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…

Predator Fighting Championship 23

Rio Preto Regional Events Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Event Date: March 9

Spotlight Fight:
Leandro Silva (10-0-1) vs. Chris Wilson (18-8)

Brazil has no shortage of promotions or prospects. The latest up-and-comer that MMA fans should keep an eye on is Leandro Silva. Undefeated through 11 fights, Silva will drop to lightweight and put his spotless record on the line against veteran Chris Wilson under the Predator Fighting Championship banner.

Silva has been tearing his way through the competition in Brazil. The BJJ black belt has posted seven wins by submission, with his preferred method being the rear-naked choke. Fighting out of Chute Boxe and Macaco Gold Team, “Buscape” has trained alongside UFC veterans Felipe Arantes and Lucas Martins. The former welterweight competitor has been working to develop a striking game that incorporates kicks and powerful crosses as a complement to his grappling attack.

Silva’s unblemished record has likely drawn at least some attention from the UFC brass by now, but the stakes will be higher when he competes at Predator FC 23. He’ll be fighting a former UFC fighter in Wilson. Wilson has 26 fights under his belt, and despite losses in three of his four UFC appearances, the former Team Quest fighter has faced the likes of Pat Healy, Jay Hieron and Jon Fitch throughout his career (and holds wins over the former two). Wilson now calls Brazil home and has trained alongside legendary Pride and UFC heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Like Buscape, Wilson holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Where the two differ is in their ability to mix things up. Although Wilson has eight submission wins, he also has seven by some form of knockout. His offense has been more varied than that of his Chute Boxe counterpart. The 35-year-old has also benefited from fighting in Brazil lately, where he has notched two first-round submission wins to rebound from a 1-4 stretch that included UFC losses to Fitch, Mike Pyle and John Howard. Wilson tends to lose via decision, but he has been submitted twice. Those defeats have come at the hands of the two best grapplers that he has fought—Nick Thompson and Mike Pyle.

Silva has proven to be an outstanding grappler within the Brazilian regional circuit, and Wilson will have to be careful not to leave his neck exposed to one of Silva’s chokes. However, Wilson brings a ton of significant experience to any fight he takes part in. He went three rounds with Fitch, defeated Hieron and Healy, and has fought under the bright lights of the UFC and the IFL. If Buscape can impress against Wilson, he could find himself on a Brazilian UFC card in the near future. However, Wilson has the combination of experience and a well-rounded game to counter Silva’s ground game.

Wilson is going to make this a very difficult test for Silva to pass. The two could engage in a back-and-forth battle on the mat, but Wilson has the ability to keep this standing, where he can outclass the Chute Boxe fighter. Wilson will hand Silva his first career loss, by TKO, sending the submission specialist back to the drawing board.

BAMMA 12: Wallhead vs. Veach

Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England
Event Date: March 9
Website: bamma.com
Watch Event: AXS TV (USA), The Fight Network (Canada), Red Media (Russia), TV Esporte Interativo (Brazil), Setanta (Africa)
Twitter: @bammauk

Spotlight Fight:
Jim Wallhead (23-7) vs. Matt Veach (16-4)

If there is one area of the world that has benefited from the UFC’s castoffs, it has to be England. Top British promotions BAMMA and Cage Warriors have had little hesitance in snatching up talent that the big dog has deemed expendable. In the case of BAMMA, the cast of UFC veterans has now expanded to include longtime journeyman Matt Veach, who fought inside the Octagon in 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, the promotion is also welcoming “Judo” Jim Wallhead back into its fold after his second stint under the Bellator banner. The two welterweights will now lock horns in the headlining affair of BAMMA’s 12th offering.

Veach’s three-fight venture into the UFC included a TKO victory over Matt Grice, a “Fight of the Night” bonus in a losing effort against Frankie Edgar and a loss to Paul Kelly that resulted in a pink slip for Veach. The H.I.T. Squad product hails from Illinois and has a background in wrestling that includes All-American honors during his junior college years. Veach is also a NCAA Division I qualifier, and he uses his wrestling skills to score takedowns and slams. Veach also has striking power to accompany his wrestling prowess. He’s mixed submission wins (seven total) with TKO victories (five). Veach struggles on the ground, where he’s been submitted four times, including in his UFC losses and in fights against UFC vets Drew Fickett and Eric Wisely.

Looking to counter Veach’s wrestling will be judo black belt Jim Wallhead. The British fighter has experienced tremendous success on his homeland, and holds recent victories over UFC vets Frank Trigg and Che Mills and Strikeforce veteran Joey Villasenor. His recent setbacks have come when he has crossed the Atlantic Ocean to fight stateside. In the Bellator cage, Wallhead’s lone win came versus Ryan Thomas, and he suffered losses to Rick Hawn and Lyman Good. Prior to his time in Bellator, Wallhead had once before jumped to U.S. shores and lost, versus Charles Blanchard in 2008. He has also fought and lost to UFC fighter Dennis Siver. Much like Veach, the Team Rough House fighter has a mix of victories via strikes (seven), submissions (nine) and decisions (seven), but tends to lose by submission or decision.

