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.
t1. WBO World Bantamweight Championship: Zolani Tete (c) (27-3) vs. Mikhail Aloyan (4-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 11:00am, DAZN
Competitiveness: 4: Aloyan only has four pro fights, oddly all against Nicaraguan fighters, but he has an extensive amateur background, including an Olympic bronze, and might have added more if it wasn’t for the Russian debacle in the 2016 Games.
Juice: 3: The World Boxing Super Series rolls on! Naoya Inoue awaits in the potential finals.
Viewing Ease: 3
t1. WBO World Junior Flyweight Championship: Angel Acosta (c) (18-1) vs. Abraham Rodriguez (23-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Facebook Watch
Excitement: 5: All Acosta’s wins are by T/KO, and Rodriguez was stopped in five rounds just two fights ago. This could get messy.
Viewing Ease: 4: Golden Boy is utilizing Facebook more and more. Maybe re-activate your account and just block your propaganda-spewing uncle?
t3. WBO World Welterweight Championship: Terence Crawford (c) (33-0) vs. Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:30pm, ESPN
Competitiveness: 2: Benavidez is 26 years old with 27 pro fights, so he’s probably due, but even though he doesn’t have the ceiling his younger brother does, I still would have run him up against some tougher competition than Mauricio Herrera and Jorge Paez Jr.
Excitement: 4: Bud tends to not let inferior opponents stick around.
Viewing Ease: 4
t3. Lion Fight Bantamweight Championship: Ryan Sheehan (29-5-2) vs. Thepnimit Sitmonchai (121-50-6)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, FloCombat
Juice: 3: These two are definitely familiar with one another.
Viewing Ease: 3: FloSports is a great service that touches an absolute ton of sports, combat or not, but I wish it was still on AXS on American time. But no Schiavello is a plus.
5. 170lb Black Belt No-Gi Championship: Augusto Tanquinho Mendes vs. Vagner Rocha
When/Where: Friday, 5:30pm, FloGrappling
Competitiveness: 4: With F2W running shows almost weekly, the trade-off is that they can’t have loaded cards every time, which is natural, but this is a big deal bout with two of the best.
Prestige: 3: Despite F2W having more belts than the 1970s NWA, it’s still a top-shelf promotion with credibility.
Viewing Ease: 3