Bellator 295: Razor-Thin Decision Sees Ilima-Lei Macfarlane Claim Win Over Kana Watanabe

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Bellator 295
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Bellator 295 Credit: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

The possibility of one last run at Bellator’s women’s flyweight championship had Ilima-Lei Macfarlane dialed in ahead of her Bellator 295 co-main event with Kana Watanabe.

With Liz Carmouche retaining her title one night earlier, the winner of Macfarlane vs. Watanabe, ranked #3 and #2 in the weight class, respectively, was widely expected to be next up.

The early going of Saturday’s co-main event played out on the feet, where Macfarlane found success with her right hand. But it was along the fence that Watanabe put the ex-champ in a difficult spot. She briefly looked to be climbing the back, then got the fight to the ground. Macfarlane scrambled, but briefly wound up caught in an arm-bar before pulling free. From there, they’d move back to the feet, Watanabe moving forward but showing blood around one eye, the result of those Macfarlane rights.

Towards the end of the round, it was Watanabe changing levels, powering into a takedown. Macfarlane quickly scrambled up, but Watanabe stayed glued to her, riding the back and dragging the Hawaiian down at round’s end.

In the second, Watanabe looked to tie things up early, putting Macfarlane on the fence and finally landing the takedown. With a full four minutes to work, Watanabe looked to take the back as Macfarlane worked up along the fence, then took the fight back down. Macfarlane looked for a kimura off her back, to no avail. She then caught Watanabe’s head in a leg scissor, but the low-percentage position yielded no results.

After several active sequences on the ground, Watanabe wound up in side control, with Macfarlane positioned away from the fence. Given she had spent the bulk of the frame on her back, Macfarlane needed to get free, and she did just that in a scramble. But once again the Japan’s Watanabe stayed on her, and before long the fight was right back down. This time, Watanabe sat in guard while Macfarlane threw elbows off her back. Watanabe, however, answered back with ground n’ pound, some big right hands sneaking through.

When Kana Watanabe looked for an early takedown to start round three, Macfarlane managed to fight her off, eliciting a cheer from the Honolulu crowd. But a second attempt saw Watanabe complete the takedown— only for Macfarlane to scramble out and get in control against the fence. That didn’t last long, however, as Watanabe used her judo, which served her effectively throughout the fight, to land a throw, stacking Macfarlane up. Watanabe had the Hawaiian’s arm pinned momentarily, and had plenty of time to work from side control.

With considerable effect, Macfarlane regained her feet, Watanabe still clinging too her, one hook in. Macfarlane fired punches back at her opponent’s heard, and finally made space, moving back to center only for Watanabe to immediately latch onto a leg. Macfarlane defended with a front headlock, and fired a knee in the clinch. Macfarlane would finish the round dropping punches as Watanabe continued to pursue a final takedown that never did come.

The scorecards were anyone’s guess, though Watanabe winning a decision would not have been a surprise. With Macfarlane doing damage in the opening round, she likely had at least one round on her side. In the end, two judges scored it for Macfarlane, 29-28.

Official Result: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane def. Kana Watanabe by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)


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