How Did the First Half of 2013 Compare to 2012 for the UFC?
The first half of 2013 is complete, and the UFC surged into the second half this past weekend with UFC 162.
Before moving forward with the latter six months of this year, let's take a look back at what we've seen so far in 2013 and see how it stacks up to 2012 in its entirety.
Is the UFC on track to have as good a year in 2013 as it did in 2012? Are pay-per-view numbers up, or are they trending the wrong way?
We'll take a look at what went down in 2012 compared to how 2013 is trending for the UFC in terms of fights, stoppages, championship headliners, and buyrates.
Note: Only events from the first six months of 2013 are included in this analysis, meaning UFC 161 is not.
UFC on Pace for More Fights Per Event in 2013
In the first six months of 2013, fans were treated to a total of 178 fights. There were 341 total contests in 2012, meaning—heading into July—the UFC was on pace to have 15 more fights this year than last.
But the more telling statistic is how many fights took place per event held.
The promotion put on 31 events last year; Through June this year, we've seen 15 events.
An event in 2012 featured an average of 11 bouts. In the past six months, each event has averaged 11.86 fights.
Last year, 10 cards had either nine or 10 scheduled fights. Three fight cards this year had 13 fights, while none had fewer than 11.
The increased number of fights from last year to this year has a lot to do with the Strikeforce imports. Another factor could be the injury bug, or the UFC's attempt to get more out of events. Realistically, it's a combination of all three.
Regardless, the promotion is clearly focused on filling 12 or 13 slots per event. Cards such as UFC 161, which had 11 fights, are normally going to include less fights due to injury.
But the days of 10- or nine-fight cards seem to be long gone.
Stoppage Rate Is Down This Year, but Just Slightly
In 2012, 177 out of 341 contests ended via stoppage, good for a 52 percent clip. The finish rate of 2012 in the UFC is on the other half of the 50-50 mark.
In 178 fights, 87 have ended by knockout, submission, or doctor's stoppage, putting the rate at just short of 49 percent.
However, stoppages per event are trending in the opposite direction, an obvious result of the increase in fights-per-card.
Of course, events such as the aforementioned UFC 161, featuring just two stoppages, weigh down the stoppage rate.
Other events, such as UFC on Fuel 10, send it skyrocketing. That event featured 10 stoppages in 12 fights.
Still, the difference in finishes between 2012 and 2013 is marginal (and almost non-existent). Hoping to see an average of six stoppages per event seems realistic moving forward, though there will always be events landing on the low or high end of that spectrum.
2013 Is on Pace for Same Amount of Submissions, One Less Knockout
In a second effort to display just how close the stoppage aspect has been between the past six months compared to the 12 before them, take a look at the amount of knockouts and submissions in 2012.
Last year, 105 fights ended by way of (T)KO, while 70 ended in submission. This year, fans have witnessed 35 submissions compared to 52 (T)KO's.
These numbers mean, heading into the second half of 2013, the UFC was on pace to see 104 fights end via knockout with 70 ending by way of submission.
The former falls one short of last year's amount of KO stoppages, while the submission amounts would mirror one another.
These numbers may seem insignificant, but the point—same as the last—is to display the stoppage trend. The change between this year and last has been minimal in that regard, so hedge expectations when tuning into a card.
The numbers are basically static.
Title Headliners Trending Up in First Six Months of This Year
In the first six months of this year, seven of 15 cards have featured title headliners. In 2012, just 12 of 31 events were headlined by championship bouts.
Last year, two of 11 pay-per-view events were not headlined by a championship contest, and one of those cards—UFC 147—was one of the worst in recent memory. The other card was UFC 153, featuring Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar.
UFC 161 is the lone pay-per-view this year not to be headlined by a championship, though it was originally set to feature a contest for bantamweight gold.
The promotion seems to recognize that fans are becoming less and less likely to purchase a pay-per-view nowadays (something that will be touched on later). Therefore, a title is almost always going to be on the line when fans are dropping cash for an event.
What's more, the UFC has displayed just how unafraid it's become in placing a title fight on free television.
That trend began at UFC on Fox 1 with a heavyweight title tilt between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. Just one free card last year featured a championship bout, but we've had two so far this year.
Moving forward, expect the vast, vast majority of pay-per-view events to be headlined by a title fight, something that should not be much to ask from the promotion considering there are 10 champions at the moment (including interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao).
Also, title headliners on free cards will likely continue to be fairly commonplace in comparison to years past.
Pay-Per-View Buyrate Up in 2013 from 2012
The amount of UFC pay-per-view buys in 2013 is a difficult aspect to compare to the numbers from 2013, if only because the buyrate for UFC 160 and UFC 161 are still out.
But let's see what we can come up with.
The first four events of this year averaged 557,500 buys, thanks largely to the reported 900,000 reeled in by UFC 158: St-Pierre vs. Diaz.
The 14 pay-per-view events of 2012 averaged short of 420,000 per event (416,786 to be exact).
However, the last two events of the first six months of 2013 featured a very uneven heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva (if you saw the first fight, you likely weren't eager to see the rematch) and a lackluster light heavyweight contest between two struggling fighters.
Velasquez's last pay-per-view headliner drew 590,000 buys. This one almost certainly fell below the 500K mark, considering his opponent. The Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson headliner at UFC 161 was probably far more disappointing.
Look at it this way: The last two pay-per-views headlined by Evans in non-title fights drew an average of 305,000 buys.
Even if UFC 160 and UFC 161 drew 400,000 buys apiece, the average pay-per-view buy-rate of 2013 would drop to around the 500,000 mark (and UFC 161 probably didn't come remotely close to 400K).
Even with Velasquez headlining UFC 160, MMASupremacy.com reported in June that the buyrate is probably between 300,000 and 400,000.
Still, regardless of an expectedly low buy-rate for UFC 161, the numbers are up in 2013 from 2012.
As stated in the previous slide, the UFC execs appear to be doing their best to place title fights in the main event of every pay-per-view.
Once numbers come in for UFC 161, the first event of July, the buyrate average should recover from the final two events of the first half of this year.
But at least the increased average shows that fans are finding more pay-per-views worthy of their hard-earned cash. At least that's the indication.
Biggest Change of 2013: Introduction of Women's MMA
The most notable difference between 2012 and 2013 is the addition of the UFC women's bantamweight division.
At UFC 157, Ronda Rousey made history by becoming the first-ever UFC women's champion, defeating Liz Carmouche in the promotion's first women's fight.
Since that February fight, we've seen several other women step foot in the Octagon, including Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis and Sara McMann.
And to further prove that women's MMA is sticking around (and rightly so), Rousey and Tate are currently filming the upcoming season as The Ultimate Fighter, coaching opposite one another.
2012 may not have featured a revolutionary change to the UFC roster and pound-for-pound landscape—Rousey is certainly a player on that list—but last year we did see the introduction of the UFC flyweight division.
At UFC 152, Demetrious Johnson became the first-ever 125-pound champion, upsetting Joseph Benavidez in the co-main event of that card.
But the inclusion of that weight class was not nearly as dynamic of a move as the decision to bring women into the Octagon.
Just a handful of women's bantamweight fights have taken place thus far in 2013, but watch for them to become more and more prevalent moving into the second half.