, the classic torch passing in combat sports."
While we won't know exactly what impact the Fox exposure has had on the careers of Bendo and MacDonald until their next fights, there is no doubt that they advanced their careers, and the fortunes of the UFC as a whole on Fox TV last Saturday night.
Henderson will likely face either Strikeforce Lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez (himself a notorious weak ratings performer) or one of his former WEC rivals, Anthony Pettis or Donald Cerrone who themselves fight on Fox on January 26.
Henderson has beaten Cerrone twice with the first fight in particular being a classic. He famously lost to Pettis in the final WEC fight ever and any rematch would have a hard time matching the magic of the first fight which ended when Pettis leapt into the cage, bounced off and dropped Henderson with the famous "showtime kick."