Jack Della Maddalena was discouraged. He had gone 0-2 as an amateur mixed martial artist, then quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole as a pro, dropping his first bout by submission and his second via TKO. At that point, Della Maddalena and his coach at Scrappy MMA, Ben Vickers, set a goal of winning 10 straight fights. Della Maddalena earned nine wins with nine finishes between October 2016 and October 2020. That’s when the UFC reached out to the Australian fighter.
In September 2021, Della Maddalena got his chance to win his 10th straight fight. That opportunity came with some added pressure. Della Maddalena would fight for a UFC contract on the September 14, Dana White Contender Series card against the 7-1 Ange Loosa. The odds for the fight were essentially a pick ‘em.
Della Maddalena dominated the fight. His boxing was crisp and his counters were nasty. He was especially effective with his left hand and once he found his groove, he put incredible forward pressure on Loosa and controlled range very well. His output and affinity for throwing combos never gave his opponent a chance to reset.
Della Maddalena also performed well defensively. His high boxing guard gave Loosa fights and kept him at a 34 percent landing rate.
However, the fight wasn’t a completely one-sided affair. Della Maddalena found himself on the mat after a slip and Loosa took advantage of that and worked a tight choke. Della Maddalena did not panic in the precarious position and when he felt a change in position and pressure he showed excellent fight IQ and exploded back to his feet and got back to his striking.
As impressive as he was in the first two rounds, Della Maddalena looked winded in the third, and he once again found himself on his back with time ticking away. Had the fight ended in that position, it’s hard to tell if the UFC would have awarded Della Maddalena with a deal - the visual would not have been good. The 25-year-old avoided that by scrambling to his feet and finishing with a flurry of strikes.
Even though he looked a bit tired — it was his first fight to go the distance — Della Maddalena’s striking output in the third stanza was higher than in the first two rounds.
UFC commentators Michael Bisping and Laura Sanko had great praise for Della Maddalena during the bout. UFC president Dana White added more compliments in awarding the young fighter a UFC contract.
White said of Della Maddalena after his unanimous decision win, “He didn’t just show us a little of everything, he showed us a lot of everything. No matter where the fight went, this kid was really good. He’s got unbelievable head movement. Some of the transitions that happened on the ground were unbelievable. He can hit. He’s got a great chin. He’s got unbelievable stamina. he’s only 25 years old. The kid is 10-2,” White said. “ I expect big things from this kid.”
If Della Maddalena felt pressure in September, he’ll be under more stress at UFC 270. Not only will he be making his official UFC debut, but it will be in front of what is expected to be a crowded Honda Center and against a short notice replacement opponent.
Della Maddalena had been working toward a fight against UFC veteran Warlley Alves since that matchup was announced in October. However, after months of focus on Alves, the Brazilian withdrew from the bout in early January. Five days ago, Della Maddalena found out his opponent would be UFC newcomer Pete Rodriguez. Rodriguez is 4-0 as a pro with four first-round finishes. All his bouts have come with Ikon Fighting Federation. Rodriguez turned pro in October 2020 and last fought in June 2021.
“I reckon I get him out of there in the first round,” Della Maddalena said of his new opponent. “And I’ll definitely be trying to take him out as quickly as possible. Trying to take his head off. But if not, OK. Although I will be trying to finish him the whole time.”
Bisping, Sanko and White were all sold on the talents of the Australian fighter thanks to his performance at the UFC Apex, but UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski noticed the young man’s skills prior to his trip to Las Vegas.
“I remember commentating for one of his fights (in Australia). I didn’t know too much about him before that… while I was watching I was like ‘this kid has got some skills man. I’ve got to keep an eye on this kid’,” Volkanovski told The West Australian.
“A lot of people would have been watching that (fight with Loosa) and they’re going to be remembering his name and watching him the next time he fights.
“I am sure there’s going to be many more people looking forward to watching him do his thing.”
Della Maddalena and Rodriguez fight on the prelims of UFC 270, which takes place on Saturday, January 22 at Honda Center in Anaheim. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and early prelims on ESPN+.