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…

Shooto Brazil 41

Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Brazil
Event Date: July 12
Website: shootobrasilia.com.br
Twitter: @ShootoMMABrasil

Spotlight Fight:
Gilberto Dias (10-2-1) vs. Paulo Ricardo Martins (7-2-1)

UFC President Dana White has suggested at times that the UFC may add a 115-pound division for male fighters to its list of active weight classes. Should the promotion expand to include male strawweights, one of the first places it would turn for talent would be Brazil. If the UFC brass is serious about the effort, they’d be smart to send a scout to this weekend’s Shooto Brazil 41 event, where top 115ers Gilberto Dias and Paulo Ricardo Martins clash in a bid for the promotion’s strawweight championship.

The pair met previously at Shooto Brazil 37, but the result was a hard-fought split draw that could have reasonably gone in favor of either fighter. In their rematch, Dias and Martins will look to put a more decisive end to their in-ring rivalry.

Dias is a submission specialist with an aggressive striking attack and effective takedowns. He has notched eight submission wins in his career, but only his 2011 rear-naked choke win over Diego Santos was a stoppage of an opponent with a winning records. His other two wins against fighters with experience and winning marks came on the judges’ scorecards, where he also suffered the draw versus Martins and losses to undefeated Diego Andre and 7-1-1 Matheus Nicolau Pereira. In other words, the top Brazilian strawweight blows through inexperienced and inferior foes with ease, but hits a wall against more accomplished and experienced adversaries.

With 10 fights under his belt and seven wins, Martins falls into that latter category. The Dragon Fight and Nova Uniao product had his first pro fight in 2004, but his next fight didn’t come until 2009. He has three wins via some form of knockout and four submission victories, including one by way of strikes. Both of his losses have come via submission. Much like Dias, “Ricardinho” has fed on a steady diet of sub-.500 competition. He has locked horns with fighters who sport winning records on just three occasions, and the results were an armbar submission loss, a rear-naked choke submission defeat and the split draw versus Dias.

Their first bout was the definition of close. Dias looked for and achieved takedowns early in each stanza of the three-round affair. In the first frame, his early takedown and an aggressive striking attack gave him the upper hand. In the second round, Dias threatened with a guillotine choke early, but Martins snagged his leg late in the round and looked for a submission of his own. In between the two submission attempts, Martins looked to lock Dias up in the clinch and arguably got the better of the Constrictor Team fighter. The third round was a back-and-forth affair on the feet for the most part.

What Dias showed in that fight was an ability to take Martins down early in each round. However, outside of a guillotine choke that looked tight but couldn’t do the trick, he was ineffective once the fight hit the mat. He was content to mostly hang out in Martins’ guard or in the half guard and chip away with some half-hearted ground-and-pound. On the feet, Dias was the aggressor. Early in the fight, he charged forward with combinations and knees, and he also threw some kicks. As the fight progressed, though, his pressing style faded, until in the third stanza, Martins was just as likely to come forward and both men threw punches with the intent of finishing the fight. Martins was a counter striker for most of the fight, and he also looked comfortable on his back.

This rematch should be similar to their first meeting. Dias will seek to take the fight to the mat immediately, but expect Martins to have drilled his takedown defense in training in preparation for Dias. He won’t be able to stop Dias every time, but he He was able to avoid Dias’ submissions the first time around and should do likewise here, but we may see a more aggressive top game from Dias this time around. The two were somewhat even in the striking department, and despite Martins’ past knockouts, don’t look for this one to end via strikes. Instead, we’ll see the scorecards once again. Dias’ takedowns and a more insistent effort on the ground will be just enough for Dias to eke out the split decision this time.

Other key bouts: Carlos Eduardo (9-2) vs. Marcus Vinicius Lopes (6-1) for the light heavyweight title, Leandro Silva (19-7) vs. Vagner Curio (8-8), Bruno Azevedo (4-1) vs. Wilker Leandro (7-1)

MMA Super Heroes 1

Ceil Sports Gymnasium in Louveira, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Event Date: July 13
Website: mmasuperheroes.com
Twitter: @mmasuperheroes

Spotlight Fight:
Bruno Dias (16-4) vs. Irwing Machado (8-2)

In a weekend full of remarkable cards being held in Brazil, a new promotion enters the fray. MMA Super Heroes has gathered a significant amount of talent for its inaugural effort, including notable female fighters Carina Damm, Kalindra Faria, Kinberly Novaes and Herica Tiburcio, and has constructed a number of tournaments. Among its most intriguing fights is a bantamweight grand prix showdown between Bruno Dias and Irwing Machado.

“Jacare” Dias came extremely close to qualifying for the second installment of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. In his fight against Cleiton Duarte to make it into the TUF house, Dias ended up on the wrong side of a split decision verdict. The 26-year-old Macaco Gold Team product has been fighting professionally since 2006. He has 11 submission wins, but has also lost via submission on four occasions. Dias is on a three-fight winning streak (not counting the exhibition loss to Duarte), but that comes on the heels of a three-fight skid. Those losses came against significant competition, whereas his wins have come against opponents who sit at or below the .500 mark.

