NEWARK, NJ -- Pat Healy was twice supposed to fight for the Strikeforce lightweight championship, but injuries kept champion Gilbert Melendez out of those fights, and Healy never got to fight for the gold.
Prior to his octagon return at UFC 159 -- he lost fight in the UFC in 2006 --, Healy said that he viewed his fight with the No. 4 ranked Miller in just the same way. And Healy put on a championship performance, finishing with a rear naked choke at 4:03 of the third round.
The official result was a technical submission, since Miller refused to tap out.
"I knew if I got him in a good spot, he wouldn't tap," said Healy (30-16), who won his seventh straight. "He's one of the toughest and to be honest, one of my favorite fighters. It was an honor to be fighting him."
The fight was gritty and technical and grinding.
Miller (22-5) came close to ending it in the closing seconds of the first with powerful right hands from half-guard. Healy was probably saved by the bell, as he was slow and staggered in rising to his feet at the end of the round. But showing the trademark toughness that have marked his recent run, Healy collected himself and used his wrestling and ground work to get back into the fight in the second, and steal it in the third.
Afterward, he sent a few words to the rest of the division.
"All the 155ers out there, I'm putting you on blast," he said.
With his victory over the respected Miller, his message came even before he said the words.