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…

Maximum Fighting Championship 39: No Remorse

Northlands Expo Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Event Date: Jan. 17
Website: maximumfighting.com
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @MaximumFighting

Spotlight Fight:
Anthony Hamilton (11-2) vs. Darrill Schoonover (13-5)

When Maximum Fighting Championship paired Anthony Hamilton with Smealinho Rama for the heavyweight title at MFC 38, the promotion seemed intent on making Rama its heavyweight star. Instead, it found a different star Hamilton landed a head kick against Rama that sent the Canadian crashing to the mat. The win garnered Hamilton the heavyweight gold, but now, at MFC 39, he’ll have to defend it against an Ultimate Fighter alum in Darrill Schoonover.

Hamilton is a product of the New Mexico-based Jackson’s MMA camp. Though the big man possesses a wrestling background, he prefers to hunt for the knockout. He made his pro debut in 2010 and started his career with unanimous decision victories in four of his first five fights (the other bout ended in a TKO win for Hamilton). He has not gone the distance since 2011, though, and has recorded three TKO victories, two knockouts and an armbar submission in the time since his last decision win. However, he has also suffered a pair of losses—one via knockout, the other by way of submission—in that span. Hamilton’s losses have come against Walt Harris and Fabiano Scherner, a pair of UFC veterans and arguably the best competition he has faced. Whereas he went deeper into fights early in his career, Hamilton has notched four of the wins in his current five-fight winning streak within the first frame, including a seven-second knockout and 38-second TKO, and finished Rama just 12 seconds into the second stanza of their contest.

Schoonover entered The Ultimate Fighter 10 as one of the competition’s more experienced fighters and an assumed favorite, but the reality series was the beginning of a steep fall for the native of El Paso, Texas. Schoonover advanced past Zak Jensen in the preliminary round of the show, but lost to Marcus Jones in the quarterfinals. He made his Octagon debut at the TUF 10 Finale against kickboxer James McSweeney, but lost via third-round TKO and never fought in the UFC again. Returning to the regional circuit, “The Boss” dropped four more fights through 2010 and 2011 before finally picking up another win. He’s now on a three-fight winning streak that includes a unanimous nod over Paul Buentello.

Schoonover’s biggest fault has always been his lack of emphasis on training. Whereas Hamilton works with an elite camp at Jackson’s, Schoonover’s affiliation is listed as “Schoonover’s Garage.” The 28-year-old Schoonover wrestled in high school and started training in multiple striking and grappling disciplines while still in his teens, leading to a 10-fight undefeated run upon turning pro in 2008. However, his 3-5 stretch over his last eight fights against only a slight step up in competition is more indicative of where Schoonover stands in the grand scheme of the heavyweight division. There’s also the fact that he hasn’t fought since September of 2012. Yet, with seven wins by some form of knockout and five via submission, he can be a threat to Hamilton regardless of where this fight is contested.

Just because Schoonover could be a threat, don’t think he’ll rip the belt out of Hamilton’s heavy hands. The TUF alum has shown a tendency to be overwhelmed by strikes in the past. That’s how Jones got past him in the reality series and how McSweeney ruined his UFC debut. Hamilton can mix things up by taking this fight down if he wants to, but whether it’s a ground-and-pound barrage from top position or a surge of strikes on the feet, Hamilton should be able to rock Schoonover and bring a finish to this fight via TKO.

Other key bouts: Kurt Southern (13-4) vs. Tom Gallicchio (17-8) for the vacant lightweight title, Jason South (10-1) vs. Gilbert Smith (7-2), Sean O’Connell (14-4) vs. Victor Valimaki (17-8), Marcus Edwards (5-2) vs. Sean Powers (8-3), Dan Ring (5-2-1) vs. Andrew McInnes (3-1)

Pink Fight 3

Walder Pereira Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Event Date: Jan. 18
Website: pinkfight.com.br
Twitter: @Junglefc

Spotlight Fight:
Aline Serio (6-4) vs. Elaine Albuquerque (6-2)

With the UFC committing to another women’s division and ladies from the 125-pound ranks heading either up or down in weight to qualify for one of the UFC’s divisions, the female flyweight division seems rather bare at the moment. That means there’s never been a more important time for regional and international prospects to fill the void and make a name for themselves. With Jungle Fight’s latest all-female offering, Pink Fight 3, Aline Serio and Elaine Albuquerque take center stage with the opportunity for one to make the move into the ever-shrinking group of top flyweights.

Serio, who made her pro debut in 2010, has a 6-4 record, but the four losses on the 30-year-old’s resume have come against some truly tough competition. She suffered a TKO loss to Carina Damm, dropped a split decision to current UFC strawweight Juliana Carneiro Lima and went the distance in a losing effort against Kalindra Faria. Only her most recent loss to Ana Maria stands as a defeat to a fighter who has never cracked the top 15 of a division. The only problem is that Serio’s successes have come against a significantly lower level of competition—a set of fighters that sport a combined 6-15 mark. The Diogo Tavares Team and Ximu Team product has a background in Muay Thai and tends to do her best work on her feet, where she has scored four wins by some form of knockout. Serio is most effective when working quickly—five first-round victories, including two that ended in less than 40 seconds. In contrast, she has won just one of four fights that went the distance.

