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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The UFC and Fox's decision to air only the UFC Heavyweight Championship on Saturday night's debut broadcast on the network was risky, and the fact that the fight went just 64 seconds can be seen as a negative for the UFC, as the bout didn't have a chance to hook more viewers through a competitive and lengthier time-frame.
However, the fight delivered a decisive finish from a fight that had been heavily hyped; and despite the shortened length of actual in-cage action on the broadcast, almost everything about the UFC's network debut was a success.
The opening of the broadcast, featuring the Fox Sports opening theme heard every weekend on NFL broadcasts as well as Curt Menefee welcoming fans to the show, immediately legitimized this event as on par with any other major sporting event on Fox. The video packages, graphics, and introduction over the first 30 minutes raised the anticipation for the fight itself, and they did a really great job setting up the story for this fight.
Brock Lesnar made for a charismatic and credible analyst, discussing the attributes of both Velasquez and dos Santos while stating his desires for a rematch with Velasquez. They also added a breakdown of the heavyweight division with a ranking of the top five heavyweights in the division, something we haven't seen the UFC discuss themselves in a long time. There was a time when the divisional rankings were discussed on UFC broadcasts, but that hasn't been done in years, and it was a nice addition to the proceedings on Fox.
As for the small amount of time actually spent in the cage, it doesn't have to be seen as bad thing. Certainly it could affect the overall rating for the event, as some may have tuned out immediately after, but dos Santos put forth a star-making performance by knocking out the Champ and taking part in one of the more memorable post-fight interviews in memory.
At the very least, the UFC's new television partner was satisfied, as Fox Sports chief executive David Hill said the event provided what he hoped to see.
"It absolutely delivered everything I hoped it would,” Hill said in comments made to ESPN.com. “I spoke to Dana and maybe, tactically, Dana didn't play it the right way. But this is what you get in this sport. This is world heavyweight champion action."
If there was any real negative to the broadcast, it wasn't the fight ending quickly, it was Dana White's unfortunate decision to question Velasquez's gameplan and denigrate dos Santos' performance immediately after. In the heat of the moment, he seemed upset that the fight ended like it did, and it came off more that he was upset Velasquez lost at all. Not only that, but he brought into the conversation a perceived weakness of his new Heavyweight Champion by saying he tires out later in fights. He then didn't take the time to let fans know how special dos Santos is, and to sell how well he performed in the fight, and it was a missed opportunity.
Ultimately, the ratings will decide whether the decision to air one fight alone was the best way to go, but it's not the be-all end-all for UFC and Fox. The two sides haven't even officially embarked on their new television partnership, and Saturday's broadcast provided plenty of great signs for what's to come.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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