Welcome once again to another Capcom Pro Tour recap! I'm Dusitn Steiner of eSportsMax, sit back, relax and enjoy as I walk you through one of the most epic tournaments of Street Fighter 4 we've ever witnessed from this year's Evolution Championship Series!

 

One of the bloodiest tournaments in Street Fighter history concluded on Sunday at EVO 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pros that everyone predicted would make top 8 weren’t even close this year – Infiltration and 2013 Champion Xian both fell early, and that was just the start of the long list of names that joined the EVO crowd while the competition was whittled down to just 8 competitors.

Picking out notable performances before top 8 in a tournament of nearly 2000 is very difficult, but the things that stuck out to me included a very near miss from FRQ | Filipinoman, whose Rose upset many a competitor on the way to a 13th place finish. Also making a deep run was AVM | Gamerbee, who lost a heartbreaker to Hori | Sako to get into top 8. EMP | Dieminion was the last to make a truly impressive splash – it’s been some time since we’ve seen Mr. Landon in top 16 at EVO, and his Guile play was truly on point. Unfortunately he ran into RG | Snake Eyez who was looking to redeem his loss at CEO and would not be denied a top 8 appearance (and had been absolutely on fire this tournament). This was also one of the first times we’ve seen such an internationally diverse Top 8, with 2 Americans, 1 European and 5 Asian competitors.

You could cut the tension with a knife as the EVO crowd settled in to watch Ultra top 8 – there was much more than usual on the line. Not only was there a $10,000 pot bonus provided by Capcom, EVO was worth quadruple the Capcom Pro Tour points and a guaranteed seed into Capcom Cup for the victor. To even make Top 8 at EVO was quite the feat in this tournament of nearly 2,000 competitors, so let’s get right down to it and cover the final matches of the biggest tournament of the year!

 

Winner’s Semifinals – Bonchan (Sagat) vs RZR | Gackt (Fei Long)

 

Winner's Semifinals
Bonchan RZR | Gackt Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

Bonchan, longtime rival of Daigo Umehara had quite the road to Top 8, sending both Justin Wong and Ricky Ortiz to the loser’s bracket – it could be said that he had the easier road compared to his opponent, however. The Singapore Fei Long Gackt went up against Mago and Sako, sending them both to Losers in the run up to top 8, and those were two competitors that people were potential EVO champions before the event started. Regardless, both of these competitors were solid and it was obvious we were in for a treat as the match got underway and the roar of the crowd intensified.

Patient zoning from Bonchan started off the match, but it was unable to keep Gackt out who managed to beat out the persistent Tiget Shots with Focus Attack dashes and Chicken Wings to get in. Once he was in, it was easy for him to close out round one despite some nice Tiger Knee counters from Bonchan. Bonchan was unwilling to just give up a game however, and battled back in the next round, brawling for every inch of space. Some nice normal gave him the life lead in the first 30 seconds, and Gackt’s insistence on backing Bonchan into the corner ended up costing him the round as he ate a few Tiger Knees in a row, and eventually a Tiger Uppercut to close out the round. The third round was much more of a slugfest from both players. After eating an EX Rekka, Bonchan was forced to battle his way out of the corner with two Tiger Shot combos in a row. Gackt, seemingly in desperation, threw Bonchan back into the corner, but was unable to predict yet another Tiger Shot to Tiger Knee combo. One throw from Bonchan left Gackt with very little life, and an easy Game 1 Victory to Bonchan.

Bonchan’s momentum kept up at the start of the next round, taking an early life lead – this lead was more than enough to survive a great rally from Gackt capped off with an Ultra. A delayed wakeup left Gackt in the corner on the follow up Chicken Wing, letting Bonchan use an Ultra of his own to close out the round. A dominating answer followed from Gackt in the next round – patient use of Rekkas to counter out Bonchan’s normal put Bonchan in the corner, and allowed him to get the very early life lead. Despite an impressive display of defense from Bonchan, there was little he could do as the second round slipped in Gackt’s favor. This momentum would keep up in round 3. Despite burning all of his meter at the beginning of the round, Gackt cornered Bonchan. Bonchan tried a Tiger Shot in desperation to get Gackt to back off him, but a jump in combo to Rekka gave him the life lead. The continued pressure forced Bonchan to attempt a Tiger Uppercut which was blocked, giving Gackt game 2 and showing Bonchan he wouldn’t walk away unscathed.

Game 3 saw Bonchan halt Gackt’s momentum. Despite being backed into the corner early off of a very brave but blocked and countered Tiger Uppercut, Bonchan continued to bully Gackt with nice use of footsies to fight his way back out of the corner and take the life lead. Repeated backdashes in the corner allowed Bonchan to dodge the command grab from Gackt and fight back – one whiffed Dragon Kick later, Bonchan used his Ultra 1 to take the round. Gackt once again managed to corner Bonchan in round 2, taking the round without much resistance thanks to his repeated use of Rekkas to punish the zoning attempt by Bonchan.  Round 3 went to Bonchan after repeated attempts to get in were met with Tiger Shots – he finally got Bonchan to the corner but his last ex command grab was met with a neutral jump setup that gave Bonchan the lead for the first time in this match.

