Bellator 239: “Ruth vs. Amasov” takes place this weekend (Fri., Feb. 21, 2020) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. live on Paramount Network and DAZN. Three time NCAA Division I champion Ed Ruth (8-1) takes on unbeaten “Dynamo” Yaroslav Amosov (22-0) in the Welterweight main event.
Elsewhere on the card, Bellator Kickboxing champion Denise Kielholtz puts her 4-2 record in mixed martial arts (MMA) MMA up against “Warhorse” Kristina Williams (3-2) in a featured Flyweight fight. Williams will look to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor performance against Julianna Velasquez at Bellator 224 last year.
Williams may look to press a size advantage against Kielholtz, standing 5’8” and towering over the 5’3” Dutch fighter, but it would be dangerous to do so against a world class kickboxer who can combine speed and power to devastating effect. In addition Kielholtz is ever developing on the ground into being just as deadly with her submissions.
Today MMA Mania talks to Denise Kielholtz about her growth as a mixed martial artist and how eager she is to showcase those skills against Kristina Williams.
“Yeah I’m really excited. First of all I’m really excited to fight in the U.S. again, and then second of course my good opponent, she’s fought some good fights, you know she’s a good next challenge so I’m really really excited and looking forward to this fight.”
It’s an intriguing style match up as Williams is a martial artist who loves kickboxing and Kielholtz is a world class kickboxer who has fallen in love with MMA.
“With kickboxing if you are a champion for so many years, all of the challenges you have and you face them and you learn from them, then it’s time for a new chapter you know? My background from when I was younger is judo, so to mix the two up and to have a good trainer and a good game plan, I think that in MMA I’m going to succeed like I did in kickboxing.”
With two submissions and a knockout in her four MMA wins it would be fair to say she’s already succeeding, but that hasn’t stopped Kielholtz from striving to improve further.
“Now it’s time for a new chapter and I’m totally one thousand percent focused on this MMA game and hungry to be a better version of myself in MMA also.”
Her prior opponents could try being better versions of themselves too. Sabriye Sengul’s meltdown was an unexpectedly dramatic display after Kielholtz got a quick submission.
“She talked about a kickboxing (rematch) but now I’m already two years focused on MMA. I’ve been two years in this whole MMA division. So yeah she was complaining, okay now she wants a kickboxing (match) but I already made the transition to MMA two years ago. I really don’t know what she was talking about but I think that she was just frustrated. I think I hit her too hard.”
The counter strike Kielholtz landed rocked Sengul and set up the armbar but Kielholtz is implying it also knocked out her good sense and professional decorum as a fighter.
“I don’t know what happened but I think it was really embarrassing how she acted. I think that was really her problem but my focus is now on MMA and it has already been for two years now, so she’d have to come two years earlier if she wanted to go kickboxing with me, but I think also in kickboxing she had no chance.”
That may be the nicest way of saying someone isn’t on your level I’ve heard from a fighter to date. Kielholtz is like that in general — very charming but also very confident in her skills. That’s why she never minds being the shorter woman in a fight.
“I’m used to that you know? Like I think that I never ever in my 50 kickboxing fights, I never met a girl who was shorter than me. They were always taller than me so I’m used to that. I don’t think it’s like a negative thing that I’m shorter, I see it as a good thing because that’s my fighting style you know?”
It certainly contributes to her being nicknamed “Ms. Dynamite” in fighting — she may be small but she’s also highly explosive. She doesn’t believe Williams will act overconfident.
“I don’t see it as a thing that she’ll think ‘Oh I’m taller’ because reach is not everything. I think with my fighting style and my speed that reach is not an advantage for my opponent. So I don’t see it as ‘Oh she’s taller’ I see it as ‘Okay it’s something I’m used to, so come on — next one!’”
Kielholtz gives all the credit for her nickname to one single moment early in her career that defined her reputation and ferocity.
“That’s how I get my nickname. I fought a REALLY tall girl and I won that fight really good. After that some interviewer he told me ‘Yeah you looked like dynamite!’ That’s how I get the name ‘Ms. Dynamite’. So my nickname is based on my height and my power and speed.”
Kielholtz may speak softly, but she carries a big stick (of dynamite) that’s waiting to explode into a world title match.
“For sure! For sure! I think now that I’ve let go of the kickboxing part and I’ve completely focused on MMA, and my training camp and trainer is now fully MMA focused, that’s a big advantage for me. Those combinations in kickboxing are different. Your hands, your speed, your timing, everything is so different. So I completely turned my training camp in a different direction.”
So if that direction leads to Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, how does Kielholtz feel they match up?
“I think she is a great champion and for years now already she’s defended her title so many times, but I see some holes in her game plan and those holes are gonna be my advantage. I didn’t see anybody of the girls who fight her get in that hole. They fight with her game plan.”
That’s a fairly coy answer so I asked Kielholtz to be specific. Does she feel that Macfarlane is vulnerable in her stand-up?
“Yes! Yes. She’s really really good on the ground, and for sure her stand-up game has some holes, and that’s how I see my advantage.”
Time will tell if she can press that advantage, but first comes Kristina Williams in Thackerville. Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Ruth vs. Amosov” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.