The most recent fantasy MMA news from RotoWire.
Fantasy AnalysisOrtiz and Liddell have long been rivals, and their UFC 66 matchup remains a top-10 highest-grossing MMA event in the history of Las Vegas. This rivalry has been a bit one-sided, however, as Liddell has defeated Ortiz via knockout both at UFC 66 in 2006 and UFC 47 in 2004. Ortiz has been the more active fighter of late, however, as he's competed in nine professional bouts since Liddell walked away from the sport in 2010. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" is coming off a four-fight stint with Bellator MMA, which concluded in January of 2017 with a submission victory over Chael Sonnen. His activity, mixed with the fact that he's five years younger than Liddell, should make him the betting favorite in 2018. A date and location for the fight have yet to be announced, but it will take place in a cage as opposed to a ring, and be promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions.
Fantasy AnalysisTalks of this trilogy fight have gone on for months, but now the ink is on paper. Liddell retired from MMA back in 2010, but needed a little encouragement from UFC President Dana White, and has been hinting at a comeback for quite some time. Now 48 years old and no longer associated with the UFC following the recent ownership change, Liddell is feeling that itch, and only long-time rival Tito Ortiz can scratch it. One of the pioneers of MMA, Liddell ended his career on a 1-5 run, with his last appearance being a first-round knockout at the hands of Rich Franklin at UFC 115. Long before that and still in his prime, Liddell had faced and defeated Ortiz twice -- once by second-round KO in 2004, and again by third-round TKO in 2006. This time around, Ortiz is fresh off a four-fight run with Bellator, most recently defeating Chael Sonnen via submission at Bellator 170 in January 2017. Ortiz is five years younger and has fought nine times since Liddell retired, so on paper he'd have the edge given his recent activity. Nobody can be certain how often or how intense Liddell has trained over the last eight years, however, making this fight a true toss-up.
Fantasy AnalysisCiting a troublesome relationship with the organization over the last year and a half highlighted by ongoing controversy with USADA, Barnett announced that he is officially no longer a member of UFC. He did not state where he will be heading next specifically, but he did write that he was hoping for the chance to compete in fights that he wants, mentioning grappling and professional wrestling.
Fantasy AnalysisBarnett was flagged in December 2016 for a potential anti-doping violation, but after a lengthly appeal process, he was finally cleared to fight again in March. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion has now been out of competition nearly two years, having last picked up a win over Andrei Arlovski in September 2016. Now 40 years old, Barnett does not wish to re-enter the testing pool for the organization that did him wrong, preferring to finish his career under the banner of another promotion.
Fantasy AnalysisMendes was recently handed a suspension for a failed drug test, and while he was in the process of appealing the suspension, he has ultimately elected to not wait to take part in one last fight with the UFC. The Absolute Championship Berkut announced Thursday that they had signed a deal with Mendes, and his departure from the UFC confirms that. In four years as an MMA fighter, Mendes boasts a 6-2 record.
Fantasy AnalysisMcCall distinguished himself as one of the top flyweights during his 15-year career, compiling a 13-7-1 record across 21 bouts. The 33-year-old first rose to prominence in 2011 for the Tachi Palace Fights promotion and immediately became one of the premier 125-pound fighters in the UFC when it added the flyweight division in 2012. McCall had seen his career take a downhill turn in recent years after leaving UFC for the Rizin promotion, with his final bout coming earlier this month when he was knocked out by Kyoji Horiguchi in nine seconds. McCall didn't dismiss the possibility of fighting again if a lucrative offer came his way, but it seems unlikely that a major payday would be in the cards for a fighter in decline and approaching his mid-30s.
Fantasy AnalysisGonzalez has now won back-to-back contests since joining Invicta FC, starting with a unanimous decision over Kali Robbins in March, and most recently this first-round stoppage. Though Gonzalez came up empty in her UFC opportunity, the 31-year-old could get a chance to make another run if she's able to keep up the current winning streak.
Fantasy AnalysisKaufman ended her UFC tenure with back-to-back losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Alexis Davis, and proceeded to take more than a year off. She's been able to get back on track since, defeating Jessica-Rose Clark while competing for Battlefield Fighting Championship, and then picking up consecutive wins under the all-female Invicta FC banner. At 32 years old, Kaufman seemingly has room for another run in her, though it remains to be seen when she might get that opportunity. Though she has victories over several UFC bantamweights on her resume, Kaufman has never faced current champion Amanda Nunes.
Fantasy AnalysisSmith was scheduled to face Aspen Ladd at UFC Atlantic City last Saturday, but Ladd missed weight by 1.8 pounds, which began intense negotiations between Smith and the promotion. According to Smith, she proposed to the UFC that she would still accept the fight if the promotion chose to extend her deal. Instead, Smith says the UFC paid her both show money and a win bonus on her current contract, and now considers her a free agent. Smith has long been a figurehead for fighter rights, and is the interim president of Project Spearhead -- the most recent organization formed in an effort to unionize MMA fighters. The 35-year-old bantamweight, who had won back-to-back fights, does not believe she received a fair shake, and intends to take legal action against the UFC. Despite the small winning streak, it would be surprising to see her compete in a sanctioned event any time soon as she shifts her focus to the courtroom.
Fantasy AnalysisSmith was offered 20 percent of Ladd's purse and an extra $5,000 after Ladd failed to make weight Friday, but Smith declined the offer and the fight is officially off.
Fantasy AnalysisGonzalez fought against Kali Robbins in March at Invicta FC 28 and won by unanimous decision to bring her professional record to 7-3. The former UFC strawweight will have a quick turnaround of just six weeks before facing off with Acioly on May 4.
Fantasy AnalysisRawlings really struggled in this fight. She landed her share of strikes, but she was behind the entire time. Whenever she landed a strike, she also absorbed multiple strikes. It is hard to imagine how she keeps her job in the UFC. She is now riding a four-fight losing streak and has lost five of her last seven fights.
Fantasy AnalysisRawlings will be coming up from the strawweight division, while Evans-Smith is moving down from the bantamweight division, so it's not surprising to see the latter with a two-inch height and three-inch reach advantage. Furthermore, neither has secured a victory in 2017, so each could be fighting with their UFC future on the line. Over relatively short sample sizes, Rawlings averages a slightly higher striking output, while Evans-Smith is the more careful striker, owning the better striking differential. As of Wednesday afternoon, Rawlings finds herself approximately a (+170) betting underdog.
Fantasy AnalysisPepey (13-6) originally joined the UFC via the first edition of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil back in 2012 -- going 3-0 during the reality show. In fewer than six years as a UFC fighter, he went 5-6 and will end his UFC career on a two-fight losing streak.