Neutral jump setups continued to be Gackt’s bane – sensing that Gackt was just going to keep going in, one neutral jump combo over the top of an EX-Chicken Wing all but secured the next round for Bonchan. A nice rally capped by a juggling Ultra 1 gave Gackt the round as he clung on for dear life, fighting to not be knocked down into the Loser’s Bracket. Round 3 seemed like it was in Gackt’s favor as once again he was able to Rekka his way into a corner situation, but a few missed opportunities later, Bonchan once again had control of the match, putting in some corner pressure of his own before closing out the match with a simple light kick after an impressive display of defensive pressure from Gackt.

With that, Bonchan moves to Winner’s finals, while Gackt drops to the Loser’s Bracket to do battle there.

 

Winner’s Semifinals - RG | Snake Eyez (Zangief) vs RZR | Fuudo (Fei Long)

Winner's Semifinals
RG | Snake Eyez RZR | Fuudo Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

Snake Eyez had garnered quite a lot of attention on Friday evening when he knocked EVO 2013 Champion Xian into the Loser’s Bracket. It seemed like the crowd’s USA chants were still reverberating through the ballroom of the Westgate, even two days later, so to say he was the crowd favorite was probably understating the matter. That being said, Fuudo was no slouch himself – the EVO 2011 champion, he had arguably the easier road to Top 8, taking out the impressive Ibuki player FGC Pugera and AVM | Gamerbee.

Round one got underway with solid footsie fork from both players, displaying their virtuoso status as two of the best fundamentals players in Street Fighter today. A Spinning Backhand got Snake Eyez in for a nice Fierce Spinning Piledriver to give him the life lead. Despite some nice spacing work from Fuudo, he was put in range for yet another SPD and regular throw to give Snake Eyez round one. Fuudo’s smothering style was put to good use in round 2 as random limbs were stuck out repeatedly to give Snake Eyez second thoughts about coming in. This was a very slow round, but one in which Snake Eyez was given no option but to attempt a jump in setup, which was countered each time, going to Fuudo in the end.  Round 3 was dominating from Fuudo – after backing Snake Eyez into the corner with a Rekka and countering his throw attempt with a backdash, Fuudo was able to take the third round rather easily, seemingly having found the answer to Snake Eyez’ footsie style of Zangief play.

Fuudo continued his dominant spacing style, not allowing Snake Eyez the chance to get in at all in round 1, which led to a very long round. Fuudo’s spacing was masterful, not allowing Snake Eyez to get in virtually at all, only taking minor hits here and there – eventually, the clock ran down, and Snake Eyez gave Fuudo a little bit too much room to maneuver, running down the clock and taking the first round. A dominating round followed from Snake Eyez – he got the early lead with 2 standing roundhouses, a move he hadn’t yet used against Fuudo and kept it with solid use of SPDs and EX Banishing Flat. The pressure was too much for Fuudo, who tried a little too hard to make up the life deficit and gave up round 2. Round 3 was again in Fuudo’s favor, however – Snake Eyez was tired of the spacing game and tried to go very aggressive using an EX Banishing Flat to FADC Command Grab, but it was backdashed and punished pretty hard by Fuudo. This gave him the life lead that Snake Eyez was just unable to overcome, and he dropped the second game to Fuudo.

With his winner’s side presence on the line, Snake Eyez went back into game three looking dominant. The spacing from Fuudo was still on point, but it seemed like Snake Eyez finally had his number catching a number of backdashing thanks to Banishing Flat, and some rare missed uppercuts from Fuudo gave Snake Eyez the positional advantage he needed to take round 1. Round 2 was a completely different Fuudo – playing very aggressively, seemingly afraid to backdash away from Snake Eyez after he so thoroughly punished him in round 1, he was able to easily combo his way to victory in round 2 capping it off with some nice antiair work. Fuudo got off to a great start in round 3 taking the early lead but Snake Eyez was able to even things out with some nice Banishing Flat combos. Fuudo wanted to take the set right then with a great Chicken Wing to Ultra 1 setup, but a blocked Rekka to backdash was punished with a great jump in setup, giving Snake Eyez a game, and showing Fuudo he’d have to work for this win if he really wanted it.

The comeback just wasn’t to be for Snake Eyez though – despite an impressive round 1 from Snake Eyez in which he seemed to be controlling the space really well with SPDs and pokes, and some nice banishing flats. In round 2 Fuudo went back to controlling the pace of the match with solid footsies, forcing Snake Eyez to blink – he did and managed to get off some great damage, even taking the life lead briefly, but an ultra ran out the rest of the clock as the footsie game had just taken so long that there was barely any time left on the clock. Round 3 was controlled almost entirely controlled by Fuudo – it seemed like Snake Eyez was tired of Fuudo’s clock shenanigans and was just trying to get in and do damage. However, that was exactly what Fuudo wanted and he was able to close out the match with some really solid fundamentals and full punishes, doing just enough damage that once Snake Eyez did get in, an Ultra activation ran out the rest of the clock, abusing that mechanic for the second time this match.  This sent the lone American hope in Winner’s to the Loser’s Bracket, while Fuudo moved on to face Bonchan in the Winner’s Finals. But before that, we had to get through the entire Loser’s Bracket where we saw some fierce competition.

