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…

Maximum Fighting Championship 38: Behind Enemy Lines

Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Event Date: Oct. 4
Website: maximumfighting.com
Watch Event: main card airs live on AXS TV and prelims stream live on Facebook
Twitter: @MaximumFighting

Spotlight Fight:
Smealinho Rama (6-0) vs. Anthony Hamilton (10-2)

Mark Pavelich’s Maximum Fighting Championship promotion has often presented itself as a top alternative to the UFC, but the promotion has been silent since May. Now, however, MFC is back, and with one of the better lineups in its history. The promotion has built its 38th offering around a trio of title fights. Sam Alvey and Jason South lock horns for the middleweight strap in a fight that The MMA Corner’s Dan Kuhl previewed in this week’s edition of Fight of the Week and Anthony Birchak seeks to claim the bantamweight championship in a fight against Tito Jones that fans voted to promote to the headlining spot. Meanwhile, the heavyweight title tilt provides fight fans with a glimpse of two of the division’s top prospects, Smealinho Rama and Anthony Hamilton.

In the May event, Rama had his title hopes dashed when opponent Chris Barnett failed to clear pre-fight medicals and the title fight was scrapped from the card. It was a big blow to Rama, as it was for Pavelich and the promotion. Now, Rama gets another chance to claim gold. The 21-year-old was a Canadian Division I wrestling champion in 2010 and went 32-0 in high school. The 6-foot-tall Canadian has finished all six of his opponents since turning pro in February 2012. He’s never gone beyond the four-minute mark of the opening stanza and has a balanced attack that has seen him notch three wins by some form of knockout and three via submission.

Hamilton doesn’t have the same name recognition as Rama, who has received a heavy promotional push from the MFC, but he’s another rising prospect. The big man started fighting professionally in 2010, tallying a 6-0 mark of his own before dropping consecutive fights to Walter Harris via knockout and UFC veteran Fabiano Scherner by way of submission. Hamilton, whose background is in wrestling, has found a sense of urgency since those two defeats. The Jackson’s MMA product rebounded with four straight wins, all coming in the early part of the first round. Prior to the losses, he had never finished a pro fight in the first round and had seen the scorecards in four of his fights. Hamilton does have six stoppage wins, including five via some form of knockout.

The MFC wants Rama to be its heavyweight star, and the possibility is there for that scenario to play out. Hamilton’s record may look impressive at first glance, but he only has two victories against fighters with winning records, has faced some dismal competition and even lost to Scherner, who currently sits at the .500 mark. He’ll have a lot to prove in this fight. Rama’s last two foes, Mike Hackert and Ryan Fortin, haven’t exactly been the cream of the heavyweight crop, but they represent a slow progression up the ladder for Rama, and Hamilton marks the next rung on that ladder. Hamilton, meanwhile, has yet to make a similar progression.

Size might be the one thing going against Rama. Hamilton is at the division’s upper limit, whereas Rama is listed in the low 250-pound range. That could cause Rama problems in trying to take the bigger man to the mat. Hamilton’s size would suggest that his cardio could be a problem, but he has done plenty to disprove that theory. In fact, Rama is the one with a large question mark next to his endurance capabilities. If this fight goes beyond the first round, Rama could find himself in trouble. Hamilton has a wrestling base and the team at Jackson’s MMA to provide him with strategy. That’s a recipe for a potential grinding bout, though both men have gone after the early finish in a number of their outings and an all-out action-packed war could be just as likely.

Hamilton has pointed to Rama’s sloppy style and suggested that it’ll cost Rama the fight. However, the biggest red flag here is in Hamilton’s resume, where the opposition is lacking, he’s already suffered two losses and he couldn’t finish even some of his least stellar adversaries. Rama will come charging out of the gate, as usual, and he’ll be more determined than ever after the frustration of his earlier title fight being scrapped. This is a don’t-blink fight in which either man could land a fight-ending punch or Rama could slap on a tap-inducing submission. Given Rama’s wrestling pedigree and Hamilton’s submission loss to Scherner, look for the latter to be the case, though Rama will score big in the initial standing exchanges as well.

