Jack Della Maddalena went through three different opponents across two events in the past two weeks and then he ended up going to war with late replacement Bassil Hafez in a surprising Fight of the Night at UFC Vegas 77.
Despite entering the fight as the biggest favorite on the entire card, Della Maddalena had to battle to a split decision to keep his undefeated record in the UFC intact while going three rounds for the first time since joining the roster. Nothing came easy on Saturday night but Della Maddalena didn’t expect anything less, especially with Hafez looking to impress after getting his shot in the UFC by accepting this challenge.
“When I look back it wasn’t my best performance but it was a lot of fun,” Della Maddalena said at the UFC Vegas 77 post-fight press conference. “I came in with a crazy three weeks and at the end of the day, you’ve just got to get in there and grit out a tough fight. It was a tough fight. That’s what I came here for. The team came out and it was a tough fight. I expected a tough fight. A guy with a big opportunity on his hands and he delivered. It was a lot of fun.
“I never underestimate anyone’s toughness. For a guy to step in on a week’s notice, you’ve got to think that he’s a tough guy. It wasn’t anything unexpected. There are things that I can probably learn from and I could have done better but that’s what this game is all about.”
Because Della Maddalena has been touted as a future contender in the welterweight division, most expected him to lay waste to Hafez, who took the fight on just five days’ notice.
Instead, Hafez scored several takedowns and refused to go away with Della Maddalena also making his fair share of questionable decisions, which included jumping for a guillotine choke several times during the fight.
There was plenty of criticism aimed at Della Maddalena when it came to his fight IQ as well as possibly exposing a potential weak spot in his grappling even if he ultimately stopped 17 out of 20 takedown attempts.
“He got takedowns,” Della Maddalena said. “I don’t think he did too much but I don’t really care what anyone says. I’m here to fight. Bring it on. It doesn’t bother me at all [if people question my fight IQ].”
As far as the decision goes, Della Maddalena felt confident in his victory, although there’s always a certain amount of concern when the scorecards are being announced and one judge gave the fight to Hafez.
“I thought I landed the bigger shots,” Della Maddalena said. “You never know. Like when I heard the split decision, I thought it could go either way. The judges are always all over the place but I felt like I landed the bigger shots, he was shooting pretty desperately and I feel like on top he didn’t do a whole lot of damage.
“I’ll look back on it and see but I’m glad to get my hand raised and I’m happy for him. Big opportunity and he delivered.”
With this fight behind him, Della Maddalena is anxiously awaiting his next assignment with hopes that he’ll get the chance to compete at home again with UFC 293 scheduled in Sydney, Australia on Sept. 9.
“I’m heading back home, I’ll take a few days, get back in the gym and Sydney, it’s on,” Della Maddalena said. “It would be cool to do that fight [with Sean Brady]. I think that was a great fight. Hopefully he sees this and goes ‘actually yeah, I would love to go to Sydney.’”