 

Loser’s Bracket – EG | Momochi (Juri) vs MD | Louffy (Rose)

 

Loser's Bracket
EG | Momochi MD | Louffy Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

Louffy (or Luffy if you prefer) has had one hell of a road to top 8 – defeating 5 straight Japanese competitors to make it here is no easy feat, and Louffy did it with style using Rose, a character not many consider to be overpowered, but still strong. He’s up against EG | Momochi, the champion of Southeast Asia Majors and someone we just saw take second at CEO, so we know he’s also strong and has some surprises waiting for us.

Round 1 got underway with some zoning efforts from Momochi’s Juri, but they were mostly thwarted by Rose’s reflect into Soul Spiral combos. Two successive focus attacks gave Luffy just enough meter to use Ultra 1, and the soul satellites quick connected on a nice crossup from Louffy.  Momochi took the early lead using two EX Pinwheels to do massive damage, but Luffy caught Momochi’s dive kick with Ultra 1 to Soul Throw giving him the massive advantage, leading to an easy game 1 victory.

Luffy once again looked dominant in round 1 of the next game – using Reflect to stop the zoning game of Momochi, he was able to rush in and put in a ton of damage taking the early parts of the match with great zoning and Soul Spirals. However, Momochi was able to pull off an impressive comeback through use of Pinwheels, Juri’s dive kick and an Ultra 2 combo that took the round. Round 2 was a different story – Louffy got the lead and kept it with impressive amounts of pressure from the start, landing Soul Sprial combos that left Momochi cornered and without options.  Round 3 saw Momochi grab the lead for the first time in this match to start things off. However, it wasn’t enough to stop Luffy, who landed a great Ultra 2 to Soul Spiral combo which completely reversed the flow of the round. A whiffed Ultra from Momochi was all the Louffy needed to seal the deal and take game 2.

Game 3 saw Momochi forced onto Ken, his previous main, to attempt to throw Louffy off. This seemed odd to me because in general, that’s a poor matchup, and that’s exactly what we saw here. Through Momochi initially had pressure, an Ultra 2 from Louffy forced him to back off until it expired which ended up cornering Momochi. This seemed like it would be another quick round for Louffy but decent fireball pressure forced him to back off. From here, it was great chip damage work from Momochi and excellent zoning that kept Louffy out until 2 seconds, and the Ultra was proceed just to be sure there was no more time for damage, giving Momochi the round. A nice cross-under from Louffy gave him the pressure he needed to take the lead quickly. Nice use of EX Soul Spiral got Louffy through the fireball spam from Momochi, and gave him the round in the end. Round 3 was completely dominating from Louffy, just completely abusing EX Soul Spiral, and dashing forward with complete confidence for throws. The end of the round came on a brilliant fireball diagonal reflect to Ultra 1 setup that forced Momochi to guess on jumping the fireball or running into the Ultra – he jumped and ran straight into it.

This sent Momochi home in 7th place, while Louffy would go on to face the winner of the next match.

 

Loser’s Bracket – EG | Ricky Ortiz (Rufus) vs Hori | Sako (Evil Ryu)

Loser's Bracket
EG | Ricky Ortiz Hori | Sako Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

Ricky Ortiz is a name that’s no stranger to Top 8s, especially here in America. However, he was on the Loser’s Side of the bracket for a change, after being sent down by Bonchan. His road wasn’t easy, as he had to go through Filipino Champ and Itzabashi Zangief to get here in top 32. Meanwhile, his opponent Sako (known as one of the five Japanese gods of fighting games) was sent to loser’s by Fuudo and had to go through Gamerbee to qualify for top 8 after a grueling tournament. The winner of this match would go on to face Snake Eyez, so either way, they still had a long way to go.

The match got off to an explosive start from both players, as was appropriate for Rufus vs Evil Ryu. Great aggression from Sako forced Ricky Ortiz into the corner, but that was exactly where he wanted to be. With a quick back throw, it was Sako who was cornered. One dive kick to Ultra 1 setup from Ricky and round 1 was in the books. A nice use of ambiguous divekicks gave Ricky the momentum to start the round, but Sako wasn’t going down without a fight. Great use of focus attacks gave Sako all he needed to combo effectively – with just two combos, he had all but secured the round. Two axe kicks in the corner later, things were all tied up. Ricky dominated round 3 with awesome dive kick pressure, forcing Sako into the corner. A false divekick closed out the round as Sako attempted to wake up with a throw to punish, only to eat a low jump divekick, giving Ricky the lead 1-0.

