Every week, The MMA Corner takes a look at three regional, developmental or international cards from the upcoming weekend, 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, developmental 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…

Tachi Palace Fights 20: Night of Champions

Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif.
Event Date: Aug. 7
Website: tachipalace.com
Watch Event: online stream on Sherdog
Twitter: @Tachipalace

Spotlight Fight:
Joe Soto (14-2) vs. Terrion Ware (11-2)

The 20th offering from Tachi Palace Fights features the continuation of Joe Soto’s rise from an almost career-ending injury. Soto’s previous outing with the promotion, which came at Tachi Palace Fights 18, saw the former Bellator champion add some new gold to his trophy case. Now, Soto will seek to defend his title and take one more step on his comeback trail.

Soto suffered a detached retina in the same 2010 bout where he surrendered his Bellator featherweight crown to Joe Warren. Soto, who debuted four years earlier, lost via knockout and sat on the sidelines for nearly a year before returning to lose again, this time to Eddie Yagin via submission under the Tachi banner. The high school state champion and two-time NJCAA All-American wrestler didn’t waste any time before bouncing back with a win just two months later, followed by two more wins in 2012. After another year-plus of inactivity, he added another win in late 2013 and the title victory in early 2014. That puts Soto on a five-fight winning streak. The 27-year-old doesn’t tend to take it easy on opponents either—he’s seen the final bell just once in his career while scoring seven submission wins and five victories by some form of knockout. He claimed the Tachi bantamweight title with a third-round doctor’s stoppage TKO of Jeremiah Labiano after the cageside physician called the bout while Soto was sinking in a rear-naked choke.

Ware is a BAMMA USA veteran who has also made brief stops in Resurrection Fighting Alliance and King of the Cage. The 28-year-old made his pro debut in 2012 and went 1-1 over his first two fights. The Systems 8 Fight Club product then rattled off four straight wins, avenging his loss to Paul Amaro in the process. He then suffered his only other career loss, which came courtesy of Jared Papazian. Ware responded to the setback by going on a six-fight winning streak that included a second-round submission of Zac Chavez in the RFA cage. He holds the rank of black belt in Kyokushin karate and has four wins by some form of knockout. He’s also a skilled grappler with three submission victories on his record.

In terms of the ground battle, this fight is similar to Soto’s match-up with Labiano, where the story was Soto’s wrestling against Labiano’s jiu-jitsu. In this case, however, one would expect Ware to bring the added threat of a karate-based striking attack. That’s not really the case, though. Ware tends to fight in a more traditional striking stance, and he’s slow to the punch when at range. His best assets in the striking game come when he closes the distance and clinches with his opponent. From that position, he can hurt his foe with powerful punches and flurries of knees to the body and head.

Ware’s current winning streak consists of a mixed bag of opponents, none of whom are very far above the .500 mark. He has succeeded against some heavily sub-.500-oriented fighters and struggled against the only prospect he has encountered. Ware’s striking will be too sluggish to have a major impact on Soto. The best route to victory for Ware comes on the mat, where he could look for a sneaky submission finish. Soto did make a mistake against Yagin that landed him in a guillotine choke, but that seems like an anomaly now. Soto has a slick ground game of his own that allowed him to finish Labiano, so don’t expect him to fall victim to a submission from Ware. Instead, Soto will pick apart Ware on the feet before finishing him on the mat.

Other key bouts: Nate Loughran (11-1) vs. Ricky Legere Jr. (18-5), Antonio Banuelos (20-10-1) vs. Joby Sanchez (5-0), Hector Sandoval (7-1) vs. Ivan Lopez (12-2), Manuel Quezada (2-0) vs. Josue Lugo (3-1), Angel DeAnda (11-4) vs. Matt Lagler (8-10-1)

Cage Fury Fighting Championships 38

Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.
Event Date: Aug. 9
Website: cffc.tv
Watch Event: GoFightLive
Twitter: @CFFCMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Levan Makashvili (8-0) vs. Alexandre “Popo” Bezerra (16-3)

Cage Fury Fighting Championships is hosting its own night of champions, though it isn’t going as far as to label its event as such. The promotion’s 38th venture will feature a trio of title bouts. Jonavin Webb will clash with UFC veteran Dan Stittgen for the vacant welterweight title, Paul Felder will defend his lightweight crown against Craig Johnson and top featherweight prospect Levan Makashvili puts his featherweight strap on the line against Bellator veteran Alexandre “Popo” Bezerra. With Stittgen entering his title bid on a three-fight skid and the undefeated Felder defending his belt against a 1-1 upstart, it’s the battle between Makashvili and Bezerra that holds the most intrigue.

The 25-year-old Makashvili is eight fights into a professional career that kicked off in 2011, but he already has gold around his waist. The New York-based fighter claimed the championship in his last outing, an April 2014 TKO beatdown of Scott Heckman. The Alpha Omega MMA product is a wrestler whose power has allowed him to score three knockouts and two TKO finishes. His other three victories came on the scorecards. Makashvili prefers to strike, but he has excellent level changes and strong takedowns.

