Mixed martial arts organization UFC is coming back to Southern California this weekend. Anaheim is getting one of the biggest shows in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as it's UFC's first show on network television.
As part of a deal reported to be worth $100 million per year for UFC, Fox is airing four primetime specials per year. The deal doesn't fully go into effect quite yet, but this weekend's show is serving as a preview.
Only one fight is scheduled to air on the Saturday night special: A Heavyweight Championship bout between champion Cain Velasquez and challenger Junior Dos Santos. Will this be a five-round battle, or could it end in a minute and leave UFC fans with a show of filler?
The two also aren't stars yet. The Mexican-American Velasquez is quiet, but UFC hopes that the Latino community will latch on to him. He'd begun to catch on before, but suffered an injury that kept him on the shelf for 13 months between fights.
MMA critics believe in the fight from an athletic standpoint. Yahoo Sports' Dave Meltzer writes in the Wrestling Observer newsletter, "This is, from a pure ability standpoint, the greatest heavyweight fight in MMA history." Both fighters have seven wins and zero losses in UFC; Dos Santos suffered one loss outside of UFC in 2007. In a Yahoo Sports column, Meltzer summarizes the fight: "On the 18th anniversary of the first UFC event, at no point in company history has there been a championship match between two more competitively dominant fighters."
Velasquez is the favorite, with odds of 9 to 5 in his favor over Dos Santos.
The undercard features a fight between Clay Guida and Ben Henderson to determine the number one contender for the Lightweight Championship. It will be broadcast on Fox Deportes and online on UFC's Facebook page and FoxSports.com.
It's a big moment for UFC; it will be interesting to see how the ratings do, particularly given the odd promotion for the fight, with UFC unable to promote the show on their current main network partner, Spike. In signs of contentiousness, Spike is airing a UFC marathon up against the Fox special with other fights from the main eventers, Velasquez and Dos Santos. Fox has promoted the show heavily on their other sports programming, notably football.
The UFC on Fox 1 one-hour special will air live this Saturday night at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific. You can watch it locally on channel 11. UFC is back on pay-per-view for UFC 139 next week.
You can watch the weigh-ins live today below at 4 p.m., as well as on UFC.com. They will also air on Fuel TV.