Jack Della Maddalena was properly “stoked” to get a win on Dana White’s Contender Series in September 2021. Getting a win was his and his team’s No. 1 goal, and he did just that with an entertaining unanimous decision result over Ange Loosa.
While the general consensus believes finishes are the easiest way to earn a contract on the show, Della Maddalena’s 15-minute display of technical violence won the UFC boss over, and he was given that precious call-up to the big show moments later. The victory not only represented a career milestone for the Australian in terms of making it to the big show, but it was also the first time he went all three rounds in his 12-fight professional career.
“It was a bit upsetting at the time to get the decision on the Contender Series,” Della Maddalena told UFC.com. “After I sat back and took it in, I realized it was probably the best thing for my career to get three hard rounds in and show myself I can do it and I look forward to getting the five rounds in one day.”
Before the five-round opportunities come, however, Della Maddalena has the business of his UFC debut to handle, and as of a week-and-a-half ago, that was up in the air itself. Originally scheduled to fight veteran Warlley Alves, Della Maddalena was left without an opponent when an injury forced the Brazilian to pull out of the matchup.
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Instead, Della Maddalena faces fellow UFC debutant Pete Rodriguez, who boasts a 4-0 record with every win coming via first-round knockout. Rodriguez has yet to make it past halfway through a first round so far in his career, so while he’s not the proven commodity Della Maddalena expected, he certainly presents high levels of danger when the two step across from each other at UFC 270.
“It was a little bit upsetting when Warlley pulled out,” he said. “Obviously, it was an injury. Nothing you can do about it. It was upsetting because Warlley is obviously a veteran. He’s had a lot of fights in the UFC, a lot of good wins, so to have a debut against Warllley would’ve been awesome. Obviously, it was never meant to be, and fighting a debuting UFC athlete is exciting, as well.”
In the meantime, Della Maddalena and his team spent the last week in Las Vegas training at the UFC Performance Institute and waiting for the matchup to come to fruition. Although that uncertainty might distract some fighters, Della Maddalena was pretty unflappable about the whole process and was mostly keen on keeping his debut confined to the first month of 2022.
“It’s sort of just been business as usual,” he said. “We were promised to get a fight, and I trusted they would get me a fight, so we’ve pretty much been focused on our game plan since the last opponent pulled out. Finally got the fight, so we’re over the moon.”
The 25-year-old comes in as one of the brighter prospects coming out of the ANZAC region and holds a 10-2 record with nine finishes. Moreover, the two losses came in his first two fights, which means Della Maddalena hasn’t lost in five-and-a-half years.
All that is for naught, however, if he gets caught out on January 22. But he has an ideal sequence of events in mind for fight night. Of course, a first-round finish is always nice, but more than that, he wants to show the quality he is bringing to the welterweight division.
“If I could have the perfect match, it was just to put on a masterclass,” he said. “Not get hit, hit (them) a lot and get out of there unscathed whether it’s a finish or a decision – it doesn’t really matter.”
Della Maddalena is optimistic about the stylistic clash when he and Rodriguez step into the Octagon and he expects his opponent to come out fast with heavy, fluid hands. That said, Della Maddalena is confident in his fight IQ, and if his Contender Series bout is anything to learn from, he’ll happily accept a bit of Octagon chaos.
Another bright spot to the slightly tumultuous lead-up to his debut is the fact that he gets to make his promotional entrance in a full arena on the year’s first pay-per-view event instead of the originally scheduled affair in the UFC APEX.
He also understands the moment available to him. If he can deliver the “masterclass” he’s hoping for on fight night, it sets him up for a faster track in the shark tank that is the welterweight division. He’s drinking it all in, though. You only make your UFC debut once, and he’s definitely soaking it all in as much as he can.
Once it’s time to make that walk to the Octagon, he said he’ll have “tunnel vision,” but by no means is he in a rush.
“I enjoy the whole experience of fight week,” he said. “It’s nice just to take everything in for what it is, take it every day at a time, try not to wish the time away, don’t look too forward to the fight or the weigh-ins. Take every day (as it comes), and then get down to business when it’s game time.”
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UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane took place on Saturday, January 22, 2022, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.