Sako quickly struck back, noticing that Ricky was abusing crouching fierce as an antiair, he took advantage of it with an axe kick setup to open up his defense, taking the first round without much input from Ricky. The second round was much closer – Sako took the advantage early with solid use of his target combo, but Ricky wasn’t going to have any of that. He quickly came back with dive kick combos of his own, but got extremely lucky as Sako landed a focus attack that wasn’t quite fully charged, barely missing the crumple, and was able to close out the round. Sako started the next round with a bang, using 3 axe kick loops in a row to set Ricky back a good amount of damage. It looked like Game 2 was in the bag for Sako, but Ricky was able to land a great Dive Kick combo setup to Ultra 1, closing out the game and setting the game to match point for Ricky.

The next game was yet another knockdown, drag out fight – Ricky started off the match with a bang yet again, quickly setting Evil Ryu back 2/3s of his health. But Sako wasn’t ready to give up, landing a great 14 hit combo that sent Ricky reeling. From there, a fireball to dash setup led to an antiair Ultra 2 which sealed the round for Sako. This only seemed to anger Ricky, as he came back furiously strong in a near perfect round that saw Sako cornered and dive kicked to death almost immediately (just 17 seconds). Sako answered back with a dominant round of his own, a quick one which left Ricky stunned and quickly cornered and taken out for Game 3.

Sako continued to dominate through the first round of Game 4, capping off a series of combos with Ultra 2. The next round was over similarly quickly, with Ricky answering back with a stun of his own which secured the round in his favor quickly. Round 3, Ricky displayed excellent use of Red Focus to chain together a combo that took Sako down to 20% health rather quickly. From there, it was easy for Ricky to finish out the game.

Sako was sent home in 7th place, while Ricky Ortiz moved on to face Snake Eyez in the next round of the Loser’s Bracket.

 

Loser’s Quarterfinals - RZR | Gackt (Fei Long) vs MD | Louffy (Rose)

Loser's Quarterfinals
RZR | Gackt MD | Louffy Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

Louffy and Gackt have both fought an incredible battle to make it here. Of course, Louffy’s road might have been a bit harder than Gackt’s having fought 5 Japanese competitors. Regardless, they were set to square off after Gackt’s loss to Bonchan, one had to wonder if his confidence may have been slightly shaken.

Gackt started off strong bullying with EX Command Grab combos, but was quickly halted by Louffy’s Rose. From there, he tried a Chicken Wing but was stopped cold by a Soul Throw – this led to the life lead and the easy round 1 win for Louffy, despite strong play from Gackt. The next round got off to a strong start for Louffy with two fierce standings and an EX Soul Spiral to take the early lead. The round was closed out through a combination of normals and chip damage, taking game 1 easily.

The start of game 2 was similarly dominating from Louffy. Mind games from the start, he kept using crouching fierce to make it look like he was going to slide forward, basically taking the round for free after a throw in the corner. Great continued use of pokes in Round 2, combined with the read that Gackt really wanted to jump in on him, gave Louffy the round after an Ultra 2 activation and a super.

Despite having awesome pressure to start off Game 3, Gackt was quickly taken down to very little health by great use of pokes to interrupt his aggression from Louffy, and a perfectly timed Ultra 2 that stopped his EX Chicken Wing cold, and allowed Louffy to use a crouching fierce. This was bad indeed for Gackt, as he blew the only chance at gaining momentum that he had had so far in the match. A crumple in the corner in the next round finally gave him an edge and he was able to secure the round through great defense of Louffy’s attempted comeback string of normal to Soul Spiral combos. Round 3 was all Louffy – an awesome Super activation drained his meter, but connected solidly on Gackt mid Chicken Wing, virtually handing him the keys to advance to the next round, while Gackt is sent home in 5th place.

 

Loser’s Quarterfinals - RG | Snake Eyez (Zangief) vs EG | Ricky Ortiz (Rufus)

RG | Snake Eyez EG | Ricky Ortiz Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3  Perfect
Game 4
Game 5

 

Next up on the other side of the Loser’s Quarterfinals, we had a heartbreaker for any American fans. The two remaining Americans in top 8 (which is the first time this has happened in Street Fighter 4 at EVO) had to square off to decide who would move on. Snake Eyez, of course, had shocked the world by sending previous EVO Champion Xian to Loser’s on Friday evening, and Ricky is no slouch himself, so it was sure to be a fierce matchup.

After the previous beating, it was nice to see a change of pace and see a really well thought out and defensive match from both players. Strong defense characterized the match between Snake Eyez and Ricky for the first round – eventually Snake Eyez was able to punish Ricky for poking at him with normals with a quick EX Banishing Flat combo that gave him the life lead. Ricky was just unable to get in at all thanks to phenomenal defense from Snake Eyez – however, Ricky did have a full meter thanks to that going into Round 2. This round was similarly long. Snake Eyez seemed to have figured out that most of his options in this matchup were bad, so he simply played defense and waited for Ricky to overcommit, which he eventually did in trying to crack Snake Eyez’ defense. After that, it was more defense from Snake Eyez, though it slipped a bit. A last second Banishing Flat gave him the lead, and in desperation Ricky went in, only to get KO’d with one second on the clock. Certainly an at the buzzer kill if I’ve ever seen one.

