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…

West Coast Fighting Championship 8

McClellan Conference Center in Sacramento, Calif.
Event Date: Feb. 15
Website: westcoastfighting.com
Watch Event: live pay-per-view stream at Competitive Fighting Sports
Twitter: @WFC_MMA

Spotlight Fight:
Anthony Avila (11-2) vs. Josh Berkovic (4-0)

When the Team Alpha Male fight camp is mentioned, fans generally think of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and the team’s highly praised head coach, Duane Ludwig. However, not all of the talent at Team Alpha Male is under the UFC banner. Longtime Alpha Male fighter Anthony Avila is one example. Avila is the reigning lightweight champion of the West Coast Fighting Championship promotion, but he’ll vie for the vacant featherweight title at the promotion’s eighth event when he fights undefeated upstart Josh Berkovic.

Avila’s path to mixed martial arts started on the streets and progressed to wrestling and MMA. After turning pro and going 1-1 in early 2008, “The Shark” packed his bags and headed to Sacramento, where he started taking classes at Team Alpha Male and eventually joined their fight team. The results were impressive. Avila won 10 straight fights, including three by some form of knockout and five via submission, between 2009 and 2013. He faced his biggest opportunity against UFC veteran Caol Uno at the second Vale Tudo Japan event in June of 2013. Avila fell short in that fight when he surrendered to a rear-naked choke in the third round.

Berkovic turned pro in 2012 and has won four fights. His debut came in a unanimous decision victory over Chris Deluna, but the San Francisco native has claimed all his subsequent wins by stoppage. He scored a second-round TKO in his sophomore appearance and has notched first-round, rear-naked choke finishes in his two most recent outings.

Berkovic was able to make quick work of his two most recent opponents, but those adversaries are the type of opponents one would expect to see on the resume of a four-fight veteran. Just as Avila was facing a tremendous step up in competition against Uno, the Skrap Pack’s Berkovic is in a similar predicament against Avila. Avila benefits from experience, which includes stops in Shark Fights, Strikeforce and Tachi Palace Fights. As a former lightweight, the Team Alpha Male fighter should also enjoy a size advantage. The final factor may be Avila’s years of training with the likes of Faber and Benavidez and the helpful addition Ludwig as the camp’s head coach.

This should prove to be the perfect fight for Avila following the loss to Uno. It will allow him to return to the win column with a TKO of Berkovic.

Other key bouts: David Mitchell (12-4) vs. Fernando Gonzalez (20-11), Josh Emmett (3-0) vs. Adin Duenas (1-0), Aspen Ladd (6-0) vs. Maddy Simmons (0-0) for the amateur women’s flyweight title, Arlene Culbreth (3-1) vs. Roma Pawelek (4-0) for the amateur women’s bantamweight title

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 64

The Forum in London
Event Date: Feb. 15
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event:
Fight Now TV (USA)
Premier Sports (United Kingdom)
Setanta Sports 1 (Ireland)
Fight Network (Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Angola)
Fight Klub (Poland)
Setanta Action (Africa)
ESPN International (Brazil, Latin America, Pacific Rim)
Viasat (Scandinavia)
MMA Junkie (USA/Canada)
Sportube.tv (Italy)
JOE.ie (Ireland)
cagewarriors.tv (rest of the world, excluding the United Kingdom)
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
James Pennington (9-1) vs. Cory Tait (7-2)

With every passing event, Cage Warriors seems to add a new broadcast partner to the list. With its 64th numbered offering, the promotion now has Viasat beaming its fights to fans in Scandinavia. That’s an added bonus in terms of exposure for the event’s headlining pair, bantamweights James Pennington and Cory Tait.

Pennington was on the verge of a bantamweight title shot, but an injury dashed those hopes. The 26-year-old is a submission specialist who has ended four fights via rear-naked choke and three by armbar. The “Power Weasel” made his professional debut in 2010 and won his first six fights. His lone setback came in a submission loss to The Ultimate Fighter 18 finalist Davey Grant. The Gym 01 product, who had never trained in martial arts before joining the gym, rebounded with a submission victory over James Doolan and is now on a three-fight winning streak.

Tait has never gone the distance in his winning efforts. “Capcom” has picked up four wins by some form of knockout and three via submission. He debuted in 2010 and won his first two fights. He went to a decision for the only time in his career in his first loss, which came to James Lutman. Tait rebounded with another pair of victories before suffering a 10-second knockout at the hands of Spencer Hewitt. Since that loss, Tait has rebounded with three wins, including a knockout of Hewitt to avenge the previous defeat. Tait has held the UCMMA featherweight and bantamweight crowns. He has been training in taekwondo since the age of five and received his black belt at age 10. Tait is also a decorated kickboxer and boxer on the British and European circuit.

