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. Glory Heavyweight Championship: Rico Verhoeven (c) (52-10-1) vs. Jamal Ben Saddik (32-6)
When/Where: Saturday, 4:00pm, UFC Fight Pass PPV
Juice: 3: There’s some legit bad blood here, and the PPV is named Redemption after a 21-year old Verhoeven got TKO’d by JBS. Six years later, Ben Saddik calls out Verhoeven, and Rico quickly accepts, hoping to atone for the loss. The rivalry has been heated and intense. These are two giant, scary dudes looking to hurt the other.
Prestige: 5: Safe to say, the Glory Heavyweight championship is THE title in kickboxing/muay thai, all due to Rico.
Viewing Ease: 3
2. WBO World Junior Lightweight Championship: Vasyl Lomachenko (c) (9-1) vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, ESPN
Excitement: 3: This is really where your mileage may vary. Either you appreciate what Rigondeaux brings to the table as far as technical brilliance, or you hate it and find it boring. Loma’s style is a little more viewer-friendly, but he moves so fast and so fluidly, you could miss most of what he does that makes him so exceptional.
Juice: 3: Not between the fighters, but this is a technical dream match boxing purists and diehards have wanted for years.
Viewing Ease: 4
3. Glory Middleweight Championship: Alex Pereira (c) (37-6) vs. Yousri Belgaroui (22-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 1:30pm, UFC Fight Pass
Juice: 3: Easy story to tell, here. Belgaroui defeated Pereira in their contender tournament, but Pereira got a title shot before him, now he’s here to take what’s rightfully his.
Prestige: 4: The Middleweight title’s been hot-potatoed lately, with nobody ever able to make two defenses, but it speaks to the immense talent that Glory has accrued at 85kg over the years.
Viewing Ease: 4
t4. Invicta Flyweight Championship: Jennifer Maia (c) (14-4) vs. Agnieszka Niedzwiedz (8-0)
When/Where: Friday, 8:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Excitement: 2: Maia’s very well-rounded, but has been a decision-machine in her wins. Niedzwiedz will try and drag a fun fight out of her.
Viewing Ease: 4: Between Glory, Invicta, and Pancrase, Fight Pass is paying for itself, again. I’m the furthest thing from a shill, but this is just good economics.
t4. IBF World Featherweight Championship: Lee Selby (c) (25-1) vs. Eduardo Ramirez (20-0-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 2:50pm, BoxNation, Showtime’s Facebook/YouTube
Competitiveness: 2: Thanks, Frank Warren!
Viewing Ease: 5: Showtime doing all of us a solid by streaming this live and free.