First round of Capcom Cup promises to excite

Echo Fox's Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi (right) will take on Keita "Fuudo" Ai in an anticipated first-round matchup at the Capcom Cup this weekend. Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY

The Capcom Pro Tour's finale, the Capcom Cup, begins Friday in Anaheim, California, with one big missing piece. Last year's winner, Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang, will not be attending the Street Fighter 5 finale due to personal reasons.

The last-chance qualifier at Capcom Cup for the 32nd spot in the tournament is still in the air, but the partial picture of the bracket is still scintillating. We're going to preview the best confirmed first-round matchups and the players you need to keep your eyes on.

The players to watch

1. Team Grapht's Fujimura "Yukadon" Atsushi

Yukadon made a big splash last year with his top-eight finish at the Evolution Championship Series with his main character at the time, Nash, but his evolution as a player grew with his character, Ibuki. He's one of the most fearless players in the neutral game, and his penchant for unpredictable reversal timings and wake-up tendencies prevent opponents from discouraging his youthful bravado. With three Premier Event victories and 1,821 points for the year (fourth in overall standings), the results back up the play. He may not be the pioneer for the character's popularity, but his innovation with his kunai conversions and his ability to come back in any situation make him a favorite in the tournament.

2. Mousesports' Benjamin "ProblemX" Simon

If there was an award for hottest player on the planet, ProblemX would take it for this season. In November alone, ProblemX won two Ranking Events and two Premier Events and carried the momentum through the end of the Capcom Pro Tour. His lockdown pressure with M. Bison and superb anti-air game make him a walking fortress. Nothing about his game will blow the audience away, but his simple plan of shutting down the opponent's most basic options is effective and frightening. ProblemX will be one of the most fundamentally sound players in the field and that, alone, makes him a major threat.

3. Cyclops Osaka's Ryo "Dogura" Nozaki

Dogura may not be the most famous Street Fighter player on his own team during Capcom Cup with Goichi "Go1" Kishida in attendance or even the most popular Urien player in the world thanks to Alienware's Naoki "Nemo" Nemoto, but Dogura will be one of the favorites to win it all. His quiet dominance throughout the year is a testament of his consistency and ability to go deep into tournaments without much fanfare. His play with Urien is not flashy, but it is scarily effective because of his innate ability to connect on many of his intended attacks. His reliance on lighter normals to open an opponent up leads to safer play, but it's his conservative style that should propel him to a deep tournament run.

4. Ponos' Naoki "Moke" Nakayama

Moke will be one of the three confirmed qualified Rashid players, but his side of the bracket may lead to a deep run during Capcom Cup. He is the most creative on the offense out of the Rashid players and possesses a never-say-die attitude in even the most unfavorable situations. He may struggle with consistent offense, but a player as smart as Moke should be able to make the most of his variety of offensive setup options. Moke came out of the woodwork during his breakout performance at Evo, but he'll be one of the more studied players when Capcom Cup begins.

Matchups to watch

1. Razer's Kun "Xian" Ho against Rise's Saul "MenaRD" Segundo

Xian will enter Capcom Cup with high expectations while MenaRD could arguably be a dark horse to do well. On paper, the character matchup favors MenaRD as Birdie technically does well against Xian's main character, Ibuki. MenaRD is one of the best Birdie players in the world and boasts a fearlessness with the grappler that few in the tournament possess. Xian, on the other hand, is a master at creating offense and forcing errors from his opponent; he's a crafty player that relies on his incredible ability to play the neutral game to take down any game. It will be a battle of wits between a player that forces action and a player that is not afraid to strike back. The pair promises to be one of the most explosive sets in the tournament regardless of round numbers.

2. Team Grapht's Keita "Fuudo" Ai against Echo Fox's Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi

In one of the toughest on paper player matchups, Fuudo will take on the incredible talent of Momochi in the first round. The winner of this matchup could realistically make it all the way to the winner's round two or beyond because of the talent level of either player. Fuudo's consistency and defensive style will come head-to-head to Momochi's footsies-based play and unpredictable nature on defense. It will be a battle between former Evolution Fighting Game Championships' winners and two of the best players in the top-10 of Street Fighter history.