Last night marked the final match of EVO 2017, with Victor "PG|Punk" Woodley going up against Hajime "Fox|Tokido" Taniguchi in the Street Fighter V Grand Finals. The tournament played host to some amazing rivalries, some stunning upsets, and even the rise of some new players who look to be future legends.
If you happened to be watching something else this weekend, there were a ton of excellent matches. If you're going to be talking fighting games around the water cooler, then it's imperative you know about the fights that defined this year's Evo Championship Series. Join me for the rundown.
Header image photo is via Carlton Beener.
Street Fighter V
The marquee game of the tournament was full of upsets. Many of the veteran players, including Daigo Umehara, Justin Wong, Lee "RZR|Infiltration" Seon-woo, and Kun Xian "RZR|Xian" Ho, didn't make it to the top 8 finals. In contrast, newer players like Naoki "Moke" Nakayama and Woodley showed off their stuff, cementing themselves as players to watch in the future.
Early on, Punk and Tokido met in the Semi-Finals, with the younger fighter sending the veteran to the Losers Bracket. Punk would continue this run with a zero-loss streak throughout the rest of the tournament. You can see the strength in these 3-0's versus Ryota "GGP|Kazunoko" Inoue and Hiromiki "DNG|Itabashi Zangief" Kumada, another long-standing Street Fighter player.
Tokido had a long road back to the top, fighting his way through equally powerful challengers. Ryan "SPLYCE|Filipino Champ" Ramirez offered Tokido's Akuma a rough stumbling block with his excellent Dhalsim play. That back-and-forth ultimately went to Tokido, who then had to contend with Du "Liquid|NuckleDu" Dang's amazing Guile. It wasn't amazing enough though, with Akuma opening up some great offensive opportunities to bring home a 3-1 victory.
Having fought his way back to the Grand Finals, all eyes were on Tokido. Would he be beaten by the young upstart Punk or would he finally take home the Evo crown? Punk took the first victory, looking to continue his steamroll through every other player, but Tokido took control, resetting the bracket with a 3-1 victory. And it's there that Punk's youth and lack of experience seemed to work against him. He made more mistakes, his combos didn't land as well. He looked shook.
In the Twitch clip above, you can see Tokido combo stun Punk, only to finish him off with a taunt. Brutal. Tokido took Punk to school with a Raging Demon win. Savage. In the end, Tokido steamrolled back with a 3-0 victory over Punk. One story comes to its end, with Tokido taking his first Evo victory after years and years of play, while Punk has to learn to weather the storm. I expect we'll see him again next year though, perhaps with some stronger nerves.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Like EVO 2017's title card, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 saw a number of the game's veteran players getting knocked out in the early rounds. One of the closest sets in the latter part of the tournament is this one between Luis "Paradigm" Cervantes and Joey "Joey D" D'Alessandro. It's Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 at its finest, high-speed, breakneck fighting. Neither fighter has a commanding lead over the other. Joey D takes the first two rounds, but Paradigm pushes back with his own two. In the end, Paradigm's Dormammu hits Joey D in the middle of an assist, leaving Doctor Doom and Vergil open to some punishment for the win.
In the clip above, we have Rene "EG|RyanLV" Romero versus Chris "Splyce|NyChrisG" Gonzalez in the Grand Finals. NyChrisG is coming from the Losers Bracket and things aren't looking too good, with RyanLV taking two early wins. It looks like it's all over.
Match three, NyChrisG is ahead. RyanLV switches to Dark Phoenix and begins systematically eating NyChrisG's' fighters. Morrigan goes down quickly and the Dark Phoenix makes short work of Doctor Doom, taking him from 100 to 0. NyChrisG's Vergil enters the fight and it feels like the domination is going to continue, but he holds on. In the end, Vergil punishes Dark Phoenix' missed super with a super of his own, finishing the match. NyChrisG was unable to pull off the reset though, and as you see in the YouTube video of the full match, RyanLV goes home the winner.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U
Saleem "MVG|Salem" Akiel Young was one of the tournament's underdogs this year. It looked like it was Gonzalo "TSM|ZeRo" Barrios turn to take the crown at Evo 2017, after ending up as third last year. ZeRo was killing it for the entire tournament and it seemed like his win was assured. But in the background, Salem was quietly making his own moves with some top-tier Bayonetta play.
Salem fought his way out of the Losers Bracket in order to end up at this fight. He came out swinging, fighting hard for a 2-2 setup. In the end, ZeRo's Diddy Kong goes for a recovery and Bayonetta catches Diddy in the jaw to send him soaring for the reset.
Post-reset, the pair fought their way back to the 2-2 standoff. ZeRo is ahead, sitting at a clean 25%, while Salem is in the red. It looks like it's going to ZeRo for the win. Salem catches ZeRo in a combo and the fight goes to the top of the screen. And there, in the skies, Salem finished off his prey to win at Evo 2017. Upset indeed for ZeRo, but a great story for everyone else.
