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.
5. CES MMA Welterweight Championship: Vinicius de Jesus (c) (8-2) vs. Chris Lozano (10-4)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 2: How the hell can you pick a fighter that’s only fought once since 2012? A loss in 2016, no less. It’s been seven years since Lozano has won a fight, I don’t know what the hell to expect.
Prestige: 2: C’mon, just call your titles the New England championships like an old-school NWA territory.
Viewing Ease: 4
t3. OneFC Muay Thai Bantamweight Championship: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao (c) (258-54-1) vs. Brice Deval
When/Where: Friday, 8:30am, OneFC App
Excitement: 3: Welp. Nong-O is a very typical Thai fighter. Which means, if he does make it exciting, it’ll be after a couple rounds of feeling out. It’s not for everyone.
Viewing Ease: 5: Man, ONE has a brutal time schedule to watch, but it balances it out with a free app.
t3. Bellator Heavyweight Championship: Ryan Bader (c) (27-5) vs. Cheick Kongo (30-10-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 4: I thought this was lower than it was until I double-checked Kongo’s record. Do you know he’s won his last eight fights in Bellator?? EIGHT?!
Excitement: 2: To paraphrase Jim Ross, this fight is going to be bowling shoe ugly.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. Cage Warriors Bantamweight Championship Tournament
When/Where: Friday, 4:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 5: I’m a sucker for a tournament. Especially one that ends with a championship at the end.
Prestige: 3: Cage Warriors has turned out some of the best MMA fighters ever, but the well has run a little dry lately. The Paddy Pimblett hype train has considerably slowed to a rush-hour crawl.
Viewing Ease: 4
1. UFC Lightweight Championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) (27-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (ic) (25-5)
When/Where: Saturday, 2:00pm, Pay-Per-View
Excitement: 5: Khabib is the rare wrestler who makes his dominance and violence incredibly must-watch and incredibly fun. The Diamond will always be a tremendous watch.
Prestige: 5: Death to interim titles, but at least this one sort-of makes sense with Khabib’s suspension status.
Viewing Ease: 2