Though UFC 139 featured what was probably the best fight we've seen this year in the night's main event between Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua, it was probably best suited for that event, as opposed to the inaugural UFC on Fox event that saw Junior dos Santos score a TKO victory over Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds. The first, and most obvious reason is that the Fox event averaged above five million viewers and had a reported peak of 8.8 million viewers – though some are now saying it could even be above nine million.
In other words, why second guess an event that performed above expectations and became the most-watched MMA event in history – without even factoring in the Brazilian audience. No, it's safe to say that going with Velasquez vs. dos Santos was the best course of action, as the heavyweights always bring in the numbers.
But now, a week after that event, UFC 139 puts on a helluva show, from Urijah Faber showcasing a revitalized skillset to set up a bantamweight title fight with Dominick Cruz to "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva throwing muay thai knees from the clinch to score a TKO over Cung Le, to Henderson and "Shogun" putting up a fight for the ages. It was an event worth every bit of an 8.8 million viewership, but that doesn't mean it will get it. Far below that, more than likely. That's just how the UFC's pay per view model has worked.
What will be interesting, though, is whether or not the UFC on Fox event will lead to more buys for UFC 139. Retroactively, we can say this event should be through the worth and worth every bit of your $49.99 or $54.99, depending on your preference for high definition, but before the fight, how much interest did it draw? You had two knockout artists in Shogun and Henderson in the main event, and Wanderlei in the co-main event. Faber was possibly the bigger draw on the card and, on paper, it's a card that could have exceeded most folks' expectations of around 300k buys.
If the event gets, say, 500,000 buys, can we then say that it got a boost from UFC on Fox? How about 600,000? It will be very interesting to see how many buys this event gets, but the UFC is most definitely heading in the right direction with UFC on Fox, regardless. And the actual deal with the network doesn't even kick in until 2012 – so the future of the sport is bright.
One way to help it along, though? Put Dan Henderson on one of the early Fox cards – it doesn't matter who against and it doesn't matter if he's the main event or the co-main. Whether he drops to 185 in pursuit of Anderson Silva's belt or he has his eyes on Jon Bones Jones, the public needs to see the 41-year old fight and, more than likely, win.