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 Bantamweight Championship: Eduardo Dantas (c) (19-4) vs. Leandro Higo (17-2)
When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, Spike
Juice: 4: Great story, here. It’s LFA vs. Bellator! Higo was LFA’s inaugural bantamweight champion, but chose to go to Bellator over the UFC over the state of the bantamweight division. Lots to like here.
Prestige: 4: The Bellator bantamweight title has been a game of hot potato between Dantas, Warren, and Galvao, but breaking into that triangle would be a big deal.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. IBF/IBO/WBA World Junior Welterweight Championship: Julius Indongo (c) (21-0) vs. Ricky Burns (c) (41-5-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, Sky Sports
Prestige: 5: World title unification!!! (27 hearteyes emojis)
Viewing Ease: 1: Not televised in the States, unfortunately.
3. UFC Flyweight Championship: Demetrious Johnson (c) (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis (22-6)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, Fox
Competitiveness: 2: Reis is a fine fighter, but he’s not even a top-5 flyweight and he’s facing the best fighter in the world.
Prestige: 5: He’s the longest-reigning active champ in the biggest MMA promotion ever. The title is a big deal.
Viewing Ease: 5
4. Fight To Win Pro No-Gi Featherweight Championship: Samir Chantre (c) vs. Eddie Cummings
When/Where: Friday, 7:00pm, FloGrappling
Excitement: 5: Eddie Cummings usually gives you your money’s worth and some.
Viewing Ease: 4: I can’t stress getting a FloSports account more, ESPECIALLY if you’re a pro wrestling fan, WrestleMania weekend would have paid for itself ten times over.
5. Bellator Kickboxing Welterweight Championship: Zoltan Laszak (c) (12-2) vs. Karim Ghajji (97-13-1)
When/Where: Friday, 11:15pm, Spike
Excitement: 2: The last thirteen of Ghajji’s fights have gone to a decision. Some have been entertaining, but between these two, you’re getting a methodical bout that goes to the judges.
Prestige: 2: Bellator may have some serious talent now, but it’s going to take a while to build to the level that Glory has or K-1 had.
Viewing Ease: 4