Prospect in the Spotlight (Apr 2-3): Kana Watanabe

Introduction

Friday, April 2nd, Japanese flyweight prospect Kana Watanabe will be in action for Bellator, where she will be looking to continue her undefeated ways against fellow prospect Alejandra Lara. She will be looking for another win, as Watanabe looks to impress the Bellator brass in an attempt to earn an eventual title shot. She represents Fighter’s Flow, an unknown camp in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”

Strengths

Submission Grappling: Watanabe is a judo black belt, which makes sense given her fighting style. She has great takedowns, especially in from close. She is very strong. Just look at her. She has a muscular frame with an excellent core, strong upper body and good lower base. Once on the ground, she’s a lot to handle. She advances position well and uses a great mix of ground-and-pound and offensive submissions to inch closer toward the finish. She has a strong submission arsenal, which accounts for three of her wins (two by armbar, one by rear-naked choke). Her ground-and-pound is especially nasty, as she generates big power and does damage. As you saw in her Bellator debut opposite Ilara Joanne, she is relentless from the top and does not stop landing shots until the ref pulls her off.

Endurance: Although Watanabe has several first-round finishes, Watanabe has proven she can fight all three rounds and do so effectively. She has won three decision victories as a pro thus far, but it’s her late round win over Joanne that showed she is dangerous even late in the fight. She has good cardio and can keep a good pace throughout the fight. And when the chips are down and the clock is close to expiring, Watanabe keeps up that pressure and can score a win before calling in the judges.

Needs Improvement

Striking Diversity: While Watanabe does have one standing knockout win, where she blitzed through Shizuka Sugiyama in 11 seconds, her striking certainly still needs some work. While she is powerful, as we have discussed, her striking diversity isn’t going to fool many people. She tends to throw low-volume combinations that tend to be simple. She throws a lot of 1-2 and 1-2-3s, which are easier to defend in MMA when kicks and other punches aren’t utilized. In terms of intangibles, she tends to fight flat footed and does not cut off angles well when hunting her opponent. It makes her a lot easier to hit and counter on, especially against an opponent with superior striking. Those kinks will need to be addressed as she continues her climb up the Bellator ladder.

Outlook

Bellator Title Challenger: Watanabe is clearly talented and is a girl that is going to be sniffing around the Bellator title sooner rather than later. She’s a top-notch athlete with an excellent mat game. That sounds a lot like Bellator champ Juliana Velasquez. First up for Watanabe, though, is a tough prospect in Alejandra Lara, who is definitely going to test Watanabe’s striking. We will see if her striking has improved enough at this point in this fight. If it has and she can handle herself standing with Lara (and obviously on the mat), she could be a fight or two away from a title shot.

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