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…

King of the Cage: Split Decision

San Manuel Casino in Highland, Calif.
Event Date: Aug. 29
Website: kingofthecage.com
Watch Event: MAV TV
Twitter: @OfficialKOTC

Spotlight Fight:
Sean Strickland (12-0) vs. Daniel Hernandez (10-9)

King of the Cage used to be a prime source for new talent entering onto the big stage, but that hasn’t been the case in the recent past. That all may change courtesy of middleweight Sean Strickland. The undefeated prospect is certainly turning into one of the promotion’s best, and he’ll defend his middleweight title this weekend against Daniel Hernandez.

Strickland’s combat sports background is in wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but like many younger fighters, he is a well-rounded talent. If there’s a weakness to his game, it’s probably his stand-up. Despite power that has led to six knockout victories, Strickland isn’t 100 percent comfortable on his feet. In fact, he’s even admitted disappointment in finishing fights on the mat, saying he wanted to spend more time standing while working on his striking. “Tarzan” holds wins over TUF alum Josh Bryant and back-to-back stoppage victories over Brandon Hunt. Having debuted as a teenager in 2008, Strickland already has a healthy dose of experience under his belt.

With a career mark of 10-9, Strickland’s opponent, Daniel “El Leon” Hernandez, may seem less than spectacular, but The Vault MMA product is 7-2 over his last nine fights and, win or lose, has not exited the first round in his last eight outings. Hernandez has six submission wins and five submission defeats to go with three wins and four losses by some form of knockout. He’s only seen the scorecards once, in a winning effort.

Hernandez is a fun fighter to watch, even if he doesn’t win all the time. He attacks aggressively with takedowns and submission attempts. However, he’s also a natural welterweight and will likely suffer a size deficit in his fight with Strickland. Furthermore, the young Strickland is smart and has a good eye for finishing opportunities. If Hernandez launches forward with an aggressive onslaught, it’s not difficult to imagine Strickland finding the right moment to strike, either with a knockout blow or a quick submission. Considering Hernandez’s affinity for takedowns, look for the latter to happen, with Strickland locking up the submission when Hernandez gets careless while shooting for a leg.

Other key bouts: David Gomez (15-5) vs. Joshua Aveles (12-9-1) for the welterweight title

Titan Fighting Championship 26

Union Station Sprint Festival Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
Event Date: Aug. 30
Website: titanfighting.com
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @titanfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Dan Hornbuckle (24-5) vs. Dennis Hallman (51-14-2)

In many cases, a trip to the regional scene is a way for a veteran to gain redemption, to refocus and to perform a course correction. The Titan FC 26 headliner may be one of the last opportunities for 37-year-old Dennis Hallman to turn things around. He’ll fight 32-year-old Dan Hornbuckle, a man whose prospect shine wore off during his time under the Bellator banner when he failed in his bid to oust Ben Askren as the promotion’s welterweight kingpin. Now, both men seek a win in hopes of returning to the big show.

Hallman is making his first appearance since the end of a stint in the UFC best remembered for his skimpy fight attire and weigh-in debacles. “Superman’s” other claim to fame comes in the form of two lightning-fast submissions of UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. Hallman is a talented grappler who sports 40 submission wins over the course of his lengthy fight career. When he loses, it’s by way of either a decision or a knockout. Hallman typically fights at 170 pounds, but attempted to drop to lightweight during his most recent run in the UFC. Despite a 3-2 mark through five fights and a win in his most recent bout, Hallman was released by the UFC after missing weight by seven pounds for a scheduled contest against Thiago Tavares.

Hornbuckle made his pro debut in 2006 and quickly ran his record up to 21-2 by 2010. Then he ran into dominant wrestler Ben Askren in a Bellator title bout and things seemed to change. The American Top Team product had no answer for Askren’s takedowns and top control. After losing the fight via unanimous decision, Hornbuckle attempted another run at a title bid, but went 1-2 in his three subsequent appearances with the promotion. Since leaving Bellator, Hornbuckle has strung together back-to-back unanimous decision victories against Pete Spratt and Yuya Shirai. The latter of those wins earned Hornbuckle the Deep welterweight title. With a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hornbuckle is also a talented grappler, but he complements those skills with a striking arsenal.

Hallman has struggled with weight too often, but this fight is at welterweight, which should ease concerns about Hallman coming in heavy. However, “Superman” has other factors going against him in this fight. At 6-foot-2, Hornbuckle will enjoy a five-inch height advantage and the reach edge that comes with it. Pair that height advantage of Hornbuckle’s with his head-kick knockout ability and Hallman’s questionable chin, and this one could end with Hallman staring at the lights.

