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…

Legacy Fighting Championship 14

Houston Arena Theatre in Houston
Event Date: Sept. 14
Website: legacyfights.net
Watch the Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @legacyfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Antonio Banuelos (20-8) vs. Joshua Sampo (7-2)

The flyweight division has given renewed hope to UFC and WEC fighters who have made a run at the upper reaches of the bantamweight division and fallen short. That’s what makes Antonio Banuelos’ fight on Friday’s Legacy Fighting Championship 14 card intriguing. After playing gatekeeper under both Zuffa banners and falling to Bibiano Fernandes in the finals of a bantamweight tournament in the Japanese Dream promotion, Banuelos has a chance to earn his way back into the Octagon, this time at 125 pounds.

Standing in his way will be Joshua Sampo. Sampo has traveled the regional circuit, collecting submission and decision victories. His only losses have come against UFC and WEC veteran Will Campuzano and WEC vet Mike French.

Although Sampo represents an up-and-coming prospect in a flyweight division that is still seeking depth, the story at this stage in the development of 125-pound talent is in former UFC and WEC bantamweights dropping down to fill up the roster. That’s what we’ve already seen in the UFC with Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson, Ian McCall and Chris Cariaso all shifting from 135 to 125. Banuelos, a longtime Zuffa employee, hopes to find his way back into the UFC fold here.

What he’ll be dealing with is a prospect that can be dangerous, but will likely be outmatched by Banuelos’ experience and ring savvy. The Pit product has been a solid, but not spectacular, fighter throughout his WEC and UFC tenure. Banuelos definitely prefers to strike, but also has a tendency to grind out razor-thin decisions.

Sampo’s striking might be a tad underrated, but the St. Charles MMA product is first and foremost a wrestler. He’ll seek to get Banuelos to the mat and work for submissions. Meanwhile, Banuelos will want to keep this fight standing.

The real x-factor here will be Banuelos’ weight cut. If the veteran can make 125 with relative ease, he brings a level of experience and skill that will leave Sampo struggling. Sampo’s loss to an 8-9 fighter in Mike French doesn’t help his case either. Banuelos is leagues above French in terms of talent and will stuff Sampo’s takedowns while picking away at the younger fighter on the feet. Unless the weight cut comes into play, this fight should end in a win for Banuelos, and possibly an invitation back to the Octagon.

Other key bouts: Jeff Rexroad (5-1) vs. Lucas Pimenta Borges (8-1) for interim welterweight title, Matt Thompson (17-9) vs. Justin Ledet (4-0), Alan Nascimento (7-0) vs. Cody Williams (3-2), Leandro Silva (5-0-1) vs. Brandan Farran (6-4), former NCAA Div. I national wrestling champion Darrion Caldwell (0-0) vs. Nate Garza (3-5), Matt Schnell (0-0) of MTV’s Caged vs. Ryan Hollis (0-0)

Ring of Combat XLII

Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Event Date: Sept. 14
Website: ringofcombat.com
Watch the Event: Go Fight Live ($14.99 PPV)
Twitter: @ringofcombat

Spotlight Fight:
Jimmie Rivera (9-1) vs. Joel Roberts (7-3)

This weekend is all about title fights on the regional and international circuit, and the New Jersey-based Ring of Combat organization leads the way with a set of intriguing championship tilts. Chief among them is Jimmie Rivera putting his bantamweight crown on the line against Joel Roberts.

Rivera is a two-time winner under the Bellator banner and also competed on the fourteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, missing out on a spot in the TUF house when he lost to Dennis Bermudez in the qualifying round. With that fight counting as an exhibition bout, Rivera’s only official loss came via split decision to Jason McLean in only the second fight of Rivera’s professional career. Rivera has posted wins over Jared Papazian and Abel Cullum, proving that he is a legitimate bantamweight prospect.

