Once the 24-year-old discovered his range, however, he proceeded to overwhelm his Japanese rival in the final period of their ONE Super Series kickboxing flyweight bout.
Ultimately, that late surge helped carry Bothelo to a unanimous decision victory at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
Rui Botelho puts on a kickboxing masterclass to clinch a unanimous decision victory over Yuta Watanabe!Watch the full event on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, 8 March 2019
Watanabe, who had a noticeable height and reach advantage, utilized his natural gifts from the very beginning of the contest.
The man from Kanagawa, Japan looked to establish his dominance in the opening exchanges, and he used his powerful left kicks to good effect.
Botelho — a WKA European Champion — attempted to charge forward with strikes before sliding out of range, but found it difficult to close the distance and settle into the contest.
However, after taking the first round to assess his opponent’s range and read his timing, the Portuguese striker upped his intensity in the second frame. That is when he started to find success.
Bothelo increased his pressure, opened up opportunities with low kicks, and then followed up with multi-punch combinations.
The momentum truly shifted late in the stanza as he unleashed a sustained flurry of strikes in the pocket to put an exclamation point on an excellent round.
Clearly encouraged by his improved performance, the Lisbon native looked to seal the victory in the third and final round.
Watanabe briefly derailed his European foe’s momentum in the opening seconds of the frame with a beautiful sweep.
Undeterred, Botelho returned to his high-pressure strategy. He loaded up on his punching power, and got his reward — a huge overhand right dropped the Japanese warrior to the canvas for the first official knockdown of the contest.
Moments later, a brilliant right-left combination stunned Watanabe sufficiently enough to force a standing eight count.
Knowing a third count would see him win the contest by TKO, Botelho kept up the pressure, but he was unable to deliver the finish. Watanabe gamely survived the remaining seconds to take the match to the scorecards.
Following a strong display in rounds two and three, the Portuguese striker deservedly got his hand raised in the center of the cage.
The kickboxing victory added another notable win to his professional record. It joins his 17 Muay Thai wins and shows Botelho is equally adept under both rule sets in ONE Super Series.