Every Thursday, The MMA Corner will take a look at three regional or international cards, previewing from each a single fight to which people should pay close attention. We will also list other significant bouts from the card, as well as information on how to follow each promotion and watch the events.

Let’s discover those prospects that fight in the obscurity of the regional and international circuits, waiting for their shot at the bright lights and big stage of the UFC, and those veterans looking for one more chance at stardom. It all begins here, in the small convention centers and high school gymnasiums. It all begins with promotions such as these…

Extreme Fighting Championship Africa 15

Carnival City Casino & Entertainment World in Brakpan, South Africa
Event Date: July 27
Website: efcafrica.com
Watch the Event: Entire card available via pay-per-view at efcafrica.com or at NuMetro Cinemas (South Africa); First two fights stream live via free Facebook stream; Final three fights air live on E-TV (South Africa).
Twitter: @EFCAFRICA

Spotlight Fight:
Martin van Staden (11-5) vs. Dino Bagattin (7-2)

EFC Africa has risen to prominence on a continent that is otherwise devoid of MMA organizations. The promotion already houses a number of prospects, but it’s still difficult to judge how these men will do when they emerge from Africa and lock horns with tougher competition. For now, the fan base in South Africa can enjoy the evolution of these fighters, including Martin van Staden and Dino Bagattin. The two will compete on the portion of the card that is only available via the online streaming pay-per-view or a trip to the NuMetro Cinemas, where rates for a ticket vary depending on the theater’s location.

Bagattin brings a strong striking background to the cage. The 30-year-old has held numerous Muay Thai championships and has recorded the majority of his wins via some form of knockout. However, the Johannesburg native is still a novice on the ground, as evidenced by his only two losses, both coming via submission.

Van Staden, who hails from Durban, is a freestyle fighter. He lists his strengths as ground-and-pound and boxing. Like Bagattin, van Staden’s knockout power is obvious, as he’s finished eight foes by way of (T)KO. The four-year veteran definitely holds the experience edge, with at least 16 fights under his belt, though the EFC website goes as far as to credit him with 24 pro fights and an 18-6 record.

A quick look at their records and areas of concentration suggest that this could turn into a stand-up war. However, Bagattin’s Muay Thai background makes him the more technical striker, and it might actually benefit van Staden to get this fight to the mat. Bagattin has admitted his own lack of ground savvy, and though van Staden prefers to use his fists, he has two submission wins to his credit and has trained out of a 10th Planet affiliate gym in South Africa.

Van Staden has an experience edge, and has faced stiffer competition in the form of UFC fighter Brian Ebersole. The South African welterweight survived until the third round against Ebersole before succumbing to an inverted triangle choke. Despite the loss, it is his ability to hang with Ebersole for more than two rounds that stood out.

Between the experience and his higher comfort level on the ground, van Staden should hold the upper hand in this affair as long as he remains smart. If he gets the fight to the mat, he can use his ground-and-pound attack to soften up Bagattin before finishing him with a submission. If, however, Bagattin is able to lure van Staden into a stand-up battle, the advantage tilts in the opposite direction. Look for van Staden’s experience to make the difference, allowing him to maintain his composure and fight an intelligent and strategic game en route to the win.

Pro Fight 7

Municipal Stadium in Barlinek, Poland
Event Date: July 28
Website: pro-fight-mma.pl

Spotlight Fight:
Krzysztof Jotko (10-0) vs. Vincent del Guerra (17-7)

If you’re craving a rule set closer to that of the legendary Pride promotion, the Polish Pro Fight series will fit the bill perfectly. The league allows stomps, soccer kicks and elbow strikes from all positions.

The organization’s seventh offering features top European prospect Krzysztof Jotko against fellow 22-year-old Vincent del Guerra. This is a showcase of two young European fighters that already have seen their fare share of battles.

Jotko, who was named the “Polish Newcomer of the Year” in 2011, had moved down to welterweight for his last outing, but he experienced difficulties in his weight cut that hampered his performance. Although he managed to win that fight via unanimous decision, it’s certainly a wise move for him to return to the middleweight division, where he has experienced success without the worries of making a difficult cut.

His adversary, del Guerra, has seen more than twice the number of fights as Jotko, but he’s also lost seven times in his career. Most of those defeats have come via submission, whereas he has distributed his victories fairly evenly between knockouts and submissions, with a few decisions thrown in as well. The Frenchman has made a habit of preying on inexperienced or extremely low-level competition. Every time he has stepped up to meet a fighter with anything resembling an impressive record, he comes out on the losing end.

Jotko is clearly the prospect here, while del Guerra is a veteran that usually loses big fights. Jotko’s striking has won him a number of fights, but del Guerra has yet to be knocked out. Jotko might be able to change that fact, but it’s more likely that he’ll outpoint del Guerra instead.

Other key bouts: Lukasz Chlewicki (8-2) vs. Gustavo Picone (13-4), Mariusz Abramiuk (6-2) vs. Sergej Grecicho (13-5-1)

Premier Fight Series 1

Ft. Worth Convention Center in Ft. Worth, Texas
Event Date: July 28
Website: premierfights.net
Watch the Event:
Twitter: @PremierFight

Spotlight Fight:
Chas Skelly (8-0) vs. Luis Vega (8-2)

New promotions sprout up all of the time, but not many manage to feature a battle between top featherweight prospects on their inaugural card. The Texas-based Premier Fight Series has done exactly that by matching undefeated Bellator veteran Chas Skelly against a former welterweight in Luis Vega.

