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…

Cage Fury Fighting Championships 20

Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pa.
Event Date: Feb. 8
Website: cffc.tv
Watch Event: live PPV stream at GoFightLive
Twitter: @RobHaydak (CFFC President) and @CFFCariasgarcia (General Manager)

Spotlight Fight:
Scott Heckman (13-3) vs. Brett Martinez (4-0)

Sometimes, the route to the big leagues can include detours, even when a fighter remains successful. After a 2-1 stint in Bellator, it seemed like Scott Heckman was destined to become a mainstay in the promotion or transition into the UFC or Strikeforce. Instead, he has faced a series of seasoned veterans in the PA Caged Combat promotion. Sticking to local territory, he’ll head to the Cage Fury Fighting Championships promotion this weekend to fight undefeated prospect Brett Martinez.

Martinez has just five fights under his belt as a professional, plus a 3-1 record as an amateur. He’s proven to be well-rounded, with wins coming via both strikes and submissions. His lone loss as an amateur did come by way of submission, and he could find himself in deep waters if he ends up on the mat with Heckman.

The name of the game here is wrestling. Heckman was a three-time state medalist in high school and finished with a 142-19 record. He went on to qualify for nationals as a true freshman in college and holds a victory over former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Martinez is no slouch in this department either. He took home district and regional honors at the high school level and was also decorated at the college level.

Both men can land takedowns with ease, but Heckman’s accolades in wrestling suggest that he’s got the edge over Martinez. He also has much more experience and has only lost to Bellator tournament participant Alexandre Bezerra, UFC veteran Dustin Pague and fellow Bellator vet Joel Roberts. If he can get Martinez to the mat, this fight could end in a first-round submission finish.

There is also a possibility that the two wrestlers opt to stand. Heckman has lost once via TKO, and this could be Martinez’s best chance at victory. However, this fight appears to be just one more stop on Heckman’s road to the big show. His last two appearances with Bellator ended with his hand raised, and, demonstrating his confidence, he had called out Zack Makovsky on one occasion. Unless he completely underestimates his opponent, Heckman should be able to control where this fight takes place. He’ll take it to the ground and quickly wrap up Martinez in a submission hold to score the victory.

Other key bouts: Paul Felder (3-0) vs. Ricky Nuno (1-0)

Showdown Fights 10

UCCU Events Center in Orem, Utah
Event Date: Feb. 8
Website: showdownfights.com
Watch Event: live PPV stream at GoFightLive
Twitter: @ShowdownMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Clay Collard (10-4) vs. Jordan Clements (10-1)

Although many MMA fans associate MMA in Utah with Jeremy Horn and Horn’s Elite Fight Night promotion, there’s another regional top dog emerging in the area. Showdown Fights is on its 10th show and has gathered a number of prospects to fill out its lineup. Striking while the fire is hot, Showdown Fights will feature two fighters who fell in the elimination round of The Ultimate Fighter 17 (Kito Andrews and Jake Heun) as well as former TUF hopefuls Jason South and Kyacey Uscola. However, the most compelling pairing on the card is clearly the headlining bout between prospects Jordan Clements and Clay Collard.

Clements, a Utah native, has not tasted defeat in more than three years. His lone loss came via rear-naked choke to Jose Salgado in Dec. 2009. Since then, Clements has won eight fights. It actually would have been nine, but in his last Showdown Fights appearance, the young fighter failed a drug test following a decision win over David Castillo. The win was overturned to a no-contest, but Clements bounced back six months later with a TKO victory. Clements prefers to exchange strikes with opponents, but he is also skilled on the mat.

His opponent, Collard, is also from Utah and likes to look for the knockout. Like Clements, he has lost via rear-naked choke to Salgado. He also has one other submission loss on his record. That loss is notable, coming against Justin Buchholz in an all-out war. Collard may not have quite as stellar a record as Clements, but he’s the type of fighter that guarantees that a bout will be exciting to watch.

Clements has the stand-up to hang with Collard, but his biggest advantage might be his wrestling. If he can get Collard to the mat, he’ll gain the upper hand. Collard has already lost via submission twice and has two decision losses as well, including a defeat at the hands of a fighter who sits at 2-3. The other loss came against the same Castillo that Clements overcame via decision, before that ruling was overturned.

Clements has the skills and talent to win this fight. The key will be to avoid getting caught in a fire fight with his fellow striker. If Clements is smart, he’ll seek to plant Collard on the mat and work towards a submission victory.

Other key bouts: Jason South (8-0) vs. Kyacey Uscola (21-23), Kito Andrews (9-2) vs. Jake Paul (18-14), Jarome Hatch (20-12) vs. Josh VanderVeur (10-6), Jake Heun (3-2) vs. Colton Vaughn (4-1)

Celtic Gladiator 6: Day of War

Citywest Hotel in Dublin, Ireland
Event Date: Feb. 9
Website: celticgladiator.com
Twitter: @CGladiator

Spotlight Fight:
Piotr Hallmann (11-1) vs. Ivica Truscek (20-14)

Ireland has never been a hotbed for MMA, but the country occasionally hosts an event that features intriguing fights. Oddly enough, the featured pairing on the sixth offering from Celtic Gladiators does not feature any warriors of Irish descent. Instead, fans get to witness a rising lightweight prospect from Poland lock horns with a grizzled veteran from Croatia.

Piotr Hallmann has made a name for himself among European lightweights. He’s a knockout artist who can demolish opponents in the stand-up game or crush them with ground-and-pound. The latter strategy has led to a number of submission wins for the Polish upstart. His only loss came via TKO due to retirement in the fourth round of a title fight with Christian Eckerlin in 2010.

Hallmann’s Croatian counterpart, Ivica Truscek, has a lengthy resume. Truscek is also a striker and can frustrate opponents with an awkward stand-up attack. The Croatian looks to stuff takedowns and then use his striking to finish opponents. Truscek has already had quite a few fights for someone who is just 25 years old. The one thing he hasn’t had, however, is sustained success. He is 1-4 over his last five outings, and he has never put together more than four consecutive victories. He can be a tough test for any opponent, but ultimately loses to the better fighters he faces.

Hallmann would definitely rank among those better fighters. His stand-up can be brutal, and he has an overwhelming top game. The one thing Truscek has going for him is that he has only suffered one loss via TKO. It won’t be easy to finish him with strikes, but Hallmann will opt to use his power to put the Croatian Top Team fighter in bad positions that leave him open to submissions, against which Truscek’s defense isn’t quite as good. This fight ends with a battered and bloody Truscek tapping out to a rear-naked choke.

Other key bouts: Michal Kozmer (6-2) vs. Artur Sowinski (12-7), Mateusz Teodorczuk (9-2) vs. Ross Pointon (6-16)

Photo: Jordan Clements (L) battles David Castillo (Lester Muranaka/Sherdog)