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…

Midwest Fight Series

8 Second Saloon in Indianapolis
Event Date: July 19
Website: Facebook/MidwestFightSeries

Spotlight Fight:
Jason Gilliam (14-5) vs Garett Whiteley (5-0)

The regional circuit is a place where up-and-comers ply their trade in an attempt to catch the eye of a major promotion such as the UFC. However, the regional circuit is also a place for UFC veterans to claw their way back to relevance. Sometimes the road back to the top forces fighters from these two groups to cross paths. So is the case at Midwest Fight Series’ latest show. The Indianapolis-based promotion has pitted UFC vet Jason Gilliam against upstart Garett Whiteley.

For Gilliam, this could be an opportunity to spark a major turnaround in his career. The Indiana native launched his pro career in 2003 and was sitting undefeated through 11 fights in 2007 when he received the call from the UFC. The Team Wolfpack fighter made his Octagon debut at UFC 68 with a first-round submission loss to Jamie Varner and followed it up with a first-round submission loss to Chris Lytle at UFC 73. That led to his ouster from the promotion. Gilliam then went on a three-fight winning streak, but then the tide turned and he lost three straight. The last of those losses came versus Johnny Rees in 2010 and Gilliam has been absent from the sport since then.

Whiteley’s amateur career started in 2007 and he posted four wins before turning pro in 2010. As a pro, his record is unblemished through five outings. Whiteley has a well-rounded skill set and has claimed three pro wins and one amateur victory by strikes, including a submission via punches, and has two wins at each level by way of submission. Whiteley’s background includes boxing and jiu-jitsu.

At one point in time, Gilliam’s career looked promising. However, that’s in the distant past. Although he can’t be faulted for losses to Lytle and Varner at the UFC level, his submission defense is a glaring hole in his game. All five of his losses came via submission and all of them ended in the first stanza. Despite Gilliam’s purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he has won nine fights via strikes and only five by submission. Further skewing those stats in favor of his striking is the fact that two of the submission wins were due to punches. In that sense, Gilliam will be the striker versus the better grappler in Whiteley.

The biggest obstacle for Whiteley to overcome is the level of competition he’s facing. Only his most recent opponent, Evan DeLong, sported a winning record. Whiteley was able to submit DeLong, but it was the first pro fight for Whiteley to extend beyond the first round and it nearly went the distance. Don’t expect Whiteley to post a lightning-fast finish like he did in his first four pro bouts. Gilliam will press him a bit harder, but we’re also talking about a fighter who has been out of action for a lengthy period of time and left the sport on a three-fight skid. Gilliam may have enough natural skill to allow him to survive and hear the opening bell of round two, but that’s as far as he’ll get. Whiteley’s ground skills will be the deciding factor in securing him the victory early in the second frame.

Other key bouts: Joe Lile Jr. (4-0) vs. Kevin Lee (4-0)

Legacy Fighting Championship 21

Arena Theater in Houston
Event Date: July 19
Website: legacyfights.net
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @legacyfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Holly Holm (3-0) vs. Allanna Jones (2-2)

When professional boxer Holly Holm announced that she was shifting her focus to mixed martial arts on a full-time basis, conjectures about where she would land included the usual suspects: the UFC, Invicta FC and Bellator. The one possibility nobody considered was rising Texan promotion Legacy Fighting Championship. However, the New Mexico native opted to sign with the upstart promotion from the neighboring state. She’ll make her promotional debut against Allanna Jones at the organization’s 21st effort, which also features a pair of title clashes and the first post-UFC fight for Holm’s Jackson’s MMA teammate, Leonard Garcia.

Holm’s name is on the rise in MMA circles, but to live in New Mexico is to view Holm in a completely different light. Whereas much of the nation pays little attention to women’s boxing and the stars of that sport, Holm’s accomplishments and her tendency to fight at the casinos and other venues in her home state have made her an immense crowd favorite. Despite being featured on the preliminary card of Bellator 91 in just her third pro MMA fight, Holm easily coaxed the largest reaction from the crowd at the event and garnered the most attention from local news outlets, far outshining the main-card stars. That type of crowd response is deserved, however, considering Holm’s boxing resume. She is 33-2-3 as a pro boxer and is an 18-time world champion across three weight divisions. Before making the move to MMA, Holm was widely recognized as the top female boxer in the world.

Jones’ name may be more familiar to fight fans who don’t follow the sweet science. The native of Michigan made her AXS TV debut at CFA 11 in the promotion’s women’s featherweight tournament as the opponent for another high-profile fighter in Fallon Fox. Jones lasted until the third round against the transgender fighter, but was dominated throughout the fight and lost via submission. She has a 7-2 mark as an amateur to accompany her 2-2 professional record. Despite the nickname “Hands of Stone,” Jones only finished three of her amateur opponents and one of her pro adversaries via strikes. More often, she has gone the distance. The weak spot in Jones’ game appears to be her submission defense, with submissions accounting for both of her pro defeats.

