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. ONE Kickboxing Lightweight Championship: Regian Eersel (c) (55-4) vs. Mustapha Haida (40-8-3)
When/Where: Friday, 7:30am, B/R Live
Competitiveness: 3: After battling Nieky Holzken for ten rounds, Eersel gets a bit of a break against Haida, who’s coming off a loss in ONE, ironically, to Nieky Holzken.
Prestige: 3: ONE just keeps on keeping on running shows. Are you going to pass Glory soon? Looks that way.
Viewing Ease: 3
t3. WBC/IBF World Light Heavyweight Championships: Artur Beterbiev (c) (15-0) vs. Adam Deines (19-1-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, ESPN
Competitiveness: 3: After losing an IBF eliminator to Fanlong Meng, Deines banked two wins over fighters with a combined record of 11-12. Not exactly an awe-inspiring dance card.
Excitement: 5: Can Beterbiev make it 16-0 with 16 knockouts? He’s going to try.
Viewing Ease: 4
t3. Vacant WBO World Cruiserweight Championship: Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2) vs. Lawrence Okolie (15-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 5: Okolie has had WBO and WBA secondary titles, and it’s finally his time as a legitimate world championship contender. Lord knows cruiserweight needs new blood.
Prestige: 4: Weird story here, as WBO champion Glowacki faced Mairis Briedis for the title, and Briedis won, but after the fact it was deemed that he may have fouled Glowacki with an elbow strike. The WBO ordered an immediate rematch, Briedis refused, he was stripped, and now here’s where we’re at.
Viewing Ease: 4
2. K-1 Featherweight Championship: Yuki Egawa (c) (14-3-1) vs. Tatsuya Tsubakihara (10-3-1)
When/Where: Sunday, 1:00am, Abema
Juice: 4: Egawa was named 2019’s K-1 Fighter of the Year, and here comes the unheralded Tsubakihara and upsets him in both of their last bouts, last September. Now it’s for the title.
Viewing Ease: 2: Both the start time and broadcast home aren’t, shall we say, ideal.
1. Vacant WBO International Welterweight Championship: Maurice Hooker (27-1-3) vs. Vergil Ortiz Jr. (16-0)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, DAZN
Excitement: 5: Ortiz is 16-0 with 16 knockouts. Enough said.
Juice: 3: Typical former world champion veteran against hard-charging, fireball prospect.
Viewing Ease: 4