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…

M-1 Challenge 46

Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
Event Date: March 14
Website: m-1global.com
Watch Event: Russia 2 (Russia)
Twitter: @OfficialM1

Spotlight Fight:
Viktor Nemkov (19-4) vs. Stephan Puetz (9-1)

M-1 Global may not have been successful in its attempt to conquer the international MMA market or fill the gap left by the demise of Pride, but the Russian promotion is back to doing what it does best: providing a showcase for Russian and European prospects. In its 46th effort under the M-1 Challenge series, the promotion hosts a light heavyweight title tilt in which champion Viktor Nemkov attempts to defend his title against prospect Stephan Puetz.

Nemkov is a member of the Red Devil Sport Club, a team made famous by Fedor Emelianenko. The 27-year-old made his pro debut in 2008. After a 7-3 start to his pro career, Nemkov has gone 12-1 in his most recent 13 fights. The lone loss came in a M-1 title bout against UFC veteran Vinny Magalhaes. Though Magalhaes eventually scored the submission victory with a gogoplata neck crank, Nemkov presented a stiff challenge for the Brazilian. He has also lost via submission to longtime King of the Cage veteran Tony Lopez. Nemkov is a Master of Sport in sambo and judo and won a sambo world championship in 2011. In the realm of MMA, he has nine submission wins and seven victories by way of decision.

Puetz made his pro debut in 2012 and managed to rack up nine wins by the end of 2013. He suffered his first defeat in his most recent outing, which took place just two and a half weeks ago. The 26-year-old hails from Germany and has a background in judo. The Team MMA Spirit product has won four of his fights via strikes and three by way of submission. His loss came on the scorecards against Joachim Christensen. Puetz sports a solid resume, with the majority of his victories coming against opponents with winning records.

Puetz’s biggest edge is his length. He’s a light heavyweight who stands 6-foot-6. That gives him a five-inch height advantage over Nemkov. The question is whether Puetz knows how to use that advantage effectively. He’ll need to keep this fight standing, but he may not have the skills needed to fend off a world-class sambo practitioner like Nemkov. If Puetz can’t stay on the outside, his chances for victory diminish greatly. Nemkov has the superior grappling game, a large edge in experience and an aggressive attack in searching for the submission finish.

Puetz has a lot of potential, but Nemkov is the better fighter at this stage in their respective careers. The champion must stick to his normally aggressive hunt for submission finishes, and he certainly should avoid standing with Puetz, who could land lethal knees against his much shorter opponent. If he sticks to a smart game plan and utilizes his grappling game, Nemkov should retain his belt with a submission victory midway through the fight.

Other key bouts: Konstantin Gluhov (26-14) vs. Kenny Garner (12-5), Anatoly Tokov (11-1) vs. Albert Duraev (4-2), Pavel Vitruk (10-0) vs. Agoney Romero (3-1-1), Magomed Mustafaev (8-1) vs. Andrei Koshkin (3-2), Tural Ragimov (7-1) vs. Aliyar Sarkerov (6-2)

XFC International 2

Rede TV! television studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Event Date: March 15
Website: xfcmma.com
Watch Event: Rede TV! in Brazil and live stream worldwide at xfcmma.com
Twitter: @OfficialXFC

Spotlight Fight:
Kalindra Faria (12-3-1) vs. Aline Serio (7-4)

If there’s to be a true turning point in the history of the XFC, it would be marked by the promotion’s international efforts. XFCi1 was a strong offering, and the second event in the series continues that trend. From top to bottom, the promotion’s two international shows have provided much deeper lineups than the American-based events that preceded them. XFCi2 features a main event between two grizzled veterans, plus a full lineup of featherweight tournament quarterfinal bouts. However, the most intriguing contest is one that may determine an eventual strawweight challenger to Stephanie Eggink’s XFC crown. In that fight, top-10 flyweight Kalindra Faria drops to 115 pounds for a rematch with fellow former flyweight Aline Serio, a veteran whose record can be misleading.

The four losses on the 30-year-old’s resume came against extremely tough competition. Serio, who made her pro debut in 2010, suffered a TKO at the hands of Carina Damm, dropped a split decision to current UFC strawweight Juliana Carneiro Lima and went the distance in a losing effort against Faria. She has only suffered one loss to a fighter who has never cracked the top 15 of a division. Serio’s successes, however, have come primarily against a significantly lower level of competition—a set of fighters that sport a combined 7-15 mark—until her last fight, in which she edged Elaine Albuquerque, a fighter who now stands at 7-3, on the scorecards. The Diogo Tavares Team and Ximu Team product has a background in Muay Thai and tends to do her best work on her feet, where she has scored four wins by some form of knockout. Serio is most effective when working quickly—five first-round victories, including two that ended in less than 40 seconds. In contrast, she has won just two of five fights that went the distance.

