Kana Watanabe, Kanna Asakura & Ai Shimizu Earn Wins At Bellator 237One of Japan’s fastest rising stars, Kana Watanabe, kept her undefeated record intact and picked up her biggest career victory tonight at Bellator 237 in Saitama, Japan. Watanabe overcame a strong first round from Brazil’s Ilara “Arya Stark” Joanne and rallied to earn a third-round TKO stoppage.

Also on tonight’s Bellator 237 card, former Rizin Fighting Federation grand prix champion Kanna Asakura earned her third victory in 2019 by submitting Jayme “AtomBomb” Hinshaw, and highly-touted prospect Ai “Princess Bee” Shimizu took a Split Decision win over Andy “The CrAsian” Nguyen.

 

Watanabe (9-0-1) felt the punching power of Joanne (9-5-0) early in tonight’s flyweight matchup, as she was repeatedly tagged by one-twos on the feet. When Watanabe took the fight to the ground, Joanne quickly countered with a modified triangle choke, which she used to control Watanabe’s positioning. Watanabe eventually managed to escape after eating elbows to the face from Joanne, and she landed punches from top position in side control. Late in the round, Watanabe looked to set up an arm-triangle choke and she took Joanne’s back before the bell.

The second round began with Joanne reversing a takedown, but she was unable to do anything from top position other than hold Watanabe down against the base of the cage. Watanabe ultimately swept in the final 35 seconds and she landed some solid shots from top position before the bell. In round three, Watanabe immediately took Joanne down and she kept her there as time ticked down on the clock. Late in the round, Watanabe used her punches to set up a move to back control, where she flattened Joanne out and landed more punches for the TKO stoppage at the 4:39 mark of round three.

“I won as a Rizin fighter, so I am very happy with that,” Watanabe stated backstage after her victory. “I expected that [Joanne] would be strong. I was better at grappling and she fared better at striking. I trained to not get hit by my opponent’s right hand, but I did get hit some. In particular, by one heavy strike, but it did not affect my head. Later on, I came back as expected. I could defend the triangle and armbar. They were not too dangerous. I want to challenge opponents in the United States. I want to be a worldwide fighter and I want to claim a Rizin championship, too.”

 

Asakura (16-4-0) took Hinshaw (4-4-0) down in the opening round and landed some decent ground and pound before Hinshaw countered with upkicks. Asakura used the opportunity to pass to half-guard and she used hammerfists to set up a move to Hinshaw’s back. Hinshaw defended well and fought off Asakura’s choke attempts until the end of the round. Neither fighter landed anything signficant in the second round until Asakura began to have success with kicks to the body. She took Hinshaw down against the cage and worked for a keylock and an armbar before time expired.

In the final round, Asakura took Hinshaw down and she eventually moved to North-South position. Hinshaw survived one kimura attempt from Asakura, but a second kimura was successful and Hinshaw tapped out at the 3:33 mark of the third round.

“I finally got a finish,” a relieved Asakura said backstage. “In this division, fights are really tough. After my loss to Miyuu [Yamamoto], I realised the style of how I want to be. I showed part of that in this fight. I didn’t focus especially hard on grappling, but normal training improved my grappling skills. The kimura tapped her once with a severe squeeze, but the ref did not realise it. So I did it a second time, and finally she tapped again and the ref saw it. I felt comfortable fighting in the cage [tonight] and I would like an opportunity to fight abroad.”

 

Shimizu (7-1-0) and Nguyen (6-9-0) battled back and forth for 15 minutes in a competitive matchup tonight. Shimizu worked for takedowns against the cage in round one, but Nguyen defended well and she got right back to her feet when Shimizu briefly got her down. Shimizu was able to secure a body-lock takedown later in the round and she landed punches to the body as Nguyen continued to defend well until the bell. The fighters traded strikes on the feet in round two, but neither was able to land anything significant and Shimizu took Nguyen down again. Both fighters landed punches on the ground and Shimizu closed out the round with knee strikes from side control.

In round three, Shimizu faked takedowns and she struck to the body. Nguyen responded with leg kicks and Shimizu took her down. Nguyen tied her up from the bottom and eventually scrambled up to her feet, where both women landed punches before the final bell. One judge scored the fight for Nguyen, but the other two both sided with Shimizu, who took the Split Decision victory.

“I could have done better,” Shimizu said of her performance. “I stayed calm while striking, but I could not grapple well because I felt the pressure of [Nguyen’s] armbars from the bottom. I am fighting against a much different level of opponents than last year, so I think that I have improved. My plan was to take her back since she tried for armbars from the bottom, but I couldn’t control her very well and so I can’t think about future challenges right now. My opponent has had a much longer career than me, and so have Kanna [Asakura] and Rena [Kubota]. I want to challenge them, but not in the near future.”

 

 

(Photo Credit: Deep)