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…

North American Fighting Championship: Battleground

Potawatomi Bingo Casino Expo Center in Milwaukee
Event Date: March 29
Website: nafc.tv
Twitter: @NAFCFights

Spotlight Fight:
Sergio Pettis (6-0) vs. Josh Robinson (7-6)

What if the next big thing in the flyweight division happened to be a teenager? That may just be the case, and the NAFC has managed to secure that rising star to headline its latest offering. The prospect is Sergio Pettis, brother of UFC contender Anthony Pettis, and due to a shuffling of the recent Resurrection Fighting Alliance 7 event, Pettis has landed in the main event of NAFC Battleground opposite Josh Robinson.

Sergio, like his older sibling, possesses a dynamic fighting style that has led to two wins each by TKO, submission and decision. The Roufusport product’s head kicks ended the night of his first two pro opponents, and he wrapped up his submission wins in the first round in both encounters. Pettis was set to fight on the RFA card, but his opponent suffered an injury. That led to his move to the top spot on the NAFC bill against Robinson.

Robinson doesn’t have the same stellar undefeated record as Pettis. In fact, he sits just one win above the .500 mark. Having never won more than two straight fights, Robinson hasn’t managed to remain consistent throughout his career. He is currently on a two-fight skid and tends to be most vulnerable on the mat. The highlight of Robinson’s career is probably the split decision he eked out against 10-2 prospect Dustin Ortiz.

This is the next logical step for Pettis’ career. Although he has fought against more experienced opponents and foes with better records, he’s never faced someone that has combined this much experience with a winning record. Robinson’s win over Ortiz, however slight, proves that he’s not someone that Pettis can just walk through and his active and unique style could provide a challenge for the 19-year-old. Just as with his winning streaks, Robinson has never lost more than two straight. He’ll be hungry for the win, and even more so against a high-profile adversary like Pettis. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for him here. Pettis trains with an elite camp, he’s a flyweight version of his brother in many ways and he has the submission game to turn this bout into a nightmare for Robinson. If Pettis, who has promised that he has a couple of surprises in store for Robinson, doesn’t land a head kick in the first round, he’ll coax a tapout in the second.

Victory Fighting Championship 39

Ralston Arena in Ralston, Neb.
Event Date: March 30
Website: victoryfighter.com
Twitter: @VictoryFighter

Spotlight Fight:
L.C. Davis (18-5) vs. Ryan Roberts (17-10-1)

Regional cards often draw attention by adding a name or two to the lineup that fans may recognize from the UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator or the WEC. Obviously, Victory Fighting Championship has taken this strategy seriously, bringing in the likes of Ryan Jensen, Rudy Bears, Houston Alexander, Jason Brilz and Josh Bryant. But the best pairing of such talent on its 39th numbered offering comes in the form of the bantamweight showdown between L.C. Davis and Ryan Roberts.

Davis, who made a name for himself in the IFL before going on to appear for Affliction, Sengoku and the WEC, is currently on a two-fight winning streak. Prior to those victories, Davis had been on a three-fight skid, including two losses under the WEC banner. His return to the win column coincided with his move to bantamweight. Davis has been a finisher on the regional circuit, and even in his time with the IFL, but he’s worked to the scorecards more often than not in his Affliction and WEC days. Davis’ striking power has been on display throughout his career, including in some of his submission finishes, and the wrestler prefers to put his opponent on the mat and deliver ground-and-pound for the finish. However, he also has an arsenal of chokes at his disposal.

Roberts is trying to claw his way back into relevancy. In 2008, after accumulating a 10-2 record with one no-contest, Roberts got the call from the UFC. His tenure in the Octagon lasted just 16 seconds, as he succumbed to a Marcus Aurelio armbar. It also threw Roberts into a downward spiral in which he lost five more bouts to go on a six-fight skid. He finally put things back together in 2010, and he has since gone 7-2-1. So, taking out that one disastrous stretch leaves him with a 17-4-1 mark. Not too shabby, especially considering that his only losses since 2010 have come against Eric Marriott and Zach Makovsky. Roberts has won a majority of his fights via strikes and has lost seven times by way of submission.

Roberts seems to be one of those fighters that stands on the fringe, toeing the line between being a low-level fighter in the big leagues or a top dog in the regionals. His most significant wins have come against the likes of Marriott (the two have squared off three times, with Marriott winning twice), Chris Mickle, Jeff Lentz and Nick Mamalis. Meanwhile, his losses include the aforementioned Makovsky, Marriott and Aurelio, as well as Donald Cerrone, Joe Wilk and Duane Ludwig. Davis better fits this latter group. Roberts has turned his career around, so there is a chance that he can get the best of Davis, whose performances vary greatly. But the safe pick is Davis, who should use wrestling and a ground-and-pound attack to squash Roberts and open up opportunities for a rear-naked choke. Roberts won’t make it easy, but Davis will take the submission victory.

Other key bouts: Ryan Jensen (16-8) vs. Rudy Bears (14-12), Houston Alexander (13-9) vs. Dennis Reed (45-55-1), Jason Brilz (19-5-1) vs. Josh Bryant (14-2)

Heat 26

Nagoya Congress Center in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Event Date: March 31
Website: heatofficial.com

Spotlight Fight:
Kiichi Kunimoto (13-5-2) vs. Fumitoshi Ishikawa (8-0)

For as small as Japan is in terms of land area, it certainly houses a large number of significant MMA promotions. The usual suspects tend to be Pancrase, Shooto, Deep and Jewels, but occasionally, Heat will put together a card worthy of attention. That is the case with Heat 26, which features a welterweight title bout between Kiichi Kunimoto and Fumitoshi Ishikawa.

The champion, Kunimoto, has only lost once in the last four-plus years, and that defeat came in a title fight against welterweight King of Pancrase Takenori Sato. In all, he’s gone 7-1-2 in that stretch. The Cobra Kai MMA Dojo product gets his nickname, “Strasser,” from his time spent training under UFC veteran Dave Strasser. The 31-year-old fighter has won a majority of his fights via submission. He can be persistent in shooting for takedowns and will mix in ground-and-pound with submission attempts on the mat.

His counterpart, Fubuki BJJ Academy product Ishikawa, is undefeated through eight outings. The 34-year-old also prefers the submission finish, which he’s used to end four of his fights. Three of his remaining wins have come via split decisions. Ishikawa’s background is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he can be aggressive in his submission attempts, which has led to three first-round submission victories.

Kunimoto went the distance with Sato and dominated a former champion in Kengo Ura. His experience will be a significant factor against Ishikawa, who hasn’t been in the same types of high-profile situations as the champ. Ishikawa has squeaked by in his fights that have gone the distance, which suggests that when his submission attacks don’t work, he cuts things extremely close. Kunimoto may opt to keep this one standing, since Ishikawa’s best chances come in the grappling department. However, “Strasser” should be confident in his submission defense and could very well rely on takedowns and a conservative ground-and-pound game to outpoint the challenger. Ishikawa could score a submission at any moment, but Kunimoto can outpoint him on the feet or by utilizing takedowns and playing it smart while maintaining the dominant top position. It’ll be a close fight, but this time Ishikawa will find himself on the wrong end of a close decision.

Photo: Sergio Pettis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)