To buy, or not to buy? That is the question facing the modern MMA fan when pay-per-view events roll around one or two Saturday's out of the month.
The sport is in a time where the number of free UFC events outnumber the ones which require a cost, in the form of a one time pay-per-view payment. Whether that is an effort to gain attention from casual fans or a persuasive method to convince fans to drop their cash on PPV events is purely up to speculation.
One thing is for sure, however: The free events are, by and large, more entertaining than the PPVs, at least from a stoppage standpoint.
Just take a look at the amount of stoppages each of the 15 events have delivered this year.
As the data displays, the free events put on by the UFC—whether on Fuel TV, FX or Fox—have delivered more finishes than pay-per-views more often than not.
Out of the 15 UFC events this year, nine were free. Of those nine events, seven of them featured stoppages in more than 50 percent of fights.
Here are those free events and the stoppages/fights on the card:
- UFC on FX 7: 6/11
- UFC on Fox 6: 6/11
- UFC on Fuel 7: 3/12
- UFC on Fuel 8: 3/11
- UFC on Fuel 9: 7/13
- TUF 17 Finale: 9/12
- UFC on Fox 7: 8/12
- UFC on FX 8: 7/13
- UFC on Fuel 10: 10/12
The nine events combined for a stoppage rate of 55 percent (59 finishes in 107 fights), a statistic brought up by the 83-percent stoppage rate of UFC on Fuel 10, which took place earlier this month.
The six UFC PPVs have not been able to match those numbers. Here are those cards:
- UFC 156: 5/13
- UFC 157: 5/12
- UFC 158: 5/12
- UFC 159: 5/11
- UFC 160: 6/12
- UFC 161: 2/11
Looking at those numbers, just one of the six PPV events had a stoppage rate of 50 percent. All six combined for just 28 finishes out of 71 fights (39%).
Those numbers focus on events as a whole and, of course, when one drops $50 for a PPV event, they are only paying for five out of the 12 or 13 fights.
But PPV main cards in 2013 haven't delivered either.
Out of 29 main card fights, just 12 of them have ended by way of stoppage, good for a 41-percent stoppage rate. Nine of those stoppages came by way of (T)KO, making up 31 percent of the outcomes, while the mere three submissions make up 10 percent of the total outcomes.
A decision outcome is the most likely, accounting for 59 percent of PPV main card wins.
Also, three of the six PPVs of 2013 had just one stoppage each (UFC 156, UFC 158 and UFC 161). Those same three cards featured main events that went to the judges.
The main cards of free events have been notably more stoppage riddled. Out of 44 main card fights, which were free on Fox, Fuel or FX, 26 have been ended inside the allotted time (59%). And six of those nine cards saw headliners end by way of stoppage.
15 of the 44 free main card fights have ended by way of (T)KO, good for 34 percent of outcomes, while the submission finishes, numbering 11, account for 25 percent. With a 59 percent stoppage rate, a fight on a free main card is, in fact, more likely to end by way of stoppage than decision. The opposite is true for PPV main cards.
However, none of this data or analysis is meant to suggest a finish is the only way a fight can be entertaining. In fact, some fights in the past which ended by way of knockout were brutal to watch (looking at you, Frank Mir and Mirko Cro Cop). However, when gauging the entertainment-value of a given card (especially a PPV card), the amount of stoppages normally dictate whether or not that event was a success in the eyes—and in the wallets—of the fans.
Thus, for all intents and purposes, the free events of 2013 have outdone the PPV events on a very consistent basis in terms of entertainment.
Of course, one must pony up some cash to watch Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre and the rest of the sport's elite. Fans won't see any of those guys for free on Fox, FX or Fuel TV. And if you want to see Silva take on Chris Weidman at UFC 162 next month, there will be a cost of admission from your cable provider.
But when PPV events fail to live up to the hype—even if the main event ends with a dominant finish (see UFC 159: Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen)—fans struggle to find $50 in value from the card. Silva has certainly headlined his fair share of lackluster cards, even if they were only lackluster due to the fight he was apart of (see UFC 97, UFC 112).
The safe bet, considering the first half of 2013, is clear: Free events will, more often than not, deliver the more entertaining, stoppage-filled cards, while the cost of PPV events will more than likely continue serving as a talking point amongst fans.