Although Veach has superior wrestling, he doesn’t have the grappling skills to end Wallhead’s night. Instead, he will look to take the British fighter to the mat and work from top control. He will also sprinkle in some strikes when the two are standing. That strategy will win him points on the scorecards, but it won’t win him the fight. The troubling detail for the American is that his biggest win was the TKO of Grice. Fighting in England, Wallhead has not lost since 2006, and that defeat came versus a top guy in Siver. Wallhead may find himself fighting off his back at times, but he’ll show the better technique in this fight and will eventually catch Veach making a mistake and capitalize for the submission win.

Other key bouts: Max Nunes (9-0) vs. Marcin Lazarz (5-0), Curt Warburton (11-3) vs. Steven Ray (12-3) for the British lightweight title, Luke Newman (5-0) vs. Ryan Scope (6-0), Kevin Thompson (13-6) vs. Scott Askham (9-0), James McAllister (6-1) vs. Dawid Farycki (3-0)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 52

HMV Forum in London
Event Date: March 9
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event: main card live stream on MMA Junkie (USA/Canada), JOE.ie (Ireland), Sportube.tv (Italy) and cagewarriors.com (rest of the world). Prelim stream live on Facebook.
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Gael Grimaud (17-5) vs. Cathal Pendred (11-2-1)

BAMMA is not the only British promotion with a knack for unearthing talent, both at home and abroad. Cage Warriors has also been busy putting together intriguing cards and signing talent local talent while opening its doors to UFC castoffs such as Che Mills. Mills inked a five-fight deal with Cage Warriors following his recent UFC release, and the welterweight will be paying close attention this weekend when Gael Grimaud defends his 170-pound crown against Cathal Pendred.

Pendred will be looking to exact a bit of revenge on behalf of his SBG Ireland teammate, Arni Isaksson, whom Grimaud defeated for the vacant Cage Warriors welterweight strap. Grimaud has since defended the championship against UFC and Strikeforce veteran Jesse Taylor. Grimaud scored only the second TKO victory of his career when he stopped Isaksson, but the armbar of Taylor was the Frenchman’s 11th submission win. The Haute Tension product alternated between Cage Warriors title fights and forays into other smaller promotions in his last four fights, but he was victorious every time. He’s now riding an eight-fight winning streak. Prior to submitting Taylor, Grimaud’s most notable opponents were Yuya Shirai and Abner Lloveras, both of whom defeated the French judoka.

Pendred will look to pry the belt from Grimaud and hand the submission specialist his sixth career loss. The Irish fighter prefers to strike and has picked up five of his wins via some form of knockout. He has notched six wins by decision, but has never submitted an opponent. Meanwhile, he has only lost once by TKO and once—in only the second fight of his career—by submission. Having fought and defeated David Bielkheden and Bruno Carvalho in his most recent two outings, Pendred is no stranger to dealing with high-level grapplers.

This is a battle between a grappler who has even seen some of his fights come in French Pancrase events, where strikes on the ground are forbidden, and a striker. But both men have worked to develop their MMA game with some of the best in the world. Pendred travelled to Iceland to work on his ground game with Gunnar Nelson, whereas Grimaud, who normally trains alongside Karl Amoussou, trekked to Montreal to spend time at the famed Tristar gym. The knowledge both men picked up from those expeditions certainly makes this a more intriguing affair. Pendred should be better prepared to handle Grimaud’s submission game, and Grimaud’s time with the elite Tristar stable and trainer Firas Zahabi should help him in numerous areas of his game, from takedowns to striking.

Pendred has managed to surprise the likes of Bielkheden and Carvalho, battling both through to the judges’ scorecards and emerging with unanimous nods. It’s plausible that he could do the same against Grimaud, especially thanks to his time working with Nelson. Grimaud has lost once via TKO, and that was to Shirai, a fighter not known as a powerful striker. It’s really a matter of who dictates where this fight takes place. If Grimaud can uses his years of judo experience to put Pendred on the mat, this could end quickly by way of submission. If Pendred can thwart the Frenchman’s takedown attempts to keep this standing—or stuff them and gain top position—we could see the Irish striker land with effectiveness on his way to a TKO.

The former scenario seems more likely. Pendred might not be an easy finish for Grimaud, but he’ll have trouble with the champ’s judo and will spend most of the fight defending against submissions. There’s a chance that Pendred puts on a noble performance and goes the distance in a losing effort, but look for Grimaud to finish the fight without involving the judges.

Other key bouts: Graham Turner (21-7) vs. Fouad Mesdari (10-3), Bruno Carvalho (14-6) vs. Steven Dinsdale (5-0), Jack Mason (22-11) vs. Matt Inman (9-4), Paul McVeigh (18-8) vs. Paul Marin (5-1), Chris Fishgold (7-0) vs. Steve O’Keefe (6-2), Alex Enlund (7-1) vs. Martin McDonough (9-4)

Photo: Chris Wilson (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)