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…

Titan Fighting Championship 27

Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.
Event Date: Feb. 28
Website: titanfighting.com
Watch Event: CBS Sports Network
Twitter: @titanfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Matt Riddle (7-3) vs. Michael Kuiper (12-3)

There was a time when Matt Riddle was just a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter known mostly for his goofy smile. How times have changed. First, there was the marijuana test and subsequent dismissal from the UFC. Then, he retired from fighting when he couldn’t come to terms on a contract extension with Bellator, all before he ever fought for the organization. Now, he’s back. This time, Riddle’s attempt to continue his career outside of the UFC lands him in the co-headlining attraction of Titan FC’s 27th offering against fellow UFC veteran Michael Kuiper. The show, which is headlined by Mike Ricci and Jorge Gurgel, also marks a first for the promotion—it will be the debut show for Titan FC under its new broadcast deal with the CBS Sports Network.

Riddle is one of the rare few in the modern UFC to make his pro debut inside the Octagon. The national high school wrestling champion appeared on season seven of The Ultimate Fighter, where he destroyed Dan Simmler to make it into the house. Riddle lost his next TUF fight, but was still awarded a spot on the UFC roster after the conclusion of the reality series. Riddle capitalized on the opportunity with a win at middleweight over TUF castmate Dante Rivera and then moved to welterweight. He went 5-1 through his first six contests, then suffered the only back-to-back losses of his career in a pair of fights that went the distance. Had it not been for two bouts that were changed to no contests following positive tests for marijuana use, Riddle would have been on a four-fight winning streak when the UFC gave him the boot. The Throwdown Training Center has some power, as evidenced by his knockout of Simmler and a TKO of DaMarques Johnson, and holds the rank of brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but he tends to rely heavily on his wrestling skills to grind his way to decision wins.

Kuiper’s UFC tenure didn’t feature nearly the amount of drama that accompanied Riddle. However, it also didn’t feature many wins. In fact, there was just one—a second-round TKO of Jared Hamman. Kuiper’s other three Octagon appearances ended in disappointment. “Judo” lost to Rafael Natal via unanimous decision and then, after his win against Hamman, he succumbed to guillotine chokes courtesy of Tom Lawlor and Brad Scott. The middleweight holds the rank of purple belt in BJJ, but his nickname spotlights his real specialty—he’s a black belt in judo. When Kuiper entered the UFC in early 2012, he was undefeated through 11 fights and three years in the sport. Though judo is his area of expertise, Kuiper has relied on his fists to pick up seven of his victories. He has also submitted four opponents, including three by way of armbar.

The Dutch fighter may have been undefeated when he first set foot inside the Octagon, but his UFC foes represented an entirely new level of competition for which Kuiper was not prepared. His five opponents prior to his UFC debut now hold a combined record of 28-32. In comparison, his four UFC opponents now hold a combined mark of 48-18. Kuiper didn’t use his judo skills to great effect and left his neck out there for the taking. Only when he was able to trade bombs with Hamman did Kuiper find any degree of success.

As much power as Riddle may pack, there’s no way that his game plan will involve standing in front of Kuiper. Instead, it’ll involve clinch work and takedowns. Kuiper won’t be able to defend against the level of wrestling the Riddle brings to the cage. For those who don’t still live in the Ronald Reagan era of the drug wars, Riddle’s two no-contests still count as wins, making him another tough opponent in the same vein as the men who were able to hand Kuiper losses inside the Octagon. Kuiper is going to struggle to keep this fight in an upright position, and he won’t offer much offense from the bottom.

As long as Riddle doesn’t roll out another controversy that causes the scrapping of this fight, he should be in line for a grinding decision win. Now, whether he once again tests positive for marijuana afterwards, well, that’s another story.

Other key bouts: Mike Ricci (8-4) vs. Jorge Gurgel (14-9), Anthony Gutierrez (4-0) vs. Charlie DuBray (12-8), Kurt Holobaugh (9-2) vs. Eric Marriott (22-7), Kevin Croom (13-4) vs. Bryan Goldsby (17-15)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 65

The Helix in Dublin, Ireland
Event Date: March 1
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:
John Maguire (19-6) vs. Saul Rogers (7-1)

Cage Warriors may be one of the hardest working promotions around right now. Just weeks after hosting its 64th event, the British promotion returns for its 65th show. The promotion has imported talent from around the world, including UFC castoff Benny Alloway, and added to its own British set of talent with the likes of Saul Rogers and UFC veteran John Maguire. The latter two square off in the evening’s lightweight headliner.

Maguire started his career as a middleweight in 2006, then dropped to welterweight in 2010. At 170 pounds, the Brit captured the OMMAC and Ultimate Challenge MMA titles and compiled a 16-3 record to punch his ticket to the Octagon. In the UFC, Maguire picked up wins over Justin Edwards and DaMarques Johnson, but then lost back-to-back fights against John Hathaway and Matt Riddle. He moved to lightweight after the loss to Riddle, but he couldn’t right the ship against Mitch Clarke who handed him his third straight loss and sent him packing from the UFC. Maguire made his Cage Warriors debut in December 2013 with a unanimous decision win against Philip Mulpeter. Maguire has only been stopped once, via TKO, while losing five times on the scorecards. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt has three TKO victories and six decision wins, but he typically uses his grappling skills to bring an end to the action, as evidenced by his 10 submission victories

After a successful amateur MMA career that resulted in a 9-0-1 mark, Rogers turned pro in 2011. “The Hangman” picked up wins in his first six pro fights and stopped five of those six opponents by way of submission. Rogers’ only loss, which came via submission in 2012, was to fellow prospect Shay Walsh. He rebounded from the loss with a quick submission win in his Cage Warriors debut last year. The Team Colosseum fighter has spent time training at the Tristar gym. The 24-year-old loves to go after choke submissions and has a wrestling base.

