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…

Bluegrass Brawl 5

Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky.
Event Date: Jan. 4
Website: bluegrassbrawlmma.com

Spotlight Fight:
Josh Ferguson (8-5) vs. Tyler Voth (4-0)

The last time The Ultimate Fighter alum Josh Ferguson competed in his native Kentucky was in 2008. But that changes on Friday, when the Bluegrass State welcomes Ferguson back for a fight against rising prospect Tyler Voth at the fifth installment of the Bluegrass Brawl series of events.

Ferguson’s run on The Ultimate Fighter 14 saw him make the house, only to lose to Johnny Bedford in his first fight. However, as has been the case for a majority of his career, Ferguson was fighting above his natural weight while competing as a bantamweight on TUF. He was brought back for the TUF 14 Finale, again at 135 pounds, and lost to Roland Delorme. With the UFC’s addition of a flyweight division, Ferguson had one more Octagon outing, but he lost it as well, dropping a unanimous decision to Chris Cariaso.

Not only is Ferguson’s opponent undefeated as a professional, but he’s also perfect through a seven-fight amateur career. As a professional, Voth has never gone beyond the first round in any of his fights. The Kentucky native is an example of the new breed of mixed martial artist—he has a background that is geared towards MMA, having trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, judo and boxing before participating in wrestling at the collegiate level. It shows in his resume, with three submission wins and a TKO during his pro run and four victories via strikes (two were submissions, two were TKOs) plus a guillotine choke submission. Voth trains at Reaction MMA, a gym that has an affiliation with Team Gurgel.

Voth was a featherweight champion as an amateur and has competed at bantamweight. With this fight set for the 125-pound flyweight division, it’s likely that Voth will hold the size advantage. His skill set also gives him the means to finish this fight standing or on the ground, making him a dangerous opponent for Ferguson.

What Ferguson desperately needs right now is a victory. He’s been travelling to the Jackson’s MMA gym in Albuquerque, N.M., in hopes of improving his all-around game. But what stand out are the four losses in his last five outings (five in his last seven if the exhibition bouts from TUF are counted). Granted, most of those defeats came at 135, and he was fighting the likes of Mike Easton and Roland Delorme, but it’s still not a great sign as he enters into battle against an undefeated opponent with a well-rounded skill set and a likely edge in size.

Ferguson’s hope for a return to the UFC hinges on winning fights at 125 pounds. However, the competition is getting increasingly difficult within the weight class. Despite his time spent training at Jackson’s and the experience he’s gained in the UFC, his track record hasn’t been that great recently. Voth, using his size and wrestling abilities, should be able to control where this fight takes place, and he’ll pick up a marquee win to add to his resume.

Other key bouts: Junie Browning (4-5) vs. Jeremy Myers (3-9)

Reality Fighting: New Year’s Bash

Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Event Date: Jan. 5
Website: realityfighting.tv

Spotlight Fight:
Matt Bessette (10-4) vs. Jeff Anderson (11-6)

The time around New Year’s is always slow for the regional MMA scene, but some promotions opt to use it as a reason to host a fighter card. Reality Fighting is celebrating 2013 with an event at the well-known Mohegan Sun Casino. Although the card is headlined by a welterweight title clash pitting Brett Oteri against Nuri Shakir and also features an interim middleweight title tilt, it’s the 150-pound affair between Matt Bessette and Jeff Anderson that holds the most intrigue.

Bessette has already had a taste of the bigger promotions. He has twice fought under the Bellator banner, taking unanimous decisions over Saul Almeida and Paul Barrow. The Connecticut native has a record that is sprinkled with losses, but one of those losses came in a five-round contest against rising UFC fighter and TUF alum Joe Proctor. Bessette went the full 25 minutes with Proctor en route to suffering a unanimous decision loss. The Underdog BJJ fighter’s most recent loss was a disqualification due to an illegal upkick. The 28-year-old started his career in MMA in 2007 after only four months of formal training. He holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and tends to win via either submission or decision.

Anderson kicked off his professional fight career with eight straight wins, but he has struggled in the time since. He has gone 4-6 over his last 10 outings while never stringing together more than two victories in a row. His notable losses include a submission defeat versus Rene Nazare, a TKO loss against Mike Campbell and a decision loss to Saul Almeida. Anderson is a decision machine, with nine of his victories and three of his defeats coming via the judges’ scorecards.

Anderson loves to take on tough opponents, and he’s found another one in Bessette. The difference between the two men is the direction in which their careers are headed. After a solid start to his campaign, Anderson has failed to find any level of consistency. Bessette has been much more successful of late—a hard-fought five rounds with Proctor and a DQ loss are hardly an indication of a fighter with no future.

The fact that both of these fighters struggle to finish their opponents—nearly half of Bessette’s fights have gone the distance as well—suggests that this fight is likely headed to the judges. Bessette has had success in the grappling department, and that will be his key to victory here. Anderson is a scrappy vet, but Bessette will take him down and grind out a decision while attempting to coax a tapout from the “Candyman.”

Other key bouts: Brett Oteri (11-3) vs. Nuri Shakir (17-20)

Grand Junction Fight Night

Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo.
Event Date: Jan. 5
Website: gjfights.com

Spotlight Fight:
Jordan Clements (10-1) vs. Brandon Crespin (3-2)

Some fighters just have to keep grinding away in hopes of one day getting a call from the UFC or another major promotion. Such is the case for Jordan Clements, who meets Brandon Crespin at the Grand Junction Fight Night event this weekend in Colorado.

Clements has yet to fight for a major promotion despite an impressive resume. The Utah native has only lost once in a little more than three years as a professional. In fact, it’s been more than three years since he picked up that lone defeat, which came via rear-naked choke submission against Jose Salgado. It was only the third fight of Clements’ career and he’s been perfect since then. The biggest black mark on Clements’ record is a failed drug test following his decision win over David Castillo at Showdown Fights 6 in Feb. 2012. The fight was overturned to a no-contest, but Clements returned just six-and-a-half months later to claim another victory with a quick TKO of Chris Allen. Clements’ most notable win is a first-round TKO of TUF bad boy Junie Browning.

In Crespin, Clements is fighting an average opponent at best. The Colorado native put together a respectable 5-1 mark as an amateur, but he has gone just 3-2 as a professional. Crespin’s victories tend to come via strikes, and he appears to be most vulnerable on the ground, where he has been submitted once as an amateur and once as a pro.

Neither of these men shies away from a striking exchange, and that’s likely what will take place when the two meet on Saturday. Clements has an experience advantage and has demonstrated his ability to in even the tough fights. If there is a weakness in Clements’ game, it lies in his submission defense. That’s not going to be a huge concern versus Crespin. Clements will look to put Crespin on his back and rain down punches until the referee calls an end to the contest.

Photo: Jordan Clements (Lester Muranaka/Sherdog)