Kana Watanabe’s perfect scenario: Defeat Denise Kielholtz, challenge for Bellator title in Japan


Kana Watanabe entered Bellator as an official roster member riding high with a flawless record (10-0-1) but now is faced with the task of rebounding in a big London showcase bout.

Taking on future Bellator Flyweight champion Liz Carmouche last July, the Japanese Judo sensation tasted her first defeat in only 35 seconds as “Girlrilla” overwhelmed her with strikes. Never one to have cared all too much about the zero in her loss category, Watanabe admits that the loss still stung quite a bit, perhaps more literally than figuratively.

Watanabe suffered two breaks in her orbital bone that required surgery thus leading to the somewhat extended layoff, along with wanting to raise her skillset to a new level.

“It wasn’t a very long fight but I learned the most out of all my fights in that fight,” Watanabe told MMAMania.com. “To be specific, things like when I eat a shot, when I took a hit, I tend to retreat straight backward and that’s not a good thing, I know. How to deal with forward pressure, I didn’t do a good job on dealing with the forward pressure of Carmouche and just heading into the fight with a half-ass gameplan. I think I need to come in there with a better solid game plan and execute it. There’s so many things I lacked in that fight and so many things I learned from that loss so those are the little things I can mention.”

Now 2-1 inside the Bellator cage, the former RIZIN and Deep Jewels star will look for victory No. 3 against former Bellator Kickboxing champion and recent title challenger, Denise Kielholtz.

Possessing a Judo background herself, Kielholtz presents an extremely well-rounded and dangerous threat to all 125 pounders within the Bellator ranks. On May 13, 2022, at Bellator 281, Watanabe looks to re-establish herself as a contender and earn her rematch with the new champ, Carmouche.

“I’ve definitely worked on my striking, obviously, and how to deal with my opponent’s striking, I’ve worked on that as well,” Watanabe said. “But I’ve also worked on strengthening my strong points. I’ve worked a lot on how to utilize my strong points better and how to get to the position or how to get to that point where I can utilize my strength at the fullest. So I’ve worked a lot on my setups and how I get the fight where I want to be.

“She’s a high-ranked fighter and I think whoever wins this fight will definitely take a leap towards that title shot and that’s how I look at this fight, that’s where the status is,” she continued. “This is just a rumor but I’m hearing Bellator might put on a show in Japan by the end of the year. In a perfect world, it would be great for me to challenge for the title in Japan if things pan out right, timing, everything makes sense, I think that would be the perfect scenario for me. Definitely, that’s a motivation I have.”


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