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. OneFC Bantamweight Championship: Bibiano Fernandes (c) (21-3) vs. Martin Nguyen (10-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:30am, TBD
Juice: 5: This is tremendous. Nguyen is attempting to become an active three-division defending champion. He has the OneFC lightweight and featherweight bout, and now he’s gunning for Bibi’s bantamweight crown. An active three-division champ hasn’t been done in modern MMA, and this would be huge news.
Viewing Ease: 1: Well, here’s the sonofabitch, as of press time, the main card for OneFC has no stream. The prelims are on Facebook and Twitter, and they have an on-again-off-again partnership with Fite, but right now, no way to watch this momentus fight.
2. Vacant Invicta Fighting Championship Strawweight Championship: Mizuki Inoue (12-4) vs. Virna Jandiroba (12-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 3: A bit of an unknown, as Jandiroba has a fantastic record and was a submission bulldozer, but they were one-offs in Brazilian regional promotions, where fighters can feast before meeting world-class competition. Suzuki is at least more proven at the Invicta and DEEP Jewels level.
Excitement: 5: IF, and I mean IF they can get a competitive grappling bout going, this could be great times. Lots of armbars and chokes between the two.
Viewing Ease: 4
3. WBA World Super Middleweight Championship: Tyron Zeuge (c) (21-0-1) vs. Isaac Ekpo (32-3)
When/Where: Saturday, Untelevised
Juice: 3: The two had met 364 days prior with an unfortunate stoppage because of a Zeuge cut from an accidental headbutt with Zeuge winning because of he was on top after five rounds.
Prestige: 4: Because this isn’t the WBA SUPER championship. *wanking motions*
Viewing Ease: 1
4. WBC Silver Heavyweight Championship: Dillian Whyte (c) (22-1) vs. Lucas Browne (25-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 6:00pm, HBO
Competitiveness: 4: Whyte is better by a level, but this is still a legit battle of top-15 heavyweights.
Prestige: 3: It’s the WBC’s “Intercontinental” belt, but it’s a signifier of who will get to the head of the line to compete for a world title.
Viewing Ease: 3
5. Legacy Fighting Alliance Bantamweight Championship: Ricky Simon (c) (11-1) vs. Vinicius Zani (11-4)
When/Where: Friday, 10:00pm, AXS
Competitiveness: 5: Zani is on a three-fight RFA/LFA win streak, which, in a promotion with so much turnover, is rare to put together before a title shot.
Prestige: 3: Defeated UFC-mainstay Chico Camus to earn the vacant title, which always gives the titles a little shine.
Viewing Ease: 3