It’s that time of year again: as summer draws on, fighting game fans across the globe look forward to the biggest tournament in the world - the Evolution Championship Series! Hailed as one of the FGC’s greatest competitions of all time, EVO sets the stage for unparalleled hype, drama, and intense rivalries, with winners earning bragging rights that will last a lifetime.

The first-ever Super Premier Event

The 2019 Capcom Pro Tour introduced a new Event tier into the mix of its traditional Premier and Ranking Events. While each of these Events are determined by points, EVO stands out in the mix of tournaments every season, largely regarded as one of the most difficult and unpredictable fighting game competitions due to its staggeringly high number of entrants and the intensity that comes with trying to nab an EVO championship.

As such, the 2019 CPT rolled out a new Super Premier Event tier, with EVO being the first of its kind out of three Super Premier Events this season. Rather than awarding the usual 700 points, as seen in normal Premier events, EVO will dole out a whopping 1,000 points to the first-place victor, marking a huge jump in the rankings for the player that emerges victorious.

While EVO isn’t the only Super Premier this season, it still stands above the rest as one of the most coveted championships of all time, making this new points structure - and the rush to earn 1,000 points - one of the most nail-biting battles of the year.

Premier Event pummeling

With this new points distribution in mind, it comes as no surprise that the competition has been heating up ahead of the game, as world warriors around the globe prepare to throw down in the year’s biggest tournament. Street Fighter veteran Keita “Fuudo” Ai even stood beneath a freezing waterfall to steel his senses for the upcoming fight, while others are on the grind to tighten up their combos - but it’s not just the training stage that’s seeing action. Following Community Effort Orlando in early June, two more Premier Events have passed by, seeing major victories for pro players - which made for some intriguing trends as EVO approaches.

The Dominican Republic saw its first ever Premier Event in early July at Game Over Tournament, bringing worldwide competition flocking to the Caribbean in search of points and a Premier title. Seeing such names as Bryant “Smug” Huggins, Arman “Phenom” Hanjani, and more, pools were stacked with killers: but this tournament saw an interesting conclusion that upset the general 2019 trend.

The birthday demon takes Game Over Tournament

The 2019 CPT has been a veritable hunting ground for Street Fighter V prodigy Victor “Punk” Woodley, who has made a major comeback following his loss to Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi at EVO 2017. While he has taken three Premier Events thus far, “The Alpha” found himself in ninth place at Game Over, losing to Naoto Sako’s Menat after being knocked into Losers’ by
Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada.

In fact, it was Punk’s longtime rival, Tokido, who ended up taking a 3-0 victory against Phenom in Grand Finals without a bracket reset on his very own birthday - leading to his second Premier win of the season, with his first being Norcal Regionals in March. With Tokido looking strong - strong enough to contest Punk’s Premier win count - their rivalry is looking to heat up just ahead of the very stage that set them apart in the first place.

I’ll show you the divide in our class!

Despite this development, Punk is far from out of the race: the young SFV pro took heads at the UK’s VSFighting in July, as well, making it to Grand Finals against Red Bull’s Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi. A people’s champ, Bonchan, formerly known as “The Last Nash,” has been steadily racking up points throughout the season, sitting at third place in the global CPT rankings - just beneath Tokido. In fact, it was Bonchan who won the heavily anticipated CEO a month prior, taking a nail-biting win against Fujimura Atsushi.

Bonchan took a similarly suspenseful victory over Punk at VSFighting using the same character, after being knocked into Losers’ bracket by “The Alpha” in the Winners’ Final - making for one of the year’s most intense runbacks yet. In a major turn of events, Bonchan reset the bracket to defeat Punk 3-2, cementing himself as one of the CPT’s most formidable players thus far.

Will Psycho Power make an EVO comeback?

Filling in the gaps of Premier Events ahead of EVO are Ranking Events, including such tournaments as Defend the North and Sonic Boom. Defend the North, Manhattan’s premier fighting game tournament, saw Street Fighter League’s Derek “iDom” Ruffin take the win over R. Mika main ElChakotay Andrich, while Spain’s Sonic Boom saw EVO 2018 champion Benjamin “Problem X” Simon emerge the victor over DC “Infexious” Coleman.

As EVO approaches, these players are looking like promising candidates in the upcoming competition, with Problem’s Sonic Boom win preceding the defense of his championship title from 2018. He’s not the only fighter with a title to defend, though: Tokido has managed to snag a spot in EVO’s Grand Finals two years in a row, not counting his 2017 win - no small feats, even for a player considered to be one of SFV’s most consistent competitors, thus far.

Who will emerge the EVO champion?

Both Problem X and Tokido are sitting at top spots in the CPT leaderboards, with Punk reigning supreme over all: but he isn’t invincible, and EVO is rife with fighters hungry for a championship title that will earn them a place in the annals of fighting game history for years to come.

Considering the current heat between Punk, Bonchan, and Tokido, fans and competitors alike can expect a showing of epic proportions from the CPT’s Top 3 candidates, but the biggest question of all stirs in the back of everyone’s minds in wake of Punk’s comeback: will Punk finally take an EVO championship?

Tokido Platano Power

It seems like Punk has finally gotten the wind back in his sails, after kicking off the season with a major win at Georgia’s Final Round. With three Premiers under his belt and multiple top placements in hand, it truly looks like “The Alpha” is back in business - but Tokido isn’t far behind. With CPT rankings as they are now, it is no small speculation to think that these two might meet once more in the thick of battle at Sin City’s crown jewel of fighting game tournaments in a storyline that has followed the Street Fighter pros for nearly two years.

However, Punk and Tokido are far from the only fighters fans should watch out for at EVO: Street Fighter League’s Kevin “Dual Kevin” Barrios has made several breakout showings this season, with his comeback at CEO marking a major moment in his career that had American fans screaming from the seats.

Masahiro “Machabo” Tominaga has likewise placed highly in many tournaments thus far, after taking Australia’s BAM 11 and placing third at Combo Breaker, CEO, and VSFighting. As one of the CPT’s most vicious Necalli players, fans can expect to see a stellar performance from this consistent world warrior - but with EVO’s crowded pools in mind, the unpredictable is just as likely to occur.

Menat might be able to see the future, but we can’t - there’s no telling who will come out on top in the season’s most coveted tournament, and with 1,000 points on the line, the competition is bound to be fiercer than ever. Fasten your seatbelts and tighten the laces of your kicking boots - EVO 2019 is promising to be a wild ride!