Every Thursday, The MMA Corner will take a look at three regional, developmental 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, developmental 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…

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 68

Echo Arena in Liverpool, England
Event Date: May 3
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event:
Fight Now TV (USA)
Premier Sports (United Kingdom)
Setanta Sports 1 (Ireland)
Fight Network (Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Angola)
Fight Klub (Poland)
Setanta Action (Africa)
ESPN International (Brazil, Latin America, Pacific Rim)
Viasat (Scandinavia)
MMA Junkie (USA/Canada)
Sportube.tv (Italy)
JOE.ie (Ireland)
cagewarriors.tv (rest of the world, excluding the United Kingdom)
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Danny Roberts (10-1) vs. Jim Wallhead (25-8)

The last time “Judo” Jim Wallhead set foot in the Cage Warriors cage, the year was 2010. This weekend, he returns. The welterweight veteran headlines the 68th offering from Cage Warriors. He’ll have his work cut out for him when he locks horns with prospect Danny Roberts.

Wallhead is a judo black belt who made his pro debut in 2005. His first five fights and seven of his first 10 came under the Cage Warriors banner. Despite some early stumbles, he amassed an impressive 20-5 mark and established himself as a prospect by 2010. Then, he ventured to Bellator, where he notched a unanimous decision win over Ryan Thomas and dropped a decision to Rick Hawn. Bouncing between Bellator and BAMMA, Wallhead picked up two wins to rebound from the loss to Hawn, and he has rotated wins and losses ever since. His wins in that stretch include a split decision over UFC and Pride veteran Frank Trigg, a 48-second knockout of Strikeforce vet Joey Villasenor, a first-round submission of UFC vet Matt Veach and a slam knockout of Florent Betorangal. Meanwhile, the Team Rough House fighter suffered a unanimous decision defeat against former Bellator champion Lyman Good and emerged on the wrong end of a split verdict against The Ultimate Fighter 16 alum Eddy Ellis.

Next Generation UK product Danny Roberts doesn’t have the lengthy resume of his counterpart, nor can he go on a name-dropping spree that includes UFC, Strikeforce and Pride veterans. “Hot Chocolate” has been fighting professionally since 2010. He has suffered only one loss in his 11-fight run. His list of victims includes some tough veterans, such as Jack Mason, Diego Gonzalez and Juan Manuel Suarez, but Wallhead is certainly the most accomplished fighter that Roberts has ever faced. The 26-year-old comes from a boxing background.

Despite Roberts’ affinity for the striking arts, he has actually fared well against grapplers in his recent run. Over the course of his current four-fight winning streak, Roberts has faced fighters who have picked up the majority of their wins via submission, excluding striker Henry Fadipe. Roberts has dedicated himself to learning the multiple facets of MMA, and he even scored a submission win against veteran Jack Mason, who has 14 submission wins of his own (as well as five submission losses). Though he did suffer his only loss by way of submission, Roberts might not be quite the fish out of water that one might expect against Wallhead on the ground. He could even threaten to submit Wallhead.

Wallhead isn’t an easy foe to finish, though. The 30-year-old judo ace has been stopped four times, but his last submission loss came in 2006 to Dennis Siver and his last knockout defeat came in 2005 in just his fourth pro fight. If there’s a route to victory against Wallhead, it’s the scorecards. Even a perennial contender like Hawn had to go this route to gain victory over Wallhead.

Roberts certainly holds the edge in the technical striking department, but he’ll struggle to turn this into a points game on the feet. Wallhead has a strong chin and packs a lot of power in his own strikes. Furthermore, “Judo” Jim has the ability to use his judo base to turn Roberts’ night into a nightmare. Wallhead needs to pressure Roberts and look for throws in order to set up his ground-and-pound attack and submission opportunities.

Wallhead’s recent pattern of rotating wins and losses would put him due for a loss in this affair, but expect the veteran to buck that trend. Roberts hasn’t faced a man with the takedown capability of Wallhead. The judo practitioner should be able to score takedowns at will and control Roberts on the ground. This one is likely to end in a submission victory for Wallhead.

Other key bouts: Ronnie Mann (23-6-1) vs. Marcelo Costa (8-2-1), Matt Inman (13-5) vs. Mauro Chimento (15-10), Che Mills (15-7) vs. Leeroy Barnes (12-13), Steve Dinsdale (6-1) vs. Matt Hallam (4-2), John Cullen (17-8-2) vs. Dean Garnett (5-0), Paddy Pimblett (5-1) vs. Conrad Hayes (5-2), Charlie Watts (5-1) vs. Dez Parker (2-1)

La Familia Fight Night 5

Halle Messe in Messe, Halle, Germany
Event Date: May 3
Website: la-familia-fightclub.de

Spotlight Fight:
Benjamin Brinsa (13-2) vs. Marif Piraev (8-0)

“La Familia” may sound Spanish or Mexican in origin. In this case, try German. The German-based La Familia Fight Club is hosting its fifth Fight Night event, with a lineup that includes kickboxing and MMA. On the MMA side of the lineup, it’s the welterweight bout between Benjamin Brinsa and Marif Piraev that sparks the most intrigue.

