USA's NuckleDu wins Street Fighter V's international Canada Cup

Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang won the 2016 Canada Cup in a field of elite Eastern and Western talent. He was the first American player to win a Capcom Pro Tour Premier Event. Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

NuckleDu was the first player from the United States to take down a Premier Event this year, establishing himself as a legitimate international threat and shaking up the standings for the Capcom Cup with his automatic qualification. The Canada Cup was the last Premier Event on the Capcom Pro Tour that rewarded points and half of the top eight were players that needed the automatic berth into the Capcom Cup.

Those four players, Red Bull's Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi, r/Kappa sponsored Takeuchi "John Takeuchi" Ryota, OpenRec's Shinya "Nuki" Onuki, and Ronin's Alex Myers, came close but will need either a spot into a regional qualifier or good fortune to play in Anaheim for the finals. But, as a result of NuckleDu's victory, several USA players did qualify for the Capcom Cup -- names such as Chris Tatarian and Mikey "XsK_Samurai" Chea.

The Canada Cup was an exciting tournament for character variety. The top eight almost had an appearance from rarely-played Birdie or Juri, but did have a Guile and Rashid. In addition, there was a Chun-Li, Nash, Necalli, Ryu and two Cammies. Although the list of characters contained only one real duplicate, the usual suspects (Ryu, Chun-Li, Cammy, and Necalli) once again showed up.

The frontrunners of Western prowess

In addition to NuckleDu, BX3 TP-Link's Arman "Phenom" Hanjani of Norway was a star yet again on the big stage. Phenom once again proved that he's arguably on the same level as the vaunted Asian region with another dominating tournament showing. His highlight, a 3-0 drubbing of Red Bull and Twitch's Daigo "The Beast" Umehara was the perfect example of his growth as a player. Phenom lacked the superior ground game control of Umehara, but made up for it for his bold and fearless refusal to be conditioned. He understood that his v-trigger was the best comeback mechanic for Necalli and was shameless in his use of v-skill. In one round, he command grabbed the Japanese Ryu four times until he was dizzy. But most importantly, he refused to be bullied on wake-up, when he lost the initiative, and when he was losing.

On the other side, NuckleDu was spectacular throughout the tournament. His character choices allowed him to float between passivity and ground control with Guile and harder reads and momentum shifts with Rainbow Mika. NuckleDu was superb in ground control, anti-airs, and defensive play and crushed everyone in his path. The way to beat the strongest regions in the world was through the play of both NuckleDu and Phenom -- fearlessness, stubborn tenacity, and strong defense.

The Canada Cup grand finals: NuckleDu vs. Xiao Hai

NuckleDu not only beat Xiao Hai in the winner's finals, but he also beat him in the grand finals to prevent a bracket reset. His switch to a stronger offensive character in Rainbow Mika not only smothered Xiao Hai's defensive options, but restricted his movements in the neutral game; even Xiao Hai's amazing reactions were kept in check due to NuckleDu's unorthodox dropkick timings. NuckleDu was clever in his throw/meaty setups and confused Xiao Hai in several scramble situations. He not only quelled the momentum of the hottest player on the planet, but he beat him twice.

The USA star provided a glimpse of hope that regions outside of Asia are truly threats to compete in any tournament regardless of how stacked.