The championship fight. The pinnacle of achievement across combat sports for centuries. A premiere attraction that draws millions every year. But not all title bouts are created equally.
So which title bouts every week are the ones to watch? We’ll look over every title fight from across the combat sports landscape and give you the five best based on five criteria:
- Competitiveness: Is this an even matchup? Or just a warm body to throw at a champion? It’s a title fight, so we want the best possible at that division in that promotion.
- Excitement: How exciting will this fight be? A clash of two elite talents throwing everything they have at each other in an attempt to win the gold? Or a half-dead plod-fest devoid of action or risk?
- Juice: A sort of catch-all term for all the factors behind the matchup. Is there a story leading up to the match? A true rivalry? Anticipated rematch? Do the fighters dislike each other? Were the circumstances leading to the fight extraordinary, or was it just a promoter putting two names against each other? Is there a lot of excitement or hype going into it?
- Prestige: Applies to the belt itself, but also to the fighter wearing it. Is this a long-tenured champion defending? Is this an interim title or one that was vacated? Has the champion increased the prestige of the title or is this a fight that will increase the prestige of it?
- Viewing Ease: We all don’t mind suffering for our art (or hobbies), but sometimes paying twenty dollars for a choppy stream, or searching your cable plan for a channel you’re pretty sure was just invented three days ago in the 6000s isn’t the best of times. How easy, affordable, and stress-free is this bout to watch?
So here are your five best gold options for the weekend.
1. UFC Featherweight Championship: Max Holloway (c) (18-3) vs. Jose Aldo (26-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, Pay-Per-View
Excitement: 5: I mean, it’s Max freaking Holloway and Jose freaking Aldo.
Juice: 5: It’s the greatest featherweight of all-time trying to get his belt back against a man who TKO’d him almost six months ago to take it and unify it. Does Aldo have enough left in the tank to make one more run and defeat perhaps the hottest fighter on the planet, or will he drop his third bout out of his last four? We might be looking at the final charge of Jose Aldo.
Viewing Ease: 3
t2. WBO World Junior Middleweight Championship: Miguel Cotto (c) (41-5) vs. Sadam Ali (25-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, HBO
Competitiveness: 3: Setting aside the crushing disappointment that Miguel Cotto’s retirement bout is against Sadam Ali, Ali should still not be fighting for a world title yet.
Juice: 4: The last ride for Junito. A fantastic career for one of the true warriors of the sport. That ass-kicking of Margarito will always warm a home on a snowy night.
Viewing Ease: 3
t2. UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship: Nicco Montano (3-2) vs. Sijara Eubanks (2-2)
When/Where: Friday, 10:00pm, Fox Sports 1
Juice: 3: Two huge underdogs that kept pulling off upset over upset. I don’t really agree with the rankings the women were given, but it would have been a better story if one of the finalists would have faced either Roxy or Honchak in the finals, but underdog vs. underdog doesn’t have the same attraction.
Prestige: 3: Brand new title, let’s give it a couple defenses before we bump it up. Especially given the competitors.
Viewing Ease: 4
t4. Glory Women’s Super Bantamweight Championship: Tiffany van Soest (c) (18-2-1) vs. Anissa Meksen (93-3)
When/Where: Friday, 7:30pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 5: Meksen is a fantastic fighter who has fought, and won, everywhere in the world. She’s still only 29 and has had a full career, but she’s yet to be at the top of a promotion with as much visibility as Glory. TVS has been the female American face of kickboxing and muay thai for some time. This is a fantastic matchup of world-class athletes.
Viewing Ease: 4: Glory itself pays for Fight Pass.
t4. Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship: Julia Budd (c) (10-2) vs. Arlene Blenclowe (10-6)
When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, Spike
Juice: 3: They have a bout a little more than a year ago, where Blenclowe nearly pulled off a huge upset of Budd, but dropped a majority decision. She’s reeled off three wins since then and is coming for a win back and a title with it.
Prestige: 3: This is the first defense of a new title, but Budd is a fine champion to have, as she’s been a longtime featherweight standout.
Viewing Ease: 4