NuckleDu rolls through final prelim group at ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational
The ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational offered a super-sized helping of drama on Wednesday, both in-game and out-of-game. On Thursday, the event served up a much smaller portion.
Du "NuckleDu" Dang cruised to a 6-1 record to win the final preliminary group at the invitational event on Thursday. NuckleDu won everything there was to win in the group, and he won it easily. He wrapped up a spot in the nationally-televised semifinal round after his fifth of seven matches, and he locked up the top spot in the group after his sixth. The reigning Capcom Cup champion's only loss of the day came in his final match, where the only thing he had to play for was the honor of being the only player in the competition to go undefeated in the group stage.
That last match was much more meaningful for his opponent, Arman "Phenom" Hanjani. Phenom's victory in that set propelled him to a 5-2 record, good enough to finish second in the group. Phenom's reward is a spot in the semifinal stage alongside NuckleDu on TBS in mid-May.
Wednesday's memorable clash between Joshua "Wolfkrone" Philpot and Kenneth "K-Brad" Bradley was still the talk of fighting game fans throughout the day on Thursday. The fallout from their battle—particularly the auspicious presence of a security officer on-stage—became a hot topic on social media. Fighting game players, fans, journalists, and event organizers had a wide range of opinions on the topic. Even ELEAGUE host Richard Lewis got in on the discussion.
By contrast, Thursday's action was orderly and relatively drama-free.
NuckleDu continued the dominance that carried him to wins at three straight major Capcom Pro Tour events in 2016, including the season championship. He scored yet another dominant victory over Zeng "Xiao Hai" Zhuojun, a player who simply has not been able to find an answer for the young champion. Xiao Hai was not alone in that feeling, as NuckleDu lost just one game over the course of his first six sets.
The lower end of the standings settled itself fairly early as well. Chris Tatarian pulled out a thrilling 2-1 victory over Long "LPN" Nguyen in what was an elimination match for both players. Even though each player had one match to play after their encounter, the result assured that Tatarian would advance to the quarterfinal stage while LPN would join the winless "LI Joe" Ciaramelli on the sidelines.
LPN and LI Joe's early eliminations meant that the rest of the field could breathe easily. Former Evo champion Olivier "Luffy" Hay finished with a 5-2 record alongside Phenom, but a head-to-head loss to Phenom sent Luffy to third place in the group. Xiao Hai finished in fourth place with a 4-3 record. Tatarian and Ryan Hart both finished the day at 3-4, with Tatarian earning fifth place over Hart thanks to a head-to-head win.
All four of those players advance to the quarterfinal stage, which will take place on May 12. The top two performers from that group will join NuckleDu and Phenom in the semifinal stage later that evening.
With the preliminary rounds now complete, live ELEAGUE action will go dark until next Friday, April 7, with the quarterfinals and semifinals of Group A. Before then, TBS will air a special preliminary round recap episode tonight at 10pm ET / 7pm PT. LI Joe announced after his elimination that he will serve as one of the episode's analysts.