Despite going 7-1 in his Strikeforce promotional tenure, and despite having wins over Carlos Condit and Paul Daley to his credit, UFC lightweight grinder Pat Healy has never quite gotten the respect he deserved.
Prior to Strikeforce closing its doors for good in 2012, Healy was scheduled to meet Gilbert Melendez for the company’s lightweight strap. Melendez, however, withdrew due to injury and the bout was canceled.
Melendez came to the UFC and got an immediate title shot against Benson Henderson last Saturday, a bout in which he lost. For Healy, he drew one of the most successful fighters in UFC lightweight history, Jim Miller, who has 11 promotional wins to his credit.
In front of Miller’s hometown crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Healy made his long awaited UFC return. He fought once before for the UFC in 2006, but pulled off a shocking upset late in the third round on Saturday night, dispatching of the Garden State native via rear naked choke.
Round one saw both fighters come out with some pep in their respective steps. Avoiding the ground for the opening few minutes, Miller and Healy, both 29, battled back and forth with an assortment of standing elbows, leg kicks, and pummeling clinch work.
As the hometown faithful erupted with chants of “Let’s go Miller!” the natural born wrestler scooped Healy into the air and slammed him to the mat. At that point, it looked like a typical Jim Miller fight, and he seemed in total control.
Healy, however, had different plans, and in what was a telling moment for the rest of the fight, Healy reversed position on the ground, posted, and earned a trip takedown of his own. Healy worked well from Miller’s guard for the duration of the opening frame and put his stamp on the round, despite being bloodied from a late push of violence from Miller.
Round two was more of the same, as Healy imposed his will. “Bam Bam” earned dominant positions throughout the round, as he had Miller’s back and found his way to full mount as the end closed in. At the conclusion of the second, Healy was leading in significant strikes landed, and had turned the momentum to his favor.
In between rounds, Miller’s corner made it clear that he needed the round to win a decision over Healy, and he came out with focused vigor.
Early in the final frame, Miller tagged Healy with a crisp straight right. Unfortunately for Miller that would be the last significant strike he landed, as Healy dragged him to the mat for the duration of the round, and eventually softened Miller up enough to sink in the fight-ending choke.
Having only been finished once in his entire career, the submission came as a surprise for Healy.
“I knew if I caught him in a good spot, he wouldn’t tap,” said Healy post-fight.
And Healy wasn’t lying; Miller didn’t tap.
Instead of saving some brain cells, Miller went out as the referee was forced to step in and halt the action at 4:02 of the final stanza.
With his UFC return out of the way, the +250 underdog earned the biggest win of his career, while announcing himself to a new group of fight fans.
Healy is now 8-1 in his last nine fights with his lone loss coming three years ago to Josh Thomson, a fighter who just won his UFC return at UFC on Fox 7, scoring an upset victory of his own against Nate Diaz.
Perhaps now the “fighting for respect” talk can cease and the whispers of title talk can begin.
(Follow @RyanMcKinnell on Twitter)
© 2013 MMA Weekly All Rights Reserved.