Now a full-time member of the Bellator MMA roster, Japan’s Kana Watanabe brought an undefeated record to her Bellator 255 flyweight scrap against Alejandra Lara. The bout opened up the main card Friday night, which marked the first event of the year for Bellator, plus the promotion’s debut on new U.S. broadcast home Showtime.
With a new women’s flyweight champ in Juliana Velasquez, the 125lb division felt wide open. While Liz Carmouche likely sits first in line, Lara’s two straight victories had her creeping up on a second shot at gold. Watanabe could easily make a case as well, if she were to pick up the win over the former title challenger.
Lara quite literally danced her way out to the cage ahead of Friday’s main card opener. There was a different kind of dance after the opening bell, with Lara getting right to work, landing a couple of solid punches off a leg kick before Watanabe managed to secure a takedown. Lara was able to buck the Japanese fighter off, but gave up her back trying to escape. That allowed Watanabe to control for a minute, but the Colombian would scramble out.
In an opening round in which both ladies had their moments, the script would be flipped moments later. Watanabe would execute a trip, but it was Lara landing in mount, then taking the back. Watanabe looked to escape out the back door while Lara attempted to flatten her opponent out; eventually, the Japanese fighter would break free. Kana would land a couple of punches shortly after, and Lara would hit home with a left hand. A sharp inside leg kick by Lara almost took Watanabe’s feet out from under her.
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Early in the second, Watanabe landed her right hand, and added a knee in the clinch. But Lara rocked Watanabe with some heavy blows in the clinch, including a couple of elbows. In the next clinch, however, Watanabe’s judo was on display again as she landed a trip, going straight to side control. Lara rolled, tangling up one of Watanabe’s legs; the judoka looked for an arm-triangle choke as they settled in on the ground. Transitioning to the top, Lara moved into half-guard, but had to contend with submission attempts from Watanabe, who transitioned to Lara’s back. That allowed her to score some ground and pound at round’s end.
Both fighters had proven game through two rounds; in the third, Watanabe tried to walk through Lara’s left hand. That had the expected results. So did a trip by the Japanese fighter, however, and Lara was once again on her back. Watanabe sat in full guard, eating up clock as Lara tried to strike from bottom and create an opening to scramble out. She would, sort of, escape — in the final ten seconds of the round. The third-frame dominance locked up the win for Japan’s Kana Watanabe, who remains undefeated.
Official Result: Kana Watanabe def. Alejandra Lara by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)