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…

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 55

The Helix in Dublin, Ireland
Event Date: June 1
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event: main card live stream on MMA Junkie (USA/Canada), JOE.ie (Ireland), Sportube.tv (Italy) and cagewarriors.tv (rest of the world). Prelim stream live on Facebook.
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Cathal Pendred (12-2-1) vs. Che Mills (15-5)

The last time we check in on Cathal Pendred, he was preparing to challenge Gael Grimaud for the Cage Warriors welterweight championship. Now, Pendred stands as the champion preparing to defend that crown. He’ll do so at the 55th numbered event from the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, and his opponent will be UFC veteran Che Mills.

Pendred is no stranger to top-notch competition. In addition to his decision win over Grimaud, the SBG Ireland fighter has gone the distance in victories over Bruno Carvalho and UFC vet David Bielkheden, as well as having fought to a draw with Danny Mitchell. The Irish fighter prefers to stand and bang, as evidenced by his five wins via some form of knockout. He’s suffered a single TKO loss and has been submitted on one occasion, but he has never won by submission. Pendred has never lost on the scorecards despite having gone the distance eight times (seven wins and a draw). The striker has honed his grappling skills by traveling to train with highly decorated BJJ black belt and current UFC fighter Gunnar Nelson.

Although Pendred’s previous four opponents have been of an extremely high quality, Mills stands to provide the Irishman with his toughest test to date. Mills went 2-2 inside the Octagon, before his final loss was overturned to a no-contest when opponent Matt Riddle tested positive for marijuana metabolites. That loss cost Mills a place inside the eight-sided cage, but he is prepared for a fresh start under the Cage Warriors banner. Mills’ resume in the UFC and his past championship reign in the now-defunct Cage Rage promotion is more than adequate support for his placement in a title fight in his first fight since his UFC release. Mills was neutralized by Riddle’s wrestling and suffered a devastating TKO loss at the hands of Rory MacDonald, but he also dished out a “Knockout of the Night” against Chris Cope and picked up a TKO victory, due to leg injury, versus Duane Ludwig. Outside of UFC competition, Mills has notched two victories over Marius Zaromskis and suffered notable losses to Yuya Shirai and Jim Wallhead. Mills has eight wins by some form of knockout and four via submission, whereas he has only been stopped once via strikes and three times by way of submission.

Both of these men must be relieved at the identity of their opponent to at least some small degree. Neither fighter has to contend with a high-level grappler seeking to take them to the mat. At the same time, given his luck against those grapplers, Pendred may be wishing Mills wasn’t such a striking-oriented fighter. The problems that Mills presents for Pendred on the feet may be more than the Irish fighter is able to overcome.

This figures to be a stand-up battle, although it’s not out of the question for Mills to look for a takedown and submission. But both men have a similar range of skills, so Mills wouldn’t enjoy too large of an advantage on the ground. Furthermore, Mills’ own misfortunes on the mat may discourage him from testing what Pendred picked up from training with Nelson.

Ultimately, this should be an exciting stand-up war where neither man is too enthusiastic to showcase their jiu-jitsu game. Mills’ experience in the UFC gives him an edge in this fight, but Pendred could earn an upset and a ticket to the UFC with a win. Yet, Mills should get the upper hand wherever this fight goes. Only MacDonald was able to end his night on strikes, and Pendred, in working to so many decisions, hasn’t shown himself to be an extremely powerful puncher. The Irishman is tough enough to go the distance, but even if he does, he’ll relinquish his belt to Mills before the night is through.

Other key bouts: Mikael Silander (8-1) vs. Neil Seery (12-9) in inaugural flyweight title fight, Norman Paraisy (11-3-1) vs. Chris Fields (10-5), Marc Allen (7-2) vs. Paul Redmond (7-3),

North American Allied Fight Series: Fight Night in the Flats IX

Nautica Pavilion in Cleveland
Event Date: June 1
Website: naafs.biz
Twitter: @NAAFS

Spotlight Fight:
Jessica Eye (9-1) vs. Carina Damm (17-8)

Jessica Eye may be the premier female fighter on the Bellator roster, but she’s now readying to compete once again for NAAFS, which is where she made her pro debut and has fought the majority of her bouts. It’s an odd scenario, with Bellator having had Eye booked for an April bout with Munah Holland before an injury forced Eye from the bout. Instead, Eye now squares off with veteran Carina Damm.

Eye characterizes herself as a striker with a strong ground-and-pound game. The 26-year-old has nine wins under her belt, but six have come via the judges. Her lone career loss came against Aisling Daly in a NAAFS women’s flyweight title tilt. Since the loss, Eye notched five decision wins before earning another stoppage victory. That win was her most notable to date, however, as she defeated former Bellator women’s champion Zoila Frausto Gurgel. With that victory, the Strong Style Fight Team product has positioned herself near the top of most women’s flyweight ranking polls.

Damm has two and a half times the experience of her American counterpart. The Brazilian is a BJJ black belt and has also trained in capoeira. Damm has eight wins by submission and five by way of some form of knockout, though she has also been submitted four times and knocked out twice. Damm is just 2-5 over her last seven fights, but the level of competition—Hitomi Akano, Cat Zingano, Tara LaRosa, Munah Holland and Tonya Evinger—accounts for the losses. She has also dropped fights to Rosi Sexton and Miku Matsumoto, and has defeated the likes of Matsumoto, Molly Helsel, Jessica Aguilar and Kalindra Faria.

