Hisae Watanabe's MMA Return Delayed Due To InjuryJewels showcased many of their top stars this past Friday at “Sixth Ring” in Japan, but one familiar face was missing from the card. Former DEEP Women’s Lightweight (106-Pound) Champion Hisae Watanabe was unable to participate due to a broken foot suffered in training.

Watanabe, a devastating knockout artist who had hoped to make her MMA return at the event after a two-year absence, injured her foot during training in late summer. The injury had not healed sufficiently for her to compete at the December event, but she may return to action early next year.

Watanabe (19-6-0), easily the most feared Japanese striker in women’s MMA, captured the DEEP title at DEEP: “25th Impact” on August 4th, 2006 with a one-punch knockout of then-undefeated (21-0-2) champion Satoko Shinashi. Watanabe had previously lost to Shinashi via submission in Smackgirl in late 2002.

Of Watanabe’s 19 victories, an incredible 11 have come by a form of knockout, with most coming via a single punch that left her opponents unconscious on the mat. A successful kickboxer before entering mixed martial arts, Watanabe quickly made a name for herself in MMA with punching power that was found among extremely few female fighters at the time.

Consistently competing against high-level opposition throughout her career, Watanabe enjoyed considerable success during a lengthy tenure in Smackgirl and also won two fights in Pancrase. In 2004, she became the Golden Muscle “Strongest Queen” Tournament Champion with three victories in a single night.

Watanabe suffered a setback in June of 2005 when she lost to Yuka “Vale Tudo Queen” Tsuji via armbar in the first round of their Smackgirl bout. At the time, Tsuji was the number one female fighter in the promotion and the fight was a significant step up for Watanabe. Not to be deterred, Watanabe bounced back with three straight wins.

That set up the fateful rematch with Shinashi, which was regarded as the biggest women’s MMA bout to have ever taken place at the time. Dwarfing the smaller Shinashi, Watanabe outclassed her opponent and twice nearly finished the fight with armbars, then ended Shinashi’s night and undefeated streak with a single right hook.

Unfortunately, Watanabe was unable to keep up the momentum and she was defeated by tough Korean challenger Seo Hee Ham at DEEP: “28th Impact” in a non-title bout. After submitting veteran Masako Yoshida, Watanabe’s title was on the line when she battled Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto at DEEP: “31st Impact” in August 2007.

Matsumoto surprised many by getting the better of a number of the striking exchanges in the fight and defeated Watanabe by Majority Decision to claim the 106-pound title. Watanabe competed once more and picked up another submission win – just the third of her career – at “33rd Impact,” then announced her plans to retire from the sport soon after.

During her time away, Watanabe got married and had a child, but her desire to compete never went away. She appeared in “High-Kick Girl!” (official trailer), a martial arts-themed movie that featured real fighting and no stunt actors. Its U.S. release is targeted for March 2010.

In mid-2009, DEEP and Jewels matchmaker Shigeru Saeki announced that Watanabe was planning a return to mixed martial arts competition. Watanabe engaged in an exhibition kickboxing and MMA match with #1-ranked Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii in August and stated her intentions to compete at Jewels: “Sixth Ring.”

Watanabe (left) & Fujii (right) Exhibition Bout  (Photo Credit: Susumu Nagao)

However, a broken foot suffered during training did not heal in time for Watanabe to be a part of the card, which went ahead without her. The event crowned three Rough Stone Grand Prix Champions in a trio of featured bouts, but was marred by a premature referee stoppage in the main event between Saori Ishioka and “Slick” Sally Krumdiack.

As the Jewels roster continues to grow and the promotion begins to enjoy some of the success that its predecessor, Smackgirl, enjoyed, the addition of Watanabe to the 106-pound ranks would be a welcome one. Saeki is eager for Watanabe to compete again, but it is not known whether she will make her return in Jewels or DEEP.

Fujii (19-0-0), whom Watanabe faced in the light-hearted exhibition match in August, is rumoured to be facing Watanabe’s old rival Miku Matsumoto in the coming months. Matsumoto (23-4-0), who has been on a tear as of late and has won 12 fights in a row, could potentially take over the top spot in the women’s division with a victory over the undefeated Fujii.

While a return date is still unknown for Watanabe, it is likely that she will try to compete in early 2010 if an opportunity arises. She would be wise to ease her way back into the sport after the two-year layoff, but a rematch with Matsumoto or a non-exhibition bout with Fujii would both be very popular with fans.

Jewels is planning to feature five events in 2010, with “Seventh Ring” set to take place on March 19th at Shinjuku FACE. The venue was completely sold out for “Sixth Ring” on Friday and the promotion will look to duplicate that success next year.

A proposed December 17th event is scheduled to take place at the much larger Korakuen Hall. It is all but assured that Jewels will feature all of their top stars on that card and one or more superfights will certainly be on display.

  1. […] plans to feature Watanabe’s return to professional competition in the months ahead, but an injury suffered in training kept Watanabe off of the “Sixth Ring” card and a timetable for her […]

  2. […] 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, […]