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. Bellator Featherweight Championship: Patricio Freire (c) (26-4) vs. Daniel Weichel (39-9)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, Paramount Network
Excitement: 5: Pitbull flattened Weichel by KO a little more than three years ago, but Weichel is crazy entertaining and has multiple ways to finish you, in both striking or submissions.
Prestige: 5: I’m comfortable giving this a 5, because featherweight has been a tentpole division of Bellator since its inception. You know the culprits. One of Pat Curran, Daniel Straus, or Patricio Pitbull has held the belt since March of 2012.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. WBA World Welterweight Championship: Lucas Matthysse (c) (39-4) vs. Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, ESPN+
Juice: 3: If this fight would have happened five years ago, sweet baby Jesus. Alas, it’s still a fight that has huge star quality and pops when you see it.
Viewing Ease: 4: That this is on at 9pm EST is fantastic news for viewers, but sucks a bag of dicks for the live audience and fighters, unfortunately.
3. Inaugural Bellator Kickboxing Lightweight Championship: Chingiz Allazov (54-2) vs. Giorgio Petrosyan (87-2-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:15pm, Paramount Network
Competitiveness: 5: Somehow, some way, these two haven’t crossed paths (in my limited research), and the titles and scalps these two have taken could populate its own hall of fame.
Prestige: 3: The belt is vacant, but look at who’s fighting for it and it jumps up a point or two. It’s Allazov and the freaking Doctor!
Viewing Ease: 4
4. WBA World Junior Flyweight Championship: Carlos Canizales (c) (20-0-1) vs. Bin Lu (1-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, ESPN+
Competitiveness: 2: WHOOOAAAA NELLY, let’s just hold on a tick here. Bin was a solid amateur and an Olympian, but he didn’t come close to medaling, and he’s had one (1) pro fight, against an 8-9 fighter in his native China. He’s going for a record currently held by Vasyl Lomachenko and Saensak Muangsurin for the earliest professional world champion. Don’t see it happening. He may be one day, but it won’t be this day.
Prestige: 4: WBA is all over the place this weekend, and you should know by now how I feel about their “Regular” vs. “Super” championships. Fuck right off with that garbage.
Viewing Ease: 4
5. WBA World Super Middleweight Championship: Tyron Zeuge (c) (22-0-1) vs. Rocky Fielding (26-1)
When/Where: Saturday, Untelevised
Competitiveness: 4: Well, this will easily be Zeuge’s biggest name opponent to date in his fourth defense.
Viewing Ease: 1: Absurd that in 2018, we have no streaming options for a world (“world”, fuck you WBA) title fight.