After close to two and a half years away from combat sports, former DEEP Women’s Lightweight (106-Pound) Champion Hisae Watanabe made a successful return in a shootboxing match today. She stopped karate champ Megumi Igawa midway through the third round of an action-filled fight.
Watanabe was originally scheduled to face 2009 Girls S-Cup Champion Rena at the event, but the high school sensation was forced to withdraw earlier this week after suffering a broken finger. Following her victory, Watanabe stated that she still intends to face Rena and will knock her out.
Watanabe (19-6-0 MMA) announced her retirement from mixed martial arts following a December 2007 victory in DEEP, but engaged in a light-hearted exhibition MMA and shootboxing match with Megumi Fujii last August. The former kickboxer had planned to return to mixed martial arts in December, but suffered a broken foot in training and was forced to withdraw. Before she eyes a return to mixed martial arts, however, she will first square off with Rena in a highly-anticipated shootboxing match.
Rena (left) and Hisae Watanabe (right) at pre-fight press conference.
(Photo Credits: gbring.com)
Watanabe was in full control throughout the bout with Igawa and ring rust did not appear to play a significant factor. Now training at the Blue Dog Gym, Watanabe employed an effective game plan consisting of quick punch-kick combinations and her tradtional looping hooks. Watanabe also made use of head kicks to keep Igawa guessing and Igawa appeared weary heading into the third round. Watanabe scored a knockdown with a big right hand and sent Igawa to the mat again soon after with a left hook. The referee stopped the fight at 1:25 of round three, giving Watanabe the TKO victory.
Both Watanabe and Rena were present at the pre-fight press conference and weigh-ins yesterday, with Rena sporting a cast on her injured hand. Intending to score knockout wins in all of her fights now that she is back, Watanabe promised to do just that when she meets Rena once the 18-year-old has had time to recover. A timetable for Watanabe’s return to MMA is not yet known, but she would be a welcome addition to any promotion in Japan or even as a participant in the possible Bellator women’s tournament in August.