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. Interim IBF World Welterweight Championship: Sergey Lipinets (16-1) vs. Custio Clayton (18-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Showtime
Competitiveness: 3: Clayton has a pretty record and an Olympic pedigree, but he’s never fought outside of Canada and doesn’t have a marquee win to speak of. He’s a fill-in for Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, which would have been a MUCH better fight, but alas.
Prestige: 3: For the interim IBF title, because EVERYONE HAS INTERIM TITLES ALL THE TIME FOR EVERYTHING. Christ on the cross. Errol Spence is the reigning IBF welterweight champ, but he’s got Danny Garcia on tap, so I’m assuming the winner takes on the winner of that tussle.
Viewing Ease: 3
4. Submission Hunter 130lb No-Gi Black Championship: Danielle Kelly vs. Roxanne Modafferi
When/Where: Sunday, 4:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 5: Kelly’s competed everywhere; Eddie Bravo, QUINTET, IBJJF, and against a Who’s Who, notable against fellow featured title fighter Grace Gundrum. Roxy is not only a WMMA pioneer, but one of the best grapplers in the sport.
Prestige: 1: This is Submission Hunter’s 60th event, but first appearence on Fight Pass. Hopefully they get featured more.
Viewing Ease: 4
3. Fight To Win Black Belt Flyweight No-Gi Championship: Pati Fontes (c) vs. Grace Gundrum
When/Where: Friday, 5:30pm, FloGrappling
Competitiveness: 4: Fontes is a multiple-time world champion. Is this too much, too soon for Gundrum? Is she being pushed too hard because of her marketability and age? We shall see.
Juice: 3: Grace Gundrum is a teen phenom out of 10th Planet. She’s poised for huge things, and this could raise the profile of both her and F2W.
Viewing Ease: 3
2. WBA Super World Junior Bantamweight Championship: Roman Gonzalez (c) (49-2) vs. Israel Gonzalez (25-3)
When/Where: Friday, 7:30pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: Sho Ishida was a quality win for Israel, but he escaped with a SD and is facing a monster.
Juice: 2: This is Gonzalez’s third attempt at a world title, he fell short in his first two against Jerwin Ancajas and Kal Yafai. He’s only 23, so he’s got lots more time, but has a good amount of miles on him.
Viewing Ease: 4
1. UFC Lightweight Championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) (28-0) vs. Justin Gaethje (ic) (22-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 2:00pm, Pay-Per-View
Competitiveness: 5: Any doubts about Gaethje’s pedigree and status should have absolutely been erased after that Rembrandt of a performance he put on against Tony Ferguson.
Viewing Ease: 2: The ever-rare afternoon PPV. Do your best sick voice to avoid being called in to work.