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…

King of the Cage: Heavy Duty

River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Okla.
Event Date: Sept. 21
Website: kingofthecage.com
Watch the Event: MavTV (DirecTV channel 635)
Twitter: @OfficialKOTC

Spotlight Fight:
Josh Bryant (13-1) vs. Sean Strickland (9-0)

Middleweight gold will be on the line in Oklahoma, when King of the Cage middleweight champion Sean Strickland takes on The Ultimate Fighter 11 alum Josh Bryant.

Bryant looked like a promising up-and-comer by the time the reality series had concluded, making it to the semi-finals and earning a fight on the TUF Finale card. However, he was dominated in that outing by Kyle Noke. The loss resulted in his release from the promotion, but he has bounced back with three wins, including two first-round stoppages.

Strickland captured the middleweight strap from Brandon Hunt on the second try—the two rematched after Strickland won the first meeting but failed to make weight for the championship affair. The CQuence Jiu-Jitsu product holds a purple belt in BJJ, but has scored two first-round TKO’s and one first-round knockout over his last three fights. He’ll look for the takedown, but is just as happy to rain down punches as he is to snag an arm, leg or neck.

Strickland’s record is unblemished thus far in his career, but he has a tough test ahead of him. Bryant has a wrestling background, but also possesses knockout power. He has the ability to keep the fight standing while looking to outpoint Strickland. Strickland has improved his ability at ending fights in the first round, but Bryant presents a much tougher challenge than any of his past opponents. With Bryant’s only loss outside of the TUF house coming against Kyle Noke, and his only loss in the house coming against a surging Kris McCray, it’s hard to discount his chances in this bout.

It will be a close fight, and it’s easy to see either man emerging victorious. However, with Bryant’s resume, he has to be the favorite to work his way to a decision in a back-and-forth battle.

Other key bouts: Cody East (3-1) vs. Kinney Spotwood (2-0)

Xtreme Fighting League: Xtreme Fight Night 9

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Okla.
Event Date: Sept. 21
Website: xflfights.com

Spotlight Fight:
Anthony Johnson (12-4) vs. Jake Rosholt (12-4)

First it was 170. Fail. Then it was 185. Fail. Now, Anthony Johnson is at 205 and the word “fail” in regards to making weight no longer seems to be a given when talking about the UFC veteran. After several embarrassing struggles on the scale, both inside the UFC and on the regional circuit, Johnson debuted at light heavyweight in late August and impressed against Esteves Jones at Titan FC 24. Now, just under a month later, he heads to Oklahoma to fight again.

Johnson will headline the latest effort from the Xtreme Fighting League, opposite another UFC vet in Jake Rosholt. Rosholt is a three-time NCAA Division I national wrestling champion and a four-time All-American. His Zuffa run, extending from WEC to the UFC, ended in a disappointing 2-2 showing with first-round submission losses to Kendall Grove and Dan Miller. Since parting ways with the UFC, Rosholt has competed mostly on the regional circuit, including with Shark Fights and Titan FC, though he has also set foot in the Bellator cage. He has dropped two fights in that stretch, including his last outing, in which he made his light heavyweight debut against Matt Thompson.

Rosholt has a great wrestling background, but he has not been able to adapt to the added variable of submissions in MMA. His submission defense is the biggest hole in his game, though it’s far from his only hole.

The interesting thing in this pairing is that Johnson has never finished an opponent via submission. That might change here, though Johnson can just as easily keep this fight standing to earn a victory. In other words, no matter where the fight takes place, the advantage tilts in Johnson’s favor. Johnson is strong, and he’s finally fighting in the proper weight class. He’ll use that strength and his own wrestling skills to avoid getting taken down. We’ve seen the power in Johnson’s punches and kicks in the past, and once he establishes the fact that this will be a standing affair, Rosholt will become very familiar with that power as well. Johnson will outclass Rosholt en route to a second-round TKO victory.

Shooto Brazil 34

Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Federal District, Brazil
Event Date: Sept. 21
Website: shooto.com.br
Twitter: @ShootoMMABrasil

Spotlight Fight:
Jorjao Rodrigues (27-7) vs. Raoni Barcelos (3-0)

Shooto Brazil has been on a roll lately. On the heels of the promotion’s Fight for BOPE 2 card, it returns to deliver yet another event with an intriguing headliner. And although experience mismatches tend to be a norm in Brazilian events, you can’t always count out the young prospect over the grizzled veteran. Such is the case when Raoni Barcelos, with just three fights under his belt, meets 34-fight veteran Jorjao Rodrigues.

Barcelos fights out of Ruas Vale Tudo and has finished all three of his opponents. The stoppages came in the first round, with a 21-second TKO and a 76-second guillotine choke submission as the highlights of his resume. Barcelos might have two TKO finishes to his name, but his specialty is the ground game. A BJJ black belt who has been training since the age of two, Barcelos has captured four world titles in BJJ and has also competed in freestyle wrestling as part of the Brazilian National Wrestling Team. After earning accolades in both BJJ and wrestling, Barcelos is now out to conquer the mixed martial arts world as well.

His opponent, Jorjao Rodrigues, trains with Nova Uniao. The 35-year-old has been competing professionally since 2006 and has fallen to the likes of Nissen Osterneck, Satoru Kitaoka and Flavio Alvaro. Currently on a three-fight winning streak, the featherweight prefers to win on the mat, but has also reeled off eight wins by some form of knockout. If he loses, it usually happens on the judges’ scorecards.

Rodrigues, like Barcelos, is a ground specialist. He can be slow out of the gates against tougher opposition, though he has managed quite a few first round finishes. Under normal circumstances, one would think Rodrigues’ best option would be to test Barcelos’ stand-up. Usually, jiu-jitsu aces are awkward and lack power. The problem is that Barcelos has shown that he can finish an opponent via his fists, so even the stand-up might be fairly even.

Meanwhile, Barcelos holds the edge on the mat. Rodrigues is a grappler, but Barcelos is more accomplished. If this fight hits the mat, the four-time world champion will certainly outclass his opponent.

The one knock against Barcelos is the level of opposition he has faced since turning to MMA this year. None of his opponents have records above the .500 mark. Will the combination of Rodrigues’ experience and skill level be too much for Barcelos at this stage in his transition, or will his ground skills allow him to impress against a veteran such as Rodrigues?

What it boils down to is Barcelos’ combined skills across the disciplines of BJJ, judo and freestyle wrestling. Rodrigues will likely attempt to keep this fight in the upright position, but Barcelos should be able to score takedowns. Once on the mat, he holds the superior BJJ pedigree and should be able to submit Rodrigues. As tough as Rodrigues has proven to be, he will be stopped this time, via a late submission.

Other key bouts: Claudia Gadelha (7-0) vs. Raquel Pitbull (1-0)

Photo: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)