Octagon Oracles: Jack Della Maddalena vs. Pete Rodriguez

Drew Beaupre:

Grade: B-


Former Eternal MMA welterweight champion Jack Della Maddalena will make his UFC debut on Saturday at UFC 270 following his unanimous decision victory on Dana White’s Contender Series last September.


While Della Maddalena’s pro career got off to an inauspicious start back in 2016 when he was finished in his first two pro fights, he’s been undefeated since then and has finished nine of his ten opponents. The one decision on his record came in his DWCS fight in September, where he put on arguably the most complete performance of his career in earning 30-27 scorecards from all three judges.


With all but one of his stoppage wins coming via strikes, the Australian is most at home on the feet. Frequent stance switches are a staple of his game, and he’s as comfortable working from southpaw as he is from orthodox. From range he’ll mainly us hard low kicks and jabs with the occasional front kick thrown in, but he’s most dangerous in close when he’ll start throwing hooks to both the head and body of his opponents.


One thing that stood out to me watching his bouts in Eternal MMA was the commentators regularly discussing how he almost always “gets caught” by something in the opening rounds of his fights. I do think he has a bit of a tendency to start slowly in the first round, but if his DWCS bout with Ange Loosa and first round finish of Aldin Bates in his final fight for Eternal are anything to go off of, it looks like he’s taken steps to address that habit.

Even though he’s just twenty-five, Della Maddalena’s experience should allow him to jump right into the thick of things in the UFC’s welterweight division. Originally scheduled to face Warrley Alves, Della Maddalena will now square off with fellow debutante Pete Rodriguez on Saturday night.


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Grade: C


Compiling a 4-0 pro record from 2020-2021 in iKon Fighting Federation, Rodriguez’s career so far has been all about his striking. He’s finished all four of his opponents in the first round, though he spent brief periods on the ground against Jorge Olea and Roberto Pixley where he was able to show off some of his ground and pound. On the feet, “Dead Game” looks relaxed and is comfortable switching between stances. He’s also shown a knack for catching the kicks of his opponents and making them pay with either a takedown or one of his thunderous right hands.


It’s difficult to give a comprehensive picture of Rodriguez’s overall skills and potential, as his four pro bouts have combined for less than a full round of fight time. One thing that’s certain is he can knock people out, be it with a vicious combination of punches as he did against Roberto Pixley, or with a flying knee like he used to finish Yasser Guzman in eleven seconds.


While Della Maddalena has the more extensive pro record, Rodriguez also went 7-2 as an amateur before turning pro in 2020. Della Maddalena still clearly boasts the experience edge in pro bouts and overall competition level, but Rodriguez does have more time in the cage than his 4-0 record indicates.


Like Della Maddalena, Rodriguez is just twenty-five and has plenty of time to develop. This UFC opportunity may have come a little bit too soon for Rodriguez, but he could take advantage of a slow start from Della Maddalena and surprise the Australian with his power to score an upset. He’s going to take a few losses at some point, but if he’s able to stick around in the UFC I’m interested to see how he develops.


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James Colwell:

Pete Rodriguez:

Grade: D

“Dead Game” Rodriguez is someone I had stashed on my list of developmental prospects to look out for in the future after he recorded 4 violent KOs in his first 4 pro fights, each in less than half a round, but I never expected to see him get signed to the UFC so quickly. He’s clearly a very dangerous striker, as all 7 of his amateur wins also came by KO, but he’s only been fighting professionally for 15 months and his opponents have all been early in their careers as well, with a combined record of 8-4. He’s also only 25, so there was still plenty of time for him to continue his development on the regional scene.

Rodriguez’s highlight reel is inarguably impressive, especially his 10-second flying knee KO against Yasser Guzman (0-1) and his 1-punch KO of Jose Luis Rios (1-0) but he’s never challenged for a regional title or even been part of a main or co-main event in his brief pro career, so the step up to the UFC will be a massive change in both the quality of his opposition and the pressure of the situation. Being based in the USA was likely one of the most important factors in this signing, as he stepped in on short notice to face hyped DWCS graduate Jack Della Maddalena and the UFC has given up on signing international talents on short notice during the travel difficulties caused by the pandemic. While he’s clearly got a lot of raw talent, this just feels too early for Rodriguez to be signed to the UFC, and I expect him to get knocked out by Maddalena, who is also a very dangerous striker with a better overall game.

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Jack Della Maddalena:

Grade: B

JDM has been on my radar for a while, as he’s been the Eternal MMA champion since 2018 and has racked up an impressive 4 defenses since then as part of the 10-fight winning streak he’s been on since losing his first two pro fights. There aren’t a ton of UFC fighters from Australia, as the MMA scene there is not particularly active, but talents like Jimmy Crute, Jake Matthews, Robert Whittaker, featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski, and the legendary Mark Hunt have all found success to varying degrees inside the octagon. Maddalena has an exciting and action-packed fighting style, as shown in the 9 straight finishes he picked up on the regional scene and the absolute war he had against Ange Loosa (7-1) on the 2021 Contender Series to earn his UFC spot.

Most of JDM’s wins come by KO or TKO, and he has a well developed striking game that mixes angles well within combinations and can deliver huge power shots out of nowhere. His kicks are also strong, and he does a good job consistently applying forward pressure without getting reckless and giving his opponents easy opportunities to counter. While he does tend to get hit a fair bit because his head movement isn’t ideal, he has a strong chin that allows him to eat big shots and build back into the fight to eventually overwhelm his opponent with volume and his deep gas tank.

Maddalena’s ground game is more of a question for me simply because I haven’t seen nearly as much of it as I’ve seen of his striking. Only one of his wins comes by submission, but he does a good job staying out of bad positions on the ground and escaping danger if an opponent does threaten him. He uses his strength to explode and force scrambles if he finds himself under control, and his stamina allows him to work hard on the ground without excessively draining himself. However, he’s definitely happiest if the fight stays on the feet. which may cause problems against the many elite wrestlers and BJJ practitioners within the UFC’s welterweight division.

As mentioned above, Maddalena’s first opponent in the big show will be fellow debutant Pete Rodriguez, who I don’t see posing too much of a challenge for the more experienced and well-rounded Australian. He was originally scheduled to face Warlley Alves, whose strong jiu-jitsu would have provided a much more interesting indication of whether JDM will be able to hang with UFC-caliber grappling, but this fight should definitely be fun to watch given their explosive striking and shared tendency to finish fights quickly. Maddalena is just 25, so hopefully he will continue to grow as a fighter if he’s built up correctly, and in the meantime he should put on exciting fights and be able to win enough of them to stick around the UFC long-term.

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