Yesterday, fresh details emerged concerning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix set to kick off next month. The most notable revelations:
- Alistair Overeem's championship will not be contested during the tournament.
- No matches will be scheduled for five rounds until the tournament final.
- Excepting a victory by Overeem, the tournament winner will face him for the Strikeforce heavyweight championship.
Frankly, this was the most likely scenario for any permutation of a major grand prix to exist in 2011. Without the guarantee from different athletic commissions that all tournament fights (and that includes alternate reserve bouts) would be five-round affairs, it would have been patently unfair to have Overeem-or whomever defeated him-train for/participate in fights that could go 25 minutes.
The format also makes sense from a programming perspective. What were the odds that three championship bouts would go to laborious decisions at Strikeforce: Nashville? That unlikely mishap cost Strikeforce a regular spot on national television and it behooves them to avoid a similar situation at all costs.
Some will cry foul that should Overeem be eliminated, it discredits the title belt that he will retain. This presupposes a prestige of the Strikeforce heavyweight championship that simply doesn't exist. Furthermore, the only significant MMA tournaments in the past decade occurred in PRIDE with participant champions who didn't put their titles on the line.
That Mauricio Rua didn't claim PRIDE's middleweight belt in no way cheapens his 2005 Grand Prix victory, nor would the absence of a title strap demean the Strikeforce Grand Prix Champion. Seven participants rank among the consensus Top 25 in the world, four of them in the Top 10. The field is stacked; whoever wins this tournament establishes himself as the top heavyweight in the promotion, if not the world, and no golden trinket alters those circumstances. With that said, at this point Strikeforce is more about entertaining fights than prestigious championships, and that's exactly what this Grand Prix offers.