This contest has several interesting aspects to it. First, there’s the question of whether it will happen at all. That’s not to say that there are any rumors of the bout falling through, but Eye did withdraw from her last fight with what she called a “terrible” back injury and Damm seems to be plagued by canceled fights throughout her career. If both of these ladies do make it into the cage, Eye’s injury is still a major factor. She tried to work through it in preparing for the Munah Holland fight before bowing out, and there’s no certainty that she’s at 100 percent even now.

Then, there’s Damm’s inconsistency against top-flight competition. The Brazilian has faltered on numerous occasions when fighting the best ladies out there. However, those fights have provided her with a massive amount of experience, and some of the losses can be attributed to Damm fighting opponents that held significant size advantages.

Will Eye’s back hold up? Does Damm’s experience give her an edge, or do her losses suggest that she won’t succeed against yet another highly ranked foe? Those are tough questions to answer.

What does stands out is Eye’s one loss. It came via submission against Aisling Daly, a fighter who is just a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. Damm’s goal should be to lure Eye to the mat, even if Damm ends up on bottom. It’s in those spots that she could pull off the upset by snagging a submission win.

However, there’s a reason Eye is ranked so highly among female flyweights. She is able to suffocate her opponents with submission attempts, strikes and ground-and-pound. She may not always get the finish, but she usually emerges with the win. Damm’s experience makes this a very dangerous fight for Eye—and Eye’s focus, as well as her back, must hold up for her to be capable of the win. But what Damm lacks is the ability to score wins against elite opposition. Toss in the facts that Damm has only a handful of victories outside the confines of Brazil and will be taking on Eye in Eye’s own backyard of Ohio, and it seems as if all signs point to another decision victory for Eye.

Other key bouts: Nick Duell (10-3) vs. Hector Urbina (15-8-1), Forrest Petz (25-10) vs. Christopher Curtis (7-2), Jason Dent (22-13) vs. Andrew Osborne (6-5), Maxim Grishin (14-6) vs. Ray Lopez (7-3), Brian Camozzi (2-0) vs. George Comer (1-1)

Global Fight Club: Challenge

Palace of Sports “Olympus” in Krasnodar, Russia
Event Date: June 2

Spotlight Fight:
Vener Galiev (24-7) vs. Yoshiaki Takahashi (10-2-2)

If Russia has a unique claim in the mixed martial arts world, it comes in the form of combat sambo champions that have brought their skill set into the sport, with varying degrees of success. Of course, there’s the most successful of all, Fedor Emelianenko, plus a number of young prospects working their way up the ranks. Another former combat sambo champion to ply his trade in MMA is Vener Galiev. The two-time world champion in combat sambo will be a featured competitor at a Russian event promoted by the Global Fight Club that also features K-1 rules bouts. Galiev will have his hands full with Pancrase prospect Yoshiaki Takahashi.

Takahashi has spent the last six years quietly climbing his way up the ladder in numerous Japanese promotions. He’s currently riding a three-fight winning streak that includes unanimous decision victories over Sengoku veteran Michael Costa and UFC vet Edward Faaloloto. The Paraestra Hachioji product packs power in his punches, which has resulted in two TKO victories, but he is also skilled on the mat. He will hunt for takedowns and look to set up submissions. The 26-year-old remained persistent in attempting to find a choke against Faaloloto and has recorded a 67-second armbar submission.

The 37-year-old Galiev doesn’t have the prominent name of a Fedor Emelianenko, but he’s had his fair share of success throughout his 31-fight career. The Rusfighters Sports Club product is on a seven-fight winning streak that includes a decision victory over Gael Grimaud and a 43-second TKO of Ryan Healy. He’s faced some notable opponents in losing efforts, including Alexander Shlemenko, Beslan Isaev, Igor Araujo, Rustam Khabilov and Shamil Zavurov. Galiev’s tendency is to win via strikes, as he’s done on 10 occasions, or on the judges’ scorecards, as he has done 11 times. Although Galiev’s losses are well balanced between TKOs (2), submissions (3) and decisions (2), the TKO losses came via injury and doctor’s stoppage, which suggests that he has a strong chin.

These are fighters on opposite ends of their careers in terms of age. Galiev is 37 and likely nearing the end of his active years in the sport, whereas Takahashi is 26 and still in his prime. Galiev has only fought once since 2011, which is a big dropoff in how active he has been. He may not have the same drive to win as he did a couple of years ago. However, he has still been picking up wins in recent years against legitimate competition.

Takahashi has been a decision machine during his career. He’s gone the distance in seven wins and one loss. He could be tempting fate if he chooses to grind out a decision against Galiev. The Russian can finish the fight at any time with his striking or a submission. Takahashi may only have two losses on his record, but what is troubling is that the most recent defeat came by way of TKO against Adam Schindler, a submission specialist. Schindler is 1-3 since 2011, with Takahashi as his only win in between losses to Ronnie Mann, Jeremy Spoon and Chase Hackett. Takahashi has also suffered a decision loss to a fighter whose record now sits at the .500 mark.

Galiev may be getting up there in years, but he’s still a skilled competitor. His combination of striking and grappling makes him a dual threat for which his Japanese adversary may not be prepared. If a submission specialist not noted for his striking could score a TKO of Takahashi, then Galiev should be able to accomplish the same feat.

Other key bouts: Salimgirey Rasulov (11-5) vs. Peter Graham (7-5)

Photo: Jessica Eye (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)