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

After the conclusion of Group D last week, only 8 players are left in the ELEAGUE playoffs. Coming into the tournament almost 2 months ago, many of the players eliminated seemed like sure favorites to make it deep into the ELEAGUE bracket, or maybe even win. Razer’s Xian was fresh off a win at Final Round, and many expected him to be a contender for champion. Even more shocking was reigning Capcom Cup champion Nuckledu being beaten twice in a row by Xiao Hai, an opponent he has constantly destroyed at other events in the past. On the other side of things, long time legend Daigo Umehara has had mixed results at events lately, but had a great showing in Group B that put him into this top 8 bracket. This week Rip, Steve, Zhi, and myself will be revealing who we think will win ELEAGUE on TBS, but today, I’ll be talking about some of my predictions for the absurdly stacked first round matches of the top 8.

Our first match in winners’ side of the bracket is going to be an incredibly explosive one. It’ll be Panda Global’s Punk against Cygames PR Balrog. My prediction is this, whomever wins this match will likely be the ELEAGUE champion. Both of these competitors have shown themselves to be world class competitors, and it’s incredibly difficult to give either player the edge. On Punk’s side, he defeated Smug to make it into this top 8, and trains with his Balrog regularly. On the other hand, PR Balrog should theoretically be able to practice the match up with Justin Wong. Neither of these players follow the play style of their opponent’s training partners though, so it’s hard to say if that experience will be helpful or not. In this match, I’m giving a slight edge to Punk based on recent results.

The other winners’ side match is Fuudo from Japan and the young troublemaker, Phenom from Norway. In his post game interview last week, Phenom was incredibly confident coming into playoffs. He should be, based on his recent top 8 finishes at Capcom Pro Tour events and overwhelming play. Despite this, I feel Fuudo has a serious edge here. He’s been one of the most consistent players in Street Fighter V, and I think his grandmaster level of patience and spacing will cage the offensive and frantic play style of Phenom.

Right away in the losers’ bracket, things are looking crazy. Two titanic Japanese fighting game players in Daigo Umehara and Momochi are up against each other. Both of these players have world-class pedigrees and accomplishments. Historically, these two have even had some of the closest and highest-level Street Fighter sets on the planet, including the grand finals of Stunfest 2015, where Daigo hit an incredible Evil Ryu combo, or even the finals of the last Topanga League for Street Fighter IV. This time, I’m giving Daigo a slight edge, since I think he has a great character matchup against Momochi’s Ken, and if he switches to Ibuki, I like Daigo’s chances.

The final set in losers’ bracket has to be one of the most surprising. Xiao Hai made it through Group D by defeating his demon Nuckledu in two different sets last week. His opponent is the former first seed out of Group C Wolfkrone, who has shown some of the highest-level Laura play we’ve seen so far. Coming into this, I feel Wolfkrone has very strong chances. Despite Xiao Hai conquering his biggest demon, there are some problems in this particular matchup. Laura is not a very popular character in Asia, so high-level experience against that character is very tough to find. We saw this when Wolfkrone was able to steamroll many of the Japanese competitors in his group. This lack of matchup knowledge, alongside the calm way Wolfkrone has put up wins all season of ELEAGUE makes me give him the edge here.

In this theoretical “Sajam bracket”, we’ve got a winners’ finals of Punk vs Fuudo, a match with lots of great backstory behind it and many heavy hitters swimming around in that losers’ bracket. Fuudo has stated himself that Punk is the best player in the world, but also that he’s focusing on doing everything he can to defeat him. Again our full picks for who will win ELEAGUE will be discussed this Friday on ELEAGUE, so tune in to hear what the rest of the commentators think!