Game 2 got off to a quick start for Snake Eyez who got in through repeated jump in to Banishing Flat combos to take a significant life lead, but Ricky managed to battle back through poking and a throw, but still had a life deficit to make up by 50 seconds. Ricky’s desperation was becoming apparent, and Snake Eyez was able to take advantage, the first game of this set closed out before the clock was running down. Ricky managed to finally take a round after hitting Snake Eyez with an EX Galactic Tornado that changed the spacing unexpectedly, and gave him the life lead that allowed him to take the round by poking with normals. Round 3 was almost totally in Snake Eyez’ favor thanks to a solid defense and an on the fly adjustment to dealing with Galactic Tornadoes – he also employed jump ins to great effect, and the first lariat he’s thrown out all game, giving Ricky yet another threat to think about.

Clearly sensing blood, Snake Eyez perfected Ricky Ortiz in the next round through two beautiful jump in setups, and one of the prettiest Zangief combos I’ve seen in a professional match. Really solid stuff from Snake Eyez, who is really beginning to shine as one of the brightest stars in the US FGC. The second round wasn’t even close either – which means that Snake Eyez knocks out Ricky Ortiz who heads home in 5th place, continuing the trend of him sending Ricky home at large tournaments, as he historically has the slight edge in their previous matchups.

 

Loser’s Semifinals – RG | Snake Eyez (Zangief) vs MD | Louffy (Rose)

Loser's Semifinals
RG | Snake Eyez MD | Louffy Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

Both of these competitors have had a long road to get where they were now. The crowd was tense. Would it be the lone American hope, or the European hope to head up against the Japanese players in Top 3? Either way it was sure to be one heck of a match, as both of these players have exhibited skills in this tournament that were far beyond the expectations of anyone before this event.

Both players played very defensively to start things off, Snake Eyez once again displaying his blocking work that he displayed against Ricky Ortiz, but it appears that Louffy was watching that match as well, as he quickly rushed in and punished with a throw to discourage that defensive behavior. From there Snake Eyez decided to try and go on the offensive which was punished pretty had by Louffy through a combination of fireballs and Soul Spirals, giving the first round over to the European. A wonderful diagonal reflect bounced Snake Eyez’ jump in efforts back to the sky with a follow up Soul Throw, giving Louffy the early life lead. An impressive rally from Snake Eyez wasn’t enough to slow Louffy, giving game one over.

Game 2 quickly got underway with no pause, neither player willing to back down – a jump in from Snake Eyez quickly led to two Banishing Flat combos that all but gave him the round. This momentum kept up in the second round – Louffy’s overaggressive Rose playstyle hurt him here as several times he misread Snake Eyez and dashed straight into a Banishing Flat combo. This gave Snake Eyez the life lead and made it relatively easy for him to battle on and take Game 2.

Game 3 seemed like it was in Snake Eyez’ control using 4 consecutive Banishing Flats, but Louffy was able to steal the round away from him after a great FADC combo. That didn’t deter Snake Eyez who continued to display great pressure with a great SPD that he’s not using often, really throwing Louffy off. Louffy answered back with a great Super combo after some nice normal to take the life lead. A whiffed Ultra from Snake Eyez all but gave Louffy the round as he still had the life lead. A desperation EX Banishing Fist to Command Grab whiffed, and Louffy took the third game.

The weight of an entire continent was on the back of Snake Eyez as he needed this game to stay alive. And it seemed like he knew this going in, displaying some great counter hits in this round and using 5 Banishing Flats in a row, but Louffy managed to catch him with an Ultra 1 to take the round. This didn’t deter Snake Eyez who continued to switch styles on Louffy, utilizing throws a bit more than he was previously, and mixing in Banishing Flats to take the round. Snake Eyez still needed this round to take the tournament and he displayed amazing aggression to corner Louffy. Louffy lands a great super to continue the fight, but Snake Eyez slowly stalked towards his opponent, and he block Louffy’s Ultra 1 to setup a beautiful SPD and take game 4.

With everything on the line for these two competitors, game 5 got underway with Snake Eyez once again utilizing his Lariat rarely to do great damage to Louffy on counter hits. Snake Eyez took the first round on the back of some great aggression after having the life lead. Snake Eyez really wanted the win, but he wanted it a bit too much as he kept Banishing Flat into Louffy’s throws, giving Louffy the life lead and the eventual win. It all came down to round 3. Both players traded blows to start things off early, but Snake Eyez ended up with the life lead through some great footsies. A jump in nearly cost him the match, but it traded with the kick he had thrown out instead. Some great normal to keep Snake Eyez on his heels and fireballs to zone further put Snake Eyez in kill range, and Louffy dashed forward and seized victory with a quick throw to secure.

