Liz Carmouche (15-7 MMA, 2-0 Bellator) will look to remain perfect in Bellator when she meets Kana Watanabe (10-0-1 MMA, 2-0 Bellator) at Bellator 261 on Friday.
There may be more than just a win on the line for Carmouche and Watanabe. Carmouche believes her clash with Watanabe will be a title eliminator, and that the winner will be next in line for the Bellator flyweight title.
“I really think that the fight on Friday is going to be the contender spot,” Carmouche told MMASucka. “Hopefully, it ends with me fighting against the champion.”
Liz Carmouche Eyes Title Shot
Carmouche, since entering Bellator, has defeated Vanessa Porto and DeAnna Bennett. Watanabe also has a pair of wins with the promotion, turning away Alejandra Lara and Ilara Joanne.
Carmouche and Watanabe currently sit at Nos. 2 and 3 in the Bellator flyweight rankings, respectively.
Bellator’s flyweight queen, Juliana Velasquez, is set to defend her title against Denise Kielholtz on July 16 at Bellator 262. With former champion and No. 1 contender Ilima-Lei Macfarlane having not competed in MMA since her title loss to Velasquez and no return date scheduled, Carmouche believes she can get the winner of Velasquez and Kielholtz with a win over Watanabe on Friday.
Carmouche said she’s excited for the challenge that Watanabe presents. Watanabe, a blackbelt in judo, has yet to taste defeat in her professional MMA career. Carmouche would like to provide the first ‘L’ to her record.
“When you have someone who is up there and they have a flawless record, it’s nice to be that first loss on their record,” she said.
Liz Carmouche’s Resume
Carmouche believes she holds a strength of schedule advantage over Watanabe in terms of who each woman has faced over their careers. Carmouche has fought current/former UFC champions Valentina Shevchenko, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Jessica Andrade, as well as former UFC title challengers Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia and Alexis Davis, to go along with Marloes Coenen, Sarah Kaufman and Lauren Murphy.
“I don’t think [Watanabe’s] quite up there with some of the people who I faced,” Carmouche said. “Particularly Valentina Shevchenko. I do think Valentina Shevchenko is the best in the game, and there really aren’t a lot of comparisons to her when you put them side by side.”
Carmouche added she has faced a lot of adversity throughout her career, and that she’s been able to overcome it en route to evolving as a mixed martial artist.
“That’s one thing [Watanabe’s] probably not used to,” Carmouche said. “Usually, when you watch somebody, they’re constant in who they are throughout their career. There are maybe a little bit of modifications, but not much. And I’ve made drastic changes throughout my career and become an obviously different person all the time. So, trying to really pinpoint who she’s going to face on Friday is going to be very difficult for her.”
Gold On Her Mind
Before Carmouche was cut from the UFC, an organization she was with from 2013 to 2019, Carmouche said she had her eyes on joining the Bellator roster. After a title loss to Shevchenko, Carmouche got her wish.
“I really wasn’t satisfied with the things that were occurring in the UFC. And everything that I’d been getting feedback-wise from fighters in Bellator was nothing but good things. I really wanted to be part of an organization that took care of its fighters. I wanted to secure the legend and the chapters that I’ve created with an organization that I have a lot of respect for and I had a good bond with. I felt like I could do that with Bellator.”
Carmouche believes securing her legend entails winning Bellator gold.
“Finishing my career with the belt would mean the world because this is an organization that I really appreciate and I’m really honored to be a part of,” she said.
Carmouche offered a prediction to how her fight with Watanabe will end.
“My hand in the air with a finish. Not going to a decision.”
Liz Carmouche and Kana Watanabe are set to co-main Bellator 261 on Friday. The card is set to go down from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. It will air live on Showtime. The card is due to be headlined by an interim heavyweight title fight between Tim Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky.