UFC 290 matchmaking created a lose-lose situation for Jack Della Maddalena

UFC 290 had a great fight on tap for Jack Della Maddalena. Now, though, he's left in a fight where he just can't win.

By: Tim Bissell | 3 months ago

UFC 290 has gotten kinda beat up. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Manel Kape fell out a while ago. Imagine that fight on this card, though, the storylines of Figueiredo lurking, ready for yet another bite at Brandon Moreno or Kape finally announcing himself on the UFC stage and calling for a shot.

Much more recently we’ve seen a spate of top rising stars and prospects lose their carefully picked opponents; fighters the promotion had deemed appropriate tests for the various stages these fighters find themselves in.

Cameron Saaiman lost Christian Rodriguez. Bo Nickal lost Tresean Gore. And Jack Della Maddalena lost Sean Brady.

All these dance partners were fantastic match-ups for men who could be huge stars in the sport (yes, I know Saaiman isn’t on the level of the other two, but still a fight with Rodriguez at UFC 290 would have given us a better idea of that).

Della Maddalena, whose fight fell through on Sunday, has been lined up to face Josiah Harrell. And now I don’t think he can win on Saturday night.

Jack Della Maddalena in a lose-lose situation

I haven’t been this excited about a fighter since Khamzat Chimaev started beating the life out of folks on Fight Archipelago in 2020. Jack Della Maddalena simply has ‘it’. His striking is as pretty as Stephen Thompson’s and as heavy as Anthony Johnson’s. He’s been a thrilling watch in each of his UFC appearances.

His hands are like heat seeking missiles, locked in on an opponent’s nose or liver and after those paws side-wind around wrists and elbows and find their targets, they detonate.

I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing him tangle with Sean Brady, who is durable, loves a scrap and could pressure Della Maddalena in way he’s yet to be tested with.

Brady was also a good stepping stone for Della Maddalena (assuming the Australian would have beaten him, which I think he would have). Brady is ranked 8th in the UFC welterweight division. A win over him would have catapulted Della Maddalena into the top ten and set up mouth-watering match-ups with the aforementioned Wonder Boy or the heavy handed Geoff Neal or the incredibly dangerous gatekeeper Gilbert Burns.

Instead Della Maddalena faces Harrell, who is 7-0 coming off an LFA win over a 9-8-1 fighter. Prior to that Harrell won in CFFC. The rest of the 24-year-old’s bouts all came in Ohio Combat League.

He’s two years younger than Maddalena, usually fights at lightweight, and will be giving up a four inch height advantage and six inch reach advantage(!).

Seems pretty obvious Della Maddalena is going to win, with ease, and get the neophyte out of there in under a minute. But that doesn’t tell us anything new about him. That win keeps him where’s he’s at and his next booking will likely be against someone just like Brady, a stepping stone he needs to beat before meeting the elites.

If Della Maddalena loses, though. His stock plunges off a cliff.

Mr. Harrell, you need new management

Whoever convinced Josiah Harrell to take this fight is not a friend. I get that this is a huge opportunity for a fighter, to be on a UFC pay-per-view opposite a fighter who has some shine.

But what’s the point of doing that on less than a week’s notice. What’s the point of doing that against a fighter who is outside of your regular weight class? What’s the point of doing that against a fighter who, in your heart of hearts, you know will beat you unless you are more perfect and more lucky than you have ever been?

If Harrell shocks the world, awesome. That would be a fantastic story-line and he would deserve all the plaudits and future opportunities that would net.

But if that doesn’t happen, he could get seriously hurt. This isn’t stepping in against Bo Nickal, who will wipe the canvas with you before giving you a tight squeeze that you can stop any time you want.

Della Maddalena’s offense is deadly and, against someone ill prepared and under matched, it could have career (or even life) altering repercussions.

The risk to reward ratio here is so outside of Harrell’s favour that serious questions need to be asked of his management and the matchmakers.

This will be a bad look for UFC 290

If the most likely outcome plays out, that we see Della Maddalena batter Harrell across multiple rounds (perhaps because the rookie is too tough for his own good and too inspired to hang in there because of the Rocky-esque nature of his opportunity), is that cool?

Did anyone enjoy seeing Valetina Shevchenko beat up Priscila Cachoeira. Well, maybe Mario Yamasaki did, maybe that’s why he let it go so long.

UFC 290 is stacked with great fights. I understand that there will be a lot of Aussie’s tuning in, but is that really worth keeping Della Maddalena on the card to compete in a fight that is at best, not competitive, and at worst, grossly mismatched?

The solution was right there

If matching Della Maddalena with Harrell was the UFC’s only choice, I wouldn’t be so critical. But there was a better solution staring them right in the face; Action Man.

According to Chris Curtis, he and Della Maddalena agreed to fight but the UFC brass said no.

Della Maddalena vs. Curtis is as good as the Brady match-up. It would have been a great test for Della Maddalena and it has potential Fight of the Night written all over it.

Curtis is also capable of hanging with Della Maddalena and maybe even upsetting the rising star (hopefully that’s not why he didn’t get the nod).

Even if the UFC didn’t like this match-up on short notice (or any other possible fight that included seasoned talent), there was another, easier solution.

Just chill.

Why can’t we re-book Dellla Maddalena for an event next week or the week after? That would give the promotion time to find a decent match-up, like Brady and Curtis, and not resort to feeding him a regional fighter.

Either way UFC 290 goes live on Saturday night. I just hope we don’t see something that everyone will regret. Especially when it didn’t need to happen.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Email me at tim@bloodyelbow.com. Nice messages will get a response.

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