Every week, The MMA Corner takes a look at three regional, developmental or international cards from the upcoming weekend, 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…

Fight Nights: Battle of Moscow 16

Luhzniki Palace of Sports in Moscow
Event Date: July 11
Website: fightnights.ru
Twitter: @Fnsofficial

Spotlight Fight:
Marif Piraev (8-0) vs. Luiz Cado Simon (8-3)

There have been a lot of Russian prospects making waves in the UFC and Bellator recently, and the Russian-based Fight Nights promotion may have found the next fighter in this long line of rising stars. That man is 22-year-old Marif Piraev, who has gone undefeated through eight professional outings. Piraev joins a strong lineup for the promotion’s Battle of Moscow 16 event, where he will meet fellow welterweight Luiz Cado Simon.

Piraev made his pro debut in 2011 with the Fight Nights promotion and has remained perfect through eight bouts. The “Lion of Dagestan” trains alongside the likes of Vitaly Minakov, Ali Bagautinov and Gasan Umalatov. He has a background in boxing and sambo, and he has demonstrated solid striking to accompany a ground game that has led to five submission wins. The young fighter is still developing and only recently graduated from fighting inexperienced, mediocre competition to fighting fellow prospects. His first test came against Benjamin Brinsa, who was briefly under contract with the UFC before the promotion realized that it might have a Neo-Nazi hooligan on its hands. Piraev needed less than two and a half minutes to hand Brinsa, who was undefeated through 13 fights at the time, a triangle choke-submission loss. Piraev’s biggest weakness might be his willingness to sacrifice position and even fight off his back in hopes of attacking with submissions.

In his pro debut, Simon, a Striker’s House product, scored a head-kick knockout of veteran fighter Julio Cesar Bilik. He followed that June 2011 performance with with three wins against fighters who currently hold losing records. Then, he dropped back-to-back fights against Rafael Carvalho and sub-.500 fighter Geovani de Lima. The “Golden Boy” has bounced back to win four of his last five, with the only loss coming against Rafal Moks under the KSW banner. The Brazilian is at his best when he’s on his feet, where he has scored five wins by some form of knockout. His submission defense is lacking, which has resulted in two submission losses.

Piraev can attack with submissions from the top or bottom, and that ability should come into play against Simon. The Russian has to avoid prolonged striking exchanges with Simon, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. Piraev will continue to add to his impressive record with a second-round submission finish of Simon.

Other key bouts: Magomed Malikov (7-2) vs. Brett Rogers (15-8), Konstantin Erokhin (6-1) vs. Michal Andryszak (12-3), Nikolay Aleksakhin (10-3) vs. Akhmet Aliev (6-3), Magomed Magomedov (4-1) vs. Aleksey Shapovalov (9-4), Alexey Polpudnikov (11-4) vs. Ramazan Kurbanismailov (5-2-1)

The Hill Fighters 2

Perinão in Gramado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Event Date: July 11
Website: Facebook/The Hill Fighters

Spotlight Fight:
Irmeson Cavalcante de Oliveira (10-2) vs. Joriedson “Fein” Reis de Souza (20-3)

In only its second show, The Hill Fighters organization has gathered an amazing cast of talent. In addition to veterans like Akihiro Gono and Daniel Acacio, the promotion has brought in a number of prospects. Among the most intriguing of that cast are flyweights Irmeson Cavalcante de Oliveira and Joriedson “Fein” Reis de Souza, who sport a combined 30-5 record. They are set to lock horns as part of a card that was originally slated to take place on the Fourth of July weekend before it was pushed back one week.

Fein made his pro debut in 2007 and won his first 11 fights, all by stoppage. The first time he went to the scorecards was in 2011, and it marked his first loss. He fell to a fighter who now holds a 6-3 career mark. The Astra Fight Team product responded with seven more wins before losing a pair of contests to Lincoln de Sa in late 2012 and early 2013. He has bounced back with a pair of victories, including a unanimous decision over Strikeforce veteran Brett Albee, who borders on the heavyweight division and fought Virgil Zwicker in the Strikeforce cage. Fein has a well-rounded skill set that has allowed him to claim 11 submission victories and seven wins by some form of knockout.

De Oliveira found less success upon his 2008 debut. The Evolucao Thai product lost two of his first three fights, including a submission loss to Dileno Lopes. He righted the ship after the loss to Lopes and has now won his last nine fights. His two most recent victories, which came against Bruno Dias and Paulo Rodrigo de Sousa, are his most impressive. He was able to stop the veteran Dias via a doctor’s stoppage TKO, and he earned a unanimous nod over de Sousa. The 27-year-old fighter is a grappler who has picked up five wins via submission and four on the scorecards. Two of his decision victories came via split verdicts.

Both of these 27-year-old flyweights have stumbled a time or two in their career, but they’ve faltered against some stiff competition for the most part. Fein avenged his first career loss with a 67-second knockout win, and he forced de Sa to the scorecards in one of their two meetings. Neither man has been knocked out, but both have been submitted. The difference here is in who possesses more routes to victory. That fighter is clearly Fein, who can rock opponents with his striking arsenal or tie them in knots on the mat. He might have a hard time doing the former to de Oliveira, but he’s certainly capable of the latter. This should be a spirited battle, but Fein will eventually emerge with the submission victory.

Other key bouts: Tony Johnson (7-2) vs. Alison Vicente (12-11), Akihiro Gono (33-19-8) vs. Andre de Jesus (5-7), Daniel Acacio (30-15) vs. Sergio Souza (11-5), Guilherme Viana (5-1) vs. Julio Cesar dos Santos (11-2-1), Fernando Vieira (10-2) vs. Francisco Cylderlan Lima da Silva (34-15), Alex Sandry Modelli (7-3) vs. Edison Lopes (3-1), Thiago Silva (12-3-1) vs. Thiago Natan (6-1), Rodrigo Cavalheiro Correia (14-3) vs. Luciano Palhano (10-0), Eduardo Garvon (4-1-1) vs. Alisson Barbosa (4-0), Pedro Keller de Souza (4-1) vs. Rafael Viana (3-0), Felipe Perrone Cuiffo (4-1) vs. Jean Petrick (2-1), Jeferson Negrini (9-0) vs. Maicon Miler (5-1)

Grandslam: Way of the Cage

Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: July 13
Website: mma-grandslam.com
Watch Event: pay-per-view internet stream at Ustream
Twitter: @grandslammma

Spotlight Fight:
Hideo Tokoro (32-26-2) vs. Victory Henry (6-1)

There’s been a recent trend in Japan where respected veterans of the sport use their gym as a launching pad for a new fight promotion. Shuichiro Katsumura, an 11-9-3 fighter whose last three contests came against Masakatsu Ueda (in a winning effort for Katsumura), Darren Uyenoyama and Koetsu Okazaki, is the latest fighter to switch gears from fighting to promoting. Katsumura, who last competed in 2011, has founded Grandslam. The promotion’s first effort features some significant talent, most notably headlining bantamweights Hideo Tokoro and Victor Henry, as well as Shunichi Shimizu and UFC veteran Nam Phan.

Tokoro may be just six fights above the .500 mark, but the 60-fight veteran has always been a game competitor. The Dream veteran has claimed victories over the likes of Brad Pickett, Abel Cullum, Yoshiro Maeda and Masakazu Imanari, but he has dropped fights to Will Campuzano, Antonio Banuelos, Yusup Saadulaev and Joachim Hansen. He’s an effective grappler who has 18 submission wins and only five victories by some form of knockout. Meanwhile, he has suffered 11 losses by knockout or TKO.

Henry is a CSW product who trains with Josh Barnett. The 27-year-old, who made his pro debut in 2010, won his first six fights. He’s coming off a split decision loss to World Series of Fighting veteran Joe Murphy in his most recent fight. Henry rose to the level of black belt in taekwondo before moving on to train in jiu-jitsu. He’s worked to improve his wrestling under Barnett’s tutelage. Three of his wins came via submission, and he has just one victory by way of strikes.

Tokoro isn’t exactly a consistent fighter, but he’s a savvy veteran who can feast on young, inexperienced prospects. Henry falls into that category. Henry’s strengths come in areas where Tokoro is also strong. That doesn’t help Henry’s chances in this encounter. Tokoro should be able to outstrike Henry, and also holds the upper hand in the wrestling and grappling departments. The 36-year-old Japanese fighter will control where this fight takes place, and he’ll outpoint Henry in all areas. There’s a chance Tokoro could walk away with a submission win, but if he fails to finish Henry, he’ll still secure the victory on the scorecards.

Other key bouts: Shunichi Shimizu (28-9-10) vs. Yosuke Saruta (8-4-2), Nam Phan (18-13) vs. Kenichi Ito (12-11-8), Setsu Iguchi (8-2-1) vs. Taku Kajikawa (2-4-1), Takeshi Kashiwazaki (7-0-2) vs. Takahiro Furumagi (1-0)