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Even with strong card, will WEC 51 bomb on Versus?

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Jose Aldo dominated Urijah Faber in April. Will that be enough for television viewers to tune in to WEC 51 despite stiff competition? Photo by Scott Peterson/<a href="http://www.mmaweekly.com/">MMAWeekly.com</a>
Jose Aldo dominated Urijah Faber in April. Will that be enough for television viewers to tune in to WEC 51 despite stiff competition? Photo by Scott Peterson/MMAWeekly.com

It's no secret that the WEC's recent ratings on Versus have been less than stellar, taking a gigantic hit for the promotion's two summer events, WEC 49 and WEC 50. For reference purposes, here's a list of the WEC's ratings in the last year (from MMA Junkie):

WEC 50 (Cruz vs. Benavidez II): 316,000 viewers
WEC 49 (Varner vs. Shalorus): 324,000 viewers
WEC 48 (Aldo vs. Faber): n/a (aired on PPV)
WEC 47 (Bowles vs. Cruz): 373,000 viewers
WEC 46 (Varner vs. Henderson): 640,000
WEC 45 (Cerrone vs. Ratcliff): 330,000
WEC 44 (Brown vs. Aldo): 414,000
WEC 43 (Cerrone vs. Henderson): 419,000

Now, as you can see, these last three shows on Versus have almost completely tanked. For further reference, WEC 47 was on a Saturday night, 49 on a Sunday and 50 on a Wednesday.

With football season here, WEC moves to Thursday night, which might not be the best move. On ESPN, Texas A&M will battle Oklahoma State in college football in a game with some national interest. On NBC, you have popular shows like "The Office," and on FX at 10 p.m. is the ever-popular show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" which drew 2.21 million viewers for its season debut two weeks ago, the best in the history of the show. What is more troubling is that "The Office," at 8.5 million viewers for its season premier last week, was No. 1 on television in men 18-34 during its time slot, which will run concurrent with WEC's first half-hour. "Sunny," which airs at 10 ET, saw 45 percent of its audience come from that same demographic, which clearly is WEC's target audience. On top of that, WEC isn't even the only MMA show running on television Thursday as Bellator 31 will be broadcast on FSN.

The question is: Will MMA fans come out on Thursday night for a big WEC show that features featherweight champion Jose Aldo and former bantamweight champion Miguel Torres? If a recent trend is any indication, they will not.

UFC Fight Night 22 drew a record low rating for the series at an 0.9, a shocking number. WWE's flagship show "Monday Night Raw" has seen its ratings tumble from a 2.8 last week (lowest in two years) to a 2.7 this week. All wrestling shows were down across the board last week.

So obviously there are a lot of factors at play here. The optimist in me hopes the fans will come out in better fashion than they did for prior shows due to the overall strength of the card. On the other hand, will fans still be turned off from last weekend's UFC 119 and not be interested in watching this show? There has been a shocking lack of hype for this show, so add that to the mix.

If this show tanks (and in this case, with this card, I'd probably define "tanks" as less than 375,000 viewers), it will tell us one thing: The only draw in WEC is Urijah Faber. It might also be telling us that the WEC is a dying brand.

This is an absolutely pivotal show for the company. I don't want to make it sound too dramatic, but, from my seat, the WEC is at a crossroads right now. If this show does not doing well, something is seriously wrong, if not broken.