Hundreds of players hoped to compete in the Capcom Cup. They criss-crossed the globe and entered tournaments from Japan to Italy to Costa Rica hoping to earn a ticket to San Francisco. They entered dozens of the most competitive tournaments in history over the course of nine months, logged thousands of frequent flier miles, and put in countless hours of practice just to have a shot at the largest cash prize in fighting game history. Only a select few succeeded.
Now comes the hard part.
For most of the 32 players who qualified for Capcom Cup, their dream is about to end. Only eight players will win a share of the $250,000 at stake this weekend, and only one will take home the champion’s $120,000 share. Those who fail to finish in the Top 8 will likely take home a mindful of what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.
Beyond the money, legacies are at stake. With a February release date for Street Fighter V on the horizon, Capcom Cup figures to be Street Fighter IV’s last big hurrah. If that’s the case, the player who stands tall at the end of this event just might go down as the game’s ultimate champion.
To make things even more challenging, the Capcom Cup field is essentially a Who’s Who of Street Fighter IV players. The field’s collective trophy case includes every EVO championship, all but one Topanga League title, and countless major championships across the world. In short, there are killers everywhere and no easy outs to be found in this tournament.
This is usually the part of the article where I call out a few players to watch, but that’s not feasible for an event where every player in attendance is a player to watch. Every single player has proven themselves to be among the best of the best, and even the lowest-ranked players have proven that they can hang with the elite. Instead, let’s take a look at each of the top seeds’ path in the first two rounds.
Capcom Cup 2015 – Dec. 6
Start time: Sunday, Dec. 6 at 10am PT/1pm ET/18:00 UTC
No. 1 seed – EG|Momochi
If one had to select a favorite based on resume alone, Evil Geniuses’ Yusuke Momochi would be the most likely choice. He is the No. 1 seed in this tournament thanks in large part to his victory at EVO 2015, where he became the first Japanese champion in the Street Fighter IV series since 2011. If that weren’t enough, he’s also the defending Capcom Cup champion.
His Capcom Cup title defense will begin with a match against Team Razer’s Arubi “RB” Kao. RB may be the lowest-ranked player in the tournament, but he is far from an easy out. The Taiwanese player scored victories over three Capcom Cup participants at Milan Games Week, where he earned his spot in this weekend’s tournament. He has several characters at his disposal, which could lead to a blind pick during their first game.
Should he defeat RB, Momochi would then face either No. 16 seed Lee Chung “Poongko” Gon of r/Kappa or No. 17 seed Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada. While these two players have not met in a CPT event this year, South Korea’s Poongko may be the favorite. He is only a few weeks removed from his dominant performance at CPT Asia Finals, and the likely character matchup—Seth versus Zangief—is widely believed to be in Seth’s favor. Japan’s ItaZan, however, has shown he can do well in that matchup, as evidenced by his victory over Yoshihisa “Gonzales” Hirata at Manila Cup.
No. 8 seed – RZR|Fuudo
The other side of Momochi’s quarter is led by Team Razer’s Keita “Fuudo” Ai, another elite Japanese player. Fuudo is no stranger to big stages, as he has victories at EVO (2011) and Topanga League (2012), as well as a seventh-place finish at Capcom Cup 2014. He also has played well in recent months, as he reached the grand finals at three Premier events over the final two months of the CPT season.
As the No. 8 seed in the tournament, he will have to square off with No. 25 seed Jonny Lai “HumanBomb” Cheng of Canada Cup Gaming in the first round. Hong Kong’s HumanBomb has shown that he can not hang with Fuudo, but defeat him, as he did at October’s Ze Fighting Game Championship. But Fuudo has been on a roll as of late, as he reached the grand finals at the last two CPT events he entered, both of which were Premier events.
The winner of that match will then have to deal with either No. 9 seed Kenryo “Mago” Hayashi of Team MadCatz or No. 24 seed Xijie “Dark Jiewa” Zeng. Japan’s Mago is the strong favorite in this match, as he has performed well in big tournaments all year. He won two Premier events on this year’s tour (Hypespotting and South East Asia Major), and has finished in the Top 8 at three others. China’s Dark Jiewa won Abuget Cup in March, but finished no better than third at any of the 11 CPT events he entered since that win.
No. 4 seed – RZR|Xian
Singapore’s Kun Xian Ho might be the player at Capcom Cup with the most momentum. Team Razer’s Xian is the only player to win three Premier events on this year’s tour, the third coming just days ago at DreamHack Winter. He defeated three EVO champions at last year’s Capcom Cup to reach the grand finals, only to fall to Momochi twice. A return trip to the grand finals is certainly within reach, but it’s far from a given.
