Bellator flyweight contender Liz Carmouche looks to continue her run through the rankings as she takes on Kana Watanabe this Friday at Bellator 261.
In April, it appeared that Liz Carmouche had done the work to lock in third shot at a major world title in mixed martial arts. Her opponent Vanessa Porto was coming into Bellator as the reigning Invicta FC flyweight champion with a wealth of MMA experience behind her, and Carmouche decisively won by unanimous decision. This was already adding to her considerable resume that contains victories over current UFC contenders Lauren Murphy, Katlyn Chookagian, and Jennifer Maia.
So when Bellator announced that the next challenger for champion Juliana Velasquez would be Denie Kielholtz, it came as a slight surprise to all. But for Carmouche, the feeling did not linger as an immediate title shot was something she came into Bellator not expecting.
I was a little surprised too but like I said entering into Bellator, I want to work my way up the ranks. Me being placed number two and not number one, certainly doesn’t put me as being next up. So in that way regard I’m not really surprised. I want to work my way up the ranks and clean out the division so I can get that contender spot. So, I’ll still do that hopefully by the end of year.
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) April 5, 2021
While Carmouche has said she respects that other women in Bellator have been with the promotion longer and have been working their way towards a title shot, it was always clear that she was being brought in to make an immediate impact in the division. A part of that story has been the fact that she is the longtime training partner of former champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane. Recently, there had been talk of the two not training together as frequently with the possibility of the two meeting in the cage. However, Carmouche confirms it is a matter of schedule that she has simply not done as much work with Macfarlane lately.
We still go together. I still do Jiu Jitsu over there and I still will go over there for sparring. So we certainly do when we have the opportunity. It seems like our schedules just never line up. She does a lot more traveling than I do. Then I also own and operate a gym so it just seems like our schedules don’t quite line up the way that they used to, now I’m not working at the same gym anymore. That’s the biggest difference. Before I was running that gym that we both trained at so I was able to squeeze out and get training sessions in with her and now I’m not able to that same thing because I’m about 20 minutes away. But when we have the opportunities we still train together whenever we can.
The next assignment for Carmouche will be undefeated Japanese contender Kana Watanabe who recently became a part of the fold in Bellator. Watanabe had accumulated an impressive 7-0-1 record in DEEP and RIZIN, but recently got the attention of the Western audience by defeating Ilara Joanne and Bellator veteran Alejandra Lara. On her skills, Carmouche says she sees something very familiar in regards to Watanabe’s success.
I think one thing that you can really see, whether it’s with Ronda or anyone else is just how successful Judo is in MMA and how it’s a really good partnership to shut down wrestling. I think because of that and then part of their game being able to have to hold somebody in place for a moment in time, something like we do in wrestling, that just makes it adaptable into MMA and so that’s why it’s worked really well because it shuts down wrestling and wrestling is such a key part of MMA that I don’t think a lot of people are prepared for it.
With a victory, one figures that Carmouche will have done enough to once again get a shot at the Bellator title. Currently, the belt will be contested for on July 16 between Juliana Velasquez and Denise Kielholtz. On the matchup, Carmouche says:
Yeah, I’m really excited for that one. I think it’s a really hard one just to figure out because I think it’s two really talented women. I think it’ll probably go the distance and then have to go decision just because they’re both going to be looking for finishes and will be hurting each other the entire time and they’re strong in all areas so that’s a really exciting one I’m looking forward to.
Liz Carmouche will face Kana Watanabe this Friday at Bellator 261 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.