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

With the preliminary portion of ELEAGUE over, the groups are looking even more stacked than ever. Only 6 players remain in each group, and the matches to qualify for the semi finals will be as tense as ever. This week, we’ll take a look back at the match between the eventual 1st and 2nd-seeded players in Group A, Panda Global’s Punk and Echo Fox’s Momochi. For those of you who didn’t catch it live, you can see it right here, in Sajam's World.

Game 1: 
Right from the start, there is a strong sense of how these two players’ styles will match up. Momochi is known for his incredible patience and willingness to wait for the exact right spacing and range to counter attack, while Punk shows a very similar strength from the start of the first round. Punk opens up with one of his favorite tools, Karin’s standing medium kick. This may look like offense from Punk, but the real goal is to make you flinch afterwords. He uses this to setup much of his whiff punishing and offense. After Punk forces you to block a standing medium kick, he will step back and wait to see what your response is. If his opponent hits a button, he will step out of range and punish the recovery. If they continue blocking or back up, Punk will then push forward and check with another medium kick. You can see from the start, Momochi is willing to play patient after each medium kick, so Punk begins to throw in Karin’s v-skill and other attacks afterward to try to force the action.

Despite Punk trying to force Momochi to move or whiff attacks, the Japanese veteran stayed incredibly patient and waited out Punk in the first few games. Twice in a row Momochi steals rounds away in the first game with one of Ken’s best tools, fireball into v-trigger. This close range option allows Momochi to start offense very safely.

Game 2: 
After Momochi’s patience closed out a first game for him, Punk made a very quick adjustment. From the start, he played much more active and moved in against Momochi much more. This stopped Momochi from being able to play the usual slow paced counter poke-heavy style and forced him to guess on defense. This led to a 20-second perfect for Punk.

In round 2 of game 2, Momochi begins to move forward and use more of his own normals to try and push Punk back. This allows Momochi to find a ton of offense and close out a pretty quick game for himself. Unfortunately, this style switch is also a much more risky style than Momochi usually plays, and he got caught slugging a bit in the final round of game 2. The change of pace caused him to go for a jump with 88 seconds left in the round, and when anti aired fired off a risky uppercut, that was blocked and punished. The rest of the round quickly snowballed in Punk’s favor and forced a tie game at 1-1.

Game 3: 
This is the game where the style switch from Momochi really caused him issues. From the start, Momochi abandons a lot of the patience in his usual style and plays more forward than usual. This led to things like the counter hit v-skill Karin lands at 83 seconds, and the dash up she does at 80 seconds on the clock. Momochi loses a lot of the usually fantastic interruptive normals and patience he usually has here. Despite this, a critical input error from Punk costs him the round.

The rest of this set is really decided when Momochi becomes flustered at the end of round 2. With 46 seconds on the clock, Momochi has a missed buffer and inputs a raw v-trigger activation, and then follows up at 42 seconds with a dropped anti air. Then, in the 3rd round, Momochi drops his air tatsu input. This really began a slow roll for Punk, as he clinically closed out the rest of the round.

Heading into the most dangerous part of this bracket yet, both these players are looking primed to make it into the semifinals. The biggest concern for Momochi has got to be his nerves and some of the key drops he had in the group stage. Despite Punk being the clear favorite here on paper, his disastrous post-group stage performance at SXSW a few weeks ago has got to be on everyone’s mind. Group A is definitely wide open for anybody to take, and it’s all up to whomever shows up and performs on Friday.