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…

KSW 27: Cage Time

Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland
Event Date: May 17
Website: konfrontacja.com
Watch Event: live pay-per-view stream at kswtv.com
Twitter: @KSW_MMA

Spotlight Fight:
Mamed Khalidov (28-4-2) vs. Maiquel Falcao (32-5)

Not many prospects have gone 30-plus fights, 28 victories and 10 years without a single UFC appearance, but KSW houses once such fighter. His name is Mamed Khalidov, and he is arguably the best middleweight not currently under the employee of the UFC, Bellator or the World Series of Fighting. For its 27th offering, the Polish promotion is pitting its star against Maiquel Falcao, yet another fighter in a long list of UFC veterans that have challenged Khalidov in recent years.

Khalidov made his pro debut in 2004 and lost his first two fights. He turned his career around after those losses to compile a 28-2-2 mark over his last 32 contests. In that stretch, he captured the KSW light heavyweight crown, then moved down to middleweight and challenged for the Sengoku belt. The 33-year-old fighter has a well-rounded skill set. He won the 2007 ADCC Polish Trials and has submitted 16 of his foes in MMA competition. He can get the job done with his fists, too, as evidenced by his 11 victories by some form of knockout. Khalidov’s reputation as a top middleweight is only cemented by his resume. His current eight-fight winning streak includes notables such as UFC veterans James Irvin, Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor, Rodney Wallace and Kendall Grove, plus Strikeforce veteran Melvin Manhoef.

Falcao never lost inside the Octagon, but his behavior outside of the cage prompted his UFC release. His lone appearance on the UFC stage came in the form of a highly criticized victory over Gerald Harris. He went on to compete in, and win, the Bellator season-six middleweight tournament. He came up short in his subsequent title bid against Alexander Shlemenko, though, and his involvement in a violent brawl outside a gas station in Brazil led to his release from Bellator. The troubled 33-year-old has suffered two of his losses against current UFC fighter Fabio Maldonado. Although he holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Falcao prefers to stand and bang. He has notched 23 victories by some form of knockout.

Falcao has an amazing number of knockout and TKO wins on his resume, but his significant victories—the UFC win over Harris and three Bellator tourney victories—all came on the scorecards. Neither Harris nor any of those Bellator foes sit remotely in the same league as Khalidov. This stands as another fight in Khalidov’s current campaign against former UFC fighters, and it should be a winnable fight for the former KSW light heavyweight champion.

Falcao’s affection for standing with opponents has earned him a ridiculous number of knockout wins, but it also accounts for four of his five losses. Maldonado scored two TKO victories over the Brazilian, sub-.500 fighter Daniel Ludtke added a 72-second TKO and Shlemenko scored a knockout over “Big Rig.” Khalidov has made a habit of submitting opponents, but he can certainly finish on the feet as well. His aggressive nature out of the gates is a huge factor—22 of Khalidov’s victories have come in the first round.

Despite his embarrassing loss to Ludtke, Falcao is not typically a quick out. Shlemenko had to wait until the second stanza, and Maldonado’s wins came in the second and third rounds. Khalidov is going to have to work beyond the opening stanza for this victory, but it’s just a matter of when, not if, he’ll find the stoppage.

Other key bouts: Mariusz Pudzianowski (6-3) vs. Oli Thompson (12-6), Aslambek Saidov (15-3) vs. Borys Mankowski (14-5-1) for the welterweight title, Karolina Kowalkiewicz (4-0) vs. Jasminka Cive (5-1) for the women’s strawweight title, Piotr Strus (9-3) vs. Abu Azaitar (9-2), Mateusz Gamrot (5-0) vs. Jefferson George (4-2)

Lappeenranta Fight Night 10

Lappeenranta Ice Hockey Arena in Lappeenranta, Finland
Event Date: May 17
Website: fightnight.fi

Spotlight Fight:
Katja Kankaanpää (8-1-1) vs. Alyona Rassohyna (8-2)

Katja Kankaanpää has been the odd strawweight out. Whereas most of her Invicta peers have been ushered off to The Ultimate Fighter house without having to take part in tryouts, the “Killer Bunny” has been forced to take the long road to the Octagon. Now, the Finnish fighter is set to compete in her homeland against Alyona Rassohyna at Lappeenranta Fight Night 10.

Rassohyna isn’t a well-known name yet, but she does have eight wins in 10 pro fights. The 23-year-old made her debut in 2010 and went 4-2 through her first six bouts. Now, the Ukrainian, who fights out of Oplot Team, is riding a four-fight winning streak. Her six most recent wins have all ended in armbar finishes, and only two of those contests lasted beyond the three-minute mark. Dig a little deeper into Rassohyna’s record, however, and it isn’t quite as impressive as it is at first glance. Her victories came against opponents who now hold a combined 6-19 record, and only one of those fighters currently sits above the .500 mark. Meanwhile, she suffered an armbar loss to a fighter who is now 1-1 and a decision loss to a 3-2 fighter. That resume pales in comparison to that of her upcoming foe.