There are some fun facts out there about these two prospects. Both cite such things as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as major inspirations for their fight careers. The difference lies in how quickly those and other inspirations led each man to strap on the four-ounce gloves. Pennington only started training when he joined his current gym, but Tait has been competing in some form of martial arts since he was a very young child. That background could give him the edge he needs over Pennington, but it doesn’t guarantee a victory for Tait.

If Pennington hadn’t suffered an injury in the training camp leading up to the one-night bantamweight tourney at Cage Warriors 59, he may have been able to continue on to the finals after his two-round unanimous decision win over Kris Edwards. The “Power Weasel” remains a top prospect in England, but he has his work cut out for him in facing Tait. Tait was outwrestled and rendered ineffective in his fight with Lutman, but he’s shored up his grappling and wrestling skills since that loss. The Gintas Combat product is dangerous on the feet, but now he has the ability to provide at least some answers when he’s taken to the ground.

Tait has faced a mixed bag of competition and has found success against a few fighters on the winning side of the .500 mark, but the loss to Lutman marks a defeat at the hands of a fighter who now sits at 4-8 over his career. Pennington has gradually made his way up the ladder of competition, but his only truly significant win came against Doolan.

Pennington will hold a four-inch height advantage over Tait, but it’s hardly a smart idea for the grappler to engage with Tait on the feet. Instead, Pennington will want to get this fight to the mat in a hurry. The outcome of this fight resides in Pennington’s success with takedowns. Tait may have improved his ground skills, but he’ll be outclassed by Pennington if this turns into a grappling contest. The opposite is true if this turns into a kickboxing bout. Pennington wants to add a knockout win to his resume, but he’s not a striker with massive power.

Tait has shown improvement, but unless he lands a quick knockout blow, he’s going to confront Pennington’s ground skills. That spells doom for the striker, who will surrender an arm to Pennington once this fight hits the mat.

Other key bouts: Laura Howarth (1-0) vs. Amanda Kelly (1-0), Matt Inman (12-5) vs. Gregor Weibel (8-1), Nad Narimani (6-1) vs. Benjamin Brander (6-0)

Xtreme Fighting Championship (Australia) 20

Mansfield Tavern in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Event Date: Feb. 15
Website: Facebook/XFCFighting
Twitter: @XFCfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Adrian Rodriguez (5-1) vs. Shane Young (4-0)

Don’t be confused—this isn’t another International Series event from the Florida-based XFC. This is the 20th offering from the unrelated Australian promotion of the same name. The Australian XFC has been around since 2003, but only picked up the pace on its schedule again in 2012. After a 2013 that saw the promotion host two events, the XFC returns this weekend with its first show of 2014. The featured attraction pits the promotion’s featherweight kingpin, Adrian Rodriguez, against undefeated prospect Shane Young.

Rodriguez, who made his professional debut in 2012, has been a fixture for XFC Australia since the promotion’s 2012 return. He has competed on each of the XFC’s three cards in that span, and will continue the trend with his title defense at XFC 20. Rodriguez made his pro debut on short notice against a veteran opponent, but he emerged with a second-round submission win. The Advance Martial Arts product scored a first-round TKO in his next fight, then suffered the lone setback of his career when he succumbed to an armbar against Suasday Chau. “Road Rage” has rebounded with three straight wins, including a second-round TKO finish of Aden Hawke and first-round submissions of Mark Small and Taylor Harvey. The victory over Harvey secured the gold for Rodriguez.

Young’s pro career also started in 2012, after a six-fight undefeated run through the amateur ranks. In the New Zealander’s pro debut, he worked his way to a unanimous verdict against Caleb Lally. Then, Young started finishing his opponents. He scored two TKO wins in his next two outings. His most recent fight also ended in a finish, but this time Young used his grappling skills to submit Hayden Watt in less than two minutes. Young started wrestling at the age of 13 and went on to medal at the regional and national level. He turned to MMA when he was 15 and started competing as an amateur the next year. He has also competed in the sports of boxing and Muay Thai.

Rodriguez is fortunate to have the belt strapped around his waist. Harvey was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Rodriguez in their title affair, but Rodriguez was able to survive the onslaught and capitalize on Harvey’s aggressiveness to snag an arm for the submission finish. He may not find the same opportunities against Young. The New Zealander has been wrestling for years, but he also has a background in Muay Thai and boxing. Furthermore, he has benefited from training in mixed martial arts, rather than a specific discipline, since he was 15 years old. That should make Young the more well-rounded fighter, even if Rodriguez sports two TKO victories to accompany his three submission wins.

Young’s wrestling should allow him to keep this fight standing. The best fight footage available on him shows him slowly wearing away at Ray Karaitiana in an ICNZ bout in 2012. It’s a strategy Young should employ against Rodriguez. Rodriguez may want to clinch with Young, but Young will attempt to keep separation and stuff takedowns. If the New Zealander is successful in doing so, then he can work to establish his jab and start whittling away at Rodriguez on the feet. Expect Young to pick up the pace as the first round wears on, but he won’t get the finish until the second stanza.