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…

Resurrection Fighting Alliance 12

Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
Event Date: Jan. 24
Website: rfafighting.com
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @RFAFighting

Spotlight Fight:
Pedro Munhoz (9-0) vs. Billy Daniels (7-0)

The Resurrection Fighting Alliance is settling in nicely as the UFC’s feeder league. In its 12th offering, there may be several prospects hoping to catch the attention of UFC President Dana White and company, whether it be undefeated female strawweights Justine Kish and Randa Markos Thomas, undefeated featherweights Brian Ortega and Keoni Koch or undefeated bantamweights Pedro Munhoz and Billy Daniels. The latter pair are set to clash with Munhoz’s bantamweight title on the line.

Munhoz claimed the RFA gold in his last outing at RFA 9 in Los Angeles with a split decision win over Jeff Curran in which two judges awarded at least four of the rounds to the Brazilian. The 27-year-old trains out of Kings MMA and Black House and has been involved in combat sports since a very early age. His background includes judo and grappling. He is a BJJ black belt, which has contributed to a spotless nine-fight record that includes five submission victories. One of those submissions, in his 2009 pro debut, came via strikes, and he also has one TKO win. Munhoz’s resume contains numerous opponents who sport impressive records, and he has rarely met an adversary who now possesses a losing mark.

Daniels is a fighter who has bounced back and forth between multiple weight classes. Within a three-fight stretch spanning from 2012 to 2013, he competed at lightweight, then bantamweight, then featherweight. Now, in 2014, he’s back at bantamweight. Daniels is a former Rocky Mountain FC featherweight champion and has faced a mixed bag of opponents, though none feature winning percentages as high as some of Munhoz’s best foes. The Ironclad Training Center product from Utah made his pro debut in 2011 and has stopped five opponents via submission. The 21-year-old has been competing as a wrestler since a very early age, but also started training in jiu-jitsu at age 12 and, like Munhoz, has competed in grappling tournaments.

Though a bout between two ground fighters can sometimes turn into a sloppy boxing or kickboxing affair, neither of these fighters has much to offer on their feet. Daniels could prove to have the better wrestling, but Munhoz could counter with judo and possesses a much higher level of skill in jiu-jitsu. Furthermore, Munhoz has the benefit of training alongside elite competitors as Kings MMA and Black House. Though Daniels is undefeated, he doesn’t have the edge of training in striking under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro and wrestling under the instruction of Kenny Johnson. He also isn’t surrounded by the likes of former UFC champions Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida in the gym.

If both men opt to stick to their strengths, this could turn into an entertaining grappling clinic. In that case, Daniels has to prove that he can hang with a champ who already has a stellar MMA resume. Munhoz may not be a UFC fighter yet, but this fight, on the heels of wins over Curran and Mitch Jackson, could be the one that punches his ticket to the big show. He’ll at least make the argument that he belongs in the Octagon by topping Daniels on the mat en route to a submission win.

Other key bouts: Brian Ortega (7-0) vs. Keoni Koch (5-0) for the featherweight title, Kevin Casey (6-3) vs. Eddie Mendez (7-2-1), Justine Kish (3-0) vs. Randa Markos Thomas (3-0), James Moontasri (5-1) vs. Rick Reger (6-0), Zac Chavez (2-0) vs. Marcus Kowal (3-1-1)

Showdown Fights 13

UCCU Events Center in Orem, Utah
Event Date: Jan. 24
Website: showdownfights.com
Watch Event: live PPV stream at GoFightLive
Twitter: @ShowdownMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Jorge Lopez (11-3) vs. David Castillo (17-5)

Sometimes a highly touted fighter has to face a significant setback before they can truly climb their way to the top. When Wanderlei Silva protégé Jorge Lopez stepped into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 25 in September 2011, many felt that he would make a significant impact within the promotion. Instead, he suffered two losses and departed from the UFC ranks. Now, he begins his journey back to the eight-sided cage when he competes under the Showdown Fights banner at the promotion’s 13 offering. His opponent will be 22-fight veteran David Castillo.

Castillo is a mainstay of the Utah fight scene, with numerous appearance under the Showdown Fights and Jeremy Horn’s Elite Fight Night banners. The Elite Performance product made his pro debut in 2008 and won his first seven fights before suffering back-to-back defeats. He followed with a three-fight winning streak and another pair of losses, but has since gone 7-1 with one no-contest over his last nine fights. That stretch includes wins over Clay Collard, Sidiah Parker and UFC veteran John Gunderson. His only loss in that span also comes again a UFC vet, Justin Buchholz. The welterweight has six wins by some form of knockout, but the majority of both his wins and losses have come on the ground. He has submitted nine opponents, but he has lost via submission on three occasions.

