Six years ago a partnership between the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Spike TV propelled mixed martial arts into the national consciousness. Last night that partnership ended with a whimper as Spike aired its last two UFC bouts, preliminary fights from the UFC 141 card. Both were less than thrilling fights that went to decision.
UFC 141 results: Ross Pearson defeats Junior Assuncao by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
UFC 141 results: Danny Castillo defeats Anthony Njokuani by split decision (29-28 Castillo, 29-28 Njokuani, 29-28 Castillo).
The UFC's relationship with Spike TV has been in a downward spiral since the breakdown of negotiations to renew their partnership earlier this year. Things degenerated further when the UFC signed a seven year deal with Fox and Spike's parent company Viacom acquired Bellator, a rival MMA promotion. Open acrimony broke out when Spike TV aggressively counter-programmed Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1 with a number of fights featuring dos Santos and Velasquez.
UFC president Dana White took that as a declaration of war and has refused to do anything to promote the final six weeks worth of UFC bouts on Spike TV. The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale was a casualty of White's scorched earth policy as were the two preliminary fights airing on Spike TV last night. The ratings have been good for the final few Spike fights and I expect that the UFC 141 bouts will be no exception.
Neither fight was anything to write home about although both bouts featured a decent amount of action. Lightweight wrestler Danny Castillo managed to take kickboxing specialist Anthony Njokuani out of his game enough to get a split decision.
Featherweights Ross Pearson and Junior Assuncao put on three action-filled rounds but neither man was able to get a decisive advantage. All three judges scored it for Pearson, but there was some grumbling online that Assuncao deserved the nod.
Regardless it was an unheralded farewell to the television relationship that did more to get the UFC and mixed martial arts over with a mass audience in the U.S. than any other factor.