Since her pro debut in 2009, Faria has suffered just three losses, but her defeats, like Serio’s losses, came against high-level competition. She, too, suffered a TKO at the hands of Damm, and she was submitted by Invicta veteran Vanessa Porto and upcoming The Ultimate Fighter 20 cast member Claudia Gadelha. She avenged the loss to Damm with a submission win in their rematch in early 2013, and she has fought to a draw with Invicta veteran Jennifer Maia. After a 4-3-1 start to her career, the Vale Top Team and Macaco Gold Team product caught fire with an eight-fight winning streak that includes the victories over Damm and Serio. The 27-year-old has a Muay Thai background and has won six of her MMA contests via strikes. She has also recorded three recent submission wins, all by way of armbar. Her move to 115 pounds is intended to put her on the radar for the UFC’s strawweight division.

Serio’s striking attack is relentless. She’ll wing in huge lefts and rights until something lands. She has a bad habit of keeping her hands low, but makes up for it with a granite chin. She can pile on the damage with her brutal flurries, and punching her in the face will not make her back off in the least. However, Faria brings more experience and a more refined, technical striking game than anyone Serio has defeated. Further bolstering Faria’s case in this fight is the outcome of their first encounter, in which Faria earned the judges’ nod over Serio.

The first bout between these two went in favor of Faria, but Serio kept the fight close and made it to the final bell. Serio’s ability to survive Faria’s striking attack and submissions speaks volumes to her toughness. However, she has already lost to Faria once, and after a close fight with the less-distinguished Albuquerque, it’s difficult to argue in favor of Serio avenging her previous defeat. This will be the highlight of the XFCi2 card, but it’ll have a similar result to their first meeting. Serio might win a round, but she’ll lose the fight via decision.

Other key bouts: Adson Lira Nascimento (37-10-2) vs. Flavio Alvaro (45-10), Pedro Junior (7-0) vs. Erick Montano (4-2), Felipe Douglas (8-1) vs. Rodolfo Rubio Perez (10-5) in featherweight tournament quarterfinals bout, Alejandro Villalobos (14-3) vs. Missael Silva de Souza (9-2) in featherweight tournament quarterfinals bout, Luan Gazetta (4-0) vs. Bruno Aquiles Canetti (3-3) in featherweight tournament quarterfinals bout, Alex Kaspary Marrento (5-0) vs. Cesar Balanta (2-2) in featherweight tournament quarterfinals bout, Kevin Medinilla (3-0) vs. Alessandro Gambulino (3-0), Luiz Andre Arcanjo Siqueira (3-0) vs. Daniel Abelha (6-3), Maurilio Alava (4-0-1) vs. Cairo Rocha (9-3)

Iron Man Championship Fight 27

Avertino Ramos Gymnasium
in Macapa, Amapa, Brazil
Event Date: March 15

Spotlight Fight:
John “Macapa” Teixeira da Conceicao (15-1-2) vs. Oberdan Vieira Tenorio (17-6-1)

Sometimes, a fighter must stumble before they can truly succeed. John “Macapa” Teixeira da Conceicao and Oberdan Vieira Tenorio have demonstrated this in different ways. The two featherweights meet in a featured bout on the Iron Man Championship Fight 27 card.

After a 12-0-1 start to his career, Teixeira took part in The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. He won his fight to make it into the house, but suffered a split decision loss to Rodrigo Damm in the elimination round. Then, Teixeira, who turned pro in 2007, failed to make weight for his UFC 147 bout with Hugo Viana. Teixeira lost the fight and was not invited back for a second appearance. Macapa has notched three first-round victories and a split draw since parting ways with the UFC. The 27-year-old is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and has nine wins via submission.

Tenorio’s stumbles came much earlier in his career. He made his pro debut in 2004 and lost three of his first four fights. He didn’t up the frequency of his fights until 2011. In the years prior, he tended to fight just once a year and sometimes had gaps of inactivity as long as two years in duration. “Pezao” went an unimpressive 4-5 through his first nine outings before finally turning things around. In his last 15 outings, he is 13-1-1. The level of competition Tenorio has seen has varied greatly, and he was demolished by Lucas Martins in his only recent loss. The Ronildo Nobre Judo Club product has seven wins by some form of knockout and six via submission. The 26-year-old’s only recent loss was by way of a knockout, but the majority of his defeats have come via submission.

Tenorio has had a good run lately, but the submission losses early in his career are reason for concern, especially when entering into a contest against a skilled jiu-jitsu practitioner like Macapa. The UFC veteran will find a way to turn this into a grappling match, where Tenorio is out of his comfort zone. The TUF alum will wait for an opening and snag an arm for the submission win..

Other key bouts: Gilberto dos Santos Pantoja (10-2-1) vs. Eliel dos Santos e Santos (15-11), Bruno Pereira da Silva (6-1-1) vs. Israel Silva Lima (9-4)