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…

Xtreme Knockout 18
The Gym in Arlington, Texas

Event Date: March 23

Website: thegym.org

Twitter: @CombativeSports

Spotlight Fight:

Chris Gregoire (9-3) vs. Hayward Charles (8-4)

Texas may be best known to MMA fans as the home of Legacy FC, but there is more than one MMA promotion in the Lone Star State. While Legacy runs its operations out of the Houston area in southern Texas, a bit farther north in Arlington, Xtreme Knockout is on its 18th event. And one of the promotion’s biggest names is Chris “Kano” Gregoire. The welterweight will take on decorated grappler Hayward Charles at this weekend’s event.

Gregoire is based out of San Antonio, trains with American Top Team and prefers to swing for the fences in his fights, yet has notched a majority of his wins by submission. The 25-year-old is 6-1 over his last seven outings and is riding a two-fight winning streak. Gregoire has lost twice by TKO and once via a rear-naked choke submission.

Charles has taken honors at NAGA and Grappler’s Quest competitions, among others. His background is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Ironside MMA product has picked up seven of his victories by way of submission and has one TKO victory. Meanwhile, he has lost twice by TKO and one time each by submission and decision. Charles rebounded from a two-fight skid in early 2012 to pick up five straight wins.

These two prefer to stay active. From September 2011 through present, Charles has seen combat on nine occasions and tends to only take two or three months off between fights. Gregoire has expressed a desire to compete often as well, but his last fight actually took place in September of 2011. That could be the difference in this fight. “Kano” might not be able to pull a Mortal Kombat fatality of a finish if he has excessive ring rust to shed. Charles has a dangerous grappling game that Gregoire might not be prepared to deal with. This one will end within the first two stanzas, as Charles avoids Gregoire’s strikes, finds a way get him to the ground and then locks up a submission for the win.

Heroes Fighting Championship 1
Halmstad Arena in Halmstad, Sweden

Event Date: March 23

Website: heroesfighting.com

Twitter: @HeroesFighting

Spotlight Fight:

Abusupiyan Magomedov (8-0) vs. Andreas Stahl (7-0)

New promotions pop up all of the time in all corners of the world. In Sweden, Heroes Fighting Championship is set to make its debut with a card that will see a number of fighters lose their undefeated status. Among the most important of these pairings is the bout between welterweight up-and-comers Abusupiyan Magomedov and Andreas Stahl.

Magomedov is a Chechen wrestler fighting out of Germany’s Combat Club Cologne. The 22-year-old has tallied eight wins since his pro debut in 2010. His hands have accounted for half of his victories. He has caused doctors to intervene on two occasions and destroyed his most recent foe, Jessin Ayari, with a knee to the face and a barrage of ground-and-pound. Magomedov’s wrestling tends to take a backseat to his striking. The long, lanky 6-foot-2 fighter looks to keep his distance from opponents, and his reach allows him to connect on kicks from the outside. At times, his style is reminiscent of Nick Diaz, as Magomedov will paw at opponents with short jabs. However, despite his tendency to win by strikes, he’s not a very aggressive fighter.

That makes Andreas Stahl his polar opposite. Stahl isn’t shy about stalking his opponent around the cage or ring. The 24-year-old Renyi Fight Camp product also has enough power to finish fights when he connects cleanly, though his tendency is to fight to decisions. Much like his adversary, Stahl’s preference is to stand, though he is more likely to look for the clinch than Magomedov. The Swedish fighter has yet to earn a submission win, but he has demonstrated an ability to transition swiftly from one position to another on the ground and take his opponent’s back. Even if he can’t find a way to lock in submissions, this skill allows him to stay in control and keep his foe on the defensive.

There are two significant factors at play in this fight.

One is the difference in the levels of aggression between these two fighters. Magomedov is willing to let the fight come to him, but he can also land his kicks from a distance and cause Stahl fits by not allowing him to close the gap. Unless Stahl can get inside, he won’t have much luck connecting with punches or locking up a clinch and throwing knees. But Stahl’s forward movement can give him the edge with judges even if he doesn’t do too much, as long as he doesn’t let Magomedov lands significant strikes of his own. And although both men have a wrestling background, Magomedov’s size seems to work against him here, allowing opponents a chance to sweep and reverse him. Given the smooth and quick transitions displayed by Stahl, any scrambles on the mat could favor him as well.

The second factor is Stahl’s injured knee. It has kept him out of action for more than a year. He was to return in late 2012, but his fight fell apart. The layoff could lead to some ring rust, and his knee has yet to be tested in active competition. If he isn’t as sharp as he had been prior to the layoff, or if his knee turns out to be anything less than 100 percent, this fight could take on an entirely different outlook. But if the Stahl that shows up is the same one that picked up seven wins through 2011, Magomedov will have his hands full.

Stahl’s aggression and his superior clinch work could lead him to a decision win over the more tentative Magomedov. But Magomedov’s length will be a problem, and while the German-based fighter isn’t as eager to come forward, his win over Ayari showed what he can do with not only his hands, but his knees as well. If Stahl comes charging in, he might eat one of those knees or a front kick to the face. This is a close affair, but Stahl’s aggression what will ultimately tip the scales in his favor. It’s quite likely to end with the judges in disagreement, so Stahl will eke out a split verdict.

