Jim Miller (22-4, 11-3 UFC) vs. Pat Healy (29-16, 0-1 UFC)
Miller and Healy open the main card of UFC 159 in a lightweight contest that should move the winner another step closer to title contention. Miller got back into the win column when he scored a unanimous decision win over Joe Lauzon at UFC 155 in December in one of 2012’s best fights. He is 3-2 over his last five fights. Healy moves over from Strikeforce and fights for the second time in the UFC. He brings over a six-fight win streak, and he has gone 9-1 over his last ten fights.
Fight Breakdown: Miller and Healy is a nice opening bout that will catapult the winner into the title picture and the loser will not lose that much steam as both are capable of bouncing back quickly. Miller was on the cusp of a title shot after putting together a seven-fight win streak, something that is very, very tough to do at 155 pounds. It was derailed by now-champion Benson Henderson, but he was right back in contention after submitting Melvin Guillard. A loss to Nate Diaz brought him back down, but he’s back following the Lauzon win. Healy, meanwhile, has seen a fight with Gilbert Melendez fall apart on two separate occasions, and he has been itching to fight a top contender at 155 pounds. He finally gets that chance as he fights in the UFC for the first time since 2006 after making himself into a viable title contender in the Strikeforce promotion.
Miller is an exciting fighter who is incredibly well-rounded and he appears to have no major weaknesses in his game. He starts out fast and can create a blitzing pace, and he battered Lauzon quickly with left hands and elbows in their December fight. Healy tends to be a slow starter as he gets himself going generally later in the opening round, and he will need to avoid a slow start against Miller as Miller will control the pace if given the chance to. Miller likes to move forward and is very durable, but Healy is also a durable fighter, and a big lightweight at that matter, so he will have a size advantage over Miller. Miller will be the quicker of the two, and he unleashes his punches at a solid rate, and he mixes in his kicks and knees well also.
Healy is one of the best wrestlers in the lightweight division, and he will be looking to use his size to force the fight to the mat with Miller. That may be tough as Miller is an outstanding wrestler as well, but Healy will have the slight edge due to his size and strength. Healy is really active when on the ground, smothering his opponents with movement and ground-and-pound. Miller is very active on the ground, though, and he is not afraid to work in his guard. He transitions well on the ground, and he has a slick submission game backed up by a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. If Miller finds himself on his back, he will look to create a sweep or scramble that ends with him on top, where he does his best work. Healy knows he will have the size and strength advantage, and he will be looking to find an opening quickly to get the fight down.
Miller being quicker on the feet will give him an edge in this fight, and he will need to keep Healy from capitalizing on any openings he may leave out there. If Miller gets overagressive with his striking, it may allow Healy a chance to get a takedown, or at the very least a clinch opportunity with a chance to move it to the ground. This fight will be all about patience and pace as it looks to be heading to the judges, so it will be about whoever makes the biggest impression. Miller is the better all-around fighter, but Healy is vastly underrated and he has gotten better as his career has progressed. Miller, though, remains one of the most underrated fighters in the sport at times, and he has shown he can be a champion when he puts it all together. He has been unable to do that at times, and Healy will steal the fight if Miller can’t execute his gameplan. Healy wanted a top contender, and he has one, and this could be a solid fight that could turn into a ‘Fight Of The Night’ contender.
Why It Matters: The winner of the fight could be as few as just one fight away from fighting for the UFC Lightweight Championship. Miller has been on the cusp of a title shot twice now, but he has fallen short against Henderson and Diaz. He has had numerous exciting battles inside the Octagon, and a win over Healy would be another in a long line of impressive wins. Miller wants that shot at the title, and he believes he can beat Henderson if they were to fight again, so a win will be the only way he can get there.
Healy had earned his title opportunity in Strikeforce against Gilbert Melendez, but injuries to Melendez cancelled that chance on two occasions, but a six-fight win streak earned Healy another chance to fight in the UFC. As a career journeyman who will be competing in his 46th career fight, this may be the biggest fight of his career. A win over a tough competitor like Miller would be ultra-impressive, and would show that his long win streak was not a fluke, and that he is that good. Healy has a whole lot to gain with a win, but a lot to lose at the same time.
Tags: Jim Miller, Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Healy, UFC, UFC 159