Irwing “King Kong” Machado has also had his brushes with TUF, but failed to make it to the final stage of the selection process for either edition of the reality series’ Brazilian show. His hopes were dashed for the second season when the format was changed to exclusively feature welterweights. Machado’s father is a black belt in judo, but Machado is accomplished in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai. The Equipe 1 product has five submission wins and three victories by some form of knockout. The 24-year-old’s losses came in the first and fifth fights of his pro career, with the second loss coming against UFC veteran Chris Wilson, who held a significant size advantage over Machado.

Dias has more experience, but his tendency to win against low-level opponents and lose when he takes a step up in competition is troubling. Machado’s resume also leaves something to be desired, however. But in his favor, Machado has not been as prone to submissions as his counterpart. Machado’s well-rounded skill set should give him an edge wherever this fight goes. He’ll use his boxing and Muay Thai to soften Dias up for the kill, then slap on a submission late in the fight to secure the victory.

Other key bouts: Flavio Alvaro (42-10) vs. Edson Pereira (11-1), Carina Damm (18-9) vs. Kalindra Faria (10-3-1), Fernando Bruno (11-1) vs. Marcos Rodrigues dos Santos (16-11-1), Kinberly Novaes (6-1) vs. Herica Tiburcio (5-2), Thomas de Almeida (11-0) vs. Valdines Silva (8-4)

Smash Fight 2

Taruma Gymnasium in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil
Event Date: July 13
Website: Facebook/Smash Fight

Spotlight Fight:
Ivan Jorge (24-3) vs. Francisco Mario Marinho (23-4)

In only its second event, the Smash Fight promotion has certainly built upon the ambitious nature of its first event earlier this year. The Brazilian promotion has lined up two titles fights, a heavyweight superfight and a four-man welterweight grand prix. Although Gustavo Machado’s battle with Rafael Carvalho for the middleweight crown and UFC veteran Rodney Wallace’s clash with Matheus for the light heavyweight crown are both fights worthy of attention, as are several other contests on the stacked card, the real highlight of this event is the welterweight grand prix. On one side of the bracket, undefeated prospect Alexandre Ramos takes on 10-2 Rodrigo Cavalheiro, and in the tourney’s other semifinal bout, Ivan “Batman” Jorge meets Mario Marinho.

Jorge is a submission specialist who made his pro debut in 2001. The decorated grappler has won 13 of his fights via submission, eight by decision and only three via some form of knockout. The Team Tavares fighter is riding a six-fight winning streak in which he submitted all of his opponents, including the last five by way of rear-naked choke. The 32-year-old prefers to attack his opponent’s neck and has been adept at finishing opponents via various choke holds. His biggest weakness lies in the striking department, where Luis “Sapo” Santos and Yuri Ivlev were able to finish him.

Standing opposite of Jorge will be Marinho. “Mario Pimba” is also a fan of the submission, with 19 of his victories coming on the ground, and has a very similar record to that of Batman. The Dragon Fight and Nova Uniao product has lost three fights by way of submission and one via knockout. All of his submission losses have come against legitimate competition, including UFC fighter Iuri Alcantara and Hernani Perpetuo.

This could be a grappling dream match if it makes it to the mat. The breakdown on Marinho’s submission finishes is significantly more diverse than Batman’s. Marinho has his share of chokes, but he’s also more than happy to attack an arm or leg. Although both men have displayed a tendency to waste no time in finishing their foes, Marinho is more consistent in ending fights in the first round.

These guys tend to lose to only the cream of the crop, and the winner here will have made a good argument for inclusion in the UFC or another top promotion. A win for either man would not be surprising. Marinho’s quick finishing pace and his more varied submission attack makes him an intriguing pick, but those submission losses could be his downfall. Jorge has never been submitted, therefore Marinho may have to look to render him unconscious with strikes. But Marinho is not a striker on par with Sapo or Ivlev and will struggle to get the job done.

Marinho’s submission defense might be a weakness, but he’s never succumbed to a choke. With Jorge having a healthy amount of decision wins in addition to his submission victories, look for this fight to go the distance. Batman may not be able to finish Marinho, but he’ll do enough in attacking Marinho’s neck to earn the unanimous nod.

Other key bouts: Gustavo Machado (23-9-1) vs. Rafael Carvalho (6-1) for middleweight title, Rodney Wallace (17-6) vs. Matheus Wendell Santi Scheffel (6-1) for light heavyweight title, Thiago Santos (11-2) vs. Alex Sandry Modelli (6-2), Carlos “Indio” Alexandre Pereira (33-10-1) vs. Vicente Luque (6-3-1), Rodrigo Cavalheiro Correia (10-2) vs. Alexandre Ramos (7-0) and in welterweight grand prix semifinals, Gleristone “Toninho Furia” Santos (24-3) vs. Evandro Oliveira (13-3-1)

Photo: Ivan “Batman” Jorge (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)