The typical path to victory for Rogers is the submission, but he’s fighting another submission ace in this affair. Furthermore, Maguire has the benefit of experience, including fights inside the UFC’s Octagon, on his side. Against Walsh, Rogers demonstrated that he does have holes in his submission defense. Perhaps if he uses his wrestling to keep this fight off the mat, Rogers can have a chance at outpointing Maguire in a kickboxing bout.

Maguire’s experience and grappling savvy are likely to be too much for Rogers to handle, unless he’s been drilling with the Tristar team non-stop for the last few months. At some point, these grapplers are bound to go to the ground. Once there, it’s only a matter of time until Maguire catches Rogers making a mistake and snags him in a submission.

Other key bouts: Benny Alloway (12-5) vs. Jack Mason (26-12), Alex Enlund (9-2) vs. Artem Lobov (8-7), Bryan Creighton (5-1) vs. Damien Rooney (9-3-1), Damien Brown (10-5) vs. Paul Redmond (8-4), Lee Caers (10-3) vs. Merv Mulholland (10-5), Catherine Costigan (3-0) vs. Irene Cabello (1-1), Paddy Pimblett (4-1) vs. Martin Sheridan (7-4)

Professional MMA Challenge: Drwal vs. Heleno

Orbita Sports Hall in Wroclaw, Poland
Event Date: March 1
Website: prommac.pl
Twitter: @PROMMACpl

Spotlight Fight:
Tomasz Drwal (20-4-1) vs. Delson Heleno (25-7)

The theme of this week’s edition of Out of Obscurity seems to be a “Where are they now?” of UFC veterans. The trend continues with the third event in this preview with the Professional MMA Challenge. PROMMAC, as the organization is known, has put together a strong lineup for its upcoming show, and even recovered nicely from the loss of one of its headliners, the undefeated Sean Strickland, who was slated to meet UFC veteran Tomasz Drwal in a middleweight battle. Strickland was ruled out due to complications surrounding his contract with the American-based King of the Cage promotion, and his departure opened up the door for Delson Heleno, another ex-UFC fighter.

Heleno may not be undefeated, but the World champion Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt definitely offers a strong resume and a difficult test for Drwal. “Pe de Chumbo” has traversed an odd road through his MMA career. After claiming a World championship in BJJ in 2002, Heleno, who was already 1-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, returned to MMA in 2003 and added four more wins, including a decision over Jorge Patino, to his record to stand at 5-1 when he joined the IFL in 2006. The Brazilian compiled a 6-4 record under the IFL banner and brought his overall mark to 13-5 before the IFL’s demise. He also made an unsuccessful bid to capture the IFL’s welterweight title when he took on Jay Hieron in the IFL’s World Grand Prix Finals. Once the IFL crumbled, Heleno returned to the regional circuit, where he reeled off nine straight wins, including victories over Tyler Stinson and Yuya Shirai. He was then submitted by Cassiano Tytschyo and bounced back with one more win before competing on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Heleno won his fight to make it into the house, but was submitted by Sergio Moraes in the elimination round.It was enough to give Heleno one official UFC outing, but he lost that fight to Francisco Trinaldo via first-round TKO. After two more wins on the regional circuit, he now finds himself pitted against Drwal.

Drwal made his pro debut in 2004 and amassed a 14-1-1 record to earn entry into the UFC’s Octagon. Competing as a light heavyweight at the time, the Polish fighter lost his UFC debut to Thiago Silva. He rebounded with a three-fight winning streak that included victories over Ivan Serati, Mike Ciesnolevicz and Drew McFedries. His next two fights didn’t go so well. He was submitted and nearly injured by Rousimar Palhares, then suffered a decision loss against David Branch. Since his UFC release, Drwal has added three more victories to his resume. The Polish fighter has worked with Alliance MMA in San Diego to train for his fights. He has 11 wins by some form of knockout and six via submission.

The 36-year-old Heleno has been a very inconsistent fighter, even during the phase of his career when he was in the IFL and was considered as one of the promotion’s better competitors. The 32-year-old Drwal, meanwhile, has only demonstrated a tendency to lose fights when competing at the UFC level. The former light heavyweight has only competed once since 2011, though, and could be rusty.

These two men are coming from opposite directions on the scales. Heleno has spent most of his career at welterweight, whereas Drwal has fought at light heavyweight. That gives Drwal a likely size advantage to go along with a two-inch edge in height and a four-inch reach advantage. With size, height and reach on his side, Drwal should be able to keep this fight vertical. If he can’t, then Heleno will score the submission finish. If Drwal can keep it standing, however, Heleno’s chin won’t withstand the Polish fighter’s power punches and Drwal will take the knockout win. Look for the latter to be the more likely outcome.

Other key bouts: Mike Wessel (13-6) vs. Michal Kita (15-7), Bartosz Fabinski (7-1) vs. Wendres Carlos da Silva (10-5), Szymon Bajor (13-4) vs. Jacek Czajczynski (6-6-1), Lukasz Klinger (6-0) vs. Tomasz Kondraciuk (10-4)