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…

Shooto Brazil 39

Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Brazil
Event Date: May 17
Website: shooto.com.br
Twitter: @ShootoMMABrasil

Spotlight Fight:
Zeilton Rodrigues (11-3) vs. Claudio Rocha (6-1)

Although many of Brazil’s promotions have graced this feature over the last year, it has been a while since we last checked in on Shooto Brazil. The promotion is gearing up for its 39th event this weekend, and taking center stage is the promotion’s bantamweight champion, Zeilton Rodrigues. Rodrigues will put his title on the line against Claudio Rocha.

Rodrigues is a product of the stacked Nova Uniao camp that also includes Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, Marlon Sandro and Hacran Dias. The 5-foot-8 135-pounder has notched five wins via some form of knockout and five by way of submission. Of his three losses, two went to the scorecards. Rodrigues has only been stopped once, via a rear-naked choke submission nearly five years ago in 2008. He likes to hunt for the guillotine choke, a technique he has used to end four of his five submission victories. Rodrigues is on a five-fight winning streak.

Rocha, having finished two opponents by TKO and four via submission, also has a somewhat balanced attack. The only time he has seen the scorecards was in his lone loss. In his wins, he has only gone beyond the first stanza once, which was in his pro debut. Rocha is on a four-fight winning streak.

Rocha’s grappling background makes him a threat in any fight that hits the ground, but it’s difficult to beat the set of training partners that Rodrigues has at his disposal. Rodrigues is likely to keep this one standing and pick Rocha apart en route to a decision victory.

Other key bouts: Adriano Moraes (7-0) vs. Arivaldo Silva (4-1), Ronildo Augusto Braga (6-2) vs. Joao Paulo Rocha Fagundes (3-0), Fabio Pereira Correa (20-2-2) vs. Antenor Pereira (3-3)

Flawless Fighting Championship 3: California Love

Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, Calif.
Event Date: May 18
Website: flawlessfc.com
Twitter: @FlawlessFC

Spotlight Fight:
Igor Araujo (22-6) vs. Nic Herron-Webb (12-4)

Flawless Fighting Championship dubbed its third event “California Love,” but perhaps the promotion should have considered “TUF Love.” After all, the California-based Flawless FC has wrangled up three cast members from The Ultimate Fighter 16, an additional TUF 16 fighter who failed to make it into the house, and a TUF 15 alum. Throw in UFC vet Luigi Fioravanti, and this is a card that has a significantly UFC-centric feel to it. Standing out as the most intriguing of the TUF alum bouts is one between Igor Araujo and Nic Herron-Webb, who were members of rival teams on TUF 16 and fought each other in the elimination round of the show.

Araujo is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. He has trained with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, but is also affiliated with the Gracie Barra camp. His submission game can create headaches for opponents and has led to 17 of his victories. The Brazilian is 11-1 over his last 12 outings, not counting the exhibition affairs from TUF. On the reality show, Araujo submitted Cortez Coleman to earn his way into the house, then edged Herron-Webb via majority decision. From there, he’d go on to lose to eventual season-winner Colton Smith by way of a unanimous decision.

Herron-Webb also prefers to look for submission wins. He has finished nine of his 12 victories by way of a submission. Until now, the former high school wrestler has competed exclusively in Alaska, not counting his exhibition bouts on TUF. In those exhibition contests, Herron-Webb submitted Tim Ruberg to advance into the house before dropping the majority decision to Araujo. Unlike Araujo, Herron-Webb has stumbled on multiple occasions in the recent past. He has lost two of his last three, first by split decision to Andy Enz and then via unanimous decision to Sheldon Westcott.

There was some debate as to whether the TUF fight between these two men should have seen a third sudden victory round, but in reality, Herron-Webb did little to show he was deserving of it. He was able to control top position at times in that bout, but he mounted little offense from the top position and struggled in all other aspects of the fight. With wrestling and grappling as his base, Herron-Webb needs to be able to take an opponent down and work towards a submission. He’s simply not going to have that luxury against a black belt like Araujo, who arguably even outpointed Herron-Webb while on his back.

