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. Inaugural Lion Fight North American Lightweight Championship: Angela Whitley (11-2) vs. Taylor McClatchie (18-1)
Friday, 8:00pm, UFC Fight Pass
Juice: 2: Fun aside here, as both of these women are highly educated. McClatchie holds a master’s degree in cellular molecular medicine and is a research scientist, while Whitley is completing her PhD in environmental science. Brains and brawn.
Viewing Ease: 4: Lion Fight has had plenty of homes, but hopefully Fight Pass is where they stay long-term.
4. Fight To Win 155lb Black Belt Championship: Kennedy Maciel vs. Joshua Cisneros
When/Where: Saturday, 5:00pm, FloGrappling
Competitiveness: 4: Maciel is a step above, but it’s not a mismatch by any measure.
Prestige: 4: Lots of competition these days, but F2W is still the gold standard.
Viewing Ease: 4
3. IBF World Junior Bantamweight Championship: Jerwin Ancajas (c) (32-1-2) vs. Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 9:00pm, Showtime
Competitiveness: 3: Rodriguez needs a little more time in the oven before he’s ready to face Ancajas.
Excitement: 5: Ancajas has been on a fierce streak lately, gathering lots of finishes.
Viewing Ease: 3
2. Vacant WBO World Light Heavyweight Championship: Joe Smith Jr. (26-3) vs. Maxim Vlasov (45-3)
When/Where: Saturday, 10:00pm, ESPN
Juice: 2: Delayed from February, but one of these two vets will walk away a world champion.
Prestige: 4: A belt loses a little bit of steam when the champion moves up in weight to win it on a lark, then decides, nah, not feeling it. That happened with Canelo back in 2019 and it’s been vacant ever since.
Viewing Ease: 4
1. ONE Flyweight Championship: Adriano Moraes (c) (18-3) vs. Demetrious Johnson (30-3-1)
When/Where: Wednesday, 10:00pm, TNT
Competitiveness: 5: Moraes faces the toughest challenge of his career in Johnson, one of the greatest MMA fighters to ever put on the fingerless gloves.
Viewing Ease: 4: ONE makes their TNT debut and a returning Mighty Mouse to American TV.