With that the lone American hope was eliminated, but not before we saw one of the best matches of top 8. Good show to Snake Eyez, really proving why he’s close to being considered one of the gods of American Street Fighter, no longer an up and comer, who heads home in 4th place with 128 CPT points (the same as winning a Ranking tournament).

 

Winner’s Finals – Bonchan (Sagat) vs RZR | Fuudo (Fei Long)

Winner's Finals
Bonchan RZR | Fuudo Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

The 2011 champion Fuudo was still in Winner’s Finals despite the size of this tournament and the level of competition – still obviously a threat to anyone he ran into and a favorite to win the entire tournament coming into the event, his Fei Long style of smothering his opponent and their options still strongly in effect. That said, Bonchan has been looking pretty fierce himself, and as a veteran of the Topanga League in Japan, he has more than enough experience to be considered a contender for the EVO crown himself.

Bonchan got off to a great start, waiting for Fuudo to overextend and punishing with some great Tiger Uppercuts before closing out with a beautiful EX Tiger Knee FADC combo. Fuudo struck back in the second round, taking the initial lead, but he once again overextended, and allowed Bonchan a way back into the match – all it took was a few counterhit Tiger Uppercuts and normals, capped off with a Ultra 1 to take the game.

The momentum continued in Bonchan’s favor, with the Japanese Sagat taking the offensive this time around. Fuudo attempted some neutral air setups but was met with two juggling Tiger Shots that left him with very little health. Despite a nice whiff punish from Fuudo, it wasn’t enough to finish off Bonchan who had the life lead, and all of a sudden Bonchan only needed 3 more games to win. There were some brief signs of life from Fuudo in this round, where he went on an impressive rally, landing 2 Rekka combinations in a row in the corner, but he just seemed unable to predict Bonchan’s Tiger Knee, which swung the match back in his favor.

With his tournament life on the line, Fuudo went into game 3 with aggression that began to show a bit of his desperation. His aggression appeared to be working at first, but the Tiger Knee once again gave Bonchan the advantage. Only some key focus attacks from Fuudo gave him the positional advantage, and a low jab into Rekka combo. Fuudo once again looked dominant in round 2. His aggression cornered Bonchan early, and through nice use of Rekkas, throws and command grabs, he was able to put Bonchan at virtually nothing. Despite a landed Ultra 1 from Bonchan that gave him another chance, Fuudo took his first game of the set, putting Bonchan on notice that he wouldn’t be sent to losers for free.

Fuudo’s momentum stayed strong in the next round, and it seemed like a comeback was in the making as his Rekka combos, and low high mixups seemed to have Bonchan perplexed. Bonchan answered back with some aggression of his own, apparently tired of being cornered. This baited Fuudo into going full offense himself, which is exactly what Bonchan wanted as he just patiently waited out a blocked Rekka before going into a full Ultra 1 combo that took Fuudo to pixels. Bonchan, perhaps a bit overconfident at this point, was punished for using low Tiger Shot at midrange by a double chicken wing to Ultra 1 combo that gave Fuudo the lead back, but Bonchan just barely survived the chip Rekkas afterward to land a Tiger Uppercut to seal the round. Now on match point, Fuudo pulled out all the stops, taking Bonchan to just 10% health very quickly. Thanks to some awesome defense from Bonchan, he stayed in the game long enough to land an EX Tiger Uppercut to Ultra 1 combo – from there, a light tiger shot was all it took to close out the game for Bonchan and send Fuudo down to the loser’s bracket to face the European terror Louffy.

 

Loser’s Finals – MD | Louffy (Rose) vs RZR | Fuudo (Fei Long)

 

Loser's Finals
MD | Louffy RZR | Fuudo Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now folks. With only one person left in the winner’s bracket, it was time for the Loser’s to duke it out to see who would move on to face Bonchan. Would Fuudo get his runback against the Japanese Sagat player, or would it be Europe holding it down for the first time in the EVO finals for the Street Fighter IV series?

The first round got underway with Louffy seemingly having the clear advantage. Several pokes landed, and Louffy was even able to foil a jump in attempt by Fuudo with stand fierce. However, Fuudo wasn’t taking no for an answer and managed to corner Louffy – this led to some impressive defensive work from Louffy and the eventual Soul Spiral to get out of the corner. Once back at midscreen, it was all Louffy’s round, and Fuudo couldn’t work his way back to a corner in time to take the round. Round 2 was similarly in Louffy’s favor, using a Super to punish a whiffed attack more or less guaranteed the round to the Frenchman, who seemed to be still on fire after defeating Snake Eyez.

Louffy’s reads seemed omniscient in game 2 as he was able to correctly guess all of Fuudo’s attacks and counter them effectively, despite eating one Rekka to the face that did significant damage.  Fuudo wasn’t willing to back down and play defensive, to his ultimate detriment as he quickly fell in round 1. Louffy was fearless in round 2 and completely dominated Fuudo - he looked a little off his game in this round, perhaps on tilt.

