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…

Australian Fighting Championship 4

Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Event Date: Dec. 7
Website: afcmma.com.au
Watch Event: live PPV stream on EPICentre.tv
Twitter: @AFCMMAFighting

Spotlight Fight:
Soa Palelei (17-3) vs. Sean McCorkle (16-3)

Australian promotions have, for several years now, made a habit of assembling events that feature a prospect worthy of UFC consideration. For a big portion of that time, the most talked-about name belonged to Hector Lombard. However, with Lombard now under contract with the UFC, some eyes are turning towards a much more native talent in Tongan big man Soa Palelei. This weekend could be his big audition, as he fights another UFC veteran in Sean McCorkle, with both big men seeking to once again catch the eye of the UFC brass.

Palelei’s three losses are nothing to be ashamed of. He dropped his lone Pride bout, his UFC debut and a fight against Daniel Cormier, a man who was quickly on his way to the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. Since his loss in the UFC, Palelei has gone 9-1, including the loss to Cormier. “The Hulk” has fluctuated between heavyweight and super heavyweight, and he’s faced the likes of Bob Sapp, Yusuke Kawaguchi and Shunsuke Inoue along the way. Despite a wrestling background and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the 6-foot-4 fighter tends to be all about the knockout, and he makes quick work of his opponents, as evidenced by his 13 first-round stoppage victories.

Until his most recent outing, McCorkle’s only losses had come versus UFC competition. After submitting Mark Hunt in his Octagon debut, “Big Sexy” subsequently lost to Stefan Struve via TKO and Christian Morecraft by way of submission. McCorkle strung together six wins after his UFC release. However, he didn’t fare well in his last fight, losing via TKO to journeyman fighter Brian Heden. McCorkle is a grappler, picking up 11 of his wins by submission.

Neither man has performed impressively against quality competition, outside of perhaps the anomaly of a victory for McCorkle over Hunt. Palelei’s wrestling might be his biggest asset against McCorkle. Although “Big Sexy” has won a handful of fights via his striking, he absolutely wants to bring this fight to the mat and tie Palelei in knots. If he can’t do that, he could be in for a difficult night. Palelei has the power to decimate McCorkle in the stand-up.

Can Palelei stuff the takedown? That’s the real question in this encounter. That he almost competed for Australia in the Sydney Olympics suggests that his wrestling is indeed legitimate. Palelei will be at a three-inch disadvantage in height, but his power is there and he’ll find a home for his fists. McCorkle won’t be able to handle Palelei’s stampede out of the gates and will falter to a first-round knockout.

Other key bouts: Callum Lewis (6-2) vs. Ivo dos Santos (1-0)

Xtreme Fighting Championships 21: Night of Champions 2

Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
Event Date: Dec. 7
Website: officialxfc.com
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @OfficialXFC

Spotlight Fight:
Eric Reynolds (16-5) vs. Nick Newell (8-0)

There certainly could not be a bigger accomplishment for Nick Newell than to become a champion in a sport where he is considered at a disadvantage simply due to the structure of his body. As much as people admire him, there undoubtedly have been whispers that he could never defeat a higher caliber fighter. Now, against Eric Reynolds, he’ll get the chance to prove those doubters wrong…and with the XFC lightweight title up for grabs, nonetheless.

Newell has managed to defy the odds thus far in his mixed martial arts career, remaining perfect through eight fights despite taking on increasingly difficult opponents. He’s stunned most of those opponents with quick finishes in the opening round. Newell has proved that he can strike as well as grapple—the TKO in his pro debut and the knockout in the fight that earned him his place in this match-up are evidence of that. But his specialty is the ground game, where he has stopped five of his foes within two minutes.

Reynolds is actually just 5-4 over his last nine fights, but his current three-fight winning streak places him in this title tilt. Two of the 26-year-old’s losses came via submission, but those were in fights against Eddie Alvarez and Jorge Masvidal. He has easily faced a higher level of competition, but with only mixed results.

