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. British Commonwealth Flyweight Championship: Jay Harris (c) (17-1) vs. Marcel Braithwaite (9-2)
When/Where: Sunday, 2:00pm, ESPN+
Excitement: 2: Braithwaite with exactly zero (0) knockouts in his nine wins.
Prestige: 2: Harris hasn’t defended this title since 2018. Yeesh.
Viewing Ease: 4
4. Vacant Women’s 54kg World Championship: Atenea Flores vs. Ella Grapperhaus
When/Where: Saturday, $7.99 Fite.tv
Prestige: 3: Enfusion is doing a great job of filling their vacant titles lately.
Viewing Ease: 3: Enfusion’s price point is always terrific for such a great product.
3. Fight To Win Black Belt Bantamweight No-Gi Championship: Junny Ocasio (c) vs. Jose Carlos Lima
When/Where: Saturday, 5:00pm, FloGrappling
Competitiveness: 3: Anything can happen in BJJ, but Lima is coming off back-to-back submission losses at F2W 118 and 123. Not exactly a ton of momentum.
Prestige: 3: Hey! An actual reigning F2W champion defending his title!
Viewing Ease: 3
2. Vacant WBO World Women’s Middleweight Championship: Hannah Rankin (9-4) vs. Savannah Marshall (8-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 1:30pm, DAZN
Juice: 3: Marshall is the only women to ever notch a win over Claressa Shields at any level, as she earned a win in the amateur world championships, and quite frankly, Hannah Rankin is tired of hearing about it. Marshall might have to chase Shields down weight classes to try and hand her a second loss.
Prestige: 4: For the title that Shields vacated when she dropped weight classes.
Viewing Ease: 4
1. WBA/WBO/IBF World Lightweight Championships: Teofimo Lopez (c) (15-0) vs. Vasyl Lomachenko (c) (14-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, ESPN
Competitiveness: 5: To be the undisputed king at lightweight against the clear #1 vs. #2, which happens far too little in this sport.
Viewing Ease: 4: This is a PPV headliner fight on regular ESPN. It’s almost worth signing up for basic cable if you’re a cord-cutter just for this fight.