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The Ecstasy of Gold: 5 Best Title Fights of the Weekend


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 Heavyweight Championship: Deontay Wilder (c) (39-0) vs. Luis Ortiz (28-0)

When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Showtime

Competitiveness: 5
Excitement: 5: Wilder has only gone the distance once, and once Wilder got another crack at Bermaine Stiverne, he terminated him with extreme prejudice. Ortiz has only had four go the distance, these are two of the nastiest, hardest-hitting giants of the heavyweight division.
Juice: 3: This should have happened months before, but Ortiz got popped for doping. He claimed he had a valid medical condition, but you know how those claims tend to go. Ortiz would be Wilder’s toughest opponent yet, and fans have been clamoring for Wilder to step up for years.
Prestige: 5
Viewing Ease: 3

Total: 21



t2. WBA World Light Heavyweight Championship: Dmitry Bivol (c) (12-0) vs. Sullivan Barrera (21-1)

When/Where: Saturday, 10:05pm, HBO

Competitiveness: 5: Now here’s a damned fight. Barrera has gone from unknown Andre Ward-fodder, to a tip-top-leven light heavyweight following his loss. A true climb up the ladder, putting down top fighters like Joe Smith Jr., Paul Parker, and most impressively, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in a match scheduled to make Shabranskyy look good. Bivol was a Russian amateur star who has mowed through everyone on his docket with military precision.
Excitement: 3
Juice: 2
Prestige: 5: It’s a legit world title, but Badou Jack fucking off because he didn’t want to face Bivol for it is unfortunate.
Viewing Ease: 3

Total: 18



t2. Bellator Bantamweight Championship: Darrion Caldwell (c) (11-1) vs. Leandro Higo (18-3)

When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, Paramount

Competitiveness: 5: Bellator’s bantamweight division is always a shark tank, only instead of food, the sharks are constantly eating each other. At Bellator 184, Caldwell defeated Eduardo Dantas, who had defeated Higo previously, but at that same card, Higo defeated Joe Taimanglo in a de-facto #1 contendership match.
Excitement: 4
Juice: 1
Prestige: 4: Bantamweight has always been the crown-jewel of Bellator. Always top fighters destroying each other and fighting tooth-and-nail for the belt.
Viewing Ease: 4

Total: 18



4. WBO World Light Heavyweight Championship: Sergey Kovalev (c) (31-2-1) vs. Igor Mikhalkin (21-1)

When/Where: Saturday, 10:05pm, HBO

Competitiveness: 2: Mikhalkin is on a decent-enough run, and a win over Thomas Oosthuizen is a nice notch, but we’re talking about Sergey Kovalev, here.
Excitement: 3
Juice: 1
Prestige: 5
Viewing Ease: 3: If you’ve got a solid cable package, BOY will Saturday night be a fun one for you. HBO and Showtime both going hard.

Total: 14



5. UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship: Cris Cyborg (c) (19-1) vs. Yuna Kunitskaya (10-3)

When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, Pay-Per-View

Competitiveness: 2
Excitement: 4
Juice: 1
Prestige: 3: This poor title just can’t stop tripping over its own feet trying to matter. Injuries, refusals to fight, late-replacements, ill-prepared bantamweights, just a hard road.
Viewing Ease: 3: No justifying the price tag for this show. Abysmal. It’s a one-fight show and the one-fight isn’t even the main event.

Total: 13