The first day of the 2016 Capcom Cup consisted of nearly 13 hours of fighting game action and a body count that could only be described as a bloodbath. No player was safe from elimination and upsets littered the floor of the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California.
When the dust settled, there were eight players left to compete for the $120,000 first place prize: Joe "MOV" Egami, Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang, Evil Geniuses' Ricki Ortiz, YOUDEAL's Tatsuya "MJS|Haitani" Haitani and Fujimura "Yukadon" Atsushi, Team Razer's Keita "Fuudo" Ai, Hail Mary's Goichi "Go1" Kishida, and GGP's Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue.
The shockers came early on Friday with heavyweights Team Razer's Lee "Infiltration" Seon-woo and Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi exiting the tournament without a win. The other tournament favorites, Evil Geniuses' Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi and ZOWIE's Bruce "GamerBee" Hsiang finished with a disappointing record of 1-2. And Street Fighter legend Daigo "The Beast" Umehara also didn't make it out of the prelims.
With all the upsets and consistent finishers falling short, the stage is set for a new champion to be crowned on Saturday. Here's a look at the players who still have a shot at the title.
Joe "MOV" Egami
MOV was arguably the best Chun-Li in Street Fighter V and one of its finer players, but came into the finals with little fanfare or expectation. That was clearly a mistake because he handled matchup after matchup with relative ease and played his neutral game on his own terms. He was one of the best players in terms of reactions and character optimization and looked every bit like a tournament favorite.
MOV may be the only Chun-Li player to use her full toolset and corral the most damage out of every opportunity -- an important strength to have in a tournament setting. His fearless disposition and bullying neutral game will be a nightmare for his upcoming opponents.
Du "NuckleDu" Dang
The North American champion NuckleDu was many people's pick to make a deep run in the tournament, and he proved his supporters right. He destroyed his bracket and made short work out of his biggest road block in Qanba Douyu's Zhuojun "Xiao Hai" Zeng with unrelenting aggression.
His mastery over Rainbow Mika, Guile, and Nash will provide a strong stable of versatility and serves as his strongest asset. His fearlessness and clutch factor rank among the best in the fighting game community and he remains the best chance for a North American victory in Anaheim.
One of the bigger surprises of the Capcom Cup was the emergence of Ricki Ortiz' Chun-Li. She was already considered one of the best in the Western Hemisphere, but was not a favorite for the Capcom Cup. That said, she was arguably the most the clutch out of every character in the tournament; she ground out victories regardless of her character's vitality or stage positioning.
Ortiz will enter the top 8 in the winner's bracket with the chance to truly cement Chun-Li's status as a monster in Street Fighter V. Her pluses include an infallible mindset and attitude and some of the best hit-confirms among the rest of the tournament field.
Tatsuya Haitani was considered one of the best, if not the best, in Japan when Street Fighter V was in its infancy, but his tournament results never reflected the talk. Haitani's Necalli was always optimized and advanced in character technology, but his play never shared the same spotlight as Tokido or even Momochi. That changed when his Necalli stood tall over every one of his opponents on Friday.
Haitani's offensive patterns are unpredictable and only increases in potency upon v-trigger activation. This is the player to truly watch because he's due for a big-time win.
Fujimura "Yukadon" Atsushi
The Evolution Fighting Game Championship top 8 finalist was an afterthought when Capcom Cup started. He was the second-best Nash in name and surprised everyone when he kept winning and advancing on Friday. Whether it was through a comeback or his ever-changing play style, he was impossible to crack over a five-game set.
Yukadon is one of the few players who can switch his style on a whim; he can play in-your-face from the start and then immediately become a wall. His ability to come back in any game is also no small factor in his success.
Keita "Fuudo" Ai
The fighting game wizard entered the Capcom Cup as arguably the scariest opponent to pick up the stick. Fuudo has been on a break since his second-place finish at Evolution Fighting Game Championships and only played in five events this year. Fuudo was the pioneer behind the effective defensive and methodical style that most top Rainbow Mika players employ when using with the mix-up grappler.
His strengths, many of which are among the top in the competitive scene, are numerous: anti-airs, ground game, defensive counter-attacks and patience. Despite his loser's bracket status, he remains among the top threats to take the Capcom Cup.
Goichi "Go1" Kishida
Go1 reminded everyone of all the hype that surrounded him when he first entered a Street Fighter V tournament. This was a player with ridiculous execution, a stubborn offensive-only mindset, and the best character in the game.
The third Chun-Li player in the top 8 is an offensive madman. He's constantly pushing the action, whether on the ground or the air and easily overwhelms opposing game plans. Go1's pace will be the only one that exists in the game when he plays.
Ryan "Kazunoko" Inoue
The 2015 Capcom Cup champion was lost in the Street Fighter V shuffle and emerged again when he destroyed his bracket en route to a top 8 berth. Kazunoko was the biggest oversight and wasn't even the best Cammy when the tournament started, but that all changed in a flash.
Offense, reactions, hit-confirms, frenetic pace, and proficient reads are all the opponent needs to know about this dynamo.
The final rounds of the Capcom Cup begin at 9 p.m. ET on streaming channels and will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET.