After years of waiting, Red Bull Kumite made its first appearance in the US. As it has done many times over, a mixture of established talent, hidden gems and new blood gathered in one of the most important invitationals the FGC has to offer. With the Street Fighter V: Champion Edition LCQ bringing the hype only an open fighting game event can deliver, the stage was set for 16 worthy competitors to make their mark on the octagon once again.
Here’s how things went down in Las Vegas.
Watch the Street Fighter V competition broadcast
How the groups were won?
Pool A gave us a look at some of the hidden gems Japan has to offer. Out of the gate, Uzura showed that Daigo was right about his Ryu, controlling the match against NL and making sure to show some strong fundamentals. Yossan, however, would be the better of the Japanese players in the group, making his Juri look elite against Ronaldinho with a 2-0 victory. Yossan looked even better against Uzura, going on an offensive onslaught crumbling the Ryu that looked so fundamentally sound in the pool’s opening match.
NL couldn't be kept down, and bounced back from his opening loss. He had a clean victory against Ronaldinho, finding the form he would need to beat Yossan in order to qualify for the knockout stage. The Super confirms came back online for NL and he looked back in form in the statement match. A clean 2-0 victory against the pool leader punched him his ticket to the playoff bracket.
Pool B was closely contested right out of the gate. The favorite to win the pool, iDom, went down to Big Bird in a thrilling back-and-forth match where he was forced to switch from his signature Laura to his more defensive Poison. Even after the switch, a final second Dragon Punch from Big Bird’s Ken sealed the first victory for the UAE player.
The result would open the field for an important match between MenaRD and iDom. After a nail biting match against Big Bird that ended with a missed Dragon Punch, MenaRD matched iDom at 1-1. With two EX command grabs in a row, MenaRD got the lead with his Birdie primed to get the win. In response, iDom slowed things down in game 2, making all the right reads. By the time the third game rolled around, it was clear that iDom was in control, taking ownership the number one spot in the pool.
It would be up to Big Bird now to earn a spot into the playoffs, but he needed a 2-0 result over JB to get there. JB was on the unfortunate side of the scoreboard throughout, and with pride on the line he was not only able to win one game, he secured his first set victory of the day. As a result, Big Bird was out, and MenaRD and iDom would move on to the playoff bracket.
In Pool C, Problem X really leaned into the role of the final boss. He looked clean throughout with 2-0 victories over Brian_F and Mono, essentially securing his spot in the playoffs with his early dominance. But the pool would be greatly influenced by Brian_F, the true protagonist of the pool stage.
Brian_F looked solid against Go1 with a 2-0 victory that set the stage for an important match against Mono. Both players needed the win to advance, and they gave us one of the best matches of the pool stage. It was a story of adaptations as Brian_F slowly figured out options against Mono and his FANG’s ability to toss out to frustrate opponents. The match went down to the final round and, with a little bit of luck from an accidental move that landed the killing blow, Brian_F would advance to join Problem X in the playoff bracket.
Pool D gave LCQ qualifier and West Coast rising star ChrisCCH the perfect platform to show his potential. He came out strong in his opener vs Oil King with a commanding 2-0 victory, playing with way more swagger than "just" LCQ winner. But then, he stumbled in a slugfest against AngryBird. But despite the loss, he looked impressive. He would have his chance to bounce back with a match against the tournament favorite, Punk.
Punk was already on the warpath in the pool, looking clean against AngryBird in a 2-0 rout and then following up by bouncing back after Oil King put his back against the ropes. A perfect in the comeback round against Oil King shook off any doubt that Punk wasn’t in great form for this tournament.
ChrisCCH, however, was red hot in his match against Punk, showing that this was his tournament to make a statement. He faced off against Punk’s Kolin, a character that ChrisCCH has seen time and time again on the West Coast. He was ready to prove to the crowd that he was ready to beat the character, no matter who had it in their possession. He did so convincingly and the win not only landed him a victory over one of the tournament favorites, but also first place in the stacked pool.
Setting The Stage For Greatness
NL and Problem X may have been on a collision course to the grand final, but they both had a difficult path to get there, with the latter arguably having the tougher of two schedules. Problem X’s first opponent was Punk, a player that he already had a long history of back and forth results with. Matchups between these two has always been a momentum filled ride with the person able to establish the early lead being the victor. The Alex pick gave Problem X the slight edge, as the character is one that Punk doesn’t have too much experience with at a high level. Problem X was in the driver's seat throughout. Punk couldn’t find a way to adapt and Problem X ran away with a 3-0 victory in the set.
Problem X’s next opponent was iDom. In contrast to his history with Punk, the two have not played many important bouts against each other. It would be a game of who could learn the habits of the other the quickest. Things started out as a back-and-forth affair with each feeling out how the other wanted to play the match. Unfortunately for iDom, he began to play right into Problem X’s slow and methodical style, not looking for many of the high value mix up situations that he’s known for. It ended in a 4-2 victory for Problem X and a spot in the grand final.
For NL, the road to the grand final showed just how oppressive his Cammy could be. While he may have struggled a bit in pools, he was now hitting his stride, looking like a completely different and efficient player. MenaRD had a tough time dealing with the timing of NL’s divekicks. ChrisCCH may have been riding the momentum after his popoff in his match against Brian_F, but he looked to be out of place in the Cammy matchup.
With a 3-1 victory over MenaRD and a 4-1 victory over ChrisCCH, NL looked to be the true final boss of the event.
Third Time's The Charm
In a traditional first-to-three fighting game tournament format, the grand final may have ended in a 3-0 rout. But this was a new level of competition and for Problem X, the first-to-five format would prove to be a blessing.
NL absolutely dominated in the first three games as Problem X was stuck looking for answers to the world-class Cammy. His first two efforts with the characters Alex and E. Honda did not provide results. These two characters are supposed to be able to deal with some of the air options that Cammy has, but by Problem X’s own admission, it didn’t feel right. He was ready to ride or die with the character that got him an Evo Championship, Bison.
After losing the first game with Bison, Problem X finally found his answer to NL’s gameplan. Essentially, the match came down to stopping NL from having his way in situations where Problem X should be at an advantage. That meant Problem X would have to slow down the game and punish all the risky Dragon Punches and wakeup button presses that NL had abused throughout the set. After a series of breaking through NL’s habitable risky nature, the set was suddenly locked at 3-3.
With the crowd behind him and NL seemingly looking to double down on the strategy that got him here, all Problem X needed to do was stay calm and in control like he has done so many times before, earning himself a 5-3 win over NL.
On stage, Problem X wore a hat saying, “I’m the Boss.” And in those clutch moments, he proved to be just that. After three attempts in previous Red Bull Kumite events, he finally raised the trophy and claimed the title of Kumite champion.