These two have shown that they are not likely to be submitted and that they can mostly neutralize each other’s games. That makes for a replay of that first fight, only with a third round this time. In the end, it will still be Araujo that emerges victorious, though the fight could end in another hotly contested razor-thin decision.

Other key bouts: Luigi Fioravanti (22-11) vs. Edwin Aguilar (23-17), Egidijus Valavicius (24-10) vs. Julio Cesar dos Santos (7-2-1), Christos Giagos (5-1) vs. Chris Tickle (8-6), Ricky Legere Jr. (16-4) vs. James Chaney (7-3)

Pancrase 247

Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: May 19
Website: pancrase.co.jp
Watch Event: pay-per-view stream at ustream.tv
Twitter: @_PANCRASE_

Spotlight Fight:
Rin Nakai (13-0-1) vs. Brenda Gonzales (4-0)

Pancrase may be one of the longest-running MMA promotions in existence, but it hasn’t exactly been a staple of international airwaves, whether on television or via internet stream. That changes when it kicks off its 247th numbered event this weekend. Fans around the world will be able to catch the event via pay-per-view stream. So, what better way to usher in a new era of internationally streamed events than to include a champion vs. champion fight. The promotion will put its bantamweight Queen of Pancrase, Rin Nakai, up against the King of the Cage 135-pound champ, Brenda Gonzales, in a non-title affair. Should Gonzales win, she is likely to be invited back for a rematch in which the belt would be on the line.

The 26-year-old Nakai has been training in judo since the age of three. Nakai has never lost in MMA competition, though she did fight to a draw with Danielle West. In a rematch in the finals of the grand prix to determine a Queen of Pancrase, Nakai handed West a unanimous decision loss (though there is a lot of controversy surrounding how Pancrase handled the regulation of that fight). Nakai is one of the few top women in Japan to not have made the trek to compete under the Invicta banner in the United States. Nakai has competed in grappling matches with mixed success, though she did beat 2007 ADCC finalist Felicia Oh by points. In MMA, Nakai has submitted five opponents and knocked out an additional four.

Brenda “Boom Boom” Gonzales is also undefeated, but has a brief history in combat sports compared to her nemesis. Gonzales trains at FIT NHB in Albuquerque, but she has only been training for a few years now, compared to Nakai’s nearly lifelong participation in martial arts. Gonzales has scored three TKO victories in mixed martial arts competition and one as professional boxer. Her overall record in boxing is 2-1, with the loss coming via decision.

“Boom Boom” typically competes at flyweight, but she’ll move up to 135 pounds for this contest. She will hold a four-inch advantage in height over the 5-foot-1 Nakai, however, and could benefit from the reach advantage that typically comes with such a disparity in height. If Gonzales can avoid locking up with Nakai, she could stay on the outside and look to chip away at her more experienced opponent. Nakai packs power in her punches, but she can be outclassed on the feet by a skilled striker.

The problem for Gonzales lies in remaining on her feet. Nakai has been on the losing end of striking exchanges in previous fights, only to shift gears and use takedowns to either win the fight or, in the case of her first meeting with West, at least emerge with a draw. Considering Gonzales’ brief time in the sport and her boxing background, she’s hardly ready to counter Nakai’s takedowns. That will be the difference maker in this battle. Once Nakai has Gonzales on the mat, a submission finish should be soon to follow.

Other key bouts: Takenori Sato (15-8-7) vs. Shingo Suzuki (9-5-3) for the welterweight title, Motonobu Tezuka (19-6-4) vs. Taichi Nakajima (7-2-1), Shunichi Shimizu (27-8-10) vs. Yuki Baba (10-2), Emi Fujino (11-6) vs. Amber Brown (2-0), Yasutaka Koga (6-1) vs. Yuki Yasunaga (9-6), Shunpei Ota (3-0) vs. Masakazu Takafuji (10-8), Daiki Shimizu (4-0-1) vs. Satoshi Inaba (10-7-3)

Photo: Rin Nakai (L) battles Danielle West (Taro Irei/Sherdog)