Trevor (Hot Sauce) Smith's split decision UFC loss to Ed (Short Fuse) Herman last July was almost as good as a win.
The 33-year-old middleweight from Kirkland, Wash., left Seattle with a US$50,000 bonus cheque and praise from UFC president Dana White for his role in a wild, free-swinging brawl at Seattle's KeyArena.
"I told Smith 'I didn't even know your name yesterday,'" White told reporters after Smith and Herman won fight of the night honours. "'I know your name today.'''
Unfortunately for Canadian welterweight contender Rory (Ares) MacDonald, White was using the Smith-Hermann crowd-pleaser as a counterpoint to MacDonald's methodical co-main event win over Jake (The Juggernaut) Ellenberger.
Now Smith (10-4) looks to impress with a victory.
Smith, his career delayed by a broken hand sustained in the first round against Herman, returns to action Wednesday against Brian (B-Hue) Houston (4-1) on the undercard of a televised show in Duluth, Ga.
Luke Rockhold (10-2), ranked sixth among middleweight contenders, takes on No. 10 Costas Philippou (12-3 with one no contest) in the main event at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Far from feeling like he had taken a beating — as well as administering one — Smith said he felt euphoria the day after the Herman fight. The emotions were all positive, given the praise he had received and success he had achieved in holding his own against a veteran like Herman, plus the freedom from anxiety he felt during the fight.
Smith, who took his son shopping thanks to his bonus cheque, says the fight has helped banish the nerves he used to feel stepping into the cage.
The confidence will help against Houston, who needed a total of three minutes 13 seconds to post three wins before being submitted 48 seconds into his UFC debut by Derek Brunson in November.
Plus Smith needs a victory. After winning nine of his first 10 fights, he has lost three of four. He was 2-2 in Strikeforce prior to the UFC.
Teaching tykes at Ring Demon Mixed Martial Arts in Tukwila, Wash., no doubt keeps him grounded when not training.
Smith, who has a bachelor's degree in marketing from Iowa State University, has a philosophical side, however. How many fighters retweet the Dalai Lama?
"Today, let us wish each other a Happy New Year, but also that we may make it meaningful," was the message from the Tibetan spiritual leader that Smith offered up Jan. 1.
Smith and Herman (21-7 with one no contest) were swapping fists in July, combining on a combined 160 significant strikes in three rounds, according to FightMetric.
Smith was good on 87-of-108 significant strike attempts while Herman connected on 73 of 129 as both fighters were repeatedly wobbled.
Herman later took a precautionary trip to hospital. Smith headed to the bar for some tequila shots.
"Wow... Hell of a fight. Those guys took a few quality years off their lives,'' tweeted welterweight contender Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit.
"What a SICK fight much respect to Herman and Smith!!!!!! Tough one to judge,'' tweeted White.
The judges agreed, scoring it 30-27, 27-30, 29-28 for Herman.
NOTES — Winnipeg bantamweight Roland Delorme (9-2 with one no contest) will fight England's (Dangerous) Davey Grant on a televised card March 8 at London's O2 Arena. Grant was runner-up on Season 18 of "The Ultimate Fighter."