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2011 Strikeforce Heavyweight GP Brackets Set, Coker Wants All Tourney Bouts To Be Five Rounds (Update)

The brackets for Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix were revealed in a report by’s Josh Gross. They might surprise you. One side of the tournament is a lot more stacked than the other.

Emelianenko or Silva will be matched against Overeem or Werdum, with the winner of that fight advancing to the finals. Should Emelianenko defeat Silva, his semifinal bout would garner great interest regardless of the opponent.

On the other side of the bracket, the Barnett-Rogers winner is slated to meet Arlovski or Kharitonov in the second round for the right to advance to the finals and fight for the Strikeforce title.

Interestingly, the bouts the Strikeforce heavyweight champion competes in will be five-round title fights. This begins in the quarterfinal match-up between current Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum.

As mentioned before, the Fedor-Bigfoot and Arlovski-Kharionov fights will take place on Feb. 12 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The remaining quarterfinal bouts aren’t set, but will likely take place sometime in April.

Two reserve bouts are also in the works for tournament — Shane del Rosario vs. Lavar Johnson and Ray Sefo vs. Valentijn Overeem. Both fights are expected to take place on the Feb. 12 card.

In an interview with USA Today, Scott Coker offered his reassurance that this tournament is actually going to happen to those of us who remain skeptical.

As news of this tournament started to leak, the buzz online suggested that there is some skepticism about your ability to actually pull off this tournament. How do we know all this stuff’s going to happen?

Everything’s already in place. We wouldn’t have announced it and gone forward with the tournament if we had any doubt whatsoever.

We feel that this is going to be one of the greatest things in the history of MMA, especially for our company. Showtime is counting on us delivering, and we’re going to deliver.

All these guys are under contract. As we go down these fights, the only thing I can see for some of the athletes is if they get hurt. Other than that, these fights will happens.

So for instance, how do you know that Barnett is going to be re-licensed? That hasn’t happened yet.

It’s not going to be an issue. We’ve already talked to three, actually four commissions now that will license it. We’ll announce soon where we’re going to take that second (card). Getting Josh Barnett licensed is not going to be an issue.

I feel personally he’s already paid his dues and been out of the fight game in America for a year and a half. I think that’s enough punishment and he should move on. We’re going to move on and get this tournament moving forward.

Now that the brackets are set, anyone want to pick the winners?

Update: It seems the heavyweight title may not be on the line throughout the tournament after all. In an interview with MMA Fighting, Scott Coker said that will be up to the commission.

Will Overeem’s belt be on the line in the early rounds? If Werdum beats Overeem, will he be considered the champion? Or will the belt be vacated for this tournament? How will that work?
It goes back to the commission and what they’re going to allow us to do. That’s something I can’t answer right now but hope to have an answer very soon.

With the grand prix being spread out over multiple events, the “tournament” label seems to be more of a promotional vehicle than a commission issue. I really don’t see why they wouldn’t approve of title fights within the “tournament,” however Coker added that he wants all the tournament bouts to be five-round fights, which is certainly something that needs commission approval.

Is this a stand-alone tournament, where the winner is called the Grand Prix champion, or is the winner the Strikeforce heavyweight champion?
Right now, Alistair Overeem is the Strikeforce heavyweight champion. That’s something we can answer tomorrow, because what we’re trying to do is clear it with the commissions to allow the fighters to fight more than three rounds outside of the title. The rules of MMA now say a five-round fight has to be a championship fight, and so we’re working on that. Hopefully we’ll have an answer soon on that.

So you’d like all the tournament fights to be five-round fights?
We’d like to, yes.

It’s been talked about, but to my knowledge there’s never been a five-round non-title fight, and I don’t believe the unified rules even allow for it. It would be sweet if the commissions approved it, but I’m not expecting that to happen.

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