Fuudo got off to a great start in game 3, but Louffy was able to pressure Fuudo into the corner with Ultra 2 and get a free throw. Louffy did his best to not allow Fuudo to dictate the flow of the match, but an EX Rekka went straight through a normal thrown out to challenge Fei Long’s normals and he took the round. Fuudo’s momentum seemed to stall out a bit in round 2, with Louffy landing some amazing Soul Spires and reflects to discourage jump in setups. That is, until Fuudo unleashed an Ultra 1 for the first time this match and it connected for huge damage. If it was anyone else they would’ve been in trouble, but not Louffy – a nice focus to absorb and some good defensive work later, he was able to land three EX Soul Spirals in a row to take the round away from Fuudo, and put him on match point.  The competitors traded blows as the crowd began to get more hype behind them – it was even until Louffy landed a great Soul Spiral to Super combo that left Fuudo with almost no health. All it took was a fireball, and a dashing Louffy behind it to secure the game with a standing roundhouse, sending the Evolution 2011 champion home in 3rd place with 256 CPT points.

Louffy is playing out of his mind today, certainly the best we’ve ever seen from him. But would it be enough to stop the sole survivor of a 2000 player tournament in winners?

 

Grand Finals – MD | Louffy (Rose) [L] vs Bonchan (Sagat) [W]

 

Grand Finals
MD | Louffy [L] Bonchan [W] Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

This was it – the whole enchilada. The grand finals of every EVO tournament to date in Street Fighter has been one to remember. Whether it was Infiltration’s clutch victory with Hakan, Daigo’s back to back domination in 2009-2010, Fuudo’s surprise victory in 2011 or Xian’s Gen holding it down in Grand Finals, there was always a story there.

This year, it’s all about Louffy – the only European ever to make it to the Evo Grand Finals in the Street Fighter IV series, he’s been playing absolutely crazy this tournament, taking down a number of big names. But he has one last big obstacle in front of him, and that’s Japan’s Bonchan. Making it to Grand Finals in Winners is normally no easy feat, but to do so in a tournament of nearly 2000 with a field as stacked as this year’s EVO has been is a feat unto itself.

And as we know, this year things are even more important, as Capcom has not only lent an extra $10,000 to the prize pool, winning guarantees a 1st place position in the Capcom Pro Tour and gives you a spot at the Capcom Cup in San Francisco in December. Let’s get right down to it!

Louffy had a long road ahead, but he got off to a sprint in round 1. A great jump in setup from Louffy put Bonchan on notice – Louffy playing with complete confidence, he briefly pad for it there as he quickly at an Ultra 2 to take his health down to virtually nothing. However, that didn’t stop Louffy. Bonchan displayed remarkable poise breaking the dash in throw, but he wasn’t ready for the EX Soul Spiral the followed, giving the first round over to Louffy. The second round started with Bonchan trying to zone Louffy out, but ultimately cost him, as Louffy absorbed, reflected, and focused almost all of the tiger shots, giving him a full super bar and a half ultra. The Ultra from Louffy was virtually useless, though it did allow for a throw into Soul Spiral Super setup on Bonchan’s wakeup. From there it was cake for Louffy to take the first game on a beautiful Ultra 2 to Soul Throw crossup that let an EX Soul Spiral chip Bonchan out.

Louffy once again got off to a great start in Game 2, employing his neutralizing strategy for zoning once more, and landing yet another Soul Spire to Super combo. This left Bonchan with very little option, until he landed an EX tiger knee to FADC Ultra 2 combo that gave him the lead as the time was running out. Louffy, thinking on his feet, dashed forward three times and caught him with a throw as the clock ran out to give him the round! Bonchan continued to feed Louffy free super meter with his zoning efforts in Round 2, leading me to question this tactic, especially given the number of Supers he’s been hit with so far in this matchup. Perhaps we were saying a chink in the armor of the normally composed Bonchan? Regardless both competitors traded blows once again ending up on Pixels – one whiffed desperation uppercut form the cornered Bonchan was all Louffy needed to close game 2.

The momentum and electricity in the room was apparent. Would Louffy really 3-0 Bonchan to reset the bracket? Bonchan gave Louffy a little bit of trouble as the match got underway with different spacing on his fireball game, as well as patience, just waiting for Louffy to overextend. But one throw and a fireball, and Louffy was right back in the thick of it. A Tiger Uppercut gave Bonchan the quick life lead, and it was a little too much for Louffy to overcome, which gave Bonchan his first round of these finals. Bonchan’s confidence seemed renewed, showing much more aggression than he was, but it wasn’t enough to deter Louffy’s EX Soul Spiral game – Bonchan managed to land a low kick to open up Louffy’s defenses and truly put himself on the board, at least preventing a shutout.

Louffy wasn’t ready to give up and the crowd waited with baited breath, as he switched to a midrange fireball game, combined with further Soul Spirals – this spacing changed seemed to throw Bonchan off, and he quickly took round 1. Round 2 was also in Louffy’s favor despite a massive life lead. His defense of attack so much you can’t do anything but block or get hit worked extremely well, and with that the bracket was reset after a dominating performance from Louffy.