For the second straight year, Xian will face Frenchman Valentin “Valmaster” Petit in the first round. Xian won last year’s meeting 2-0, and scored a 2-1 victory at Red Bull Kumite back in March. Valmaster has come on strong since Team YP signed him in September, however, earning back-to-back second-place finishes—his best of the season—immediately after the signing.
The next test for Xian would be the winner of a matchup of two great Japanese players, No. 13 seed Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto and No. 20 seed Hiroshi “Dashio” Arai. Team Yubiken’s Dashio won Tokyo Game Show, while Nemo finished fourth. It was the only CPT event which both players entered, yet they did not face each other. They did square off twice during this year’s Topanga A League, however, once during the online preliminaries and once during the offline round-robin final stage. Nemo won both meetings, scoring 3-1 and 7-5 victories respectively.
No. 5 seed – AVM|GamerBee
AverMedia’s Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang has seemingly mastered the art of “so close.” The Taiwanese player fought hard to make it to the grand finals at last year’s DreamHack Winter, but was defeated by Fuudo in an incredible set to keep him out of Capcom Cup. He battled through killer after killer in the losers’ bracket at EVO to reach the grand finals, only to fall to Momochi in one of the greatest Street Fighter IV sets ever played. While he doesn’t have the most impressive resume among the top contenders (outside of his EVO performance), he does have one of, if not the, best Elenas in the world at the moment, as well as the world’s best Adon, which may come in handy at an event where everyone will have spent some time preparing to deal with Elena.
GamerBee’s first opponent, Singapore’s Ghim Kee “Gackt” Eng, is no slouch. Team Razer’s Gackt, the No. 30 seed this weekend, did not win a CPT event this year, but he finished third or better at each of the last four CPT events he entered. He also finished fifth at EVO 2014, so he can perform on the big stage. Their last CPT meeting went GamerBee’s way, but that was back at last year’s CPT Asia Finals.
The winner of that match will face either No. 12 seed Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis of Red Bull or No. 21 seed Keoma Moutsatsos Pacheco in the second round. Keoma, who represents the Brazilian fighting game community in his gamertag (FGC.BR|Keoma), earned his spot at Capcom Cup with a victory over Tatsuya Haitani in Grand Finals. The Abel specialist also made deep runs at Street Grand Battle and DreamHack Winter over the last couple of weeks. Snake Eyez, one of the United States’ best players, could be considered a bad draw for him. Not only has Snake Eyez made deep runs at nearly every tournament he’s entered—one win, five grand finals appearances, and 11 Top 16 appearances in 12 events—but he has consistently done well against 801 Strider, one of the best Abel players in the world, and he’s hungry to prove that he’s better than last year’s 0-2 Capcom Cup run.
No. 2 seed – RZR|Infiltration
Team Razer’s newest member, Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee is never a bad pick to win an event. Infiltration, the Korean eSports Association Fighting Game Player of the Year, has finished third or better at nine CPT events this year (more than any other player). Perhaps more impressively, he won five of those events, one of only two players to do so. He’s never shied away from big moments, as he’s racked up Top 3 finishes at four of the last six EVOs (including a win in 2012), finished third at last year’s Capcom Cup, and won the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Tournament.
Defeating Infiltration will be a tall task for the #31 seed, Qanba/DouyuTV’s Hajoun “Dakou” Su. Dakou’s only win of the CPT season, Ze Fighting Game Championship in his home nation of China, was also the only CPT event where he finished better than fifth. That said, he did score a 3-2 win over Infiltration at last year’s Id Global Tournament and pushed him to the limit at 2013’s Asia Finals in a 9-7 defeat.
Should Infiltration get past Dakou, he’ll face either No. 17 seed Justin Wong of Evil Geniuses or No. 20 seed Takenori “Tonpy” Shimomura. Tonpy, arguably the best C. Viper player in Japan, won Manila Cup and finished fourth or better at four other Asian CPT events. He has also done well outside of Asia, with a fifth-place finish at Cannes Winter Clash and a ninth-place finish at October’s Milan Games Week. Wong, the biggest name in American fighting game history, scored two CPT wins on his way to Capcom Cup. He has primarily used Rufus throughout his Street Fighter IV career, but he recently added Elena and Rose to his repertoire. His ability to improve on his 0-2 performance at last year’s Capcom Cup may depend on how well he’s mastered Elena.
No. 7 seed – MCZ|Tokido
There are several reasons to fear a matchup with this weekend’s No. 7 seed, Team MadCatz’s Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi. Would you want to face a player who has finished fifth or better at nine CPT events this year, including EVO? Would you want to face a player who is coming off his best performance of the year, a win at Canada Cup? Would you want to face one of the “Five Gods” of Japanese 2D fighting games? Would you want to face a player called The Murderface?
That’s the task given to the No. 25 seed, Sanshiro “Shiro” Nagai of Team Yubiken. While Japan’s Shiro did not place ahead of Tokido at a CPT event this year, he did not face him at one either. While Shiro is certainly no slouch, beating Tokido may be too big of an ask.
If Tokido survives that first test, his next would be against the winner of one of the first round’s marquee matchups. Tokido’s fellow countryman and teammate, No. 10 seed Daigo Umehara, will face No. 23 seed Kevin “Dieminion” Landon. Daigo has entered fewer tournaments than most of his fellow top contenders. He racked up wins at Stunfest and NorCal Regionals on the tour, as well as wins at Topanga World League and Topanga A League away from the tour. His opponent, YOMI’s Dieminion, won Summer Jam 9 and has had deep tournament runs all year. He’s also one of the few Americans to find success outside of North America, as he finished in the Top 8 at Cannes Winter Clash. While Daigo won their meeting at Red Bull Kumite, Dieminion gave him everything he could handle and he’s more than capable of scoring the win.
No. 3 seed – RB|Bonchan
With notable second-place finishes at EVO 2014 and Tokyo Game Show 2014, Japan’s Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi gained a bit of a reputation as a “bridesmaid.” That reputation has fallen by the wayside this year, thanks in large part to his partnership with Red Bull. Bonchan won Red Bull Kumite back in March, which certainly put him on the company’s radar if he wasn’t there already. He signed with Red Bull in September, and immediately made Grand Finals in three straight Premier events, winning two.
Fellow Japanese player Kentaro “Misse” Nakamura, the No. 29 seed, will be Bonchan’s first test. While r/kappa’s Misse only had one finish of fourth or better on this year’s tour—a win at Taiwan Fighting Game Major—he has proven to be capable of beating Bonchan. Misse eliminated Bonchan at EVO on his way to a 25th-place finish. While Bonchan got some revenge and beat Misse at CPT Asia Finals, he certainly can’t afford to overlook his first opponent.
The winner of that match will face either No. 14 seed Zhuojun “XiaoHai” Zeng of Qanba/Douyu or No. 19 seed Du “NuckleDu” Dang of Liquid in the second round. NuckleDu, one of the best young players in the United States, picked up a win at Combo Breaker and made Top 8 at EVO, but only made one CPT Top 8 after since. XiaoHai, easily among China’s strongest competitors, found most of his success this season after EVO. He scored a victory at Saigon Cup and earned a third-place finish at SoCal Regionals. While recent form favors XiaoHai, NuckleDu did pick up the win when the two faced each other at Final Round.
No. 6 seed – MD|Luffy
The resume for the #6 seed, Meltdown’s Olivier “Luffy” Hay, looks very much like that of Infiltration. Both scored five CPT wins this season, more than any other player. Both failed to win a Premier event this year. Both have EVO titles under their belt, with the Frenchman’s win coming last year. Luffy finished third at last year’s Capcom Cup, while Infiltration finished fourth. Yet most people seem to give Luffy no chance this weekend. Of the over 1,700 Capcom Cup Top 8 predictions posted to KappaBets at the time of this article’s publication, nearly 550 have Infiltration as this weekend’s winner, while only one has Luffy’s name at the top of the list.
Luffy’s quest to prove his doubters wrong begins with a familiar opponent: Keepin’ It Grimey’s Benjamin “Problem X” Simon. Problem X, one of the UK’s strongest players, has run into Luffy at many tournaments. Most of those matchups have gone in Luffy’s favor, including recent meetings at Kakutop League, DreamHack Summer, and VSFighting. While Problem X has been able to hold his own at times, Luffy enters this match as the clear favorite.
The winner of that match will then face either No. 11 seed Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue of Japan or No. 22 seed Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero of the United States. This match is a runback from CEO, where Kazunoko defeated Strider in both the winners’ finals and the grand ginals to claim his only victory of the season. Flashbacks to that weekend may not be a bad thing for Winterfox’s 801 Strider, however, as CEO was Strider’s best performance of the year. He finished 17th at each of the three Premier events he entered after that weekend: EVO, SoCal Regionals, and Canada Cup.