Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and partner Fox Broadcasting Company had quite a bit riding on last night's (Aug. 17, 2013) UFC Fight Night 26 event on the launching Fox Sports 1 network at the TD Garden in Boston, MA..
It was the debut of a new channel and all the stars were out for the show, which featured five straight hours of combat spread out over 10 televised fights. With so many eyes on the inaugural event, they absolutely needed to knock it out of the park.
Needless to say, they didn't just hit a home run, they hit a grand slam.
Many comparisons were drawn between the Fox Sports 1 debut and the 2011 debut of UFC on Fox featuring the Cain Velasquez vs Junior dos Santos Heavyweight title fight. Where that event failed due to the "59 minutes of talking and one minute of fighting," everything that took place last night seemed to deliver.
And it was the fights which made the night so special. UFC dished out an unprecedented six bonuses totaling $300,000 and every one of them was handed out to fighters who appeared on FS1 in the final three hours of programming. They had a little bit of everything, from Travis Browne pulling off one of the most athletic heavyweight knockouts of all time, to Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett setting an unbelievable pace leading to a wild finish to Matt Brown blitzing his way to his sixth straight UFC victory.
The main event in particular delivered as UFC's favorite mouthy ex-realtor Chael Sonnen stepped up and not only dominated former champion Mauricio Rua with his wrestling, but forced the prideful Brazilian to submit for the first time in nearly six years with a first round guillotine choke.
Some hype trains were derailed (Alistair Overeem, Uriah Hall), other prospects passed tests with flying colors (Conor McGregor). There was a changing of the guard with Steven Siler knocking off 37-year old former WEC champion Mike Brown while other veterans proved they're still top dog as Urijah Faber overcame early adversity to dominate the last 12 minutes of his bantamweight contest against Iuri Alcantara. You even had a fighter with his back against the wall in Michael Johnson put on the performance of his career with a fifteen minute beatdown of Joe Lauzon in hostile territory.
It was a special night.
Even the least entertaining bout of the night featuring Uriah Hall vs. John Howard had a decent story attached to it with Howard returning to UFC as the biggest underdog on the card and managing to overcome the odds to take home a unanimous decision.
Perhaps most important of all was the tone set for Fox Sports 1. UFC didn't mess around with this card, putting high profile fights on in multiple weight classes featuring a wide array of top 10 fighters in significant divisional showdowns.
For one night, at least, UFC and Fox Sports 1 were destination television, and they'd certainly like to keep it that way. Round two comes up in just 13 days (Aug. 28) with UFC Fight Night 27: "Condit vs Kampmann 2" and this will be a tough act to follow.