‘Out of Obscurity’—my longtime readers will remember that title. For several years, and spanning several sites, the feature I started back at The Sporting News has appeared twice a week, once to list the weekend’s upcoming bouts and once to run down results, with video footage when possible. Then it went away.

There were reasons, time being the most significant, for its hiatus. The feature’s title was meant to suggest its purpose: to dive into the regional and international circuit and seek out rising prospects and keep fans posted on the whereabouts and fortunes of prospects of the past.

However, as MMA continued to grow, the feature’s purpose was clouded and the sheer volume of events made it into a colossal effort that failed to really highlight fighters and promotions in the way it was originally intended. There are plenty of UFC veterans and rising prospects, but was there any real point in listing their upcoming fight on a Thursday and the result on a Monday, with no true insight into the fight beforehand and a simple reported result and possibly a shoddily-filmed YouTube video after?

So, as Out of Obscurity returns, the title might be familiar, but the format will be different. Every week, we’ll 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 return to discovering 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…

Championship Fight Alliance 7: Never Give Up

BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
Event Date: June 30
Website: cfafights.com
Watch Event: GoFightLive PPV ($14.99)
Twitter: @CFAFIGHTS[/column]

Spotlight Fight:
Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (16-5-1) vs.
Luis Palomino (19-7)

Championship Fighting Alliance has put together one of the most balanced regional offerings of the week. In addition to the lightweight contest pitting Strikeforce veteran “JZ” Cavalcante against Bellator vet Luis Palomino, there are four additional contests that could all be worthy of discussion and preview in this space.

However, Cavalcante is easily the biggest name on this card, and that fact cannot be overlooked. This is a guy who was once considered an elite 155-pounder, but has struggled since 2008, winning just two bouts, losing four and twice causing fights to be declared no-contests. He just cannot seem to find a rhythm, but he is training with Imperial Athletics with a stable of talented fighters. His struggles came after he departed K-1 Hero’s, but this will be the first time since then that he isn’t competing under the major banners of Dream or Strikeforce. That could be the perfect change of scenery for him.

However, Palomino won’t exactly give him a free pass. “Baboon” is on a three-fight winning streak and has beaten the likes of James Warfield, Jorge Masvidal and Jarrod Card over the course of his career. The MMA Masters-trained fighter has also had a pretty good run over the last three-plus years, winning 11 fights with his only losses coming to TUF winner Jonathan Brookins, UFC veteran Yves Edwards and top Bellator fighter Pat Curran.

This is definitely an intriguing affair. A few years ago, Cavalcante would have been an easy pick to win it all, but times have changed and “JZ’s” inconsistency is difficult to overlook. Palomino flies under the radar, so many fans will be surprised when he wins the decision through aggressive striking. But they shouldn’t be surprised.

Other key bouts: Luis Santos (53-8-1) vs. Valdir Araujo (10-3), Jordan Parsons (7-0) vs. Lazar Stojadinovic (7-5), Luiz Firmino (13-6) vs. Johnavan Vistante (5-2), Sean Soriano (5-0) vs. Matthew Perry (4-3)

Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation 4

Inner Mongolia Indoor Stadium in Hohhot, China
Event Date: June 30
Website: ruffchina.com
Watch Event: (China only) CSPN, Hubei Sports, Jiangxi Sports, Jiangsu Sports and Guangzhou Sports
Twitter: @RUFFChina

Spotlight Fight:
Guan Wang (8-0-1) vs. Sandro da Silva (1-0)

The problem with cards in countries that are just starting to build a significant presence in MMA is that you end up with fights like this one. We have a nine-fight veteran in Guan Wang welcoming a virtual newcomer in Sandro da Silva to the ring.

Experience might play a huge factor in this fight, but what we’re looking at here is a clash of styles. Wang is a striker with a background in Muay Thai, Sanda and kickboxing. His skills have carried the 25-year-old featherweight to a European championship in WKA kickboxing. Sandro da Silva’s best work will come on the mat, where the Macau-based fighter holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Da Silva would have the upper hand should this fight turn into a grappling match, but Wang has displayed an ability to overwhelm his opponents with strikes. He has even recorded several submission wins, all by way of punches. The undefeated striker should maintain his spotless record through this main event bout, knocking out the jiu-jitsu player early in the first round.

Shooto: Gig Tokyo 10

Shinjuku Face in Tokyo
Event Date: June 30
Website: www.x-shooto.jp/
Twitter: @xshooto

Spotlight Fight:
Yuta Sasaki (9-1-1) vs. Teruyuki Matsumoto (7-5)

At only 22 years old, Yuta Sasaki is a promising bantamweight prospect. The 2010 Shooto rookie champion has only tasted defeat once in his career, losing a decision to Guy Delameau in September 2011. Since then, he has bounced back with two wins. As a training partner of top lightweight Shinya Aoki, Sasaki’s submission skills are his biggest weapon. He might struggle to avoid takedowns against proficient wrestlers, but once on the mat, even from his back, he should pose a significant threat. He hasn’t quite established himself as a finisher, however, with only four of his victories coming via submission compared to five wins by way of decision.

It appears that Shooto is showcasing Sasaki in this bout—although you can never underestimate the tendency for surprising outcomes in Japanese fights. Teruyuki Matsumoto has lost three of his last four and suffered losses to top fighters Takeya Mizugaki and Masakatsu Ueda earlier in his career. The Shooting Gym Osaka fighter will spend his time looking up while in the ring with Sasaki, who will hold a five-inch height advantage.

Sasaki appears to be a legitimate prospect at the lighter weight classes and should continue to impress here. Look for him to out-strike the smaller Matsumoto, who is no stranger to early knockout losses, and give him plenty of trouble should this fight head to the ground. Given Sasaki’s struggles with finishing foes, this one is likely headed to a decision with the prospect’s hand raised.

Photo: Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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  • StealingFire

    Bryan, great to see your column back and better than ever. Always been a follower!

    • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

      StealingFire, Thanks! I appreciate the compliments, and always love hearing that someone enjoys this series. The column was do for a remodel, and I think overall this will be a much more informative format than that of the old Out of Obscurity series.