Makashvili’s 26-year-old opponent, Alexandre “Popo” Bezerra is a much more familiar face on the national stage. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt has advanced to the semifinals of the Bellator featherweight tournament on two occasions (seasons six and eight). His only career losses came against current UFC fighter Charles Oliveira, via submission, and Bellator tournament vets Marlon Sandro and Mike Richman, both by way of split decision. Bezerra went 7-2 under the Bellator banner. The Daddis Fight Camp product has 11 submission finishes, but he also has four victories via some form of knockout. Bezerra also fought Heckman, and he scored an even more convincing stoppage than Makashvili did.

Experience and level of competition are big factors in this fight. Bezerra has more than twice as many fights and he’s spent a lot of time in the cage against much better opposition than Makashvili has seen. Bezerra struggled to take Heckman down until almost the end of the fight, and he’ll have a harder time planting Makashvili on the mat. So, the only way Popo is getting a submission is from the bottom. In the striking department, though, the Brazilian has better movement, footwork and the tighter technique. Makashvili tends to wing punches and keep his hands a bit low.

Bezerra’s past performances are difficult to ignore. He has the benefit of a long run in Bellator that had him just one judge’s scorecard away from the tournament finals on two different occasions. Makashvili isn’t quite ready for that level of competition yet. Bezerra will land more on the feet, prompting Makashvili to fall back on his wrestling. The New York-based fighter will score takedowns, but it’ll only put him in harm’s way. Bezerra will take advantage of Makashvili’s mistakes and eventually find a submission for the victory.

Other key bouts: Jonavin Webb (6-0) vs. Dan Stittgen (7-4) for the vacant welterweight title, Paul Felder (7-0) vs. Craig Johnson (1-1) for the lightweight title, Jordan Stiner (7-1) vs. Mike Medrano (11-11), Tim Williams (8-1) vs. Dervin Lopez (6-1)

Deep Jewels 5

Shinjuku Face in Tokyo
Event Date: Aug. 9
Website: deep2001.com
Watch Event: online pay-per-view on Ustream
Twitter: @DEEP_JEWELS

Spotlight Fight:
Ayaka Hamasaki (9-1) vs. Naho Sugiyama (10-3)

Fans of women’s MMA don’t have to wait for the next Invicta FC event for a healthy dose of female fights. Deep Jewels is returning this weekend with the fifth offering from the promotion under Deep ownership. The headlining affair will give Mizuki Inoue a chance for redemption after she submitted Emi Tomimatsu in their first meeting but lost the bout via disqualification for failing to make weight. Now, Inoue has an opportunity to claim the Jewels lightweight (115-pound) crown that slipped through her fingers with that disqualification loss. However, with Inoue’s previous win over Tomimatsu and Tomimatsu’s middling record, it’s actually the co-main event bout between Ayaka Hamasaki and Naho Sugiyama that stands out as the most intriguing affair on the card.

Hamasaki claimed the 115-pound Jewels lightweight crown in 2010 and made three successful defenses of the belt on her way to a 9-0 mark through her first nine pro bouts. After winning her Invicta FC debut over Lacey Schuckman, Hamasaki faltered for the first time in her career when she returned to the United States for her sophomore Invicta effort. The Japanese star lost via TKO to Claudia Gadelha. She vacated her Jewels lightweight title nearly a year ago, shortly after she lost to Gadelha, and has remained inactive since then. Hamasaki is a second dan black belt in judo and claimed four of her wins by way of submission. Her return comes in the atomweight division against another former champion who is looking to right the ship.

Sugiyama captured the Jewels featherweight (105-pound) title in 2011, but she never successfully defended the title. Her next two fights for Jewels were non-title affairs, with a failed Invicta FC atomweight title bid against Jessica Penne sandwiched between them. When she finally did put her Jewels title on the line, she was defeated by Seo Hee Ham. Sugiyama has rebounded with wins at Deep Jewels 2 and 3, but a victory over an established former champion like Hamasaki is just what she needs to vault her name back into contender status. “Sugi Rock” has just two submission wins and one TKO finish. Her other six victories came on the scorecards.

Sugiyama has struggled to find success against the best competition she has encountered. Her current two-fight winning streak is comprised of a pair of victories over sub-.500 fighters. Prior to her first pro loss, the 36-year-old fighter had defeated a handful of top ladies, but her three-fight skid included losses to Penne, Ham and sub-.500 fighter Celine Haga, who has found new life at atomweight. Hamasaki, meanwhile, is still at the top of her game, despite her loss to Gadelha. The 32-year-old holds two victories over the aforementioned Ham, and she has also topped Inoue, Yuka Tsuji and Emi Fujino.

Hamasaki, who has trained under the tutelage of women’s MMA legend Megumi Fujii, is the superior grappler in this affair, and her judo skills should allow her to bring Sugiyama to the mat. “Sugi Rock” is a grinder, but she barely eked by a 3-4 fighter via split decision in her last outing. Hamasaki is a member of the female fighting elite, and she’ll pose too many problems for Sugiyama. Penne was able to hand Sugiyama a submission loss, and Hamasaki should be capable of doing the same.

Other key bouts: Emi Tomimatsu (7-7) vs. Mizuki Inoue (7-2) for the lightweight (115-pound) title, Yuko Oya (7-3) vs. Sachiko Fujimori (3-0), Mina Kurobe (2-0) vs. Masako Yoshida (18-19-5), Saori Ishioka (13-7) vs. Yukiko Seki (12-24) in a grappling rules bout

  • Tachi Palace Fights

    Thanks for the preview! #TPF20