Just when Bonchan began to figure him out, Louffy presented a different style altogether, one that I’ m not sure if Bonchan knows how to deal with!

 

Bracket Reset – MD | Louffy (Rose) vs Bonchan (Sagat)

 

Grand Finals - Bracket Reset
MD | Louffy Bonchan Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5

 

One best of 5 stood between these two competitors and ultimate glory – which would come out on top? Had Bonchan yet figured out Louffy’s Rose antics? Or would the European take home an EVO trophy across the Atlantic for the first time in Street Fighter IV history?

Louffy seemed dominant once again, as Bonchan was looking more and more like he was on tilt, using some great antiairs, and false block strings, as though daring him to Tiger Uppercut. He didn’t and was taken down on chip damage alone on some really impressive pressure from Louffy. The second round, it seemed like Bonchan had begun to catch on to Louffy’s rhythm once again, taking the early life lead. This time around, he kept it, as he was able to bully with the expected Tiger Uppercut from last round, which ultimately meant Louffy just had too large of a deficit to come back from. Louffy was focusing really hard on landing his super which almost cost him big time – however, a really smart Ultra into throw reversed the flow of the match and allowed Louffy to back Bonchan into the corner. From there, it was only a matter of time till the fireball to super combo went off, giving Louffy game 1!

The next round was tense – Louffy couldn’t seem to decide what he wanted his game plan to be, so he alternated between reflecting fireballs to build meter and rushing in. He landed some great pokes and two throws to give himself the life advantage, but Bonchan wasn’t ready to give up. He kept poking with fireballs, to even out the life totals. The competitors traded a few times and an ultra activation from Louffy caused Bonchan to back himself into the corner – a trade that could’ve well killed Louffy with Bonchan’s standing roundhouse that allowed Louffy to chain his super and take the round to thunderous applause from the crowd, who seemed to know they were watching a champion in the making! Bonchan seemed a little rattled, but unwilling to give up – perhaps the phrase I should use here is he went ham, catching Louffy completely off guard with explosive offense, easily grabbing the second round. To Louffy’s great pleasure, Bonchan decided to start off with fireball zoning once again in round 3, giving Rose almost full super bar to start off the round. From there, it was a simple matter of withstanding the assault from Bonchan (which, while impressive, didn’t get the win), and countering with aggression of his own leading into two quick throws to close out the round off the back of an Ultra 2 activation.

With that, Louffy was up 2-0 and you could just see the despair written all over Bonchan’s face. But as the first round got underway, it was Louffy that was put immediately on the back foot, eating aggressive 4 hit links and anti-air Tiger Uppercuts wasn’t a good way to start things off. From there, nice Tiger Shot to dash Tiger Uppercut combos gave Bonchan a round in this rather dominating set from Louffy. The next round also went in Bonchan’s favor after he seemed to have found a sweet spot on the screen where Louffy wasn’t able to pressure effectively, leading to big damage from Tiger Knee links.

With Bonchan now beginning to make a comeback, Louffy needed to state his case for the EVO championship with authority, and that’s exactly what he did. Starting off with a zoning game of his own, Louffy rushed forward and began pressuring with false block strings. This led Bonchan to believe he could be a little aggressive himself, trying to counter poke, and eventually cornering Louffy, who ate a few attacks on the way out, seemingly in an attempt to build his ultra meter. Bonchan displayed excellent composure, not allowing Rose to get in and throw by using some great techs and counter throws of his own. Louffy got a little too excited by landed his first Soul Spiral, and went for two only to eat a fully charged Ultra 2 to the face. Things looked grim this round for Louffy but he managed to land an EX Soul Spiral and keep pressuring Bonchan backwards – he eventually cracked and jumped in only to be antiaired, putting Louffy on Evolution point!

Louffy quickly built up a full super meter and continued to pressure down Bonchan, who to his credit wasn’t backing down either, using some great Tiger Shots to keep Louffy out. The pressure from Louffy kept up until Bonchan went back to trying to zone him out – however it just wasn’t to be, the pressure from Louffy was too great, who landed a great throw, a slide and just one more little chunk of damage to close out the EVO 2014 championship!

And for the first time ever we have a European champion of EVO 2014, who will be at Capcom Cup and automatically advances to the top of the Pro Tour standings after two grueling days of competition. This day will forever change the way we think about Rose, the way we think about European Street Fighter and Ultra in general, as two characters who weren’t “top tier” made it all the way to finals.

Final Standings

  1. Olivier "MD | Louffy" Hay
  2. Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi
  3. Ai "RZR | Fuudo" Keita
  4. Darryl "RG | Snake Eyez" Lewis
  5. EG | Ricky Ortiz
  6. Ghim "RZR | Gackt" kee Eng
  7. Naoto "Hori | Sako" Sako
  8. Yusuke "EG | Momochi" Momochi

 

 

Don't forget to check out all of the awesome content that eSportsMax got at EVO including photos, recaps, interviews and more here, and the galleries below:

 

Day 1

 

Day 2

 

Day 3