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…

Golden Fighters 8

Golden Fighters Training Center in Novo Hamburgo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Event Date: Dec. 12
Website: gustavofinck.wix.com/goldenfighters
Twitter: @golden_fighters

Spotlight Fight:
Luciano Contini (9-1) vs. Jose de Ribamar Machado Gomes (34-10-1)

It’s not always easy to break through to the highest levels of the sport. Fighters like Luciano Contini and Jose de Ribamar Machado Gomes are well aware of that. The two welterweights came up short when going for that goal, and now they meet in the headlining bout of the eighth offering from the Golden Fighters promotion.

Contini’s chance came during The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2, but he didn’t make it beyond the elimination round of fights. Contini met Leonardo Santos in the elimination round, but he had the misfortune of dislocating his finger. The injury resulted in a first-round TKO loss for Contini and a tough bit of luck that prevented him from making it to the big show. Outside of TUF, the 30-year-old has experienced a large amount of success since turning pro in 2009. He has won all but one of his 10 career outings and has only gone the distance in his one defeat. The Evolucao Thai product has six TKO stoppages and three submission wins. Contini views this fight with Ribamar as a chance to earn another opportunity with the UFC.

Ribamar, better known as “Zezao Trator,” made his pro debut in 2004 and is a veteran of 45 fights, with 34 victories. Ribamar’s chance at the big show came under the Bellator banner in January at Bellator 86. He didn’t fare too well, however. In the quarterfinals of Bellator’s season-eight welterweight tournament, Ribamar fell via TKO against Raul Amaya. He returned in May, only to suffer another TKO loss, and is now on a two-fight skid and stands at 3-4 over his last seven fights. However, the 31-year-old has compiled some lengthy winning streaks during his career and has never lost more than two fights in a row. Trator has suffered six of his losses via some form of knockout, but he has also dispatched of 15 opponents via strikes and another 10 by submission, including one submission by way of strikes.

At his best, Ribamar strung together a streak of 15 victories. Zezao has trained alongside former UFC champion Lyoto Machida, which should also provide him with an edge. However, he’s dropped two consecutive fights and may have reached the high point of his career. His most notable win came over a similar veteran in Cassiano Tytschyo, but he’s dropped fights to the likes of UFC fighter Erick Silva and Pride veteran Daniel Acacio.

Contini’s record can be deceptive. Although he has lost just once, he has hardly been tested. His defeat came at the hands of his most seasoned foe, Franklin Jensen, and he has primarily topped inexperienced and sub-.500 competition, outside of a submission win over Thiago “Bel” Silva. His strengths entering this fight lie in his striking and his ability to survive to the final bell. Ribamar has the experience edge and skill level to hand Contini a loss, assuming Zezao can avoid getting rocked.

Other key bouts: Augusto Sakai (5-0) vs. Edison Lopes (2-0), Adilson Costa Ferreira (9-3) vs. Rafael Monteiro (5-3), Irmeson Cavalcante de Oliveira (9-2) vs. Paulo Rodrigo de Sousa (12-4), Thiago Silva (11-3-1) vs. Edson Diniz (11-4), Luis Rafael Laurentino (24-0) vs. Adonilton Matos (5-2)

BAMMA 14: Daley vs. da Silva

LG Arena in Birmingham, England
Event Date: Dec. 14
Website: bamma.com
Watch Event: AXS TV (USA), The Fight Network (Canada), Red Media (Russia), TV Esporte Interativo (Brazil), Setanta (Africa), BFBS (British Armed Forces), Abu Dhabi TV (Middle East)
Twitter: @bammauk

Spotlight Fight:
Mansour Barnaoui (10-2) vs. Colin Fletcher (9-3)

UFC veteran Paul Daley has his eyes on an undefeated streak under the BAMMA banner and prospect Max Nunes will be looking to bounce back from his first career loss, but only one piece of gold will be on the line at BAMMA 14. That’s Mansour Barnaoui’s lightweight crown. He’ll defend it against TUF alum and UFC veteran Colin Fletcher.

Fletcher’s “Freakshow” persona makes him a fan-favorite, and his skills led him to the finals of TUF Smashes. He lost a unanimous decision in the finals to Norman Parke and followed that up with a decision loss to Mike Ricci, which led to his UFC release. The 6-foot-2 lightweight returned to Britain and the BAMMA organization in September with a decision win over Tim Newman. The 30-year-old made his pro debut in 2008 and went 8-1 with seven submission wins before joining the TUF Smashes cast.

Barnaoui captured the BAMMA title in his first appearance with the promotion when he scored a first-round TKO of defending champ Curt Warburton. The Tunisian fighter made his pro debut in 2011 and won seven straight before suffering his first defeat. He’s gone 3-2 over his last five fights. “Tarzan” has never been stopped, whereas he has dished out six submissions and three TKOs. The 21-year-old trains under boxing coach Aziz Mahi, but also displays good strength and technical skills on the mat. He does not have a combat sports background outside of MMA, and he estimates that he may actually spend more time skateboarding than he does training.

Barnaoui called out Fletcher following their fights at BAMMA 13. It’s a big test for the Frenchman, but if the youngster passes with flying colors, he could be well on his way to a UFC contract. Fletcher is a tall lightweight, but he’ll only enjoy a two-inch height advantage over Barnaoui. The champ could look to land strikes, but he won’t be afraid to go to the ground with the TUF alum either. Fletcher is a skilled grappler, but he can be bullied around and he also tends to put himself in bad spots, as he did against Newman.

Fletcher needs to take down Barnaoui early and often, but that’s easier said than done. Barnaoui might be able to use his strength to stuff Fletcher’s attempts, or even reverse them. He can also make “Freakshow” pay by delivering powerful strikes when Fletcher comes in for the takedown.

Barnaoui can be inconsistent, though. He has scored TKO victories over Warburton and Ivan Musardo, but he’s also suffered losses to unheralded—but also undefeated—prospects Kevin Lee and Islam Makhachev. If he can’t get inside on the extremely lanky Fletcher, he could end up coming out on the wrong side of this affair.

Back on British soil, Fletcher seems to have renewed confidence and aggression, but he’s still a man who tends to lose when he runs into strong opponents. Barnaoui fits that mold and brings an excellent mix of skills to the cage. Barnaoui may struggle initially, but he will eventually find a way to finish Fletcher.

Other key bouts: Paul Daley (33-13-2) vs. Romario Manoel da Silva (23-11-1), Max Nunes (11-1) vs. Ion Pascu (7-3), Jim Wallhead (24-8) vs. Florent Betorangal (14-8), Wayne Murrie (16-5-1) vs. Michael Johnson (9-5) for Lonsdale British welterweight title, Tom DuQuesnoy (7-1) vs. James Saville (12-7), Wendle Lewis (6-1) vs. Leon Edwards (4-1), Matt Howard (9-1) vs. Harry McLeman (5-2), Zi Shah (4-0) vs. Andy Craven (2-0), Tim Wilde (2-0) vs. Jefferson George (3-1)

Gladiator Arena 5

Hala Osir in Pyrzyce, Poland
Event Date: Dec. 14
Website: gladiatorarena.pl

Spotlight Fight:
Lukasz Sajewski (11-0) vs. Kamil Gniadek (5-1)

How does “Undertaker” vs. “Wookie” sound to you? If you’re a WWE fan and a Star Wars fan, that may seem like some sort of dream match. In the world of MMA, it translates to a fight between 19-year-old Kamil “Undertaker” Gniadek and the 23-year-old Lukasz “Wookie” Sajewski. The two lightweights meet at the fifth offering from the Polish Gladiator Arena promotion.

Sajewski, who made his debut as a teenager in 2008, is the more well-known of the two. He handed Marcin Held the first loss of his career in 2010, but has only fought three times since then. He has struggled with knee injuries, but has been back on track in 2012 and 2013 with a decision win over Saulius Bucius and first-round armbar submissions of Abi El Khalfi and Alexander Heinrich. Those fighters all
have a healthy amount of fights under their belts, but they all hover around the .500 mark, far from the level of competition Sajewski saw from Held. The 5-foot-8 fighter has worked on his wrestling with Olympic gold medalist Andrzej Wronski and has notched six of his wins via submission.

Gniadek has just seven fights (one was a no-contest) under his belt, but that’s pretty impressive for a fighter who is still in his teens. The Linke Gold Team product made his pro debut in December 2011 and reeled off five straight wins before taking part in a fight that was ruled a no-contest when his opponent, Arbi Shamaev, fell out of ring. His most recent fight ended in disappointment when, after a solid first round, Gniadek was edged by Artem Lobov’s striking in rounds two and three. The youngster is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has placed as high as second in IBJJF competition.

This fight could turn into a grappling clinic. Sajewski certainly isn’t afraid to oblige an opponent in going to the ground, and he’ll be willing to do the same against Gniadek. Gniadek has good takedowns, but he’s yet to meet someone with wrestling on par with Sajewski. The older of the two prospects, Sajewski has more experience and a better skill set on which to draw. Gniadek is going to struggle to implement his game while also fending off reversals, submissions and top control from Sajewski. Expect this one to go the distance, with the “Wookie” outdueling the “Undertaker.”

Other key bouts: Mariusz Abramiuk (7-2-1) vs. Krzysztof Klaczek (5-2)

Photo: Colin Fletcher (David Lethaby/Sherdog)