Newell’s toughest test to date was his April meeting with Chris Coggins. The contest ended in a majority decision favoring the American Top Team fighter. Coggins attacked Newell with several chokes, but couldn’t finish the rising star. Reynolds, a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, likely won’t out-grapple Newell, but he could out-strike him. Yet, the one area where Reynolds truly holds the upper hand is in his experience. He has nearly three times the fights of his counterpart, and he’s been in action against the likes of Alvarez and Luis Palomino.

Newell wrestled in high school and college, amassing more than 300 wins. He’ll try to put Reynolds on the mat early and often, and he will likely even put the Bellator veteran in some bad spots. However, Reynolds’ experience and grinding style will carry him through the early stages of the fight, where Newell is most aggressive. The one time Newell couldn’t score a quick finish, he only managed to eke out a majority decision. Reynolds has more aspects to his game than Coggins, so he’ll find more ways to expose Newell. Look for him to stay on the outside and land punches while avoiding Newell’s takedowns. Reynolds will either ride that strategy all the way to the judges’ scorecards for a decision win or he will score the TKO in the third round.

Other key bouts: Ryan Thomas (14-7) vs. Corey Hill (6-4), Heather Clark (5-2) vs. Stephanie Eggink (1-1), Keith Richardson (7-3) vs. Jarrod Card (12-6)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 50

Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, Scotland
Event Date: Dec. 8
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event: free live stream on MMA Junkie
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Wilson Reis (15-4) vs. Owen Roddy (11-3)

Two former featherweights are making their way down to the 135-pound bantamweight limit for the latest offering from the Cage Warriors promotion. One of those men, Wilson Reis, is a former EliteXC 140-pound champion and fairly successful participant in Bellator’s tournament format, having made it to the semifinal round on three separate occasions. The other is an Irish prospect, in Owen Roddy, who has not lost in more than four years.

Reis is three fights removed from his last run in Bellator. During his Bellator run, he competed primarily as a featherweight, scoring three wins during tourney action and two additional victories in non-tourney affairs. His four career losses, all under the Bellator banner, came against eventual season-one tournament winner Joe Soto, Patricio Freire (twice) and, in his lone bantamweight tournament excursion, against Eduardo Dantas. Since parting ways with the company, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has notched three wins, including two by submission, on the regional circuit.

The biggest disparity between these two competitors comes in terms of height. At just 5-foot-4, Reis felt the move to bantamweight better suited his size. Unfortunately for Reis, Roddy, at 5-foot-11, might bring back nightmares of Reis’ featherweight days. That height advantage is going to help the Irish fighter in a couple of ways. Height generally translates into a reach advantage, and that will allow Roddy to stay on the outside and attempt to pick apart the smaller Reis. Roddy’s lanky frame also gives him the ability to throw up armbar and triangle attempts from his guard. Despite his preference to stand, Roddy has utilized submission holds to win five of his fights.

Roddy defeated UFC veteran Shannon Gugerty via unanimous decision in his most recent fight, but Reis might be a tougher opponent still. The Bellator vet claims that he feels stronger at the lighter weight. Combine that strength with his grappling skills versus a European opponent, and this could be an easy submission win for Reis. All he has to overcome is Roddy’s length.

After witnessing Xavier Foupa-Pokam, a Muay Thai specialist, take down his British opponent at will last weekend, it’s hard to find much confidence in a fighter from the United Kingdom or Ireland maintaining an upright position throughout a fight. Reis isn’t a world-class wrestler, but he’ll eventually take his European opponent to the mat. From there, it should be all Reis, as the highly-decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner will sink in a submission that coaxes a tapout from Roddy.

Other key bouts: Paul McVeigh (18-7) vs. Brandon Hempleman (8-1), Aaron Wilkinson (10-5) vs. Alan Johnston (5-1-1), Scott Askham (7-0) vs. Denniston Sutherland (18-8), Graham Turner (20-7) vs. Nathan Beer (13-4)

Photo: Wilson Reis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)