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?
5. Bellator Women’s Flyweight World Championship: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (c) (10-0) vs. Kate Jackson (11-3-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: Jackson’s a fair competitor, but Macfarlane has looked stellar in Bellator.
Viewing Ease: 4: DAZN isn’t slowing down any damned time soon.
4. Glory Middleweight Championship: Alex Pereira (c) (40-6) vs. Ertugrul Bayrak (18-6)
When/Where: Saturday, 1:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 3: Bayrak’s a fine fighter, but two split-decision wins over Jakob Styben and Donovan Wisse doesn’t exactly scream title challenger.
Excitement: 3: Bayrak is a cure for insomnia, but Pereira is crazy creative with his violence, and can put you to sleep with many different attacks. We’ll split the difference.
Viewing Ease: 4
3. Vacant WBC World Flyweight Championship: Cristofer Rosales (29-4) vs. Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar (14-1)
When/Where: Friday, 7:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 5: Two top-ten flyweights with heavy hands. This is stellar matchmaking.
Prestige: 4: It’s a world title, and not a WBA bullshit version, but only vacant because Charlie Edwards wanted to stop cutting so much weight.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. Glory Heavyweight Championship: Rico Verhoeven (c) (55-10) vs. Badr Hari (106-13)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 5: Two of the greatest heavyweights of the modern era. Actually, the two best. We were robbed of a full battle in their previous affair after Hari broke him arm, but to Rico’s credit, that’s what he was trying for.
Excitement: 4: Verhoeven is more technical, while Hari, while technically-versed, is more prone to violence. Rico tends to avoid firefights, but he may not have a choice, here.
Viewing Ease: 4
1. WBC World Junior Middleweight Championship: Tony Harrison (c) (28-2) vs. Jermell Charlo (32-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, FOX
Juice: 3: Charlo underestimated Harrison pretty brutally in their first contest, and Harrison handed it to him with nonstop pressure and crisp combos, awarding him his first career loss and taking his title.
Viewing Ease: 5: Get out that antenna, it’s championship boxing on network TV!