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…

Legacy Fighting Championship 28

UT Arlington College Park Center in Dallas
Event Date: Feb. 21
Website: legacyfights.net
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @legacyfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Damon Jackson (7-0) vs. Hunter Tucker (6-1)

Rakim Cleveland and Bubba Bush may be headlining the latest offering from Legacy Fighting Championship and Damacio Page’s fight might stand out as the most significant contest on the card from a casual fan’s perspective, but it’s another main-card affair that quite possibly houses the two fighters from the lineup with the most potential moving into the future. Undefeated featherweight Damon Jackson gets his chance to add an eighth win to his spotless record when he takes on once-defeated prospect Hunter Tucker.

The 25-year-old Jackson turned pro in 2012 and has already made two appearances under the Bellator banner and one previous appearance in the Legacy cage. “The Leech” has finished all of his opponents, including five via submission and two by way of TKO. The Octagon MMA product is a former NAIA All-American wrestler and learned jiu-jitsu and boxing during the wrestling off-seasons. Anselmo Luna is the only fighter that Jackson has faced with a record that currently stands above the .500 mark, however.

Tucker will mark a huge step up in competition for Jackson, whose Legacy debut came against a then 5-6 (now 5-8) Javier Obregon. Tucker faced Obregon in the Bellator cage and, like Jackson, scored a second-round submission win over the journeyman fighter. Tucker’s only loss came via a first-round submission against one of Legacy’s top prospects, Kevin Aguilar. Although Tucker has also competed against sub-.500 fighters, he has impressed with a first-round TKO over veteran Douglas Frey. Tucker trains out of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., and has scored finishes in all of his victories. He is comfortable working for the submission, but is a well-rounded fighter who can stand back and throw counters. The 28-year-old has four submission wins and two victories via TKO.

Jackson is hoping for a title fight with a win over Tucker, but he better not overlook his current opponent. Tucker trains with an elite camp and can certainly test Jackson’s legitimacy as a prospect. These two men are complete strangers to the scorecards, and that’s an appealing quality to this fight—someone should get the finish. Both men are well-rounded fighters, but Jackson may hold enough of an edge in the wrestling department to make the difference in this tilt. He’ll find more effectiveness with his takedowns and work for the submission on the ground. Jackson might not come away with the win over Tucker in the same quick fashion as Aguilar, but he’ll get it sooner or later.

Other key bouts: Rakim Cleveland (8-3) vs. Bubba Bush (6-2), Damacio Page (16-9) vs. Matthew Lozano (4-1), Cosmo Alexandre (5-1) vs. Rey Trujillo (14-12), Eli Tamez (6-0) vs. Nelson Salas (4-2), Evan Thompson (3-0) vs. Allen Nelson (2-1)

Talent MMA Circuit 6: Etapa Curitiba 2014

Curitiba Military Circle Gymnasium in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil
Event Date: Feb. 22
Website: Facebook/CircuitoTalentMMA
Twitter: @CircuitoTalent

Spotlight Fight:
Marcos Vinicius “Vina” Borges Pancini (20-6-1) vs. Anderson Berlingeri “Berinja” dos Santos (9-1)

It’s back to the drawing board for UFC veteran Marcos Vinicius “Vina” Borges Pancini. Vinicius returns to the Brazilian circuit following a three-fight stint in the UFC that produced just one victory and a subsequent trip to Singapore than resulted in an additional defeat. At the sixth show from Talent MMA Circuit, Vinicius squares off with Anderson Berlingeri “Berinja” dos Santos for the bantamweight title.

Vinicius compiled a 19-3-1 record on the Brazilian regional circuit from his 2008 debut through the end of 2011. The Striker’s House product then joined the cast of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil as a featherweight. He scored a TKO of Pedro Nobre in the elimination fights, then lost to Hugo Viana via decision and, upon replacing Rodrigo Damm, lost again to Godofredo “Pepey” Castro. Vinicius made his official Octagon debut with a third-round TKO victory over Wagner Campos at UFC 147 and earned “Knockout of the Night” honors. He then shifted to bantamweight, where he lost to Johnny Bedford, and flyweight, where he lost to Ali Bagautinov. The latter of those defeats came with a set of walking papers that left the 34-year-old without a promotional home. Vinicius then traveled across the Pacific to face Taiyo Nakahara at the first show from Rebel FC, but suffered a first-round knockout loss to extend his losing streak to three fights. He has stopped his opponents in all 20 of his victories, including 13 via submission and seven by some form of knockout. The Brazilian’s chin has been called into question in four of his losses, including knockouts in his last three outings.

Berinja has yet to reach the heights that Vinicius attained before his two-fight losing streak sent him packing from the UFC. The Babuino Gold Team Chute Boxe fighter made his pro debut in 2011 and picked up three wins before suffering his lone defeat in a unanimous decision loss to Everaldo Souza. Berinja has rebounded with six straight wins. His background is in jiu-jitsu, but he confesses that, as a Chute Boxe fighter, he loves the stand-up game. It shows in the 28-year-old’s balanced resume of three wins by some form of knockout and four via submission. As with almost any fighter on the regional Brazilian circuit, Berinja’s competition leaves a lot to be desired.

There was a time when the result of this fight was virtually a no-brainer. However, Vinicius is long removed from his days of winning against almost any opponent thrown his way. His appearance on TUF proved that there were holes in his game. His run in the UFC and Rebel FC, however, exposed an even bigger problem: his chin is gone. The loss to Nakahara is especially devastating evidence to support this theory. The Japanese fighter is largely a decision machine and only one of his five previous stoppages came by strikes (and that was due to an eye injury). Yet, Nakahara was able to score a clean knockout of the Brazilian in less than three and a half minutes. What does Vinicius do next? He opts to take on a Chute Boxe fighter. That doesn’t seem like a wise choice.

Berinja may have a jiu-jitsu base, but he’s proven that he can land the knockout blow. With the chin of Vinicius in such doubt, it’s difficult to see any other outcome beyond a Berinja knockout victory.

Other key bouts: Wagner Campos (12-5) vs. Mauricio dos Santos Jr. (9-8), Tim Ruberg (9-1) vs. Dyego Roberto (11-7), Darren Till (8-0) vs. Sergio de Fatima (4-1), Irwing Romero Machado (9-2-1) vs. Uilian Fuga (6-2), Andre Ricardo Chaves Santos (2-0) vs. Carlos Leal Miranda (4-1), Joao Elias (4-0) vs. Gustavo Sedorio (2-0)

Vale Tudo Japan 4th

Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo
Event Date: Feb. 23
Website: valetudojapan.com
Watch Event: Sky PerfecTV! (Japan) and streamed live via online pay-per-view at NicoNico Live
Twitter: @vtj1

Spotlight Fight:
Yuta Sasaki (15-1-2) vs. Teruto Ishihara (6-1-1)

Yes, Yuta Sasaki was just featured in the Jan. 9 edition of Out of Obscurity. Yes, he’s already back in action. Emerging from Shooto: 1st Round 2014 with a first-round submission victory over Keisuke Fujiwara in what was dubbed as a “Shooto vs. Zst” bout, Sasaki is now slated to meet Teruto Ishihara at the fourth offering from the reincarnated Vale Tudo Japan organization. The bantamweight fight joins a lineup that features Caol Uno, Jesse Brock, Hiroyuki Takaya and a flyweight tournament full of intriguing names.

A training partner of Shinya Aoki, the 24-year-old Sasaki has taken top honors in ADCC Asia competition and won the 2010 Shooto Rookie championship. He has fought to a draw with former King of Pancrase Manabu Inoue and captured the Pacific Rim featherweight title by edging Tetsu Suzuki via unanimous decision in January 2013. The Wajiutsu Keishu-kai Suruga Dojo product followed that achievement with a majority decision over Kota Onojima in non-title action and an 11-second knockout of Kenji Yamamoto in his first title defense, then appeared under the Vale Tudo Japan banner with a 96-second submission of Geun Do Park and returned to Shooto to score the submission victory over Zst bantamweight champion Fujiwara. The last—and only—time the grappler lost was in 2011 when he met Guy Delumeau. The southpaw has seen 10 of his 18 fights go the distance, but he has stopped his opponents in his last three fights. In all, Sasaki has posted seven submission victories and a knockout.

Ishihara is a Chokushin-kai product who made his pro debut in 2011. The 22-year-old won his first three fights, including two via knockout, before suffering the only loss of his career via decision against future UFC signee Michinori Tanaka in the finals of the 2011 Shooto Rookie Tournament. Ishihara has rebounded with two first-round knockout victories and a first-round TKO win, along with a technical draw against Kazuhiro Ito after Ishihara and Ito fell from the ring. The striker has only competed once since the beginning of 2013.

Sasaki has benefited recently from a string of challengers who either don’t have the experience—Park—or prefer to engage in striking battles—Yamamoto and Fujiwara. He even beat Yamamoto at his own game with the quick knockout. His recent trend of stoppages is an encouraging sign, but what’s more impressive is that he’s complemented his top-notch grappling abilities with a dangerous striking arsenal.

Ishihara has done well throughout his career by putting fist to face and knocking opponents flat. Of his five striking finishes, only two exceeded the two-minute mark and only one required more than three minutes. Meanwhile, two ended in less than 20 seconds and four of the five finishes were straight knockouts.

After joking about being nervous standing next to the VTJ ring girls, Ishihara suggested that he’d dominate Sasaki if the fight turns into a stand-up war. What he failed to acknowledge was that MMA fights also take place on the ground, and it’s there that Sasaki could dominate him. Sasaki’s newfound striking acumen could indeed cause him to stand with Ishihara, but that’s a dangerous risk to take given Ishihara’s propensity for quick finishes. The more likely scenario is that Sasaki follows Tanaka’s blueprint from the 2011 Shooto Rookie Tournament finals. Tanaka’s grappling techniques were able to neutralize Ishihara for most of their affair. If Sasaki can take Ishihara down and maintain top control, he’ll win this fight. The only question is whether Sasaki rides top control to a decision or attempts to extend his streak of finishes to four in a row with a knockout or submission.

Other key bouts: Caol Uno (29-16-5) vs. Jesse Brock (16-7), Hiroyuki Takaya (17-11-2) vs. Yojiro Uchimura (11-6-3), Naoyuki Kotani (32-10-7) vs. Yoshihiro Koyama (17-6-2), Ryuichi Miki (15-6-4) vs. Yoshiro Maeda (30-13-5) in a flyweight tournament quarterfinal bout, Hiromasa Ogikubo (10-3-2) vs. Takeshi Kasugai (13-2-1) in a flyweight tournament quarterfinal bout, Mamoru Yamaguchi (26-8-4) vs. Czar Sklavos (8-3) in a flyweight tournament quarterfinal bout, Freddy Arteaga (4-2) vs. Kana Hyatt (12-12) in a flyweight tournament quarterfinal bout, Hidenobu Izena (6-0-1) vs. Katsuya Murofushi (5-6)