Roberts isn’t quite as big of a prospect, having three losses on his record already through just ten pro fights. The first two losses came against stiff competition in the form of Dustin Pague (in Roberts’ pro debut) and Kenny Foster. However, it is of concern that Roberts dropped a fight to Noe Quintanilla, a fighter with a losing record of 8-15. However, like Rivera, Roberts has competed and won in the Bellator cage.

Roberts, having picked up six of his wins by way of submission, is definitely the finisher of the two. However, he has not faced anyone of Rivera’s talent level. Yet, it’s troubling that Rivera doesn’t have more of a killer instinct. Not to take anything away from Bermudez, who showed a ton of heart in his comeback victory, but Rivera’s lack of finishing ability was ultimately what cost him a spot in the TUF house. He decimated Bermudez in the opening round, but he couldn’t put the eventual featherweight finalist away and paid the price in the second stanza.

Despite Rivera’s losses, he’s still the more promising fighter in this match-up. He’ll want to keep this fight standing at all costs, as Roberts relies on a slick submission attack to put away his opponents. Rivera has power, and at bantamweight he can use it more effectively than he did against the larger Bermudez on TUF. Rivera still won’t find a way to finish his foe, but he will walk away from this one and retain his title with a lopsided decision.

Other key bouts: Deividas Taurosevicius (14-5) vs. Mike Santiago (7-4) for the featherweight championship, Mike Massenzio (13-7) vs. Ronald Stallings (10-4) for the vacant middleweight title, Andy Main (5-1) vs. Pat DeFranco (2-1), Ed Gordon (5-0) vs. Anton Talamantes (4-2) for the light heavyweight title

BAMMA 10: Sinclair vs. Winner

Wembley Arena in London
Event Date: Sept. 15
Website: bamma.com
Watch the Event: AXS TV (United States), Channel 5 (United Kingdom)
Twitter: @bammauk

Spotlight Fight:
Rob Sinclair (11-2) vs. Andre Winner (14-6-1)

One of the top British promotions has put together a stellar card, and fans on U.S. shores will get to see the action live on AXS TV at 4 p.m. ET. Taking center stage will be a lightweight championship affair pitting current kingpin Rob Sinclair against TUF 9 finalist and UFC veteran Andre Winner.

After an impressive run on The Ultimate Fighter, Winner secured a pink slip when he lost three straight fights inside the Octagon to bring his UFC record to 2-4. Winner is a member of Team Rough House, alongside fellow UFC veterans Paul Daley and Dan Hardy.

Sinclair is a striker with a background in boxing and Muay Thai. The Team Kaobon and Predator MMA product has put away nine of his foes via some form of knockout. His most recent loss came via a close split decision against Paul Sass, who is currently enjoying an undefeated run inside the UFC’s Octagon through three appearances.

Winner is the type of fighter who grinds out decisions. He has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but only holds three submission victories (one of which came via strikes and another coming as the result of an eye injury). Five of his six career stoppage wins came in his first five outings, showing that he’s lost the knack for finishing fights. Winner’s inability to defeat a one-dimensional striker in his last UFC outing versus Anthony Njokuani also leaves a big question mark as to his chances in this contest.

Sinclair, like Njokuani, is primarily a striker. He’s out there to punch his way to victory. However, the close fight against a submission ace such as Sass shows that he won’t be an easy out. He can avoid submissions and let his striking carry him to victory. And if Winner can’t put an end to the fight, it gives Sinclair even more time to find an opening.

Winner might be the bigger name going into this fight, but Sinclair will prove he’s the better fighter by handing Winner the first knockout loss of his career.

Other key bouts: Jack Marshman (10-1) vs. Andrew Punshon (11-5) for the British middleweight title, Curt Warburton (10-3) vs. Lee Wieczorek (11-3), Ian Entwistle (6-1) vs. Lewis Long (6-1), Denniston Sutherland (17-8) vs. Lee Barnes (10-9), Tom Breese (4-0) vs. Warren Kee (7-1-1)

Photo: Andre Winner (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)