It was bloody and full of upsets, but after one day of play, the 512 player pool at Stunfest was reduced to the final eight. The remaining warriors are: Qanba's Zhuojun "Xiao Hai" Zeng, Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi, Evil Geniuses' Yusuke Momochi, Razer's Ai "Fuudo" Keita and Kun "Xian" Xian Ho, Tatsuya "MJS|Haitani" Haitani, RedBull's Daigo "The Beast" Umehara, and Hiroyuki "Eita" Nagata.
It's a top-8 dominated by Asian competition without any western representation, but it will be an amazing finals. The favorite of the tournament, Tokido, is in prime position to finally take down a Premier tournament, however, it really should be considered anyone's game.
The four players on the winner's side are Tokido, Xiao Hai, Momochi, and Fuudo. Both Fuudo and Xiao Hai will end, regardless of how they play on Sunday, with their best tournament result of the early Capcom Pro Tour. The remaining four players on the loser's side are Haitani, Xian, Umehara, and Eita. They arguably represent the four most exciting players remaining in the tournament.
The lone Singaporean hope will also be the only representation of the character F.A.N.G. He's currently 32nd on the overall points standings, but will only improve with his upcoming finish. F.A.N.G. is considered by the majority of the fighting game community as a low-tiered character, but Xian is a magician with anyone he uses. His skill in the neutral game is second-to-none, and coupled with his incredible reactions and he's a threat regardless of the odds. It should be fun to watch if Xian can continue to push the envelope with a rarely-chosen character in the loser's bracket.
Aggression and reads. Eita is a perfect storm of unpredictability with a frenzied pace. For aspiring Ken players, Eita may be the worst example to follow -- he's fearless, plays off instincts and mind games, and never stops putting pressure into his opponent's faces. He's one of the most exciting players to watch and is the dark horse to take down the entire tournament.
What more is there to say about the legendary Street Fighter known as The Beast? There's been plenty of print written about Umehara and his prowess in the game, but he's in the loser's bracket of the tournament with more than enough obstacles in his way. That said, long odds are nothing new for the world warrior. He lost earlier to fellow countryman, Fuudo, to a few uncharacteristic hard reads and execution errors, but this is a player that everyone fears. Will there be an "Umeshoryu" in the Grand Finals?
Haitani was considered by many as the best player from Japan when Street Fighter V dropped, and his play with Necalli put plenty of stability to the statement. His signature style of play causes panic in opponents and Necalli is a perfect complement. With a little more exposure to his brand of crazy, Haitani could stumble into a roadblock at the beginning of the final day, but he should never be considered out of any game or situation.
From the winner's side, Tokido is the monster that everyone is aiming for. His precision with Ryu and understanding of the game's mechanics put him head and shoulders above the rest of the field. There's been plenty written about the "Murder Face."
The last Chinese hope may be nicknamed a little child, but his game is full-grown. Stunfest will represent his best placement in the Capcom Pro Tour and he'll enter Sunday on the winner's side. The man is known for reactions and his application of pressure, but he could be considered as a bit of a choke-artist as well. He's very matchup-heavy and if his side of the bracket favors the play style, there will be success. But, if the stakes get too high for the Chinese prodigy, it could spell trouble for the rest of his tournament run.
He's been quiet in Street Fighter V with only one deep run in a tournament thus far (a second place finish from Battle Arena Melbourne 8), but the pedigree and reputation should speak louder than the results. Momochi is a monster. He combines pristine spacing with a deep understanding of the game's mechanics to create nightmares for any opponent. Push one wrong button and that could be the end of the game for the enemy. Momochi in the winner's side of the bracket was a fixture toward the end of Street Fighter 4 and could be a consistent development in V.
The most compelling story in the winner's side is Fuudo. The transition for him in Street Fighter V was a rough one. His style of pure footsies and quiet suffocation through spacing did not translate well with his character choice, Rainbow Mika, but he finally made it work in the pool stages of Stunfest. It's anyone's guess if Fuudo can carry the same kind of momentum to the last day of the tournament, but he's one of the world's best in the clutch and plays one of the scariest characters in the game.
The field is set and games are ready to be played. This top 8 is absolutely stacked to the gills and it will be a thrill to watch who finishes first at Stunfest. My guess? It's still Tokido.