In an effort to bring more attention to the global stage of mixed martial arts, this list does not focus on major North American-based promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA and the World Series of Fighting:
The crosshairs of every Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight contender are now trained on Ayaka Hamasaki.
Hamasaki will defend her atomweight crown for the first time when she meets once-beaten Fit NHB representative Amber Brown in the Invicta 16 headliner on March 11 at the Trinidad Pavilion in Las Vegas. The event, which also features a showdown between Vanessa Porto and Jennifer Maia for the interim flyweight title, will stream in its entirety to UFC Fight Pass at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT.
A product of the Abe Ani Combat Club and protégé of the great Megumi Fujii, Hamasaki became the first Japanese fighter to win a major North American MMA championship in July, when she captured the Invicta atomweight belt with a five-round split decision over the previously unbeaten Herica Tiburcio. The 33-year-old judo black will carry a three-fight winning streak into the cage and has begun to make the rounds on pound-for-pound rankings lists. Victories over Mizuki Inoue and Seo Hee Ham anchor the Hamasaki resume.
Brown has rattled off four straight wins, three of them finishes, since submitting to an Emi Fujino choke under the Pancrase banner in May 2013. She last competed at Invicta 15 on Jan. 16, when she tapped Shino VanHoose with a first-round guillotine choke.
The Hamasaki-Brown title clash is but one outside-the-UFC-Bellator-WSOF-bubble matchup worth monitoring during the month of March. Here are nine more:
CES MMA 33
March 11 | Lincoln, Rhode Island
The vacant CES MMA bantamweight championship will hang in the balance when Soukhamthath meets Nordby at the Twin River Casino. Spawned by the star-studded Blackzilians camp, the 27-year-old Soukhamthath has won two of his last three fights, sandwiching wins over Carlos Galindo and Tom English around a decision loss to Brian Kelleher. “The Asian Sensation” boasts eight finishes among his nine pro victories. Nordby, 23, will enter the cage on a three-fight winning streak.
Invicta Fighting Championships 16
March 11 | Las Vegas
Bennett was on the fast track a short time ago. She had won her first eight fights -- the run included wins over Julianna Pena and Katja Kankaanpaa -- to secure a shot at Invicta strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza. All her hard work went up in flames on Jan. 16, as she lasted just 90 seconds before succumbing to punches from the undefeated Souza. On the heels of that humbling defeat, Bennett moves up to 125 pounds and directs her aim at Modafferi. A 33-year-old Syndicate MMA export, Modafferi has gone 3-1 since parting ways with the UFC in 2013 and remains one of the most likeable fighters in the sport.
Road Fighting Championship 29
March 12 | Seoul
A former One Championship titleholder, Kim has long been established as one of Korea’s most promising young fighters. The 24-year-old has gone 5-0-1 in six appearances since losing a unanimous verdict to Bibiano Fernandes in October 2013. Kim last competed under the Rizin Fighting Federation flag on New Year’s Eve, when he claimed a three-round decision from Maike Linhares Galvao Amorim in Saitama, Japan. American Top Team’s Brimage was a quarterfinalist on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He has lost two fights in a row and four of his last five, prompting his exit from the UFC.
March 13 | Tokyo
Suzuki will risk his welterweight championship for the first time against a familiar foe, as the newly crowned King of Pancrase meets Murayama in the Pancrase 276 co-main event at Differ Ariake. The Alliance-Square standout took hold of the 170-pound title on Oct. 4, when he submitted Gota Yamashita with a second-round rear-naked choke. Suzuki, 29, has pieced together a healthy three-fight winning streak since his 2014 loss to Murayama at Pancrase 263. The 35-year-old Murayama also owns wins over UFC veterans Keita Nakamura, Yuki Kondo and Daniel Roberts.
One Championship 39 “Union of Warriors”
March 18 | Yangon, Myanmar
Moraes was for a time the toast of the One Championship flyweight division. However, his reign at 125 pounds concluded at One Championship 33 on Nov. 21, when the unbeaten Kairat Akhmetov removed him from the throne in a five-round split decision. The setback snapped a four-fight winning streak for Moraes, a 26-year-old Constrictor Team representative. The twice-beaten Toquero has never been finished in his 10-fight career. He last fought three months ago at One Championship 35, where he forced Li Wei Bin’s corner to throw in the towel after the second round.
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 57
March 19 | Philadelphia
Cut loose by the Ultimate Fighting Championship following a decision loss to Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC 182 in January 2015, Gaudinot has returned to the familiar haunts of the regional fight scene. A quarterfinalist on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” he will challenge Honorio for the Cage Fury Fighting Championships flyweight title. Gaudinot made a successful CFFC debut on Sept. 12, when he claimed a unanimous verdict from Claudio Ledesma and picked up his first victory since he choked John Lineker unconscious with a guillotine in 2012. Honorio will enter his second title defense on a three-fight winning streak that includes a five-round decision over Lincoln de Sa Oliveira in June. The Gaudinot-Honorio pairing has been postponed twice.
Australian Fighting Championship 15
March 19 | Melbourne, Australia
Unbeaten prospects Abdullah and Wilkinson will duke it out for the vacant Australian Fighting Championship middleweight crown at the Melbourne Pavilion. Abdullah, 25, already holds the AFC light heavyweight championship, having captured the 205-pound title with a 35-second knockout against Daniel Almeida in his March 2015 pro debut. Wilkinson has finished all eight of his professional opponents inside one round.
Pure Fighting Championship 3
March 19 | Milwaukee
A former World Series of Fighting champion, Roufusport’s Glenn has retreated from the spotlight in a bid to regroup on the regional scene. The 26-year-old Iowa native has won eight of his past nine bouts, though the one defeat proved costly: He surrendered the WSOF featherweight championship in a December 2014 submission loss to Team Alpha Male’s Lance Palmer. Glenn has proven himself a dynamic offensive fighter, with 14 finishes among his 16 victories. American Top Team’s Manuel has competed in Bellator, Sengoku and World Extreme Cagefighting. He has gone just 3-6-1 across his last 10 outings.
Absolute Championship Berkut 32
March 26 | Moscow
The degree of difficulty for Yan’s first defense of his bantamweight title appears quite high. The undefeated 23-year-old Russian put the belt on his shoulder with wins over Renato Velame, Haron Orzumiev and Murad Kalamov in the 2015 Absolute Championship Berkut bantamweight grand prix, besting Kalamov across three rounds in the tournament final. Yan’s record now stands at 5-0. Magomedov, meanwhile, has emerged as one of Europe’s top prospects. The 24-year-old trains alongside Marat Gafurov and Timur Valiev and finds himself on an 11-fight winning streak.