Kana Watanabe suffered a major setback in her quest for the flyweight title after being finished in the first round by Liz Carmouche at Bellator 261 in Uncasville.

Carmouche swarmed the Japanese star to finish the fight just seconds after the bell sounded. Previously undefeated, Watanabe will no doubt be doubly disappointed with the result in this flyweight title eliminator.

This was Watanabe’s third fight under the Bellator banner and her second since signing with the promotion last year. The Japanese star impressed her current employers when she beat Ilara Joanne at Bellator Japan in 2019.

Fighting for the first time on US soil back in April, Watanabe got off to a solid start in her new home and battled to a split decision against former title contender, Alejandra Lara. She came into the clash with Carmouche on a wave of momentum with an impressive 10-0-1 record.

Liz Carmouche punches Kana Watanabe 3

Deer in the headlights

Here, however, the judoka looked like a deer in the headlights as Carmouche went to work. The veteran began the sequence with a left low kick to Watanabe’s left thigh.

A thunderous right cross followed as the 32-year-old stumbled backwards. Carmouche could sense she had selected the appropriate weapon and unleashed another trio, the third one causing Watanabe’s knees to buckle.

Sensing blood, Carmouche let her hands fly. She uncorked a flurry of left-right-left combinations treating Watanabe’s face like a heavy bag at the end of a long training session.

Liz Carmouche punches Kana Watanabe

Indian summer

Carmouche put a right upper cut on the end of her final combination, and although Watanabe was able to stay on her feet throughout the onslaught, the referee had seen enough and stepped in to save her from further punishment.

The ‘Girl-Rilla’ was a pioneer for women’s MMA having competed in the inaugural women’s bout in the UFC against Ronda Rousey. Now 37, the California native is enjoying something of an Indian summer.

She’s won five of her last six fights; with her only loss in the last four years coming against current UFC flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. To inflict Watanabe’s first loss in such emphatic fashion is certainly a feather in Carmouche’s cap

It earns Carmouche a shot at the champion as her record climbs to 16-7. For Watanabe it’s a case of ‘back to the drawing board’ as she slips to 10-1-1.

Liz Carmouche punches Kana Watanabe 4

Best of the rest

In the main event, Valentin Moldavsky became the new interim heavyweight champion after clinching the unanimous decision against the USA’s Tim Johnson. Moldavsky’s record now stands at 11-1 while Johnson falls to 15-7. The Russian will be set to take on Ryan Bader in a title unification bout.

Bellator 261, Uncasville, June 26th
Valentin Moldavsky def. Timothy Johnson via Decision (Unanimous)
Liz Carmouche def. Kana Watanabe via KO (Punches) at 0:35 of Round 1
Sidney Outlaw def. Myles Jury via Submission (Rear naked choke) at 4:44 of Round 3
Daniel Weichel def. Keoni Diggs via Decision (Split)
Christian Edwards def. Simon Biyong via Decision (Unanimous)
John de Jesus def. John Macapa via Decision (Split)
Taylor Johnson def. Lance Wright via submission (rear naked choke) at 2:58 of Round 1
Jaylon Bates def. Cody Matthews via submission (armbar) at 4:04 of Round 2
Corey Samuels def. Isaiah Hokit via KO (Punch) at 0:10 of Round 2
Soren Bak def. Bobby Lee via Decision (Unanimous)