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?
t5. IBF/IBO World Middleweight Championships: Gennadiy Golovkin (c) (40-1-1) vs. Kamil Szeremeta (21-0)
When/Where: Friday, 5:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: This is GGG’s IBF mandatory challenge, so hopefully he takes care of business so we can get a bit better of a tussle.
Viewing Ease: 3: That’s uhhh…quite the early start time, on a weekday no less, for an American card featuring a top name in boxing.
t5. ONE Kickboxing Light Heavyweight Championship: Roman Kryklia (c) (45-7) vs. Andrei Stoica (52-12)
When/Where: Friday, 7:30am, B/R Live
Competitiveness: 5: Stoica is a huge name, especially in the light heavyweight division, which is pretty bare.
Prestige: 3: No matter who wins, a fighter like Stoica can elevate the title, whether as champ or fallen challenger.
Viewing Ease: 3
t5. Glory Welterweight Championship: Cedric Doumbe (c) (73-7-1) vs. Karim Ghajji (103-16-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, Fite TV ($14.99)
Competitiveness: 2: At 39, Ghajji is slowing down and hasn’t been active in over a year. He was the Bellator Kickboxing welterweight champ a few years back, but aside from that, nothing really of note since 2015, since he lost to Murthel Groenhart for Glory gold. Ghajji had a prime, but we’re not in it.
Juice: 1: This is a damned shame. We were slated to get Doumbe against Murthel Groenhart, in an actual bad-blood matchup that Glory seldom has. He had to pull out by injury on December 9. We can’t have good things.
Viewing Ease: 3
2. Submission Underground Absolute Championship: Mason Fowler (c) vs. Satoshi Ishii
When/Where: Sunday, 6:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Competitiveness: 4: Ishii never reached his potential as an MMA fighter, but in his element on the mat, it could be a very differently story for the gold-medalist judoka.
Prestige: 3: SUG’s Absolute title has been defended often and has been held and challenged for by some of the biggest names in grappling. It’s becoming must-see.
Viewing Ease: 4
1. WBA Super/Vacant WBC World Super Middleweight Championships: Callum Smith (c) (27-0) vs. Saul Alvarez (53-1-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 8:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 5: Few boxers are on Canelo’s level, but Smith has a legitimate claim of being the best in the world at super middleweight.
Excitement: 5: This should deliver in spades, Canelo is never afraid to mix it up and engage, bringing out the Mexican boxer in him.
Viewing Ease: 4