After falling once to Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis in winners finals, Du “NuckleDu” Dang wasn’t going to be denied his runback at Combo Breaker 2017. The Capcom Cup champion summoned that killer instinct and once again rose to the occasion, taking out Snake Eyez in two consecutive sets to win another premiere event.
It’s been a while since NuckleDu has struggled in Street Fighter V, but after failing to make the ELEAGUE playoffs, he was stuck looking for answers. Combo Breaker was the perfect tournament to get him back on his feet. He not only made up for his bad performance a few weeks earlier, but he did it in style and pulled at every fighting games heart strings along the way.
It took 13 games for NuckleDu to beat the beast that is Snake Eyez and his library of characters. Both guys were playing at their top level while trying to account for the potential counter-pick options after a win. Four characters were used throughout each set, and every character switch led to interesting changes in play styles. Both players had to keep adapting to keep up.
The most surprising pick was Snake Eyez’ triumphant return to Zangief, a character he helped develop in SFIV, and once again in SFV. The switch allowed him to play in NuckleDu’s face to get those heavy command grab punishes. Du, at first, struggled to keep out Zangief with both R. Mika and Guile before adjusting with better zoning tactics.
In light of this, the level of play in grand finals showed every matchup is winnable and we’re still figuring out the game. NuckleDu made quick work of Bryant “Smug” Huggins, who plays the character most widely considered “cheap” in Balrog. The fact that Snake Eyez had success with Zangief is just another example.
It also speaks to the skill of both NuckleDu and Snake Eyez. The two players excel in making others play at their pace. At times, it was Snake Eyez up close forcing panic V-triggers, while in other instances, NuckleDu had good sonic boom timings and kept Snake Eyez at the other side of the screen. It was a battle of small adjustments, and NuckleDu is always on point on adapting to his opponent.
In winners finals, NuckleDu got up 2-0 before Snake Eyez made the three game comeback. In the second set of grand finals, it was Snake Eyez getting the 2-0 advantage before Du rattled off three straight wins in route to his second Combo Breaker win (USF4 in 2015).
Brian F Holds it Down for the Midwest
Brian “Brian F” Foster, a name that’s rather unfamiliar to the national fighting game audience, but is considered a rising star in the Midwest, made waves to the pleasure of the Chicago crowd. He pulled off some huge upsets, with wins over Ryan “FChamp” Ramirez and legendary Japanese player Naoto “Sako” Sako.
Even more, Brian F placed in the top five at a premiere event. It could be a one-off event for Brian in front of a favorable Midwest crowd, but his skill coupled with the strength of his character (Balrog) could be the start of a strong run. He picked up valuable points and gave himself a chance moving forward.
United States Wins Combo Breaker
Amidst a busy weekend of fighting game tournaments (ELEAGUE, Redbull Kumite), the American players who made the trip to Combo Breaker did something that happens very rarely in today’s tournament scene. Seven of the eight players in top 8 were from the United States.
Yes, it could be attributed to the fact that there was a lot going on this weekend, but there were still plenty of talented players from Asia who failed to make top 8. It was good to see players like Justin Wong and Smug make deep runs again. Street Fighter V is proving to be America’s game as NuckleDu takes another ranking event.
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