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…

Watch Out Combat Show 22

Bank of Brazil Athletic Association Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro
Event Date: Nov. 9
Website: Facebook/WatchOutCombatShow

Spotlight Fight:
Giovanni Diniz (17-6) vs. Jadison “Tita” Souza Costa (13-4)

It’s a busy weekend for MMA in Brazil, with at least six events on the schedule. But of those events, Watch Out Combat Show produces the most intriguing match-up, with two prospects locking horns for the promotion’s lightweight championship.

For one of those prospects, time is running out. Lightweight kingpin Giovanni Diniz is not getting any younger, and at 37 years old, he only has a few more good years left to make a run at a major promotion. The talent is definitely there—Diniz’s losses have come against top competition such as Diego Nunes, Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire, Patricio Freire and Kuniyoshi Hironaka. The loss to Hironaka is Diniz’s only defeat over his last nine fights, and he has remained extremely active in that time. The Nova Uniao product has been a bit complacent in allowing almost half of his wins go to the judges’ scorecards.

For his nemesis, it’s time to turn things around. Jadison “Tita” Souza Costa has an impressive 13-4 mark for his career, but he’s just 4-4 with one no-contest over his last nine outings. After barreling out of the gates with nine straight wins, that’s a rough turn of events for the 27-year-old. Tita’s most recent loss came via first-round TKO against Bruno Machado, a fighter that lost via decision to Diniz in 2011. The Parana Vale Tudo fighter has had mixed success against all levels of competition, but he’s shown more finishing ability than Diniz.

The biggest factors in this fight all seem to favor Diniz. Tita is listed as a featherweight, and despite a height advantage, he will likely be the smaller of the two fighters. Diniz should be able to avoid takedowns against his smaller foe, and he’s also the better striker. With Tita having recently succumbed to punches in his TKO loss to Machado, his chin may be an area Diniz chooses to test. And that’s not good news for Tita, as Diniz happens to be the boxing coach for UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo.

Diniz’s experience should further add to his edge in this affair. The Nova Uniao fighter’s most recent loss came in a title bout against Hironaka, and he’s fought high-level competition such as Chiquerim and Patricio Freire. Diniz might be able to score an early TKO, but there’s a much better chance that Tita manages to make this a back-and-forth war. In the end, the slight edges in size and experience, plus the edge in striking, should help Diniz secure the decision.

Other key bouts: William Vianna (14-8) vs. Pedro Arruda (6-2)

Pancrase Progress Tour 12: All Eyes on Yuki Kondo

Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: Nov. 10
Website: pancrase.co.jp
Twitter: @_PANCRASE_

Spotlight Fight:
Mitsuhisa Sunabe (16-7-4) vs. Masakazu Utsugi (5-3-2)

Although longtime Pancrase veteran Yuki Kondo is the center of attention for Progress Tour 12, it’s hard to look at his 1-4 record over his last five fights and a pairing with an opponent who has lost more often than he’s won and still consider this to be the marquee match-up of the night. Instead, the focus falls on Mitsuhisa Sunabe and his defense of the flyweight (120-pound) King of Pancrase title against talented striker Masakazu Utsugi.

Sunabe has over 11 years of experience and numerous fights against high-level opponents under his belt. After reigning as Pancrase’s 125-pound champion, Sunabe has shifted to an even lighter weight to claim the 120-pound title. This will be his first defense of the title.

After 2007, Sunabe’s only struggles have come against one man, Kiyotaka Shimizu. He’s faced Shimizu four times and has one win, two losses and a draw to show for it. Beyond Shimizu, Sunabe has gone undefeated in that span while tending to win via strikes. The redheaded Okinawa resident has found success thus far at 120 pounds, but now he’ll have to prove his superiority in a title defense.

His challenger, Utsugi, is a striker with a penchant for TKO finishes. Utsugi’s two recent TKO wins put him in line for this title shot despite only a 10-fight resume with just five wins. Utsugi will hold the advantage if this fight stays standing. But Sunabe is not an easy fighter to stop, as most of his losses have come on the scorecards.

Besides a clear-cut advantage in experience, Sunabe’s wrestling base might benefit him the most in this fight. With Utsugi’s fists being the biggest threat to a successful title defense, Sunabe is going to want to keep the Paraestra Furukawa product on the ground as much as possible. On the ground, Sunabe will pound away until Utsugi makes a mistake and leaves his neck or arm out there. That’s when the veteran will strike, scoring the submission victory and retaining his title.

Other key bouts: Yuki Kondo (53-27-8) vs. Kosei Kubota (26-35-16), Sojiro Orui (11-6-7) vs. Akihiro Yamazaki (13-6-1), Yoshiaki Takahashi (8-2-2) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-3), Atsushi Yamamoto (15-7-3) vs. Yasutaka Koga (5-0), Tadahiro Harada (9-3-2) vs. Masakazu Takafuji (10-7)

Shooto: 12th Round

Korakuen Hall in Tokyo
Event Date: Nov. 11
Website: www.x-shooto.jp
Twitter: @xshooto

Spotlight Fight:
Manabu Inoue (14-8-2) vs. Yuta Sasaki (10-1-1)

While a Pancrase champion defends his belt one night earlier, a former Pancrase champ is set to compete at a Shooto event the following day. Former bantamweight King of Pancrase Manabu Inoue will provide a huge test for a rising prospect in Yuta Sasaki.

Inoue claimed his King of Pancrase crown in late 2008 and went on to defend it twice. He then departed for Sengoku, and he’s had limited success since then. In his five most recent fights, Inoue has tallied just two wins while suffering three losses. The 34-year-old is a decision machine who has only been stopped twice and has only stopped his opponent on three occasions. If a fighter steps into the ring with Inoue, he can expect to go the distance.

That should sit just fine with Sasaki, who has secured half of his wins via the judges’ scorecards. The other half of his victories have come by way of submissions, and he’s even managed two straight finishes. Sasaki’s only loss has come against veteran Guy Delumeau, but there has to be some question as to Sasaki’s wins. He’s faced far from the best competition outside of Delumeau, though he does hold a win over the now 11-4 Yoshifumi Nakamura.

Sasaki is a 2010 Shooto rookie champion and he does train with Shinya Aoki, so he can’t be counted out. However, Inoue might possess the next best wrestling attack to that administered by Delumeau in defeating Sasaki. The 23-year-old Sasaki may have to work from his back to find submissions.

Inoue has been nothing if not inconsistent, even surging back in the final stanza of his Shooto debut in July against Kyoji Horiguchi. Sasaki’s striking and his grappling attack could give Inoue trouble, but the former champ shouldn’t suffer as many takedowns as he did against Horiguchi. Instead, Inoue should be the one scoring the takedowns, and that’ll be enough to earn him another majority decision.

Other key bouts: Wataru Miki (19-10-6) vs. Yusuke Yachi (7-3) for the Pacific Rim lightweight championship, Shinya Murofushi (8-3-1) vs. Tatsuya Yamamoto (8-2), Yuki Shojo (12-7-2) vs. Tadaaki Yamamoto (8-1-2), Haruo Ochi (9-2-1) vs. Ryuichi Miki (12-6-3)

Photo: Mitsuhisa Sunabe (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

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