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. WBC World Junior Flyweight Championship: Ken Shiro (c) (12-0) vs. Ganigan Lopez (29-7)
When/Where: Friday, Untelevised
Juice: 3: Shiro defeated Lopez by a razor-thin majority decision almost a year ago to the day. After a rebound fight, Lopez is back to try and take his belt back.
Viewing Ease: 3: Also on ESPN+!
t2. WBA World Bantamweight Championship: Jamie McDonnell (c) (29-2-1) vs. Naoya Inoue (15-0)
When/Where: Friday, ESPN+
Prestige: 4: Unfortunately, this is a WBA “regular” title, which, as you know, is complete horseshit and I hate it.
Viewing Ease: 3: Top Rank and ESPN teaming to make this streaming on ESPN+.
t2. IBF World Junior Bantamweight Championship: Jerwin Ancajas (c) (29-1-1) vs. Jonas Sultan (14-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:30, ESPN+
Excitement: 5: There’s an awful lot of pop between these two in a division where power is hard to come by.
Prestige: 5: This is Ancajas’s fifth defense of his title belt, as he’s starting to become an institution at 115lbs.
Viewing Ease: 3
4. Bellator Middleweight Championship: Rafael Carvalho (c) (15-1) vs. Gegard Mousasi (43-6-2)
When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, Paramount Network
Competitiveness: 5: Carvalho has had this title for nearly three years and Mousasi is the best fighter he will have come across by far. He’s faced strikers, but Gegard has a lot more in his toolbox.
Viewing Ease: 4: Unfortunately, this is on tape-delay, but still easy to watch.
5. WBA World Junior Bantamweight Championship: Khalid Yafai (c) (23-0) vs. David Carmona (21-5-5)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:30, ESPN+
Competitiveness: 3: Prior to a win over journeyman Jesus Iribe, Carmona dropped three straight. Two were to Carlos Cuadras and Naoya Inoue, but still.
Viewing Ease: 3: Well, the ESPN+ Era is officially upon us, with ESPN holding their first big card on the platform, one featuring two world title fights.