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?
1. OneFC Welterweight Championship: Ben Askren (c) (17-0) vs. Shinya Aoki (39-7)
When/Where: Friday, 6:00am, FloCombat
Juice: 4: It’s not every day a promotion puts their top-two stars in the ring/cage/Yamma Pit together.
Prestige: 4: Askren can easily lay a claim at being the best fighter outside of the UFC and Bellator and has had a strangehold on that title for over three years.
Viewing Ease: 3
t2. Vacant IBA/WBO World Light Heavyweight Championship: Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1) vs. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, HBO
Competitiveness: 2: Dear lord, no. Shabranskyy’s opponent two fights ago was 10-15, and three fights ago, he was being knocked out by Sullivan Barrera.
Prestige: 4: Regardless of how you thought the Ward fights play out, if the first one was a bad decision and the second was a low blow, it’s still Kovy trying to win back the title that Ward took from him, then defended, then retired with and vacated. So, y’know, little shine off of it. Also, the IBA is nothing.
Viewing Ease: 3
t2. WKN World Lightweight Championship: Lorenzo Piras (c) (21-5) vs. Allan Gozdzicki (45-20-3)
When/Where: Sunday, Untelevised
Competitiveness: 5: A very, very tight decision in April, so they’re gonna run it back.
Juice: 3: A rematch from April when Piras won the title by decision in front of a home crowd.
Viewing Ease: 1
4. WBC World Minimumweight Championship: Chayaphon Moonsri (c) (48-0) vs. Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6)
When/Where: Friday, Untelevised
Competitiveness: 4: Moonsri has been the king of 105 for WBC for some time, and while Fukuhara’s record isn’t especially sexy, he was just the interim WBO Minimumweight champ two bouts ago.
Viewing Ease: 1: Small boxing/muay thai gyms in Thailand have a million stories to tell…but never really televised.
5. Cage Warriors Welterweight Championship: Karl Amoussou (c) (24-7-2) vs. Dominique Steele (15-9)
When/Where: Saturday, 4:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 3: Steele is coming off of a 1-4 UFC run, and Amoussou is 7-0 since leaving Bellator, so it’s to be seen if Steele can put together a good run on the regionals, or if his time has passed.
Excitement: 2: Short of a random slam KO, Steele fights aren’t barnburners, and while Amoussou is a fun fighter most of the time, five rounds is a lot to ask from either of them.
Viewing Ease: 4