Lopez has been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai since an early age and even spent time with the Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil. The 25-year-old was able to train alongside the likes of Anderson Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua during that time, and now he trains with Wand Fight Team. Lopez is a three-time regional and two-time Utah state champion in wrestling. “Lil’ Monster” made his pro debut in 2007 and went 11-1 before receiving an invite to compete for the UFC. He dropped a unanimous decision to Justin Edwards in his Octagon debut and followed with a split decision loss to Amir Sadollah in his sophomore outing with the UFC. Lopez broke his hand in the May 2012 bout with Sadollah and has not returned to action since then.

Lopez’s misfortunes inside the Octagon took a lot of momentum away from the young fighter, who had five wins by some form of knockout and six via decision upon his arrival in the UFC. However, he had compiled an impressive resume in order to catch the eye of the Zuffa brass. His five victims prior to his UFC debut were Chidi Njokuani, Dave Terrel, Joey Gorczynski, Waachiim Spiritwolf and David Marshall. Castillo has put up an impressive mark of his own, though, and he should stand as a solid test for Lopez.

The outcome of this fight rests with the psychological aspects of the game for Lopez. He has been away from active competition for more than a year and a half now and lost his last two fights. The Wand Fight Team product was a top prospect, but you have to go all the way back to August 2011 to find the last win on his record. Can he overcome the lengthy layoff, the back-to-back losses and the broken hand to return to form?

If the answer is yes, then Lopez’s grinding style should allow him to forge a path to victory. He’ll look to close the distance and clinch with Castillo, wearing down the veteran before looking for the kill. Castillo’s loss to Buchholz came in the form of a TKO, and Lopez is capable of replicating that outcome from the clinch. He’ll score the finish over the more experienced Castillo in the third round.

Other key bouts: Clay Collard (11-4) vs. Jason Brenton (11-2), Jordan Smith (18-5-1) vs. Edgar Garcia (13-3), Jordan Clements (10-1) vs. Curtis Johnson (9-8)

Coliseum Fighting Championship: New History II

Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
Event Date: Jan. 25
Twitter: @Coliseum_F_C

Spotlight Fight:
Aleksander Emelianenko (23-6) vs. Dmitriy Sosnovskiy (7-0)

The best way for a young prospect to gain a foothold in the world of MMA and gain notoriety is to defeat an established veteran. Coliseum Fighting Championship is providing that platform for a Russian prospect to do just that against a fighter with one of the most famous names in the business. Undefeated Dmitriy Sosnovskiy has the chance to elevate his status within the heavyweight division when he collides with Pride veteran Aleksander Emelianenko, brother of MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, in the headlining contest of the promotion’s New History II card.

The 32-year-old Aleksander may not be as accomplished as his older brother, but he is a veteran of 29 fights, with 23 victories to his name. Aleksander made his pro debut under the Pride banner in 2003 and went 6-2 with the promotion. Since his last Pride fight in 2006, Aleksander has primarily fought for M-1 Challenge and ProFC. In that span, he has suffered four of his losses, including submission defeats against current UFC heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum and former UFC title challenger Jeff Monson, a TKO loss to Peter Graham and a knockout loss at the hands of Magomed Malikov. The Russian veteran is 6-1 over his last seven with victories over Konstantin Gluhov and Bob Sapp. Though he hasn’t captured many accolades as a mixed martial artist, Aleksander became a Master of Sports in judo at age 16 and is highly decorated in the discipline of sambo, where he has captured world championships on three occasions in the absolute division. He tends to stand and bang, resulting in 15 career victories by some form of submission.

Sosnovskiy has only been fighting professionally since October 2012. He is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and yet scored his first three victories by way of first-round TKO. More recently, he has picked up two first-round submission wins and twice earned the unanimous nod on the scorecards. The combined record of his opponents is 11-25 and he has only faced one adversary who now stands with a winning record. The Oplot Team product has benefited from subpar competition, but he does have a well-rounded offensive game. Where he is lacking is in his defense, both standing and in stopping takedowns.

Though Sosnovskiy has the power to score quick knockouts, he will be completely outclassed by Emelianenko on the feet. The younger fighter will be better off testing Emelianenko’s ability to stuff takedowns and avoid submissions, rather than engaging on the feet. Although Sosnovskiy has the strength and speed to surge forward and shoot for a double-leg takedown, Emelianenko should be able to sprawl and avoid going to the mat. Meanwhile, if Emelianenko chooses, he can plant the prospect on the canvas with ease. However, don’t expect a veteran with a large number of striking wins to opt for a grappling match in this fight. Emelianenko will take advantage of Sosnovskiy’s hesitant striking tactics and low hands to score an early knockout victory.

Other key bouts: Edvard Vartanyan (3-1) vs. Benjamin Brinsa (13-1), Igor Makoedov (8-1) vs. Sergey Faley (13-6)