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…

West Coast Fighting Championship 5

Jackson Sports Arena in Sacramento, Calif.
Event Date: May 3
Website: westcoastfighting.com
Watch Event: pay-per-view internet stream at icblivecards.com
Twitter: @WFC_MMA

Spotlight Fight:
Kito Andrews (10-2) vs. Max Griffin (5-1)

Team Alpha Male has established itself as a top fight camp, but it’s done so at the lighter weight classes, primarily featherweight and bantamweight. At West Coast Fighting Championship 5, Kito Andrews is hoping to extend that reputation for success on up to the welterweight division. Andrews, who has twice before appeared under the promotion’s banner, will look to defend his WFC welterweight strap against up-and-comer Max Griffin.

Andrews may have been one of the most memorable contestants on The Ultimate Fighter 17 to not make the house. In one of the most emotional moments of the show, Andrews, with his sons looking on, lost to eventual season winner Kelvin Gastelum via decision. Despite the crushing loss, Andrews maintains a respectable official record of 10-2. His only losses, not counting the exhibition bout with Gastelum, came early in his career and included a submission defeat handed to him by future UFC veteran Seth Baczynski. The 35-year-old discovered MMA while in college and has trained with the likes of Nick Diaz. Andrews has taken home numerous grappling championships and is a submission specialist.

Griffin was the former WFC welterweight kingpin before relinquishing the belt in a split decision loss to Justin Baesman, who went on to succumb to strikes versus Andrews. Like Andrews, Griffin is a former TUF hopeful who just missed out on making the TUF house. His chance came in season 16, and it ended via submission in a sudden-victory round versus Matt Secor. Griffin holds a 56-second knockout victory over veteran Jaime Jara and tends to claim his wins via strikes. However, the 27-year-old also needed just 56 seconds to submit his most recent foe, Richard Rigmaden, via a brabo choke.

This was an odd instance where a champion called out a challenger, but it makes for an intriguing battle. Griffin is a striker who tends to get his knockouts early, whereas Andrews is a grappler who is no stranger to decision and also knows how to end fights with his fists. Griffin’s overall body of work is troubling. Outside of his victory over Jara, Griffin has fought inexperienced and underwhelming opposition. Andrews has fought his fair share of fighters with losing records, but he has fought more experienced fighters and still emerged victorious.

The question here pertains to where the fight will take place. If Andrews can drag Griffin to the ground, this one is likely over. Andrews can use ground-and-pound to soften Griffin up while looking for a submission. However, if Griffin can keep the fight standing, he could finish it with his powerful striking. Andrews has never been knocked out, though, so even that could be a challenge for Griffin to accomplish. In what should be a closely contested fight, the edge has to go to the more experienced champion to take out his challenger by way of a submission finish.

Other key bouts: Anthony Avila (10-1) vs. Isaac DeJesus (9-5-1) for the lightweight title, Andre Fili (11-1) vs. Adrian Diaz (5-2-1) for the featherweight title

Smash Fight

Curitiba Military Circle Gymnasium in Curitiba, Brazil
Event Date: May 3
Website: Facebook/Smash Fight Fan Page

Spotlight Fight:
Goiti Yamauchi (12-1) vs. Diego Marlon (20-7)

Brazil seems to have an endless supply of shows that feature talent with eye-popping records. In some cases, these promotions even lure back fighters who have made it to the bigger shows. That will be the case for Smash Fight. The promotion will play host to bouts featuring UFC veteran Rodney Wallace and Bellator vets Luis “Sapo” Santos and Nazareno Malegarie. But the biggest highlight of the evening might come in one of two four-man tournaments. In the featherweight grand prix, 12-1 prospect Gioti Yamauchi meets Diego Marlon in what should be a stiff test for Yamauchi.

Yamauchi is a prime example of the new breed of mixed martial artist. He is just 20 years old, but he’s already under contract with Bellator and has a 7-0 mark in addition to his 12-1 professional record. He’s been training in multiple disciplines since the age of 13 and had his first amateur bout at the age of 15. The young up-and-comer holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and rarely lets fights go past the first round, though his two most recent outings have gone the distance. Yamauchi is skilled at using his jab to close the distance before grabbing his opponent and looking to take his foe’s back. From there, the Japanese-born native of Brazil tends to look for the rear-naked choke, an attack he has used to end seven of his pro bouts. Yamauchi’s only loss came to fellow prospect Rodrigo Cavalheiro, who is also fighting on this card.

Marlon is also a submission specialist and is enjoying the longest winning streak of his career with five straight victories. The Gile Ribeiro Team product has ended 13 of his fights via submission, but has also lost four times by way of submission. Marlon’s tendency is to string together a few victories, lose a fight and rebound with another streak. Despite seven career losses, Marlon has never dropped back-to-back fights.

