The novel “Mortal Kombat” by Jeff Rovin provides some insight on the structure of the Mortal Kombat Tournament that was, to me, heretofore unknown. During the last Tournament in which the Great Kung Lao fought, the kombatants battled in three separate areas until 3 finalists were determined. Then the Grand Champion (Kung Lao in this case) fought all three of them one after another. Having defeated all them, Kung Lao then awaited his next challenge. This challenge would’ve been to fight Shang Tsung, whom the Official MKI Comic Book tells us is present due to the “mysterious death” of one of the three Tournament Grandmasters, but of course Tsung chose Goro to fight in his stead and the rest is history.
So we can assume that the Tournament normally is organized so that challengers fight in 3 pools until 3 winners are crowned, then each of these 3 winners fights the current Grand Champion in turn. After that, apparently, the Tournament Grandmasters elect to either challenge the winner of these bouts directly, to select a challenger to fight in their stead, or to simply confer the Grand Champion title upon the winner without quarrel. More than likely it was at some point during Goro’s subsequent reign, after the Shaolin had become alienated from the Tournament, that the Endurance Matches and Mirror Matches were introduced – the latter especially as they are almost certainly only made possible via Shang Tsung’s sorcery.