In the July 12 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required), Dave Meltzer has the breakdown of the early trending patterns for the amount of buys UFC 116 garnered.
Based on trending patterns, which also show some wide variations instead of consistencies, the number would look to be 1.15 million to 1.25 million. Those are usually very good predictors of buys, but they are not numbers coming from direct buys. But based on trending levels, the show looks good for finishing in the No. 2 spot on the all-time UFC list. It would be a big surprise to finish lower than No. 4.
What makes this show interesting, as mentioned by Meltzer above, was the wild market-by-market inconsistencies it showed. The same inconsistencies was shown in sports bars, as well. He attributes this to Lesnar drawing the pro-wrestling crowd to buy the pay-per-view.
There were markets, such as on the West Coast in traditionally strong UFC cities but not traditionally strong pro wrestling cities, where the show did not do as well as Evans vs. Jackson. However, in some strong traditional pro wrestling markets, the show did not only beat Evans vs. Jackson, but UFC 100, every Mike Tyson fight, and every PPV in history with the exception of De La Hoya vs. Mayweather. It's those variations that, unless more data is in, make any estimate at this point difficult from a PPV standpoint. Based on the weak markets, which weren't really all that weak, if that were to hold up in most of the country, it could do 850,000, but realistically, nobody expects less than 1 million buys. Based on the good markets, it would look to beat UFC 100's record, but I would be very surprised to see it come close to that number.
Meltzer went on to write that late buys could become a factor due to word-of-mouth as well as ESPN coverage of the show.
We talked about how we thought this show would do last week on the radio show. It was last Wednesday and we talked about how the hype didn't feel anything the hype for Evans/Jackson. I think I've figured that one out: It's because Brock Lesnar draws in a group of fans who won't be talking about the show the week before the fight. They just buy it. And it's clear pro-wrestling fans buy the show when Lesnar fights, so I think that explains why it didn't feel as big going in, but it could end up being bigger.
Regardless of whether or not it beats Evans/Jackson, it's clear the UFC now has three fighters (the others being Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn) that appear to be pay-per-view draws on their own, regardless of opponent.
What's more is that this again reinforces that a big main event will draw regardless of what the undercard is, making it likely that we will see the UFC move more toward the boxing model (big main event, lesser undercard bouts) when it knows it has a big fight. With the exception being on a big show (like UFC 100 or UFC 112), where the company is known to stack the cards for special occasions.
UPDATE: In the July 21 edition of the Observer, Meltzer provides an updated look at the show, saying the latest estimates peg it anywhere from 1.05 million to 1.28 million buys.
The latest numbers for UFC 116 seem to be reporting higher. As we figured, there appear to have been a ton of replay order buys based on all the talk about the show, including all the mainstream news show coverage after the event. Various cable estimates have ranged from 1 million to 1.28 million, and as noted, internally it is being said it's the third biggest in history, which would be a lot closer to the former number than the latter number. … From a PPV standpoint, best per capita markets included Las Vegas, Calgary, Toronto, Minneapolis, Memphis, Dallas, Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Saskatoon, Halifax, Winnipeg, Honolulu and Cleveland.
At 1.05 million, it would be tied with UFC 114 and UFC 66 for second place all-time. Meltzer is estimating it at 1.16 million, which would make it second behind only UFC 100, which he pegs at 1.66 million, the fourth-highest pay-per-view number in history.