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. Interim WBA Junior Lightweight Championship: Chris Colbert (c) (14-0) vs. Jaime Arboleda (16-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Showtime
Competitiveness: 4: Arboleda rebounded from his first career loss, and a knockout at that, landing massive knockouts and blemishing multiple undefeated records, but he’s still a level below Colbert.
Prestige: 3: Death to the WBA and their interim titles and four champions per weight class.
Viewing Ease: 3
t2. K-1 Lightweight Championship: Kenta Hayashi (c) (18-6-2) vs. Gonnapar Weerasakreck (107-29-3)
When/Where: Sunday, 1:00am, Abema TV
Excitement: 5: Neither of these guys are afraid to throw, and seeing how their last contest ended against each other, it should grab your eyeballs.
Juice: 3: Hayashi was slept by Gonnapar’s right hand in November of 2017.
Viewing Ease: 2
t2. WBA Super/IBF/WBO/IBO World Heavyweight Championships: Anthony Joshua (c) (23-1) vs. Kubrat Pulev (28-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 1:00pm, DAZN
Prestige: 5: Three out of four world titles and the largest secondary title at heavyweight at stake.
Viewing Ease: 4: Perfect timing for this. What else are you watching Saturday at 1? The remnants and non-cancelled college games? No.
t2. UFC Flyweight Championship: Deiveson Figueiredo (c) (20-1) vs. Brandon Moreno (18-5-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, Pay-Per-View
Competitiveness: 4: Moreno has never been finished in his pro career, but I’m throwing all my weight behind Figueiredo being the next great flyweight and gets one in the title rounds.
Juice: 2: Fig and Moreno both ended their flyweight fights very quickly on UFC 255, and Dana booked the fight on a three-week turnaround.
Viewing Ease: 2
1. Bellator Women’s Flyweight Championship: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (c) (11-0) vs. Juliana Velasquez (10-0)
When/Where: Thursday, 10:00pm, CBS Sports
Excitement: 4: Both of these ladies are fond of the finishes, these are not wall-and-stall fighters.
Juice: 3: SOMEBODY’S 0 HAS GOT TO GO! Very rare to see an undefeated champion against undefeated challenger fight in major MMA.
Viewing Ease: 3