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…

Rebel Fighting Championship 1: Into the Lion’s Den

Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore
Event Date: Dec. 21
Website: rebelfightingchampionship.com
Twitter: @rebelfcmma

Spotlight Fight:
Takeshi Inoue (21-8) vs. Rob Lisita (12-5)

There was a time when Takeshi “Lion” Inoue was among the best featherweight fighters in the world. On two separate occasions—in 2006 and 2008—Inoue won the Shoot lightweight (143-pound) title. He put together an 18-3 mark heading into his defense of the belt against Hatsu Hioki in 2010. Inoue lost that fight and has had a hard time getting back on track since, which makes the title of the inaugural Rebel Fighting Championship show a bit less intimidating than it may once have been. Rob Lisita may be heading “into the lion’s den” in his battle with Inoue, but he’s doing so against a fighter who has gone just 3-5 over his last eight fights, including the loss to Hioki.

Inoue’s striking skills have led him to 10 of his 21 total victories. The 33-year-old has also picked up four wins by submission and has gone the distance on 15 occasions, with seven wins and eight defeats on the scorecards. The Japanese fighter’s last truly active year came in 2011, and he has only fought twice over the last two years. Those fights came at the first and third editions of the Vale Tudo Japan series and resulted in unanimous decision losses to Kenji Osawa and Yusuke Yachi. “Lion” has never been finished in a fight, which may stand as his biggest advantage as he looks to right the ship versus Lisita.

Lisita is coming off what easily stands as the most impressive performance of his career, a second-round TKO finish of Rodolfo Marques Diniz in an August bout under the Australian Fighting Championship banner. The former rugby player made his pro debut in 2008 and has compiled a 12-5 record that includes a knockout victory, two TKOs and six submission wins. Lisita has been submitted twice, but the last of those finishes came in 2009. His three losses since then came courtesy of the judges. The 30-year-old hails from Australia, but he trains out of Phuket Top Team.

Though Lisita has ended his last two fights with TKO victories, he went to a decision in five of six prior to that. With Inoue’s ability to last to the final bell, this one could be bound for the judges. Lisita has been winning fights with his fists lately, but he’s not going to outstrike Inoue. There was a time when Inoue would have been a clear favorite in this match-up, but that’s no longer the case. With a streak of three straight losses and more than a two-year winless stretch, Inoue has fallen from the upper echelon of featherweights. Though an Inoue win on the scorecards still stands as the most likely outcome, don’t be too shocked if Lisita posts a second consecutive upset victory.

Other key bouts: Cristiano Kaminishi (8-1) vs. Doo Hwan Kim (5-2), Alberto Mina (9-0) vs. Glenn Sparv (7-2), Marcos Vinicius “Vina” Borges Pancini (20-5-1) vs. Taiyo Nakahara (13-7)

Jungle Fight 63

UEPA Gymnasium in Belem, Para, Brazil
Event Date: Dec. 21
Website: junglefight.net.br
Watch Event: Canal Combat; Slav; ESPN Deportes. First two fights air via live stream on combate.com
Twitter: @junglefc

Spotlight Fight:
Larissa Moreira Pacheco (8-0) vs. Irene Aldana (3-0)

As the ladies of MMA have moved further and further into the spotlight, even within the Octagon, the real question lies in the depth of each division. The UFC, Invicta and Deep Jewels may control the upper echelons of women’s MMA, but where does the next set of prospects come from? Often, it’s from smaller women’s divisions in regional promotions such as Legacy FC, CFA or the XFC, and other times it’s from the international circuit, including prominent Brazilian promotion Jungle Fight. The lone women’s bout on Jungle Fight’s 63rd offering comes in the form of a bantamweight title showdown between a pair of undefeateds, Larissa Moreira Pacheco and Irene Aldana.

At age 19, Pacheco certainly has the potential to become part of the next generation of top female fighters. The Bulldog Team and Formiga Team fighter started training in Muay Thai at age 15 and made her MMA debut in March 2012 at the age of 17. She has finished all eight of her opponents, including six in the first round. The young prospect has five wins by submission and three via TKO. She made her Jungle Fight debut in October at Jungle Fight 59, where she destroyed Dinha Wollstaein via TKO in just 36 seconds. The win secured her a spot in this fight for the vacant women’s bantamweight belt, but Aldana certainly stands as the best fighter Pacheco has seen thus far in her career, at least in terms of win-loss record.

The 25-year-old Aldana is a native of Mexico and has never traveled outside of that country’s borders for a professional fight. She made her pro debut in October 2012 with a 15-second knockout victory over Sandra del Rincon, who now stands at 0-2 in her career. It was nearly a year to the day before she returned to action in a tournament at Xtreme Kombat 21, where she landed a knee to the body of Flor Saenz just 20 seconds into their fight to advance to the finals. In the finals, “Robles” had her longest fight yet: a 43-second knockout of Mayra Arce that consisted of a spinning wheel kick and punches. Aldana holds the rank of black belt in taekwondo.

In five years’ time, this fight may be viewed as a taste of things to come in the women’s division. Both of these ladies have demonstrated an immense amount of talent and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them staring across the Octagon from each other several years down the road. Aldana took a year off from active competition to hone her skills, but there has to be some concern about how well she can perform in deep waters. After all, she’s only been in action on two nights, separated by a year, and has just 78 seconds of total cage time. That plays both to her advantage and disadvantage. She could prove to be an overwhelming opponent for Pacheco, or she could be too inexperienced to handle what Pacheco has to offer.

