Kana Watanabe returned to winning ways with a second-round submission win against Denise Kielholtz at Bellator 281 in London on Friday.
The Japanese fighter suffered the first loss of her career last year when she was knocked out by current champion Liz Carmouche. But the Rizin veteran reasserted her title credentials here as she tapped out her Dutch opponent with a triangle choke at 3.03 in the second stanza.
She didn’t sound particularly happy with her performance describing it as ‘terrible’:
— Kana Watanabe×渡辺華奈 (@kanawatanabe821) May 13, 2022
But she scored a win over an elite opponent. Kielholtz found herself on the wrong side of a split decision when she challenged Juliana Velasquez for the title in July and came into this bout ranked at #2 in the flyweight division.
The Dutch fighter started brightly with a flurry of right hands. Watanabe responded with a takedown as Kielholtz sought to isolate the arm, but ‘Soft Beast’ is a formidable judoka and utilized her grappling well as she looked for the choke and ended the round at her opponent’s back.
With the fight back on the canvas early in the second, Kielholtz was penalized for an illegal kick to the face. Following the all clear from the doctor, the referee resumed the action on the feet, much to the chagrin of Watanabe.
Undeterred, the Tokyo-born fighter managed to get her back down the mat. Kielholtz was on her feet when the bout reached its conclusion as Watanabe executed a ruthless triangle to seal the fourth submission victory of her career.
The win puts the 33-year-old in a strong position for a rematch with Carmouche who was crowned champion in April when she submitted Velasquez. Watanabe’s record climbs to 11-1 and she will leapfrog Kielholtz, who drops to 6-4, in the rankings.
Best of the rest
In the main event Logan Storley (14-1) scored a split decision win over Michael Page (20-2). UFC veteran Paul Daley (44-18) finished his career in style, stopping Wendell Giacomo (9-3) in the second round.