Kankaanpää is a grinder who has dueled with some of the best ladies in the business. After debuting in 2010 and rattling off five straight wins, including a unanimous verdict over Karla Benitez, she topped highly regarded Japanese fighter Mei Yamaguchi on the scorecards. Kankaanpää followed that milestone with a split draw against Simona Soukupova and decision wins over Aisling Daly and Juliana Lima. Her most recent outing—her second under the Invicta banner—ended in disappointment when the judges awarded the verdict to her adversary, Joanne Calderwood. The 32-year-old fighter has a background in karate and submission wrestling, but it’s the latter of the two disciplines that stands at the forefront of her MMA game. She prefers to clinch with opponents and hunt for the takedown in order to grind out the decision win. Seven of her 10 fights have gone the distance.

Kankaanpää is a proven veteran with a track record of victories against tough opposition, whereas Rassohyna is a young fighter with one primary weapon in her arsenal and a history of fights against inexperienced and overmatched opponents. Kankaanpää has to be wary of Rassohyna’s armbar, but everything points to another win for the “Killer Bunny.” Rassohyna will be aggressive with her submission attempts, but that will only lead to costly mistakes that allow Kankaanpää to snag a submission of her own for the victory midway through the contest.

Other key bouts: Vitali Branchuk (13-4) vs. Janne “Jamba” Elonen-Kulmala (9-4)

Deep Jewels 4

Shinjuku Face in Tokyo
Event Date: May 18
Website: deep2001.com

Spotlight Fight:
Shizuka Sugiyama (11-3-1) vs. Takayo Hashi (14-4-1)

Injuries and a lack of fights kept Takayo Hashi on the sidelines for two years, but the 36-year-old Japanese fighter is now on the comeback trail. Her next stop is Deep Jewels, where she’ll collide with longtime Jewels bantamweight Shizuka Sugiyama.

Hashi had amassed a 14-4 career mark before falling inactive in 2012. Prior to her time on the sidelines, she was experiencing the roughest patch of her career. She had mounted an unsuccessful bid for the inaugural Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title against Sarah Kaufman, dropped a decision to Tara LaRosa and suffered a slam knockout courtesy of Cat Zingano. Her last outing prior to her hiatus was a winning effort against Roxanne Modafferi. Hashi, who placed third in her division in the 2007 ADCC World Championships, is a grinder who has seen the scorecards in 13 of her 19 fights, including 10 of her victories. Her return to action in March came against Ji-Yeon Kim, an inexperienced mixed martial artist who has a background in boxing and kickboxing. Hashi and Kim fought to a draw. The Wajutsu Keishukai Tokyo product has been fighting professionally for nearly a decade and has faced a number of top fighters in her career. She’ll add another significant name to that list this weekend.

Sugiyama made her pro debut on the very first Jewels event in 2008. After a five-fight undefeated start, the karate black belt experienced a rocky stretch in which she won just once in four outings. Sugiyama recovered from her struggles and has gone 5-0-1 through her last six contests. Interestingly, the one draw on her record come to the same fighters who recently took Hashi the distance. The American-born Japanese fighter has gone the distance eight times, but she has also notched five victories by some form of knockout and one via submission.

Sugiyama’s career has been filled with inconsistencies. She gassed in the majority draw against Kim, and losing three out of four is never a good sign for any fighter. Granted, two of Sugiyama’s losses in that span came to fighters who now hold records of 11-6 and 8-3, but neither of those fighters have ever established themselves as competitors on par with Hashi.

Hashi’s only defeats have come against the aforementioned trio of Kaufman, LaRosa and Zingano, plus Hitomi Akano. Hashi avenged the loss to Akano, and there’s certainly no shame in a set of losses to a former Strikeforce champion, a legend of women’s MMA and the current No. 1 contender to Ronda Rousey’s UFC crown. Hashi may be 36 and emerging from a lengthy layoff, but she’s a grinder who has the physical, high pressure game to give Sugiyama fits. It’s quite likely that Hashi’s marathon approach to combat with give her the upper hand against a fighter who has questionable cardio.

This one is headed the distance, and it’ll be Hashi who emerges with the narrow decision victory in a competitive battle.

Other key bouts: Mei Yamaguchi (11-7-1) vs. Yukiko Seki (12-23), Saori Ishioka (12-7) vs. Satomi Takano (3-3)