This featherweight tournament is basically a tune-up as Yamauchi prepares to venture to Bellator. With wins over the likes of Jurandir Sardinha and Ivan Pitbull, the former lightweight has already demonstrated that he can emerge victorious against veteran competition. The fact that he won those fights via decision, rather than by quick stoppages, suggests that his slick jiu-jitsu attack doesn’t hold the same effectiveness against veterans.

Yamauchi should gain a bit of a size advantage with his drop to 145 pounds. His biggest challenge comes in fighting a veteran who has engaged in battle with the likes of Nazareno Malegarie and Marcos Vinicius Borges. Marlon’s ground game also presents an obstacle for the young fighter to overcome. Marlon has had a tendency to lose early via submission, so his ability to defend against attacks on the mat is lacking. Yamauchi’s swift transitions and ability to wrap his arms around opponent’s necks makes him well suited to end Marlon’s string of successes.

Other key bouts: Wendell Oliveira Marques (20-7), Gilmar Dutra Lima (21-10-1), Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (8-3) and Jose de Ribamar Machado Gomes (34-9-1) will compete in a welterweight grand prix, Sergio Silva Rodrigues (10-4) vs. Mauricio Santos Jr. (6-7) in a featherweight grand prix bout, Luis “Sapo” Santos (55-9-1) vs. Sebastian Latorre (5-7), Nazareno Malegarie (25-3) vs. Eduardo Felipe (19-12), Rodney Wallace (15-6) vs. Joaquim Ferreira (14-7), Julio Cezar Santana (10-4) vs. Matheus Wendell Santi Scheffel (5-1), Rodrigo Cavalheiro (8-2) vs. Wallace Lopes (3-1)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 54

Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales
Event Date: May 4
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:
Diego Gonzalez (15-7) vs. Danny Roberts (7-1)

The jewel of the Cage Warriors lineup for its 54th event is the middleweight showdown between champion Jesse Taylor and challenger John Phillips, but since my fellow The MMA Corner writer Dan Kuhl covered that fight in this week’s edition of Fight of the Week, we’ll turn our eyes to another bout from the British promotion, a clash of welterweights Diego Gonzalez and Danny Roberts.

The 28-year-old Gonzalez is returning to 170 pounds after a stint in the lightweight division that ended with a TKO loss to Ivan Buchinger, who also fights on this card. Gonzalez had a stellar 13-3 record heading into 2010, but has gone just 2-4 since then. His losses in that stretch, other than the TKO versus Buchinger, have come on the scorecards versus UFC veterans Akihiro Gono and Andre Winner and Pride vet Daniel Acacio. He has also lost to UFC vet Dan Hardy via doctor’s stoppage TKO. When he doesn’t go the distance (he’s seen the scorecards in six victories and three defeats), “The Silencer” tends to wins fights via submission and loses by way of knockout or TKO. The Hilti NHB fighter trains in his native Sweden alongside UFC vets Papy Abedi, Per Eklund and Reza Madadi.

Roberts scored his most impressive victory in his last appearance with Cage Warriors when he submitted Jack Mason in the second round. The British fighter has a background as a boxer competing as an amateur and five times as a pro before transitioning to mixed martial arts. Training at Next Generation UK, Roberts claims that his jiu-jitsu is his secret weapon, but prior to his impressive submission finish of Mason, Roberts himself was submitted in just over 80 seconds by Pavel Doroftei. He has competed at middleweight in the past.

Gonzalez isn’t necessarily the swift finisher that Doroftei is, which may give Roberts more time to work his own game. Roberts’ submission of Mason proves that he has skills on the mat, whereas the loss to Doroftei is nothing to be ashamed of. Gonzalez’s strength is in his experience. He has fought a number of skilled veterans, though he rarely emerges with the win in those circumstances. His tendency to lose via strikes does not bode well for him here, however.

At 5-foot-8 and returning from a run at 155 pounds, Gonzalez will be at a size disadvantage versus the 6-foot former middleweight. Roberts has complemented his boxing with a competent grappling game, but his focus here should be on stuffing Gonzalez’s takedown attempts. As long as Roberts can keep the fight standing, he can either finish Gonzalez with strikes or outpoint the veteran to take home a decision.

Other key bouts: Jesse Taylor (25-9) vs. John Phillips (16-5) for the middleweight title, Ivan Buchinger (21-4) vs. Jason Ball (20-11), Mark Glover (6-1-1) vs. Lewis Long (6-2), Brett Johns (5-0) vs. James Macalister (7-1)

Photo: Danny Roberts (David Lethaby/Sherdog)