Bellator 281: Kana Watanabe Survives Illegal Kick, Submits Denise Kielholtz

Kana Watanabe, Bellator 281
Kana Watanabe, Bellator 281 in London, England Credit: Bellator MMA

A pair of women’s flyweight contenders faced off at Bellator 281 in London Friday, in a fight that pitted the #2 and #3 fighters in the weight class against each other.

Kielholtz was coming in off a loss to Juliana Velasquez for the title, a fight that had ended in a close split decision. Watanabe had run into Liz Carmouche last time out, who had gone on to dethrone Velasquez last month.

Kielholtz came out fired up, letting loose off the opening bell, throwing a number of right hands. Watanabe responded by neutralizing that attack with a takedown; Kielholtz found herself stacked up, looking to isolate an arm. Watanabe would finally hoist Kielholtz up, and the Dutch fighter released her grip, dropping to the mat. From there, Watanabe would end up in guard, then transition to the back, looking for a choke up against the fence. Kielholtz rolled, and Kana Watanabe finished the round on her opponent’s back.

Round two found the pair going back to the ground early, which resulted in a kick to the face of Watanabe — a blatant foul on the part of Denise Kielholtz. After the doctor had checked on Watanabe, the ref deducted a point from Kielholtz, but restarted the action on the feet. Kana was clearly not impressed with that decision, given the foul had come while the pair were intertwined on the ground. That said, Watanabe would get the fight back down, and that set up the finish. She managed to trap Kielholtz in a triangle, locked it up, and forced the tap!

Having overcome some early adversity plus the foul in round two, Kana Watanabe pulls off the upset win — and inches closer to a rematch with Carmouche.

Official Result: Kana Watanabe def. Denise Kielholtz by submission (triangle), Round 2, 3:03