Other key bouts: Viktor Pesta (7-0) vs. Yosif Ali Mohammad (1-0), Martin Akhtar (2-0) vs. Emil Hartsner (3-0), Jonathan Svensson (4-0) vs. Guram Katateladze (3-0), Marcus Andersson (3-0) vs. Jonathan Salminen (1-0)

MMA Champions League 1
Grandes Atores Theater in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Event Date: March 25

Website: mmachampionsleague.com.br

Watch Event: pay-per-view stream on mmachampionsleague.com.br

Twitter: @mmaclbrasil

Spotlight Fight:

Joriedson “Fein” Reis de Souza (18-2) vs. Lincoln de Sa (10-2)

In the days when the flyweight division was first gaining momentum in the United States, with Tachi Palace Fights gathering together some of the world’s best 125-pounders and the UFC eventually raiding that collection to establish its own flyweight class, Brazil’s Jussier “Formiga” da Silva was the talk of flyweight fans everywhere. Now that Formiga has set foot inside the Octagon, the search is on for the next Brazilian flyweight who will make an impact. Look no further than the fight between Joriedson “Fein” Reis de Souza and Lincoln de Sa at MMA Champions League 1. On a card that also features the likes of Ronys Torres, Cassiano Tytschyo, Chatuba and Porco Loco, this flyweight tussle still manages to be a highlight of the show.

Oddly, the MMA Champions League has decided to host a dual set of events on a Monday. This may be an weird bit of scheduling, but the event is well worth the time, given the stellar lineup of Brazilian talent, including de Sa and Fein.

This fight is a rematch of an encounter that took place last September under the Best of the Best banner. In that affair, de Sa edged out Fein on the judges’ scorecards to capture a unanimous verdict.

The fighting style of de Sa has drawn slight comparisons to Jose Aldo. His wrestling technique features fakes and quick level changes. He wants to get opponents to the mat, because his bread and butter is his jiu-jitsu game. “Cowboy” has earned seven of his 10 wins by submission. His striking is also a formidable weapon, with an arsenal of powerful leg kicks to accompany hands that have led him to one TKO victory and have also accounted for two of those seven submissions. Meanwhile, de Sa has proven tough to stop. In fact, his only defeats have come via decision.

De Sa has held gold in Shooto Brazil as a strawweight—yes, that’s right, his natural home is the 115-pound division. With the lack of competition there, the “Cowboy” has opted to try his luck at flyweight. He wasn’t able to defeat top 125er Alexandre Pantoja, but he bounced back with the win over Fein.

Fein holds an even more impressive record in terms of total wins, with 18 to de Sa’s 10, but there is that little detail of his recent loss to de Sa. Prior to that setback, Fein had been on a seven-fight winning streak. Although his preferred method of attack is also the submission, Fein has recorded six wins by some form of knockout. And, like de Sa, he has only lost by way of the judges’ scorecards. The 26-year-old Fein trains with Team Machida.

The first fight between these two was a close affair, and there’s no reason to expect any different out of the second meeting. De Sa’s win over Fein in that bout was narrow, and he’d certainly like to put a more decisive end to this contest. But the question is whether he can do so. The two opted to strike extensively in that fight. Fein put everything into each kick and haymaker thrown, whereas de Sa was content to stick and move. De Sa was lightening fast on his feet and was able to quickly retreat out of harm’s way whenever Fein stormed forward and threw combinations, though he did sustain a cut in the opening frame. Less impressive was de Sa’s initial series of takedown attempts. He didn’t do enough to set them up. Instead, he telegraphed the attempts and made desperate lunges at Fein’s legs. When he remained persistent, however, he was able to put Fein on the mat.

The one thing de Sa did well in their first encounter was to effectively remain outside of Fein’s range. Using excellent foot and head movement, along with his reach, de Sa was able to avoid significant damage, with the exception of the cut. The deciding factor in the affair, however, was an injured hand that interfered with Fein’s ability to sustain his striking attack. The momentum swung more heavily in de Sa’s favor in the second and third frames, giving him the 29-28 verdicts.

The reality is that de Sa belongs at 115 pounds. Pantoja demonstrated that with his win over the “Cowboy,” and Fein was likely on his way to doing the same before getting injured. In the strawweight division, de Sa is elite, whereas he’s just a borderline top-tier fighter in the flyweight division. If Fein doesn’t suffer another injury in the course of this rematch, he’ll land the more powerful, damaging blows while also stuffing de Sa’s takedowns and avoiding his striking attacks. That will lead to another close call on the scorecards, but this time the outcome will favor Fein.

Other key bouts: Ronys Torres (25-5) vs. Julio Cesar de Almeida (19-7), Cassiano Tytschyo (24-11) vs. Andre “Chatuba” Santos (32-9), Raoni Barcelos (5-0) vs. Francisco “Porco Loco” Cylderlan Lima da Silva (25-9), Marcelo Barreira (11-1) vs. Ismael de Jesus (8-3-1)

Photo: Andreas Stahl (top) pounds his opponent (Henkrik Wall/MMAViking.com)