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.
t4. WBO European Middleweight Championship: Danny Dignum (c) (13-0) vs. Andrey Sirotkin (19-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 2:00pm, ESPN+
Competitiveness: 3: Sirotkin is older, slower, smaller, and has less power, but aside from that, pretty even!
Viewing Ease: 4: Still a big fan of Saturday afternoon British boxing card in the absence of college football.
t4. IBO World Super Middleweight Championship: Carlos Gongora (c) (19-0) vs., Christopher Pearson (17-2)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: Pearson hasn’t been under the lights in nearly two years, and Gongora is hitting his prime.
Prestige: 3: Is Gongora going to be the next Chris Eubank and carry the IBO torch proudly?
Viewing Ease: 4
t1. WBO World Middleweight Championship: Demetrius Andrade (c) (29-0) vs. Liam Williams (23-2-1)
When/Where: Saturday, 3:00pm, DAZN
Competitiveness: 3: Williams has been banking some wins, but not exactly against world-beaters. The best opponent he’s ever faced was Liam Smith, and he lost in back-to-back contests. Andrade is another step above him.
Viewing Ease: 4: You can look at it glass half-full that they want to appeal to the UK market with his start time. Or you can be a little more cynical and say they didn’t want to compete with Triller later.
t1. Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship/Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals: Vadim Nemkov (c) (12-2) vs. Phil Davis (22-5)
When/Where: Friday, 9:00pm, Showtime
Competitiveness: 5: These two battled in 2018 at Bellator 209, with Nemkov prevailing by split-decision, with scorecards all around Twitter varying on who won it. It truly could have gone either way, and while Nemkov has been on a roll since then, it doesn’t seem like either’s games have differentiated enough for it to go any other way.
Excitement: 2: Nemkov has been super exciting to watch lately, but Phil Davis fights have a way or neutralizing that, especially over five rounds.
Viewing Ease: 3
t1. ONE Lightweight Championship: Christian Lee (c) (14-3) vs. Timofey Nastyukhin (14-4)
When/Where: Wednesday, 10:00pm, TNT
Competitiveness: 5: Nastyukhin had his star-making performance in TKOing Eddie Alvarez and is a top challenger at 155 to Lee.
Viewing Ease: 4: ONE returns for their second TNT offering with less starpower, but it’s good to grow your homegrown stars.