NuckleDu becomes first American Capcom Cup champion

Du "NuckleDu" Dang won $230,000 in the 2016 Capcom Cup after dispatching fellow American Ricki Ortiz in the first all-American Cup final. Ryan Garfat/ESPN.com

Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang won the 2016 Capcom Cup in the first all-American final over Evil Geniuses' Ricki Ortiz and cemented himself as the best fighter in the world and the first American to win the Cup.

Despite all the buildup pertaining to the juggernaut region of Asia, it was North America that commanded the Capcom Cup headlines. NuckleDu and Ortiz were the most dominant fighters from the winner's side and met in the winner's finals to guarantee two of the top three spots from the tournament.

"[Things turned around] when I lost more than I ever had and the NBA got involved with Team Liquid." NuckleDu said explaining his slow start to the season.

NuckleDu looked like he solved the Street Fighter V puzzle with his mix of Rainbow Mika, Guile and Nash to cover every matchup. He achieved his success by alternating his approaches between aggressive V-skill use and defensive zoning through Sonic Booms. NuckleDu dictated the ground through fireball control and was impossible to jump in on as a result.

"I believe I have perfect synergy between Guile and Mika because they cover each others' bad matchups," NuckleDu said.

Ortiz dominated through movement. She applied her patented offensive style by walking into perfect spots for her long-ranged normals to take effect. After that, it was a variety of mix-up options that dismantled her opponents. Both players came into the final day of Capcom Cup in the winner's bracket and backed up their claim as dominant global threats.

Competitors from Japan made up six of the top eight spots and showcased a variety of styles. All of the unique flavors of Street Fighter V, whether it was the slow and deliberate ground games of Team Razer's Keita "Fuudo" Ai and YOUDEAL's Tatsuya "MJS|Haitani" Haitani or the frenetic pace of all-out offense from GGP's Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue, were covered. In the end only one player, Kazunoko, made it into the top three, however.

Kazunoko, 2015 Capcom Cup champion, was in top form. His Rolodex of offensive options with Cammy left the majority of his opponents in defensive positions, and his unpredictable reversal predictions made him a true monster, despite falling short in the semifinals.

The grand finals: NuckleDu against Ricki Ortiz

It was Asian domination throughout the Capcom Pro Tour, but the Capcom Cup grand finals was a matchup of two Americans for the first time. NuckleDu crushed Ortiz in the winner's finals in convincing fashion, but Ortiz responded with a similar result in the loser's finals against Kazunoko. It was a leveled battlefield.

It looked dire from the start of the set. NuckleDu continued his winning ways against Ortiz in the grand finals and did so by controlling the neutral game with Rainbow Mika. Ortiz's hard reads, that did so well for her throughout the tournament, were baited and punished to the fullest degree, and the pace never ended up favoring her. NuckleDu sped the game up to his liking and slowed it down when he wanted to activate his V-trigger; it was his set to lose from the opening game. When it was done, confetti rained down on him, and he was crowned the best Street Fighter V player in the world.

The lone blemish: character variety

Season 2 cannot come any sooner. The top tiers of Street Fighter V were in full display from the start of the Capcom Cup until the very end. In the top eight, there were three Chun-Lis represented, and most of the elite tiers comprised the rest of the field. If there was one glaring issue in the game's balance, it was the separation between what was truly considered a competitive character and a tournament-winning one.

The balance changes for most of the usual characters that made up the top eight during the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour are sure to come, but there cannot be a repeat of the repetition.

The final rounds of the Capcom Cup will be rebroadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET.