When he did return in a July bout against interim champion Shane Carwin, it was no picnic. Carwin took him to the brink of a TKO stoppage with a fearsome flurry of ground and pound in the opening frame. But in doing that, Carwin burned out his gas tank, and that allowed Lesnar to take the fight down and lock in a fight-ending arm triangle choke. It was a miraculous recovery made all the more poignant by his earlier recovery.
Midway through the title fight's fifth and final round, as Sonnen pounded away in delirious exhaustion, history repeated itself. Silva quickly threw up a triangle/armbar submission hold, and he tapped. It was the same frantic, instinctual tap he'd given more than three years ago in the WEC against Paulo Filho -- another fight he was supposed to lose -- and the same referee, Josh Rosenthal, who was forced to wake him from autopilot and deliver the bad news. He had cried foul on the first call, but on this one, he told Rosenthal, "I believe you." Electrified by the last-minute turnaround, the UFC set its sights on an immediate rematch for early 2011. But those plans were shot in early September when Sonnen tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and was fined and suspended by the California State Athletic Commission. He later appealed CSAC's one-year suspension and fine, arguing that he'd been approved to compete while undergoing testosterone therapy for low levels of the hormone. In a disjointed and often disorganized hearing -- par for the course with CSAC -- Sonnen's suspension was halved while a $2,500 fine remained in place.
Although some 70 fighters were promised jobs when the merger became official, it's widely expected that many will be cut from the roster before changeover takes place, particularly in the WEC lightweight division, which overlaps with the UFC.
Perhaps "The California Kid" put it best after the announcement when he expressed relief that he'd no longer have to explain the difference between the fight promotions.