Brinsa is a German prospect who has fallen on hard times. The 24-year-old made his pro debut in late 2006 and steadily worked his way to a perfect 13-0 record by May 2013. However, “The Hooligan” couldn’t maintain his unblemished mark, and he has now lost two straight fights. Now, he looks to avenge the first of those losses, which came against Piraev by way of a first-round triangle choke finish. The losses came after Brinsa’s brief stint with the UFC. Though he signed with the UFC, he never fought in the Octagon after he was linked to a German Neo-Nazi group. Brinsa maintains his innocence, but the UFC promptly parted ways with him. Brinsa fights out of the La Familia Fight Club. He has seven submission victories and four wins by some form of knockout.

Piraev is 22 years old and hails from Dagestan. “Piranha” made his pro debut in 2011 and remains perfect through eight fights. The Fight Nights Team and Phuket Top Team product is a striker with a background in sambo. Despite his striking arsenal, Piraev has secured most of his wins on the mat. He has submitted five opponents, whereas he has just one submission victory. Piraev has developed his kicking attack while training at Phuket Top Team and carries a well-rounded skill set.

The backlash Brinsa endured for his Neo-Nazi ties, both from fans and from the UFC, really affected him on a psychological level. He was undefeated when his ugly past was exposed, and he hasn’t picked up a win since then. Piraev defeated him in December 2013, and Eduard Vartanyan worked to a decision win against Brinsa in January. Piraev would seem more suited for the lightweight division, but his skills are on par with a number of the UFC’s recent Dagestani imports.

Although Brinsa needed little help in killing his own MMA career, Piraev is going to add one more nail to the coffin. In their first meeting, Piraev was getting the better of the stand-up, which forced Brinsa to shoot for a takedown. Piraev immediately started looking for a submission and remained active from his back. Brinsa doesn’t have the grappling or striking to match Piraev. The German will probably be more conservative on the mat this time around, but Piraev will eventually find a way to finish him.

Other key bouts: Marcin Bandel (12-2) vs. Musa Jangubaev (8-2), Christopher Henze (5-0) vs. Jonny Kruschinske (8-10-2)

Superior Challenge X

Helsingborg Arena in Helsingborg, Sweden
Event Date: May 3
Website: superiorchallenge.com
Twitter: @SuperiorC

Spotlight Fight:
Pannie Kianzad (4-0) vs. Annalisa Bucci (6-2)

Sweden won’t have to wait for Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson to come to town. The country’s residents can thank Superior Challenge for a solid lineup of fights this weekend at the promotion’s 10th event. On a card that features three title tilts, including a lightweight showdown between Juha-Pekka Vainikainen and UFC veteran Efrain Escudero, it’s actually a fight further down the bill that warrants the most attention. Top-15 female featherweight Pannie Kianzad returns to action for the first time since October. Kianzad is set to face Italian fighter Annalisa Bucci.

Kianzad will fight in front of her countrymen and women in Sweden. The 21-year-old trains out of Rumble Sports in Denmark. She was slated to compete on The Ultimate Fighter 18, but she fell ill and could not take part in her fight to make it into the TUF house. The boxer has posted two TKO victories in her four-fight MMA career. “Banzai” made her pro debut in 2012 and fought three times by year’s end. She only fought once in 2013, but it was her most significant win to date. She outworked Milana Dudieva en route to a unanimous decision victory.

The 31-year-old Bucci got off to a rocky start in her pro MMA career. She debuted with a win in 2010, but didn’t return to action until 2012. Upon her return, Bucci lost back-to-back fights within just over a month’s time. “No Fear” has bounced back with five straight wins, including four finishes. She has three victories by way of submission (all via rear-naked choke) and two TKO wins. The Italian fighter’s background lies in Muay Thai and kickboxing, but she has also competed in the art of savate. Her kickboxing career contributed to her absence from MMA between her debut and her sophomore outing.

Bucci’s streak of wins came against competition that now holds a combined 2-7 record. Excluding Dudieva, Kianzad’s opponents hold a combined mark of 3-5. Both of these ladies still have a lot to prove.

Kianzad is the more well-known name in MMA circles, but Bucci cannot be underestimated. The kickboxer has compiled an impressive record despite her early struggles, and she has a tendency to attack on the ground when her opponent is vulnerable. If she can rock Kianzad on the feet or catch her in a mistake on the mat, this fight could be over in a flash.

Kianzad’s wrestling could be the deciding factor in this affair. Bucci is a kickboxer who has failed to display solid takedown defense throughout her MMA career. Kianzad has the ability to score takedowns at will from the clinch. However, when it gets to the ground, things could get sloppy. Both women have a tendency to give up superior positions a bit too easily. For that reason, expect a lot of scrambles, sweeps and submission attempts. Kianzad has been able to survive bad spots before and emerge unscathed, whereas Bucci has suffered a submission loss. Unless Kianzad gives up her back, she should be able to avoid trouble. The Swede has never scored a submission win, however, so don’t expect a finish in this one. It will be entertaining and at times sloppy, but it will go the distance. Kianzad’s takedowns and work from top position will give her the judges’ nod.

Other key bouts: Juha-Pekka Vainikainen (22-8-1) vs. Efrain Escudero (21-8) for the lightweight title, Joachim Christensen (9-3) vs. Matti Makela (13-11) for the light heavyweight title, Yosef Ali Mohammad (3-1) vs. Christian Golcic (3-1) for the heavyweight title, Daniel Acacio (30-14) vs. Alan Carlos (10-8), David Bielkheden (18-12) vs. Besam Yousef (6-3)