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…

Jungle Fight 49

AABB Lagoon Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Event Date: Feb. 22
Website: junglefight.net.br
Twitter: @junglefc

Spotlight Fight:
Talison Soares (7-1) vs. Alexandre “Capitao” Campos (12-4)

Anyone who has watched MMA for any length of time knows that Brazil is a country to keep an eye on for emerging prospects. Among the best promotions for such talent is Jungle Fight, which hosts its 49th offering this weekend in Rio de Janeiro. Heading the list of up-and-comers are grapplers Talison Soares and Alexandre “Capitao” Campos.

At 24 years of age, both men have already attained the level of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Their grappling skills are evident in the cage, with Soares capturing five of his wins via submission and Capitao claiming nine such victories.

After starting off his career with two losses, the more experienced Capitao has turned things around by going 12-2 over his last 14 fights. He has only lost once in his last nine appearances. But the big concern for the Orion Fight Camp product is his submission defense. He has never been knocked out, but he has suffered two submission defeats. On the positive side, the 5-foot-11 featherweight has two TKO victories to his credit, proving that he can strike as well.

His opponent, Soares, has claimed two TKO victories of his own and is on a five-fight winning streak. Although his sole loss is credited as a submission defeat, Soares succumbed to strikes. The 5-foot-9 fighter trains out of the Pitbull Brothers and Brother’s Barreto fight camps. The 24-year-old has been busy, turning pro in July 2011 and already compiling an eight-fight record.

With the UFC always looking to import the best that Brazil has to offer, especially in a division such as featherweight, these two could be auditioning for a future job in the Octagon. In that regard, Capitao is further along in his development. He has already seen five fights with the Jungle Fight promotion. The bad news is that he’s gone just 3-2 in those outings, suggesting that he might not be cut out for the highest levels of the sport. Soares, meanwhile, is making his Jungle Fight debut and will be fighting on the biggest stage of his young career.

Soares has quickly risen to the status of a top prospect despite less than two years of professional action. Capitao’s has twice as many fights as Soares, but he’s been around for approximately three times as long, having made his debut in April 2007. Capitao should make this competitive, and his experience, especially on the bigger stage of Jungle Fight, could even allow him to take home the victory. However, the grappling talent of Soares stands out as the biggest edge for the decorated BJJ specialist. Pair that with Capitao’s own tendency to lose by submission, and it looks like Soares will notch his biggest win yet.

Other key bouts: Sean Peters (5-0) vs. Lucio Curado (5-2) for the lightweight title, James “Tractor” Silva (14-4-2) vs. Fabio Queiroz (2-1), Marcos Vinicius (8-0) vs. Sidney “Junior Abedi” Oliveira (6-4)

Cage Contender XVI

National Basketball Arena in Dublin, Ireland
Event Date: Feb. 23
Website: cagecontender.com
Twitter: @cagecontender

Spotlight Fight:
Paul Daley (30-12-2) vs. Patrick Vallee (9-4-1)

What to do when you request your release from Zuffa and manage to make yourself too much of a bad boy for even Bellator? Obviously, the answer is to hit the regional circuit. That’s the route that UFC and Strikeforce veteran Paul Daley has taken. After assault charges led to visa issues for Daley’s anticipated entry into the Bellator season-eight welterweight tournament, the feared striker will now head to Ireland for Cage Contender 16 and a meeting with Patrick Vallee.

Any MMA fan who has been paying attention knows the story of Daley. He sucker-punched his way right out of the UFC after almost earning a title bid, had his ups and downs under the Strikeforce banner before a lack of fights led to his departure and then managed to squander his opportunity at becoming one of the faces of the Bellator promotion. But the part that’s sometimes lost in all of the drama surrounding the British fighter is the fact that his fists are lethal. Just ask Scott Smith, Martin Kampmann or Dustin Hazelett. They can testify.

The key for any fighter versus Daley is to avoid standing in front of the 29-year-old knockout artist. Avoid those shots and the best case scenario is a win and the worst is a decision loss. Josh Koscheck and Tyron Woodley accomplished the former, whereas men such as Luigi Fioravanti and Jordan Radev accomplished the latter.

However, Daley isn’t exactly fighting UFC-caliber material in his opponent, Patrick Vallee. The Frenchman has a decent, but not overly impressive record. Although he launched his pro career by fighting to a draw with Siyar Bahadurzada, he has since lost to anyone remotely resembling a UFC fighter, including David Bielkheden and Daniel Acacio. His background is diverse. He spent time training in judo as a youngster, but primarily focused on taekwondo before discovering MMA. The combination of his skills has allowed him to pick up wins on the feet and on the mat. He attributes his recent 1-3 stretch to not being fully recovered from surgery, but his loss to Brandon Thatch still speaks volumes about his potential for defeating a significantly superior striker in Daley.

Daley hasn’t exactly picked a can for this fight. In fact, Cage Contender fans voted Vallee into the spot. He could threaten Daley on the ground, but despite the fact that he has scored some impressive knockouts of his own, he needs to avoid standing exchanges. Given Daley’s past inconsistencies, it’s not beyond the imagination to consider Vallee winning the fight. However, it’s highly unlikely that we see an outcome where Daley doesn’t have his hand raised.

Other key bouts: Arni Isaksson (12-4) vs. Ali Arish (17-2) for the interim welterweight title

Fight Nights: Battle of Moscow 10

Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia
Event Date: Feb. 23
Website: fightnights.ru
Twitter: @Fnsofficial

Spotlight Fight:
Ruslan Magomedov (9-1) vs. Mike Hayes (18-6-1)

Former Bellator heavyweight tournament participant Mike Hayes seems intent on fighting anywhere but on American soil these days. First, he went to the United Arab Emirates, then to Ireland, and then to Russia, where he’s now set for his second straight fight in Moscow. The globetrotting efforts haven’t exactly boosted Hayes’ value, however—he’s just 1-2 in his three overseas affairs. He’ll try to add a second international win to that mark when he faces Russian boxer Ruslan Magomedov at the latest show from the Fight Nights promotion.

Hayes’ background is in boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but his biggest asset is his ability to survive to the final bell. Hayes has six losses, but they’ve all come via the judges’ scorecards. His recent stretch of fights has seen him square off with former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski and veterans D.J. Linderman, Andreas Kraniotakes and Neil Grove. Hayes edged out Grove via split decision and submitted Kraniotakes, but dropped unanimous verdicts to Linderman and Arlovski.

Magomedov was to compete for Bellator in its season-seven heavyweight tournament, but visa problems prevented that from happening. The boxer trains out of the Russian MMA Academy and holds a decision win over former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez. Four of his wins have come via some form of knockout.

Hayes has heart and a well-rounded skill set, but Magomedov has the better potential. He’ll be fighting on home turf against an opponent that has not had much success outside of U.S. borders. Hayes could grind this one out for three rounds, which would frustrate his Russian counterpart. What Hayes doesn’t have, though, is an overwhelming element of his game that he can use to overcome Magomedov. He won’t likely be able to drag Magomedov down to the mat to work submissions, and he’ll be outclassed by the more technical Magomedov on the feet. The Russian might not score the finish, but he’ll score the victory on the judges’ scorecards.

Other key bouts: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Maxim Grishin in a K-1 rules bout, Alexei Nazarov (11-5) vs. Tarrance Williams (3-0), Zubair Tukhugov (11-3) vs. Harun Kina (4-2), Magomed Alhasov (7-0) vs. Erdi Karatas (2-1)

Photo: Paul Daley (Brian Townsend/Sherdog)

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