This is really a battle of a striker with skills that have been honed over the course of more than 10 years in the squared circles against a scrappy brawler. Is Jones the toughest opponent that Holm has yet to encounter in MMA? Probably not. She defeated veteran Jan Finney and made her debut against Christina Domke, who now sits at 4-2. Is Jones a true test of Holm’s MMA skills? Probably not. Whereas Holm has been in the boxing ring with the world’s best, has graced the kickboxing ring and trains with Greg Jackson, Jones fights out of a lesser-known camp and has already had mixed results.

Jones is determined to win and will put up a fight, but Holm is just too technical for her. Holm does have a tendency to get off to a slow start. She hasn’t finished any of her opponents in the first round. Therefore, expect Jones to hang in there for at least the first five minutes. Jones will fire off haymakers in an attempt to clip Holm, but the 5-foot-8 blonde will use her four-inch height advantage to stay just out of reach. Holm will pick up the pace in the second and, if needed, third stanza and eventually score the TKO victory.

Other key bouts: Angel Huerta (6-1) vs. Matt Hobar (7-1) for the bantamweight title, Leonard Garcia (15-11-1) vs. Rey Trujillo (14-10), Larry Crowe (6-2) vs. William “Bubba” Bush (5-2) for the middleweight title

Deep: Tokyo Impact – Lightweight GP 2013 Semifinal

Shinjuku Face in Tokyo
Event Date: July 20
Website: deep2001.com
Twitter: @deep_official

Spotlight Fight:
Naoto Miyazaki (8-2-3) vs. Yoichi Fukumoto (13-8)

Although Deep’s numbered events usually garner more attention and a better overall lineup, its Tokyo Impact series can also produce some intriguing match-ups. The latest effort includes a lightweight grand prix that features Naoto Miyazaki, a fighter who, if not for his own mental lapses, would still be undefeated. Miyazaki is paired with Yoichi Fukumoto in the grand prix’s semifinal round.

Miyazaki has displayed a well-rounded skill set since making his pro debut under the GCM banner in 2008. He has submitted two of his opponents and went on a streak of three fights in 2012 where he finished his foes with strikes. The 29-year-old’s record is only marred by disqualification losses. Oddly, both of those losses came against Junichi Ota and both came via a low blow, including one in the second meeting that forced Ota to leave the ring on a stretcher. Miyazaki has fought to three draws, but he is currently riding a five-fight winning streak that extends back to the beginning of 2012. The troubling part of that streak is that all but one of the victories came against middling opposition. Only his decision victory over Ken Hamamura, a reserve in this tournament, counts as a win over a significant opponent.

Fukumoto has been much less consistent in his pro career. Since making his pro debut in January 2002, “Yo” has won 13 fights, but has also dropped eight. The 35-year-old’s list of losses includes names such as Akira Kikuchi, Mitsuhiro Ishida and Tomonari Kanomata. Although six of his wins have come via submission and six have come by way of decision, Fukumoto has demonstrated an effective stand-up game as well. He has never lost via strikes, has been submitted twice and has seen the majority of his losses on the judges’ scorecards. The grappler is 6-1 in his last seven fights extending back to 2007 (after defeating Alex Castro in 2007, Fukumoto spent four years away from the MMA ring).

Fukumoto will look to take this fight to the mat and grind Miyazaki out for the duration of the bout. The striker could end up fighting portions of this fight off of his back, but he’s in a different league than Fukumoto. Although Fukumoto’s experience against guys like Ishida and Kikuchi looks impressive on paper, he was submitted by Kikuchi in his pro debut and fought Ishida to a decision roughly nine years ago. Miyazaki may not be able to stop Fukumoto, but he’ll outpoint the grappler in the stand-up department and hold his own on the ground. This one will be close, but Miyazaki should take the decision on at least two of the judges’ scorecards.

Other key bouts: Ryosuke Togashi (9-7-1) vs. Yutaka Ueda (8-3-1) in lightweight grand prix semifinal bout, Ken Hamamura (18-9-5) vs. Juri Ohara (11-6-1) in lightweight grand prix reserve bout, Shizuka Sugiyama (9-3) vs. Chisa Yonezawa (1-5), Seita Katsuki (6-0) vs. Hideto Kondo (7-6-4)

Photo: Holly Holm (Bryan Henderson/The MMA Corner)

  • Hello, I love MMA fights and especially Jason Gilliam..I am a fan:)