Four Title Fights to Watch As MMA Returns This Week

Xiong Jing Nan Inside the Matrix
Xiong Jing Nan, Inside the Matrix Credit: ONE Championship

We’ve practically been going through withdrawals thanks to the absolute dearth of MMA action since the Christmas holiday. A multi-week break from all the major promotions save for RIZIN’s annual New Year’s Eve show left us suddenly wishing major events were a weekly happenstance — regardless of how, come the mid-way mark of the year, we tend to gripe about the over-saturation of UFC events.

Well, we shall want no more. The UFC returns this week, as does Invicta FC, ONE Championship, and a number of other promotions. By the end of the month, the UFC’s heavyweight title will have been defended, as well as Bellator’s — both fights being title unification bouts.

There are some interesting title fights coming up this week, however. While the UFC is bringing a Fight Night event with no championship gold on the line, Invicta, ONE, KSW, and even the regional circuit have some title fights worth keeping an eye on.

Here’s a recap of when and where gold is on the line this week.

Sarah Kaufman
Sarah Kaufman Credit: Ryan Loco / PFL

Sarah Kaufman vs. Claudia Leite, PAWFC

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Despite the terrible acronym (PAWFC is way too close to PAWG, frankly), Pallas Athena Women’s Fighting Championship has a solid card for an upstart promotion. It helps that the best female fighter not signed to a female promotion (wait, technically Kayla Harrison isn’t currently signed, so make that second best?) is topping the event.

It’s pretty much a crime that Sarah Kaufman isn’t signed to either the UFC or Bellator, though the latter doesn’t currently have her weight class. The Canadian is 5-1 since leaving the UFC following losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Alexis Davis — a.k.a. one of the best female fighters on the planet, and a former UFC title challenger.

Kaufman, a former Strikeforce champion, won gold in Invicta after departing the UFC. She came up short in her PFL run, but let’s not forget that came up not one, but two weight classes. After sitting out most of the pandemic due to girls simply not wanting to fight her, Kaufman finally got back to work at BTC 13 in Ontario last year. That saw her smash through Bellator vet Jessy Miele in a featherweight fight; at PAWFC 1, it’s back to bantamweight, where she’ll face the little-known Claudia Leite for the promotion’s inaugural 135lb belt.

Brazil’s Leite is on a four-fight win streak and is no pushover, so a Kaufman win here is far from a given. But if she claims the belt, the UFC really needs to give her another look. In the meantime, with Canada’s regional MMA scene struggling in recent years, it’s nice to see another option open its doors — and a rare all-female show at that. The card, which also features the well-known Andy Nguyen, will stream live on


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