by Benoit Barberousse for MMAWeekly.com
Hisae Watanabe is all set to make her first DEEP Women’s Lightweight title defense on August 5th. Her opponent will be the woman formerly known as the “Rookie Fireball”, Miku Matsumoto. The bout is the first scheduled for DEEP’s 31st Impact card in Tokyo’s historical Korakuen Hall.

Developing a reputation as the sole knockout artist in the 48kg division, Watanabe gained her belt when she knocked out long-time 48kg Queenpin Satoko Shinashi last August in a bout which saw Watanabe’s newfound grappling proficiency frustrate the Sambo Queen’s routine submission assault. The bout was a rematch for the pair of their clash for the inaugural Smackgirl Flyweight Champion strap.

In February, however, Watanabe met Korean kickboxer Ham Su Hi. In a non-title bout, which was suppose to be a gift for Watanabe, the attending DEEP audience was witness to Watanabe’s complete frustration in what had formerly been her strong suite in stand-up. Ham had proven to be the more technical of the two, evading Watanabe’s close-quarters attack and countering her to perfection. Ham was rewarded a unanimous decision for her efforts and Watanabe was to return to the drawing board. Since then, she dominated the ailing Masako Yoshida en route to a submission victory, her first in three years.

Miku Matsumoto was originally billed as the next great star in the division following the six-win streak that opened her career. Matsumoto impressed with her dazzling grapping ability until she met the dangerous but inconsistent Misaki Takimoto in December of 2005, falling victim to an armbar in the second round. With a first round submission victory over Masakazu Imanari flame Yuki Furudate, things seemed to be back on track for the ‘fireball.’ Brazil’s Carina Damm had other plans, however, and handed Matsumoto her second career loss last July on Mars’ Mars Attack card. Controversy surrounding the outcome of the bout, led by DEEP head honcho Saeki, resulted in a rematch, which Matsumoto dominated. Rising star Lisa Ward stopped Matsumoto in the Smackgirl ring in September, out-grappling her before finishing her with an armlock. Matsumoto would rebound with a win over journeywoman Seri Saito. Her most rejuvenating victory came this past May when she submitted Ham Su Hi – who was fresh from her victory over Watanabe – in the second round of their tangle on a CLUB DEEP card. This past Saturday, Matsumoto avenged the loss to Takimoto when she secured an armbar towards the end of the first round.

For this bout, Watanabe will probably look to exploit Matsumoto’s lacking stand-up ability. As best indicated in her battles with Carina Damm, Matsumoto has a penchant for standing flat, head pointed down, and throwing whatever haymaker and hail mary that may connect. What Matsumoto lacks in the striking department, she makes up for in jiu-jitsu prowess; though Watanabe has made significant strides in that particular aspect of her arsenal, Matsumoto will present to her a far greater danger than that of the usually passive Yoshida or the easily frustrated Shinashi. Watanabe will want to employ her stalking style of old which involved much circular footwork and use of angles to avoid clinches and counters, all the while peppering her opponent into frustration and setting up the knockout.

DEEP 31st Impact
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

Tentative Fight Card (Card Subject to Change):

DEEP Women’s Lightweight Championship
48KG, 2R 5M
Hisae Watanabe (Freelance) vs. Miku Matsumoto (Club BARBARIAN)