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. IBF/WBA Super/WBC/WBO World Cruiserweight Championships: Oleksandr Usyk (c) (15-0) vs. Tony Bellew (30-2-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 1:00pm, DAZN
Juice: 4: Bellew figured it out. He failed twice for light-heavyweight gold, then decided to go up to cruiserweight, and call out anyone within striking distance. That resulted in his first-ever world championship, the WBC Cruiserweight title, and back-to-back finishes of David Haye. Bellew says this will be his last fight, and Usyk answered him emphatically after his World Boxing Super Series tournament win, saying he’d eat his way up to heavyweight if Bellew won’t fight him at cruiserweight. Well, here we are.
Prestige: 5: We’ve got ourselves the best attribute you can have in boxing, an undisputed champion. All four major titles. Usyk is the best cruiserweight on the planet.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. OneFC Bantamweight Championship Unification Bout: Bibiano Fernandes (c) (22-3) vs. Kevin Belingon (ic) (19-5)
When/Where: Friday, 7:30am, OneFC App
Competitiveness: 2: They’ve met once before for the title, and Bibi put him away within a round, and it’s not like he’s gotten any worse since then.
Prestige: 4: Bibi’s had a stranglehold on this since he came to OneFC five and a half years ago.
Viewing Ease: 5
t3. Interim LFA Flyweight Championship: Brandon Royval (8-3) vs. Casey Kenney (9-1-1)
When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, AXS
Competitiveness: 3: Unfortunately, Royal had to stepped in for an injured Maikel Perez, which would have been a much more compelling fight…but here we are.
Prestige: 2: The LFA championship is usually a bus ticket to the UFC, but in the depleted flyweight division and the loss of Demetrious Johnson, the winner might get put on the express. If there even is one left.
Viewing Ease: 3
t3. Interim WBO World Cruiserweight Championship/World Boxing Super Series Quarterfinals: Krzysztof Glowacki (30-1) vs. Maksim Vlasov (42-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 2: Glowacki’s only loss is to Oleksandr Usyk, meanwhile, Vlasov has exactly zero (0) notable wins and has lost each time he attempted even a modern step-up.
Prestige: 2: Really don’t get why the WBO is having an interim belt, when they have a perfectly capable cruiserweight champion, WHO’S DEFENDING IT THIS WEEKEND, but here we are.
Viewing Ease: 4
5. Muay Thai Grand Prix Women’s Bantamweight Championship: Iman Barlow (c) (86-6-3) vs. Hannah Brady (9-4-1)
When/Where: Saturday, Untelevised
Excitement: 5: Brady doesn’t have the pedigree or big names, but she has uncommon power. Barlow is the rare lighter-weight female fighter who doesn’t just coast on decisions, but works to finish fights. She’s a pleasure to watch.
Viewing Ease: 1: Last week’s MTGP card was broadcast on Fite, but nothing for this one yet, and it’s a much better slate.