Vega launched his pro career with a disappointing 1-2 record, but then went on a tear to amass seven straight victories. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is definitely at home on the ground, though he has scored a knockout and a 45-second TKO during his career. Like Skelly, Vega has stepped into the Bellator cage, picking up a first-round submission win in his lone outing under the Bellator banner.

Skelly’s career had been on hold for two years due to an injured foot, but the NAIA All-American recently returned to action in June and needed just under three minutes to submit his opponent with a brabo choke. The win gave Skelly a perfect record through eight pro bouts. Skelly, who prior to the injury had been in line to fight Georgi Karakhanyan in a Bellator tournament qualifier bout, joined Team Takedown while his foot was on the mend. The camp, which is also home to UFC veterans Johny Hendricks and Shane Roller, should only help to improve Skelly’s game.

Skelly is the type of fighter that this feature is all about. Prior to his injury, he appeared to be bound for a Bellator tournament and was also rumored to be on his way to the UFC. Another impressive win or two on his comeback trail could renew talk of an Octagon debut. Skelly has twice defeated UFC fighter Daniel Pineda, so he obviously has the talent to deem him worthy of a shot in the big show. The wrestler will look to put Vega on the mat and work for a submission.

This could turn out to be a grappling clinic. Vega’s black belt skills provide another great test for Skelly, one that should allow him to regain momentum in his quest to make it to the UFC, assuming he emerges victorious. Although wrestlers can get into trouble against skilled grapplers, Skelly appears more than competent on the ground and could pose as much, if not more, of a threat to Vega.

It’s hard not to like Skelly’s chances here. The 27-year-old twice submitted Pineda, while only having gone to a decision once in his career. Skelly is a finisher, and he should find a way to end Vega’s night before the conclusion of this fifteen-minute affair.

Photo: Chas Skelly (top) hopes to stay undefeated (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

  • StealingFire

    Great stuff Bryan. I had the last two on my radar but that EFCA fight should be interesting as well. Too bad the Smith/McLellan rematch isn’t happening. What do you think about Shlemenko vs Anthony Ruiz at the Russian S-70 finals? I guess Shlemenko’s not all that obscure but the fight doesn’t appear on any major site. A good one for September will be Jon Tuck vs Harris Sarmiento for the PXC LW title. Sure wish more of this stuff would stream. Thanks again for a stellar column.

    • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

      StealingFire,

      Thanks! Smith/McLellan would have been interesting, for sure. Bagattin/van Staden is still a good mtach up for that card, but it does feel like there’s a lot less depth with only the one interesting fight.

      Shlemenko can appear in this feature. We’re not looking at obscure fighters, but rather smaller events with either top prospects or recognizable names. Shlemenko definitely qualifies as the latter. There’s a good chance I’ll break that fight down in a future edition of this feature, so for now I’ll say that it’s a good fight for Shlemenko considering it’s on a Russian show, but I think I’d have to pick Shlemenko to win.

      It actually seems like streaming events are getting harder to find. Before I put this feature on hiatus, it seemed like tons of shows were streaming in one way or another (their own site, GoFight, etc). Now, out of three events featured per week, it seems that I’m lucky if I can give a link to a stream for even one of them.

      Thanks again for reading, and glad you enjoy the feature!

      • StealingFire

        I hear you, man. I remember watching six streams in one weekend early this year. Since then it’s been dry as hell. What’s even worse is when we get fooled, like what EFC just pulled. They only streamed the last 3 fights for the $8 PPV (only option available in the U.S.) and van Staden/Bagattin wasn’t one of them. Although it sounds like it was FOTN.

        I don’t want to rant but a lot of fans seem to expect something for nothing when it comes to regional shows. Obviously there’s not much incentive for promotions to put up free streams and every time they try to charge a few bucks everyone ducks out. Even at $10 a pop, promoters are lucky to break even. Yet people will pay $50+ for a UFC event. (Where do they think the UFC fighters come from?)

        So I guess I’m not surprised there are fewer streams. Anyway, you’re the first person I’ve met who I can say is a true fan of the sport. You really dig deep for this stuff. With that, you might appreciate my latest Sherdog post: http://www.sherdog.net/forums/f61/some-upcoming-prospect-fights-2157507/

        And in case you’re not already tuned in, Jungle FC 41 will stream live tonight on ESPN3. Here’s a direct link: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/sport/karate/type/replay/search/jungle/#search/jungle/type/upcoming/

        Not one of their best cards, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad show in Brazil these days.

        • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

          The EFC isn’t the only one. We recently had another writer covering a stream that we thought was free, only for it to turn out to be a ppv. And then, to top it off, the stream had major issues.

          Well, it is hard for the small shows to expect money. The UFC promotes its fighters and fans look at it as the top of the food chain, so there’s plenty of interest. I think Invicta is going the correct route by doing free streams. If they put together great shows and stream them free, it allows them to build a solid following and then they can progress to a ppv format or television deals.

          I looked at the Sherdog post, nice work. I actually tend to use press releases and Sherdog, along with mixedmartialarts.com, to find the fights I feature here and then dig deeper into the cards at the promotion’s website. If you ever spot any you think are worth me previewing, feel free to email suggestions my way at bryan@themmacorner.com

          If it weren’t for Invicta, I might check out Jungle FC, but I’m really hyped about all the great women’s fights tonight. Thanks for the suggestion though.