Despite an initial belief that the Strikeforce heavyweight championship would be in play throughout their upcoming heavyweight grand prix, that will not be the case. Instead, Strikeforce has decided to take a cue from PRIDE and K-1 and create a grand prix championship belt that will go to the tournament winner. Furthermore, if current champ Alistair Overeem doesn’t win the tournament, the winner will then move on to face him for the divisional title.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced on a media call Thursday that Instead of Overeem having to defend his belt all through the tournament, he’ll make his title defense at a later time against the Grand Prix winner instead.

‘To make it simple just like they do in Japan or K-1,” Coker said. “The tournament champion will stand on his own and we will have our heavyweight champion and the tournament champion.”

But what if Overeem, who also holds the DREAM heavyweight title and 2010 K-1 World GP title, stays undefeated in Strikeforce?

“If Overeem wins, he’s not just the best MMA or K-1 fighter, he can say he’s the greatest martial arts fighter in the world,” Coker said.

It appears they went this route to keep the round structures uniform across the tournament. At first, it seemed only fights involving the title (starting with Overeem vs. Werdum) would be five round fights, but then Coker said they were working with the commissions to make all tournament fights five rounds. I don’t know if the commissions already shot that down or Strikeforce just decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting, but now all tournaments bouts will be scheduled for three rounds with the exception of the finals. The grand prix championship match will be a five round fight.

Strikeforce is also making preparations for any curveballs the tournament gods might throw at them. If for any reason a winning fighter can’t advance to the next round in a timely manner, a committee has been formed to ensure the right fighter replaces him.

“If a fighter qualifies to advance in the tournament but for any reason can not advance, we’re forming a five-person tournament-review committee who will select a fighter to advance in his place,” Coker said. “This fighter will be chosen from a pool of fighters that will include the previous opponent and the winners of reserve matches.”

If there’s a draw, as we saw earlier this month in the Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard fight, there will be a independent fourth judge who will determine who advances.

“If any fight results in a draw, an independent fourth judge will determine who advances or who wins based on the fighter’s overall performance in the fight,” Coker said. “We will have a fourth judge on hand scoring the fight independently of the three that we normally have.”

If Alistair Overeem wants to fight for K-1 or DREAM during the tournament, he can’t. He won’t be allowed to compete in Japan until the tournament is over. Moreover, Scott Coker has made assurances that they have a solid contract with M-1 and they won’t be any renegotiating of Fedor Emelianenko’s contract.

I have to say, I’m impressed. I thought this tournament would fall apart before it came together, but for the first time, it actually looks like Strikeforce has all their ducks in a row. They’ve dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s. Now they just have to hope for a little luck.

Update: Scott Coker talks about the tournament format. Audio via Cagewriter.