The first two days of the Evolution Championship Series Street Fighter V tournament whittled down over 2,400 entrants to just eight warriors, including Evo 2017 champion Echo Fox Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi, who will defend his title Sunday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center to cap off the premier fighting game tournament.
As expected, the No. 1 ranked player in the game rolled through each round of competition. After winning seven straight matches, Tokido shut down Evo 2017 Blazblue champion Ryusei Ito to punch his finals ticket on the back of his signature Akuma. It seems the man who walked in hot off an Eleague Invitational win is destined to get back-to-back Evo Grand Finals bids, but he will first have to overcome fellow Japanese elite player Ai "Fuudo" Keita and his Mika to do so.
Fuudo also competed at the Eleague Invitational, but failed to get out of his group stage that included the likes of Tokido's Echo Fox teammate, Victor "Punk" Woodley. At Evo, Fuudo surpassed his T-17 rank by defeating MERGE Ryan "FChampRyan" Ramirez in the final round of a tie-breaking third match. At that point, FChampRyan had a severe health advantage until he teleported right into Fuudo's fists, which ultimately led to the match-ending critical art.
On the other side of the top-8 winners bracket, mousesports Benjamin "Problem X" Simon, who has shown some variety through the group stage and bracket play with M. Bison and Abigail, will take on highly ranked Rashid main Kanamori "Gachikun" Tsunehiro.
Daigo passes torch to Caba, TheCoolKid93
A legend has given his blessing to the next generation of Street Fighter elites.
Cygames Daigo "Daigo" Umehara (aka "The Beast"), who entered Evo 2018 at 37 years old, finished out of the tournament inside a respectable top 24 after losing back-to-back matches against budding stars in Rise Gaming Cristopher "Caba" Rodriguez and Marcus "TheCoolKid93" Redmond.
In the second winners bracket round, TheCoolKid93, who entered Evo without a top 64 finish since Final Round in March, took out Daigo to the shock of a crowded side station. He would then fall to Gachikun before eventually making top-8 with a win against Razer Kun-Xian "Xian" Ho.
Daigo got back to his winning ways in his first losers bracket bout, but then found himself in a Guile mirror match against Caba that ended in the third game. After Caba took the first round, the two were at an impasse as they traded Sonic Booms at half health. Then, with a quick leg sweep followed by a wake-up uppercut and Flash Kick, Caba was able to take both rounds and silence the Beast.
Caba then went on to deny FChampRyan back-to-back top-8 Evo finishes with a hot 2-0 victory in the final Saturday losers bracket round.
Both Caba and TheCoolKid93 will be the only western hemisphere representatives in the top-8, with "Chicago's Own Cool Kid" fighting French Olivier "Luffy" Hay and proud Dominican Republic representative Caba set to square off against repeat Global Premier champion Fujimura Atsushi.
Brutal second round claims four top-20 fighters
In typical Evo fashion, some of the pre-event favorites were sent home early after some unexpected second round losses.
On paper, the largest shock to the rankings came from Team Liquid Naoki "Nemo" Nemoto, the seventh-ranked SFV fighter in the world, who did not survive a losers final match against Kensuke "Trashbox" Ishikawa. Other surprising exits included aforementioned Evo 2017 standout Punk, Ghost Gaming Du "NuckleDu" Dang and Combo Breaker champion UYU Sim "NL" Gun, who all fell into the losers bracket early in the first round.