Super Smash Bros Melee
Some folks don't want to play the latest and greatest Smash though. Instead, these folks are fighting it out in Super Smash Bros Melee for top-tier dominance. While some other games had hard upsets, this year's Melee tournament went largely as expected. Swedish player Adam "Armada" Lindgren was previously crowned champion at Evo 2015's Super Smash Bros Melee tournament. Joseph "C9|Mango" Marquez is considered to be the world's best Melee player, having won at Evo 2013 and 2014.
Last year's Melee winner was Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, who took third place, but fell into some drama this year. During one round, Hungrybox coach Luis "Crunch" Rosias ran out onto the stage to give him some advice. The problem is coaches aren't allowed during matches outside of pool play. It should've been a forfeit for Hungrybox, instead of the 2-1 win he took home. Unfortunately, the coach for Hungrybox's opponent, Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni, also came out onstage as a follow-up joke. Since both fighters had violations, Hungrybox received a yellow card, but kept his win.
The Grand Finals came down to Armada versus Mango though. In their first meeting, Armada handed Mango a 3-0 shutout, knocking him down into the Losers Bracket, and forcing him to fight his way back to the Grand Finals. It didn't matter though. Armada's Peach was in control the entire time, dropping only one game against Mango's Fox. Armada looked calm and collected, like he had total control of the match. And he was right, taking a 3-1 victory to win the tournament.
BlazBlue: Central Fiction
In the Top 8 Loser bracket, you have Kawai "Tochigin" Satoshi playing Azrael, versus Mt. Takao, who played Rachel. It's a 1-1 match so far, and Tochingin is about to lose. Takao has a commanding life lead and then Tochingin just begins to punish Mt. Takao in the corner. It's a solid, vicious comeback and sets Tochigin on the route to eliminate Takao completely.
Fighting his way from the Losers Bracket, Shoji "Fenritti" Sho is seeking to pull off a reset against Ryusei "Ryusei" Ito. With 10 seconds left in one round, it looks like Fenritti has pulled off the bracket reset he wants. Ryusei realizes there's no way to catch up in time, so the match ends with both players teabagging until the time runs out. Interesting way to end a match.
It doesn't matter though, because after a few close matches, Ryusei takes home the crown with his amazing Carl play. You can watch the final seconds on Twitch, or the entire Grand Finals between both competitors on YouTube.
King of Fighters XIV
On the early-end of the Evo 2017 competition, King of Fighters XIV offered a single-day tournament run. It was one of the more diverse games at Evo, with players from Mexico, the United States, Taiwan, China, Japan, and more. Favorites included Zhuojun "Xiaohai" Zeng, Luis "Luis Cha" Martinez, and Ruben "Pako" Partida. But the king was ChiaJung "E.T." Lin, who entered the finals without a single loss.
E.T. had been playing Billy, Leona, and Benimaru for most of the tournament, offering up predictable wins. In the Grand Finals against Xiaohai though, he switched out Billy for a dark horse choice: the massive judo master Goro Daimon. What led to this choice? Who knows?
It felt like the choice wasn't working out for E.T. the way he wanted. While the unpredictable option gave him an early lead, Xiaohai ultimately rallied to bring it to a 2-2 match. It looked like the brackets would be reset. For the final round though, E.T. moved Daimon from second to third spot, potentially giving him more meter to work with.
With both players down to their last fighter - E.T. with Daimon and Xiaohai with Iori - Xiaohai looked to have the lead. And then E.T caught Xiaohai in a Super. One SuperCancel combo and E.T. won the tournament. With Goro Daimon. Amazing.
In the Losers Bracket, we have this violently evil match between Choi "Fox|Saint" JinWoo and Michael "Suiken" Khieu. Saint would eventually fight his way into the Top 2, but here is where he truly laid his foundation. The fighte begins with a double Perfect by Saint, absolutely dominating Suiken's Eliza with masterful Jack-7 play. Suiken fought back with one round, but Saint just had his number. Three Perfects in a 2-0 victory... in tournament play. Damn.
The Grand Finals came up with two players from the same team, Echo Fox. Saint fought his way out of the Losers Bracket to fight against team member HyunJin "Fox|JDCR" Kim. It almost looked like Saint's time in the Losers had made him a monster, with his Jack-7 making quick work of JDCR's Heihachi. JDCR tried to stop a bracket reset with Dragunov. This led to a more even match-up, but Saint still forced the reset.
But the Dragunov was the way forward to JDCR. He kept the pressure up with some mix-ups, slams, and overheads, ultimately shutting Saint out with a 3-0 victory.