The sport of mixed martial arts, notably the UFC, has really burst onto the scene over the last decade or so. The conversation around the sport, once considered barbaric, has softened with people speaking more of the well-rounded skills these fighters have rather than simply its all-out aggression.
That said, when tuning into a UFC event, the majority of folks are looking for a finish to the fight rather than a drawn-out bout that goes the distance – especially when it comes to the heavyweight division. This isn’t to say that a fight that goes to the judges’ scorecards can’t be interesting, but there’s something about a beautiful knockout or submission – especially when you bet on it at a good value.
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2020 Saw A Dip In Finishes
In the above graphic provided by Statista, we can see that 2020 had the fewest stoppages over the last seven years. Some might think there were fewer cards due to the pandemic, but the UFC held 41 events, just one fewer than in 2019 and two more than in 2017 and 2018.
I think the factor that made the biggest impact was having no fans or fewer fans in the stands due to COVID-19. All the events staged at the UFC Apex Performance Center took place in front of empty seats and you could clearly hear the fighters’ corners giving clear instructions to assist their students both offensively and defensively.
As well, watching those events it was obvious that some fighters relished the silence, not being overwhelmed by 12,000 or more drunk screaming fans, while others didn’t perform as well.
While there weren’t as many stoppage victories as we have seen in the past, there’s no doubt it didn’t impact the growth of the sport. With the sport getting picked up by ESPN, the leading sports network in the United States, the popularity of the UFC has exploded and regardless of how a fight plays out, fans will flock to their TVs every Saturday night to watch the fights and hope for a crazy knockout.