It's finally Premier Event time.
Stunfest 2016 in Rennes, France will be the next stomping grounds on the Capcom Pro Tour and it should be an international fighting affair. Before looking at the stacked field of this tournament, there was one note to remember -- Razor's Seonwoo " Infiltration" Lee announced that he would not attend the French event for local obligations. For the competitors playing catch-up and those that wanted to watch the South Korean sensation play, it would need to be another time and place.
But, even without the world's current best player, the pool of players should arguably be considered the most stacked lineup of the year.
Stunfest represents one of the few tournaments featuring a largely European and Asian field of competitors. Unfortunately for North American fans, only one notable player was shown on the entrants list -- Ryan "Gootecks" Gutierrez, ranked 49th on the overall standings at the time of this writing. Unlike regional Ranking Events, there are only 11 Premier Events, and each winner is guaranteed to participate in the finals of the Capcom Pro Tour. In addition, with the void of Infiltration, the competition could be a coin-toss in determining who will take home the entire event.
With Stunfest in France there will be a contingent of European killers. Among the top names are several high-point rankers for the overall standings: Benjamin "ProblemX" Simon (7th), Meltdown's Nathan "Mister Crimson" Massol (9th), RedBull's Olivier "Luffy" Hay (17th), Marcus "Packz" Parker (31), and Afsar "Afii" Ali (40).
Of the ranked players, ProblemX and Mister Crimson should be considered the absolute top threats. The pair already won a Ranking Event respectively. ProblemX took down Hypespotting V and finished third at Frogbyte, and Mister Crimson was the first winner of a Capcom Pro Tour event when he finished first at Cannes Winter Clash. The consistent European champion, Luffy, remains a threat regardless of his recent performances; he the consistent gatekeeper for all of the talent in Europe.
The Land of the Rising Sun deserves its own category. There should be more than 12 players announced to compete in France. The most notable of these names just so happen to be Japanese fighting game gods: the newly-signed Red Bull athlete, Daigo "TheBeast" Umehara, Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi (3rd), and Tatsuya "MJS|Haitani" Haitani (6th). While Umehara lags behind his other compatriots in the overall standings, his skill and ability should not be underestimated -- this is Street Fighter's unquestioned best of all time.
As for Tokido and Haitani, arguably the best two Japanese players, this Premier Event could be theirs for the taking. Tokido currently stacks two second-place marks over the last two Premier Events and Haitani won one Ranking Event (Battle Arena Melbourne 8) with two top-8 marks at the same Premier Events.
As for the rest of the Japanese field, the scariest names should be: Hiroyuki "Eita" Nagata (11th), Kenryo "Mago" Haywashi (12th), and Goichi "HM|Go1" Kishida (20th). These three continue to climb the charts of relevance and each boast ridiculous offensive onslaughts with their characters. Whether it's Eita's read-based Ken play, Mago's suffocating Karin play, or Go1's constant instant-air legs with Chun-Li, they will be respected.
There will be more players from Asia with names from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan listed to attend. Of the players, the most recognizable of those are: Avermedia's Bruce "GamerBee" Hsiang (48th), Razer's Kun "Xian" Xian Ho (32th), and Qanba's Zhuojun "Xiao Hai" Zeng are all still struggling to find their place with the elite. Perhaps the most unknown name of the international group, Kevin "Saunic" Souvanheuane, will shine the brightest. Saunic is a strong Hong Kong player that ranks among their community's finest and could absolutely stun the world with a top placing again.
It's lazy analysis to insert Tokido and call it a day, but his form in Street Fighter V is impressive. He's arguably the second-best player behind Infiltration because his understanding of both the aggressive mechanics in the game and the speed of his character, Ryu.
Tokido is the favorite to take down his first Premier Event, but it won't be a cakewalk. In the way will be one or two of Europe's finest, a couple Japanese rivals, and another international threat. If Tokido falls to Maid-Of-Honor again, look for either another Japanese player (Haitani or Daigo) to take home the prize.