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…

Royal Arena 2

Bronby Hallen in Copenhagen, Denmark
Event Date: Aug. 31
Website: royalarena.dk

Spotlight Fight:
Nicolas Dalby (8-0) vs. Ivica Truscek (19-11)

Danish fighter Nicolas Dalby has compiled an impressive record in his young career, showing that he can win by knockout, submission or decision. But now he will face his toughest test to date as he locks horns with Croatian fighter Ivica Truscek.

Truscek prefers to go for the double-leg takedown and set up for a ground-and-pound barrage from top position. Whereas his wins have come by all methods, an overwhelming amount of his losses have come by way of submissions.

Dalby has a good all-around game, and has shown his power with a six-second knockout early in his career. The athletic 27-year-old will have to contend with Truscek’s experience in this fight. Truscek, though, has never shown the potential to be anything more than a top journeyman. Here, he’ll play the gatekeeper to Dalby, who must prove he’s ready to take the next step.

A win for Dalby could see him making his way onto the radar of Bellator and the UFC. Truscek is a natural lightweight who has bounced between 155 and 170. With that in mind, it’s likely that Dalby will be the bigger fighter—and he’ll definitely be the taller man, standing four inches taller than his Croatian counterpart.

Dalby’s takedown defense might not prevent Truscek from taking him to the mat, but once on the ground, Dalby should be able to work sufficiently off his back. And given Truscek’s tendency to lose via submission, it’s quite possible that Dalby locks in a triangle choke or another submission from his back. This one will be close, as Truscek’s skills will be enough to push Dalby. However, Dalby should display the superior stand-up and can do enough from his back to remain firmly in this contest. It’ll be a difficult outing for Dalby, but he’ll prove that he’s ready to advance to the next level with either a submission or decision win in this contest.

Other key bouts: Mikkel Parlo (7-0) vs. Simon Carlsen (7-3), Sirwan Kakai (7-1) vs. Vladimir Karasiov (6-3)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship: Fight Night 7

Al-Hussein Youth City Boxing Arena in Amman, Jordan
Event Date: Sept. 1
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch the Event: free live stream worldwide on Facebook (prelims) and MMA Junkie (main card); UK & Ireland will not have access to the live stream, but can view the event tape-delayed on Sept. 5 on Sky Sports.
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Pavel Kusch (13-2) vs. Chris Fields (9-4)

The Cage Warriors middleweight tournament hasn’t been so much about winning as it has been about staying healthy. Injuries have plagued the entire tournament, and what was originally supposed to be a clash between Pavel Kusch and John Phillips is now a fight between Kusch and the man that Phillips defeated to advance to the finals, Chris Fields. Despite Fields’ loss to Phillips, the Irishman was the only eliminated tourney participant healthy enough to step in, and now he has a chance to redeem himself and claim middleweight gold.

Before his loss to Phillips, which came by way of a second-round guillotine choke submission, Fields had put together a nice run of seven straight wins. Fields has the ability to finish opponents by way of strikes or by utilizing his submission game. He has been knocked out once, but the real hole in his game seems to be a weak defense against guillotine chokes.

Unlike Fields, who advanced due to the misfortunes of other fighters, Kusch earned his way here with victories. In fact, he didn’t waste much time at all in advancing to the finals, first slapping an omoplata on Alexander Starikov in just 30 seconds and then snagging feared striker John Phillips with a heel hook to force a submission in just 25 seconds. Less than a minute in action with Cage Warriors and he’s already in the tournament finals, that can’t bode well for Fields.

Fields’ submission loss to a striker such as Phillips has to be especially alarming now that he’s set to battle a fighter known for submissions. And Kusch’s two quick tournament wins aren’t the end of the story. The trend throughout the Ukrainian’s career has been to finish opponents in as little time as possible. The 24-year-old combat sambo champion has captured all of his 13 wins via submission and his only losses have come by way of knockout.

The strategy for Fields in this one will be to keep it standing at all costs. If he was careless enough to get caught in an arm-in guillotine by Phillips, there’s no way he can endure Kusch’s quick and varied arsenal of submissions for long. On the feet, Fields is fond of kicks and could utilize them to even the playing field. It’s quite likely his only route to victory, but it won’t be enough. Kusch is going to find a way to get this fight to the ground, and once he does, it will not be long before Fields is forced to tap.

Other key bouts: Jim Alers (8-1) vs. Marcio Cesar (16-6-1), Mark Holst (10-3) vs. Leonardo Santos (10-3), James Brum (9-2) vs. James Saville (10-4)

Pancrase: Progress Tour 10

Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: Sept. 1
Website: pancrase.co.jp
Twitter: @_PANCRASE_

Spotlight Fight:
Rin Nakai (11-0-1) vs. Mayumi Aoki (6-8)

Judo has come to the forefront of women’s MMA, courtesy of Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey’s quick rise to stardom. Rousey’s judo has helped her take opponent’s down and set up submissions. Perhaps the best foil for Rousey lies across the Pacific in the form of a Japanese star that also holds an undefeated mark in professional MMA competition and has been training in the art of judo since she was a toddler. The female warrior in question is Rin Nakai, who will take on Mayumi Aoki in an opening round (semifinal) bout of the bantamweight Queen of Pancrase tournament at Pancrase’s Progress Tour 10.

Nakai, who ranks No. 5 in the world among 145-pound female fighters, is no stranger to Aoki. The two met once before in opening-round tournament action, where Nakai submitted Aoki within the first round. That fight was in the open weight division of the now-defunct Valkyrie promotion.

Nakai is one of the few top female stars yet to make an appearance in either Strikeforce or Invicta, but that will likely change is she keeps winning. And with 22 years of judo experience under her belt, she should easily keep winning. Perhaps one day, we’ll see her in the cage against either Rousey or Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. Those two would provide her with real tests, whereas Aoki seems like a secondary challenge.

Aoki has a background in kickboxing and shoot boxing, but oddly enough, the majority of her MMA wins have come via armbar submissions. Ironically, an armbar is also how she fell to Nakai. There’s no reason to think things will go differently this time around. Although anything is possible, especially in Japanese MMA, it would be a shock to see Nakai lose this rematch. The undefeated Shooto Dojo Shikoku product should instead use her judo to gain dominant position and once again finish Aoki with a submission.

The winner of this bout will await the victor of the other semifinal affair, expected to take place in October or November, with finals following soon after. It’s a good bet that Nakai will emerge as the bantamweight Queen of Pancrase once the dust settles. Meanwhile, WMMA fans will keep their fingers crossed in hopes that Invicta or Strikeforce secures her services.

Other key bouts: Takenori Sato (14-8-6) vs. Keiichiro Yamamiya (42-27-10) for the welterweight King of Pancrase title, Yuta Nakamura (6-3-1) vs. Shunichi Shimizu (25-8-10), Isao Kobayashi (11-1-3) vs. Tatsunori Tanaka (6-4)

Photo: Rin Nakai (Taro Irei/Sherdog)