Former DEEP Women’s Lightweight Champion Hisae Watanabe may make her long-awaited return to mixed martial arts this Fall. Watanabe retired from MMA in late 2007, but has competed in kickboxing and shootboxing bouts this year, including in the recent 2010 Shoot Boxing Girls S-Cup.
Competing primarily at 48kg (106 pounds), Watanabe totalled 11 knockout victories in MMA and captured the DEEP title in 2006. MMARising.com has learned that Watanabe’s return to MMA is likely to take place at Jewels: “Eleventh Ring” on December 17th at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.
Late last month, SKILL MMA reported that Watanabe may compete at DEEP: “50th Impact” on October 24th at JCB Hall. While this could still happen, sources tell MMARising.com that Watanabe is more likely to compete for Jewels on their big year-end card in December. DEEP boss Shigeru Saeki also oversees operations in the all-female Jewels promotion, but has reportedly not yet made an official decision as to which card Watanabe will compete on.
Watanabe (19-6-0), who is currently taking a break from training after losing to Rena Kubota in the first round of the Girls S-Cup, was tentatively set to return to MMA last December before a foot injury kept her on the sidelines. Following the shootboxing match with Kubota, Watanabe stated that she did not care for the short rounds (two minutes) used in the fight and expressed a desire to compete in the “larger ring in Korakuen Hall” at least one more time. Should she compete for Jewels in December, Watanabe will have an opportunity to do just that.
A former kickboxer, Watanabe entered MMA as a fairly one-dimensional fighter but worked diligently to develop an all-around skill set for mixed martial arts. On August 24, 2006, she became the first DEEP Women’s Lightweight (106-Pound) Champion when she knocked out the previously unbeaten “Princess” Satoko Shinashi with a single punch. However, Watanabe was upset in a non-title bout with South Korean kickboxing star Seo Hee Ham six months later and lost the DEEP title to Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto on August 25, 2007; one year and one day after she defeated Shinashi.
Following one more fight, Watanabe announced her retirement from the sport.
Watanabe has competed four times this year; three times in shootboxing and once in a kickboxing title bout. She is 2-1-1 in that time, with shootboxing wins over Megumi Igawa and Sumie Yamada. A bid for the WPMF Japan Women’s Mini Flyweight Championship in kickboxing ended with a Split Draw when Watanabe faced Little Tiger on July 19, 2010. Watanabe was defeated by TKO in the second round of her shootboxing bout with Kubota, but she has never been stopped by strikes in her MMA career.
Despite her time away, Watanabe still holds more knockout victories (11) than Strikeforce champions Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (8) and Sarah Kaufman (9), as well as fellow Japanese striker “Windy” Tomomi Sunaba (8). She remains the most devastating female striker in Japan and could make a significant impact in DEEP, Jewels or both. An official decision regarding Watanabe’s participation in MMA this Fall is expected in the coming weeks.
(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)