Group C: World-Class Competition, So Many Unknowns

Written by: Stephen "Sajam" Lyon
Twitter: @Sajam       

       When the groups for ELEAGUE were announced, there was no question on anybody’s mind that Group C would be the most challenging. Despite this group being filled with some of the strongest international talent in Street Fighter history, american competitor Wolfkrone had an incredibly impressive 1st place finish, with a record of 6-1. At the time, Xian, former Evolution Champion out of Singapore, was far and away the favorite, based on his dominant win at Final Round just a few weeks before the group stage. Now, heading into this group, things are more difficult than ever to predict, given that many of these competitors haven’t been seen at events, and it has been over a month since they last faced each other.

       If there is one word to describe Fuudo in Street Fighter V, it is consistent. While other players have had hot and cold performances, Fuudo always finds his way to the top 3 of every bracket he’s in. Fresh off of a 2nd place finish at Final Round, Fuudo had a shocking first round loss to Wolfkrone in dominating fashion. Despite this, he rattled off six straight sets against every other player in his way. With only one opponent remaining who has defeated him, I expect Fuudo’s patient and smothering play style to land him a top 2 spot out of the group and into the top 8.

       Up next is Xian, the Singaporean champion who had a 3rd place finish in Group C with a record of 5-2. While most expected him to be the clear favorite of the group, ELEAGUE was actually the beginning of a recent trend for his results. Before Final Round, very few players were prepared for Xian’s new character, Ibuki. After he won Final Round in dominating fashion, many of his opponents began to come up with counter strategies, which we saw in his 3rd place finish here in Group C of the prelims and 3rd place finish just last weekend at DreamHack Austin. With that in mind, Xian has experienced this exact situation before with his Gen in Street Fighter 4. I expect history to repeat itself and Xian to be prepared with even more tricks and ideas that will lead him to a top 2 finish.

       The only other American to make it in this incredibly stacked Group C of ELEAGUE alongside Wolfkrone was Northern California Dhalsim player, Filipino Champ. He comes into this week as a bit of an unpredictable spot. Champ had a wild run at Ultimate Fighting Arena in Paris, France just about a month ago, where he finished 3rd. This catapulted him into many people’s eyes, as one of the strongest players out there. Since then, however, he has struggled to make a deep dive into the brackets of the last few events he has attended. Here, what makes his chances the most unpredictable, is that his strength lies in preparing strategies for particular opponents, which he can’t do as easily at open bracket events. With time on his side, Filipino Champ has a definite chance at fighting his way through this group.

       MOV comes into Group C in an odd position. His character Chun Li is much weaker in this version of the game than last year, where MOV was placing incredibly high in tons of stacked events. Heading into ELEAGUE he was practicing some Ibuki online and at events, but in the end, stuck with Chun Li and finished in 5th place, with a 3-4 record. Since then, MOV hasn’t been traveling as much as many of the competitors remaining here, so the non-Japanese players, in particular, will likely struggle to prepare for him.

       Echo Fox’s Tokido finished with 6th place in the group, ending with a 3-4 record. Those 4 losses include Filipino Champ, Fuudo, Wolfkrone, and MOV. Despite only having a win over one remaining opponent in the group, his chances aren’t as bleak as you’d expect. The Japanese veteran has had top 8 finishes at multiple Capcom Pro Tour premier events this year, and is competing with a brand new character this season. This means he’s constantly evolving his gameplan and exploring a character that his opponents haven’t had as much experience with. Given his character’s volatile nature, Tokido has to play on point to make it out of his group.

       Coming into Group C, Wolfkrone is in a really peculiar position. He finished with a dominant 6-1 record in his group and looked almost unstoppable all day. Since then, however, he hasn’t traveled to any of the events his competitors have. Wolfkrone has practically disappeared, which means his opponents have near zero information about how his game has been evolving. Despite this, I worry that Wolfkrone will have some trouble in this group. The Japanese players in the group admitted that many of the Laura players in Japan weren’t at Wolfkrone’s level, and because of this they weren’t prepared for him. With this in mind, I expect that they will have done their homework in preparing for this match up. So the question will be if Wolfkrone can surprise the field for a second time, which is almost impossible against world-class competitors.

       With all of this in mind, it’s still near impossible to predict who will make it out of the group this Friday. I’m predicting Xian and Fuudo to make it out, but I felt the same way before prelims where Wolfkrone absolutely shattered expectations. Group C was called the death group for a reason, and you see why when looking at who’s left. No matter who makes it out as the top 2, world class competitors will be out of the event by the end of Friday night!