Albuquerque made her professional debut in July 2012, but already has eight fights under her belt. “Pantera” won her debut via TKO, but was then faced with a tough challenge in the form of current UFC bantamweight Bethe Correia. Albuquerque went the distance with Correia, but emerged on the wrong end of a unanimous decision. She recovered with five straight wins, including a submission, a TKO and two knockouts. The 28-year-old’s most recent fight ended in a setback when she was knocked out in the second round by Josiane Nunes, a fighter who now stands at just 1-1 through two pro fights. Albuquerque has finished a majority of her opponents by way of strikes, but she has a good sprawl and can be sneaky in setting up submissions. Her wins, though, have come against a set of adversaries who combine for a record of 0-12.

Albuquerque needs to prove that she can beat an opponent who has won at least one MMA fight, but that’s a tall order against an opponent like Serio. Serio’s striking attack is relentless. She’ll wing in huge lefts and rights until something lands. She has a bad habit of keeping her hands low, but makes up for it with a granite chin.

Glance at their records, and it may seem like Albuquerque is the favorite in this fight. That’s a bad assumption to make, however. Serio can pile on the damage with her brutal flurries, and punching her in the face will not make her back off in the least. Albuquerque’s chin failed her once, and it’ll do so again here. This should be another first-round knockout victory for Serio.

Other key bouts: Priscila de Souza (2-0) vs. Hellen Bastos (1-1), Dayana Silva (4-2) vs. Evelin Gomes (0-0)

Road Fighting Championship: Korea 1

Grand Hilton Seoul Convention Center in Seoul, South Korea
Event Date: Jan. 18
Website: roadfc.com
Twitter: @ROADFC

Spotlight Fight:
Riki Fukuda (19-7) vs. Hee Seung Kim (6-1)

Not every trip to the UFC ends in success. Sometimes, a fighter has to return to the drawing board and work his way back up to the big show. Such is the case for Japanese middleweight fighter Riki Fukuda. Fukuda returns to action for the first time since departing the Octagon when he fights prospect Hee Seung Kim at Road FC’s “Korea 1” event.

The 33-year-old Fukuda wrestled in college and placed in the top three at the All Japan University Championships in 2002 and 2003. Though he has also performed as a pro wrestler, Fukuda made his MMA debut in 2004 and racked up a 17-4 record and captured the Deep middleweight crown before signing with the UFC. The Dream and EliteXC veteran made his Octagon debut in 2011 at UFC 127 and alternated between wins and losses in his five-fight stint with the promotion. Fukuda entered into his March 2013 fight with Brad Tavares sporting a 2-2 promotional record. He went the distance against Tavares, as he had done against every other UFC foe, but he emerged on the wrong end of the decision and was released by the promotion after testing positive in the post-fight drug screening. Fukuda, who has trained with Grabaka and the American Kickboxing Academy, has a number of knockout and TKO victories on his record, but many of those came early in his career. He has adopted a grinding style in his more recent fights and has seen the judges’ scorecards in 12 of his last 14 fights and 17 times overall in his career.

Kim is a 26-year-old prospect with just one loss through seven pro fights. He made his debut in 2010 and rattled off four straight wins before tasting defeat. He rebounded from his submission loss to Jae Young Kim with two subsequent wins. However, the Team Posse fighter has not competed since November 2012. Kim has three wins via strikes and two by way of submission, and he has only gone the distance on one occasion.

Kim has feasted on inexperienced fighters, many of whom sport records at or below the .500 mark. His lone loss, meanwhile, came against a 14-11 fighter who had gone 2-4 in his six fights prior to meeting up with Kim. Combine that with Kim’s recent stretch of inactivity, and the South Korean fighter looks less like a true prospect and more like a home-crowd favorite thrown to the wolves against a UFC veteran who might still be fighting in the eight-sided cage had it not been for a positive drug test.

Fukuda’s grinding approach should stifle Kim’s offense, but this is one situation where the Japanese fighter shouldn’t have to settle for letting the judges hand him a victory. Fukuda is a borderline UFC talent who was able to shut down Steve Cantwell’s attack and notch decision wins over Cantwell and Tom DeBlass. Fukuda couldn’t beat Tavares, Nick Ring or Costas Philippou, but Kim hardly stands on the same level with those fighters. Fukuda will use his wrestling to plant Kim on the mat, then work his ground-and-pound game until a submission opportunity arises or the strikes finish off the South Korean. Either way, it will be a successful Road FC debut for Fukuda.

Other key bouts: A Sol Kwon (16-8) vs. Mostafa Abdollahi (0-0)