Pacheco packs power in her punches, but she certainly lacks the technique of Aldana, whose spinning kicks and knees to the body add another dimension to her striking game that seems to be lacking from Pacheco’s arsenal. Furthermore, Pacheco’s sloppy striking flurries can leave her exposed to counters, something of which Aldana is sure to deliver. Given Aldana’s own power, Pacheco will likely opt to get this fight to the ground, where she holds an edge in grappling. However, that means she has to close the distance first, which gives Aldana the chance to deliver devastating knees to the body.

If this one goes to the ground, Pacheco will either score a ground-and-pound TKO or find a submission. However, fights start on the feet, and that’s where Pacheco, despite her own striking background, faces real danger from Aldana. Aldana’s striking game has been vicious thus far, and she has an adequate takedown defense to keep this fight standing. Look for another highlight-reel finish from the Mexican fighter, and keep an eye on both ladies to advance on to Invicta or the UFC at some point in the future.

Other key bouts: Rodrigo Goiana de Lima (7-1-1) vs. Gabriel Toussaint (7-1) for the welterweight title, Douglas Silva de Andrade (21-0) vs. Tiago Passos (5-4), Francis John (7-0) vs. Junior Boya (8-3)

Deep 64 Impact

Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: Dec. 22
Website: deep2001.com
Twitter: @deep_official

Spotlight Fight:
Keita Nakamura (26-5-2) vs. Kwang Hee Lee (6-3)

The road to the UFC can be a long one, and the road back can be even longer. Deep’s Keita Nakamura had three chances with the world’s most well-known MMA organization. Now, nearly six years removed from his most recent Octagon outing and the short-lived retirement that followed, “K-Taro” is on a 10-2 run and continuing to make the case for why he is one of the better lightweights not under UFC contract. At Deep 64 Impact, Nakamura will return to action against Kwang Hee Lee.

Nakamura’s UFC appearances came in late 2006 (a unanimous decision loss to Brock Larson), 2007 (a unanimous decision loss to Drew Fickett) and 2008 (a split decision loss to Robert Emerson). Since then, the Japanese fighter has posted a 10-2 mark and captured the Sengoku welterweight championship with three wins in Sengoku tourney action. He is currently riding a five-fight winning streak and is 26-2-2 over his career outside the UFC. Nakamura has just four wins by some form of knockout, compared to 13 via submission and nine by way of decision. He has lost once via submission, once by TKO and three times on the scorecards. He has been finished in his two most recent losses and all of his decision defeats came inside the Octagon. The 29-year-old Nakamura is known for his grappling skills and has participated in the 2009 and 2011 editions of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) Submission Wrestling World Championships.

Lee became the Spirit MC lightweight champion at 21 years old, then went on to compete under the Sengoku banner, where he suffered only the second loss of his career in a fight against Eiji Mitsuoka. He followed that up with a loss to Katsunori Kikuno in his only previous fight under the Deep banner. “Crazy” Lee made his pro debut as a teenager in 2005 and was 5-2 by mid-2008. The South Korean, now 27 years old, was absent from the sport for more than three years from 2008 to 2011 before returning with the loss against Kikuno. He was inactive again for nearly two more years before picking up a split decision victory over Yuki Nakahara in September. Lee is a striker and notched his first five wins by some form of strikes, including a 12-second knockout of Chan Ran Joo, a first-round knockout of A Sol Kwon and a soccer kick knockout of Kyung Ho Kang. He has lost twice via submission and once by way of TKO.

It’s difficult to see much of a chance in victory for a fighter who has competed just twice in the last five and a half years, especially when that fighter is a mere 6-3 and facing an opponent who has suffered only two blemishes to his record outside of UFC competition. However, Lee’s striking can be a formidable weapon against any opponent, and Nakamura’s most recent losses have come via stoppage. As much as Lee’s power striking may provide him with the potential for a stunning finish, he hasn’t scored such a victory in more than five years. His split verdict came against a previously 2-0 fighter whose two wins had come against fighters who now stand at 3-4 and 0-5. Nakamura should roll right through Lee in this fight. He’ll avoid Lee’s one weapon and turn this into a wrestling and grappling affair. With ADCC credentials on his side and a middling opponent whose base is in striking, Nakamura should have no issue finding a first-round submission finish.

Other key bouts: Hayato Suzuki (4-0-2) vs. Tatsuhito Satsuma (5-4-1), Haruo Ochi (10-3-1) vs. Tatsumitsu Wada (10-7-2), Kiyotaka Shimizu (13-8-3) vs. Yuki Motoya (8-4), Yoshifumi Nakamura (14-5) vs. Yusuke Kagiyama (16-8-2), Sota Kojima (12-4-4) vs. Hideki Kiyota (6-3-3), Katsuyoshi Beppu (10-3-2) vs. Kenjiro Takahashi (5-3), Yuta Kaneko (7-0-1) vs. Yasuhiro Kawasaki (9-4-2)

Photo: Keita Nakamura (Taro Irei/Sherdog)