Two top lightweight contenders from rival promotions will square off this Saturday night (April 27, 2013) as Jim Miller takes on Pat Healy in the opening bout of the UFC 159 main card in Newark, New Jersey.
Miller nearly was in position to vie for the title, but stumbled against current champion Ben Henderson and recent title challenger Nate Diaz along the way. He had a "Fight of the Year" candidate in his return bout, defeating Joe Lauzon in a slobberknocker and he's back against one of Strikeforce's top contenders.
Healy had been a tremendous success since dropping to 155 pounds, knocking off six straight opponents in Strikeforce and twice was scheduled to fight for the title but was forced out after Gilbert Melendez was unable to compete due to shoulder injuries.
Record: 22-4 overall, 11-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Jim Miller, one of the most consistent fighters in the UFC today, got his start on the New Jersey circuit in a couple promotions, Reality Fighting, Ring of Combat, even having one fight in the IFL before making his UFC debut against David Baron at UFC 89 all the way across the pond in England.
He would win handily, tapping his opponent with a third round rear naked choke. After another impressive win over The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season five alumni Matt Wiman just two months later, he would face eventual title challenger Gray Maynard at UFC 96.
Miller would be outstruck in the stand-up over the course of three rounds, losing a unanimous decision, but that loss lit a fire under him.
The AMA Fight Club fighter destroyed everyone in his path afterwards, winning seven straight in the division and vaulting his way up to one of the promotion's top lightweight contenders. He was especially impressive in catching Brazilian submission specialist Charles Oliveira with a kneebar while standing and then crushing then-undefeated WEC veteran Kamal Shalorus with a knee to the face.
Miller was out for blood with a title shot on his mind but his hopes got shot down against Ben Henderson in a fight where he simply got outworked and outmuscled on the ground. After a bounceback performance against Melvin Guillard, he was stopped for the first time in his career by Nate Diaz via guillotine choke.
After an extended break, Miller stepped in on short notice to battle Joe Lauzon and put on a "Fight of the Year" performance, battering the Bostonian with vicious punches and elbows and then holding on late to win an extremely entertaining decision. He's hoping a victory over Healy can help him finally build up a winning streak again.
How he gets it done: The New Jersey native is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but also has a year of Division I collegiate wrestling at Virginia Tech to fall back on. He's put in a tremendous amount of time working on his striking and has become deadly with his technique, precision and power.
The Mike Constantino-trained fighter is incredibly well-rounded as a fighter and now appears to have no major weaknesses in his game. What he needs to do is utilize his skills to take it to Healy early, a fighter who's been known to be a slow starter.
Look for Miller to stand and really put some pressure on Healy in the opening minutes. We all know Healy wants to take this fight to the ground where his size and strength can come into play, but he's much slower than Miller on the feet and the New Jersey-native can really make him hurt if he can start to connect his strikes in combination.
Miller put a beating on Joe Lauzon in the first round of their fight this past December and he could definitely do something similar against Healy. It's all about jumping out of the gate in devastating fashion.
Record: 29-16 overall, 0-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Despite being just 29 years old, Pat Healy has an extremely long history in MMA dating back over 10 years against some of the stiffest competition imaginable. Healy has never seen a fight he didn't like and it has cost him the opportunity to have a strong record.
The Team Quest fighter has fought a who's who of the welterweight division, even some tough middleweights throughout the early stages of his career, competing in seemingly every promotion imaginable including the UFC, WEC, IFL, Shark Fights, MFC and now Strikeforce.
Due to the ridiculously difficult level of competition Healy has faced throughout his career, he's never won more than four fights in a row despite having fought 44 times professionally. It always seems like just when he's beginning to get on a roll, he stepped in against someone like Jake Ellenberger, Jay Hieron, Carlos Condit, Chris Lytle or Chris Leben.
After winning the MFC welterweight title against Ryan Ford and defending it, he finally made the decision to drop to lightweight nine years into his MMA career. The drop immediately paid dividends as Healy has gone 6-1 as a lightweight, handing Lyle Beerbohm the first loss of his career and only being defeated by former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson, and even then, it was a fight he was winning before fading in the third round.
Healy missed out on a title shot in Strikeforce due to injuries to the champion but if he can defeat Jim Miller, he could be well on his way to becoming a UFC contender instead.
How he gets it done: The plan of attack for Pat Healy is similar to nearly every Pat Healy fight. He needs to avoid big striking exchanges on the feet and take his opponent down. Healy trains out of Sports Lab in Oregon and has become a very strong wrestler with some of the best experience against the best opposition of any lightweight in MMA today.
Size could be a huge factor as well since Healy is one of the largest lightweights in all of mixed martial arts. What Healy will try to do is shoot in when Miller gets a bit overaggressive with his striking, perhaps ducking a huge lunging hook with a wrestling shot or at least clinching and trying to grind this fight to a halt.
Miller can be very aggressive so openings might be available. Miller was controlled on the ground by Ben Henderson, submitted by Nate Diaz and even gave up some position to Joe Lauzon in the third round of his recent fight so if Healy is persistent, his stubbornness could pay off in a big way against the talented UFC vet.
Who will come out on top at UFC 159? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!