East meets West: Japan Cup 2016 preview

Justin Wong (left) and Daigo Umehara (right) are two legendary game players who were part of the legendary Moment 37. Provided by DreamHack, ESPN

Japan Cup 2016 will be the most stacked Street Fighter V tournament since the Evolution Fighting Game Championships (Evo) back in June. Because of the depth of competition, the winner of this tournament will automatically be in the discussion for the best in the world. There will be 32 pools of eight players each to determine the top 64 of this daunting tournament, and each pool will have either one or even three stellar players.

That said, Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi, Keita "Fuudo" Ai, Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi, and Lee "Infiltration" Seon-woo are absent from the brackets. While a large chunk of star power was removed without those marquee names, this will still be one of the most difficult tournaments to win.

The known commodities: There will be monster players from around the world gathered at the tournament, but some will be favored more than others.

From Japan, the top contenders include:

  • Daigo "The Beast" Umehara

  • Kenryo "Mago" Hayashi

  • Tatsuya "Haitani" Haitani

  • Goichi "Go1" Kishida

  • Fujimura "Yukadon" Atsushi

  • Hiroyuki "Eita" Nagata

  • Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue

  • Joe "MOV" Egami

Of those names, three were top eight finishers at Evo, six were in the top-20 of the Capcom Pro Tour world standings, and all are legends within the Japanese fighting game community in their own respective ways.

In addition to Japan, the western hemisphere will send along some of its players to the field as well.

  • Justin Wong

  • Ricki Ortiz

  • Kenneth Bradley

  • Peter "Flash" Susini

  • Antwan "Alucard" Ortiz

  • Chris Tatarian

  • Julio Fuentes

These fighters represent some of the best the United States can offer. While the western players will be regarded as underdogs in an largely Asian field, there may be plenty of surprises and potential upsets among this group. And last, but not least, one of the favorites to take down the entire tournament should be Kun "Xian" Ho from Singapore. His F.A.N.G work is the best in the world and he's arguably in the discussion for the best five Street Fighter players in competition.

The wildcards: With the tournament in Japan, there will be plenty of names that could make some noise. Some of these names were late to the Capcom Pro Tour in attendance and traveling or were in an extended slump, but they cannot be discounted. These wildcards may be considered long shots, but many possess the necessary pedigree and experience to come out of a huge tournament in victory. The best of the rest in Japan include: Takeuchi "John Takeuchi" Ryota, Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi, Naoki "Nemo" Nemoto, Naoto "Sako" Sako, and Hiromuki "Itabashi Zangief" Kumada.

There will also be names that were strong in Street Fighter IV, like Kanamori "Gachikun" Tsunehori or Hiroshi "Nishikin" Nishikido (a previous Capcom Cup finalist) that could surprise the audience. Among the Japanese names, John Takeuchi could very well be the dark horse to win another large tournament with his surprisingly skilled Rashid play.

It will be a feat to even make it through the pools. The favorites to take down the tournament may all be from Asia, but some of the west's finest could change that tone.