In a thrilling showdown at UFC on ESPN 49, Jack Della Maddalena managed to avoid a major upset against Bassil Hafez, who exceeded all expectations in his short-notice promotional debut.
Despite Hafez's strong start, Della Maddalena weathered the storm, delivered heavy damage, and convinced the judges to award him a split-decision victory. Della Maddalena admitted that he wasn't sure how the decision would go, stating;
"I thought it could go either way. When I heard it was a split, the judges don't always make good decisions, so I thought I had a good shot."
Hafez began the welterweight bout aggressively, taking Della Maddalena down within the first 10 seconds. He maintained pressure for nearly two minutes, unleashing strikes and searching for takedowns. Both fighters exchanged hard shots while on their feet, making for an unexpectedly intense first round for the UFC newcomer.
Entering uncharted territory, Della Maddalena responded strongly in the second round. While Hafez continued to land significant strikes and pursue takedowns, Della Maddalena remained composed, retaliating with powerful shots that visibly affected his opponent. A mistimed takedown attempt by Hafez allowed him to spend the majority of the final two minutes on top, giving him a brief advantage.
Heading into the final round, Della Maddalena knew he had to make a statement. He unleashed a barrage of heavy blows, taking advantage of Hafez's dwindling conditioning after accepting the fight on short notice. Struggling to withstand the onslaught while exhausted, Hafez found himself in a dire situation. Della Maddalena capitalized, taking Hafez's back and threatening with submissions and ground-and-pound. Although Hafez briefly reversed the position, Della Maddalena managed to regain control and close out the fight.
Reflecting on the challenging matchup, Della Maddalena expressed his expectations, saying:
"I did expect him to be tough. The guy with such a big opportunity to come out here and bring the fight. That's what I wanted. I wanted a three-round fight, so cheers, Bassil."
While Della Maddalena's victory marked the first time he didn't finish a fight in the first round during his UFC career, his five-fight win streak at 170 pounds ties him for the longest active streak in the weight class.
The thrilling clash between Della Maddalena and Hafez showcased the heart and determination of both fighters. As Della Maddalena continues to ascend the ranks in the welterweight division, fans can anticipate more exhilarating battles in his future.