Hornbuckle has the confidence of victories over a UFC vet and a Deep champ as he rides into this fight. With such an extreme height edge, he’ll seek to stay outside and land punches and kicks. Hallman, meanwhile, will look to close the distance, clinch with Hornbuckle and force takedowns.

Hallman’s most recent victory came in 2011 and ring rust, plus age, could factor into the outcome of this fight. Based on his last UFC run, Hallman has a fair chance of winning. However, Hornbuckle has righted his ship and appears to be set for another lengthy winning streak. Hornbuckle will eventually connect with a kick to Hallman’s head that ends this contest.

Deep Jewels 1

Shinjuku Face in Tokyo
Event Date: Aug. 31
Website: deep2001.com
Twitter: @DEEP_JEWELS

Spotlight Fight:
Sadae Numata (4-1-1) vs. Celine Haga (5-11)

Gone are the days of Jewels as an independent promotion. However, that doesn’t mean that the leading Japanese all-women’s promotion is total history. Deep has stepped up to take the reins and lead the promotion forward as a branch of its own promotion. Call it a reboot, a resurrection or a continuation, but the new Jewels, now known as Deep Jewels, is starting over with its event numbering beginning with the Aug. 31 event. The show includes plenty of familiar faces, including atomweight contenders Sadae Numata and Celine Haga. They will fight in what Deep has labeled as a “featherweight” title eliminator, which is what it calls its 48-kilogram (or 106-pound) female weight class.

Those not familiar with Haga might be wondering how someone who sits at 5-11 through 16 fights can be considered a contender. The answer, at least partially, lies in a shift to a new weight class. After competing earlier in her career against larger opponents, Haga has shifted to atomweight, where she has already defeated former Jewels champion Naho Sugiyama. The 29-year-old is now on a four-fight winning streak after going 1-11 in her first 12 fights since turning pro in 2009. The Norwegian fighter trains under the tutelage of Pride veteran Joachim Hansen and shares many of the same strengths and weaknesses as her mentor.

Numata earned the nickname of “Manhoef” from her kickboxing background, but it’s her ground prowess that has been on display in her MMA career. The 41-year-old has two submission victories and just one TKO to her credit. Training out of Cobra Kai MMA Dojo in Japan, Numata posted a pedestrian 1-1-1 mark through three outings, but has since turned things around and is on a three-fight winning streak. Numata also launched her pro campaign in 2009, but didn’t maintain a consistent MMA fight schedule until 2011, when she made her sophomore appearance.

Haga’s record can be very deceptive. Her debut fight came in a loss against Shizuka Sugiyama, who is listed as a bantamweight fighter. Her long list of losses also includes defeats at the hands of Strikeforce veteran Maiju Kujala, Invicta vet Simona Soukupova and Japanese mainstays Saori Ishioka, Kyoko Takabayashi, Emi Fujino and Mika Nagano. Haga has also notched a win over Nagano. Other than her win over Sugiyama, however, Haga has not defeated a high-level foe in her current streak. The experience she carries, including going the distance with many of those top names, will be a big asset in this fight.

Numata’s only loss came against her most accomplished adversary, Tomomi Sunaba, and the draw came in her pro debut. She has faced mostly competition that sits a hair above the .500 mark, and her finishing percentage is strong. However, it’s troublesome that a fighter with a kickboxing record has not scored more knockouts. Furthermore, Numata isn’t getting any younger, and age could play a factor in this fight.

Age might be Numata’s biggest disadvantage, but Haga has shown an inability to overcome opposition when she is put on her back. She struggles against superior grapplers and has suffered four losses via submission. She’s also a hard out, though, with five decision losses and four decision victories.

If Haga can keep positional control, this fight could be hers for the taking. If Numata gets it to the mat, then Haga will either lose a lopsided decision or tap before the final bell. In the end, it’ll be Haga’s youth and momentum that carry her to yet another upset win.

Other key bouts: Mika Nagano (13-8) vs. Akiko Naito (6-12), Emi Fujino (12-6) vs. Hyo Kyung Song (0-2), Yasuko Tamada (14-8-3) vs. Yukiko Seki (11-22)

Photo: Celine Haga (L) with trainer Joachim Hansen (far right) (Taro Irei/Sherdog)