Other key bouts: Sam Alvey (20-5) vs. Jason South (10-0) for the middleweight title, Anthony Birchak (10-1) vs. Tito Jones (10-6) for the bantamweight title, Kurt Southern (12-4) vs. Jonatas Novaes (11-4), Alejandro Garcia (14-5) vs. Curtis Demarce (13-10), Teddy Ash (3-0) vs. Jared McComb (5-2-1)

Vale Tudo Japan 3rd

Ota City General Gymnasium in Tokyo
Event Date: Oct. 5
Website: valetudojapan.com
Watch Event: Sky PerfecTV! (Japan). Online pay-per-view stream at Nico Nico.
Twitter: @vtj1

Spotlight Fight:
Megumi Fujii (26-2) vs. Jessica Aguilar (15-4)

The time has come to say goodbye to a pioneer. It seems appropriate then that the end to a brilliant career comes in a promotion that only holds occasional showcase events in the Land of the Rising Sun. Vale Tudo Japan spent the mid to late 90s hosting one event per year. After a decade’s absence, the promotion was resurrected in 2009, then held its second show in 2012. VTJ has labeled its Oct. 5 offering as Vale Tudo Japan 3rd. As is the standard for the promotion, the card hosts a number of intriguing bouts and brings in talent that’s more commonly associated with U.S. promotions, this time in the form of rising flyweight Will Campuzano. However, this event will be best remembered for the retirement bout of women’s MMA legend Megumi Fujii. Fujii, fighting at strawweight, will have the opportunity to avenge one of her only two MMA losses when she meets Jessica Aguilar in one of the evening’s feature bouts.

The 39-year-old “Mega Megu” announced her intention to retire in June, noting that she would fight one last time. When she hangs up her gloves, it will bring to an end a spectacular career that saw her go 22-0 from her August 2004 debut through her September 2010 Bellator tournament semifinal bout against Lisa Ellis. In the tourney finals, Fujii lost a controversial decision to Zoila Frausto Gurgel. The Abe Ani Combat Club product, who also trains with UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett, returned to Japan, where she won three straight, and then made another visit to Bellator, where she dropped a unanimous decision to Aguilar. Fujii has competed just once since then, taking a unanimous verdict over fellow Japanese star Mei Yamaguchi at Vale Tudo Japan’s last event in December 2012. Fujii holds black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and judo and is known primarily as a submission grappler. She has 19 victories via submission and just one by way of TKO. The 5-foot-3 fighter has numerous honors in sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition, plus a pair of third place finishes at the ADCC World Championships.

Between her pro debut in February 2006 and her Bellator tournament semifinal appearance in September 2010, Aguilar went 9-4. Since her loss to Gurgel in that tourney bout, however, the American Top Team product has reeled off six straight wins, including her victory over Fujii and wins over Carla Esparza and Lisa Ellis. Aguilar is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She has seven wins via submission and two by way of TKO. She also has a tendency to fight in close fights—three of her last seven fights ended in split decisions, the Fujii fight was unanimous but very close and she also has lost via majority decision on one occasion.

In her first meeting with Fujii, Aguilar was largely able to overcome the strengths of Fujii. The Japanese star was able to get Aguilar to the mat a few times, but Aguilar was usually able to get back to her feet and even threatened Fujii with a submission of her own. Both ladies landed punches in the striking exchanges, but that’s an area where Aguilar should focus her efforts. Despite her success at avoiding Fujii’s grappling attack in the Bellator 69 bout, “Mega Megu” is still the most dangerous on the canvas. One mistake by Aguilar could cost her the bout. If Aguilar can keep the fight standing as much as possible, she could pull off a repeat of her previous win over Fujii. If she can’t, things could go quite differently in the rematch.

One significant x-factor in this fight is its location. Fujii’s only two losses came on American soil under the Bellator banner. In her native Japan, she is still undefeated. Meanwhile, Aguilar’s only international fight was a loss to Carina Damm in Canada. The 31-year-old has never crossed the Pacific for a fight, so this time she’ll be the one out of her comfort zone.

This will play out similarly to their first encounter, but Fujii’s grappling will play a more prominent role. Fujii is in her homeland, in front of her fans, and her emotions will be running high with this being her farewell outing. The pioneer will exit the cage with a hard-fought decision win.

Other key bouts: Caol Uno (28-16-5) vs. Daniel Romero (8-4), Will Campuzano (12-4) vs. Hideo Tokoro (32-25-2), Takeshi Inoue (21-7) vs. Yusuke Yachi (9-4), Yuta Sasaki (13-1-2) vs. Geun Do Park (9-7-2), Shigeki Osawa (9-4-2) vs. Akiyo Nishiura (11-8-1), Naoyuki Kotani (31-10-7) vs. Daisuke Hoshino (8-6-1), Motonobu Tezuka (20-6-4) vs. Yuta Nezu (14-7-1), Koshi Matsumoto (9-5-1) vs. Kengo Ura (10-8-2)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 60

The Forum in London
Event Date: Oct. 5
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event: Fight Now TV (USA), Premier Sports (United Kingdom), Setanta Sports 1 (Ireland), Setanta Africa (Africa) Fight Network (Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Angola, Mozambique) and FightKlub (Poland). Main card live stream on MMA Junkie (USA/Canada), PremierSports.tv (United Kingdom), JOE.ie (Ireland), ESPN (Brazil) and cagewarriors.tv (rest of the world).
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Mick Sinclair (12-3) vs. Ivan Buchinger (23-4)

The British Cage Warriors association never seems to slow down. It’s evident in the frequency of events the promotion hosts, the wide array of outlets through which fans around the world can watch the events, and even within the events, such as the promotion’s 60th offering, which features a one-night, four-man lightweight championship tournament. On one side of the bracket, prospect Steven Ray meets veteran Jason Ball. On the other side of the bracket comes what may be the most interesting bout of the evening: Mick Sinclair vs. Ivan Buchinger.

Buchinger has only suffered two losses since June 2010. One came on the scorecards versus UFC veteran Anton Kuivanen and the other, his most recent, was a first-round knockout loss to current UFC fighter Conor McGregor. The Slovakian launched his pro career in 2008 and picked up 12 wins before suffering his first defeat. Three of his losses are to fighters who have graced the Octagon, and he also suffered a 20-second knockout loss at the hands of Sergey Golyaev. The 27-year-old has notched 19 stoppage wins, including 13 via submission and six by some form of knockout. He recently defeated fellow tourney participant Jason Ball, and also holds notable victories over Jarkko Latomaki and Magomedrasul Khasbulaev.

Mick Sinclair is the brother of Rob Sinclair, who was set to fight in Bellator’s season-nine lightweight tournament before an injury forced him to withdraw. The brothers got their start in MMA under the tutelage of Michael Bisping, before Bisping became a UFC star. The “English Bull Terrier” has suffered three losses, including two via submission. Mick turned pro in 2006 and went 4-2 over his first six, but is 8-1 since losing via disqualification versus Aidan Marron in 2008. His other losses came to the 15-8-1 Peter Irving in only Mick’s second pro fight and to Danny van Bergen, a veteran fighter barely above the .500 mark, in 2010. Sinclair has had just one fight since then, coming in November 2011. He won that fight via TKO against Tom Maguire, then retired. This tournament marks his return.

Sinclair’s record may look impressive, but this is a fighter who has been retired for nearly two years and lost via submission against a fighter who stands just one win above the .500 mark. Buchinger is a longtime veteran of the European circuit and has the kind of ground game that should have Sinclair very concerned. Buchinger shouldn’t have too difficult of a time taking Sinclair to the mat, and the rest should be a piece of cake for the Slovakian, who will coax a tapout from his British opponent midway through the fight. The winner of this bout is certain to be the favorite to return later in the evening and win the whole thing against either Ray or Ball.

Other key bouts: Steven Ray (12-4) vs. Jason Ball (20-12) in lightweight tournament semifinal bout, Bola Omoyele (7-1) vs. Aaron Wilkinson (10-6), Kacper Karski (4-1) vs. Leeroy Barnes (12-11), Spencer Hewitt (10-5) vs. Bryan Creighton (4-1), Arnold Allen (4-0) vs. Declan Williams (8-6-3), Athinodoros Michailidis (4-0) vs. Nad Narimani (5-1), Sean Carter (6-0) vs. Richard Griffin (5-9)

Photo: Megumi Fujii (Taro Irei/Sherdog)