ICYMI: What went down at Evo 2018's Street Fighter V finals

Problem-X makes history for the UK fighting game community.

Evolution 2018 has officially drawn to a close, and there’s plenty to talk about coming out of the world’s most prestigious fighting game tournament.

This year’s Evo pulled in the highest number of attendees in the history of the show, which made for a huge range of competitors vying for a spot in the tournament’s traditional main event: the Street Fighter V top 8 finals. Even after the herd was culled down in a furious flurry of fists, feet and fireballs, the top 8 was still one of the most diverse groups ever seen in Evo’s Street Fighter finals.

The 8 best contenders hailed from far and wide - the Dominican Republic, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and of course, Japan. We saw outstanding play from each of them, but only one could go on to win the grand final. Read on to find out who took the trophy this year - and how they did it.

Set 1 (Winners Semifinals): mousesports|Problem-X vs. gachikun

The first matchup we saw was between the UK’s mighty Bison player Problem-X and Japan’s Rashid diehard Gachikun. Problem-X has been self-sponsoring, traveling to tournaments and honing his skills around the world for the past year, and it certainly showed as he kept jamming Gachikun’s Rashid into the corner of the stage with controlled pressure. Even when Gachikun would utilize Rashid’s rolling and speed to get himself out, Problem-X would go right back to pressuring him, stunning him multiple times over four matches.

Gachikun knew he had to pressure him back to get any real damage, and he did take a match of his own using some of Rashid’s excellent mix-ups, but that wasn’t enough. Problem-X handily won the first set, sending Gachikun down to the loser’s bracket and advancing to the winners final.

Set 2 (Winners Semifinals): CYG BST|Fuudo vs. Echo Fox|Tokido

Second up was Tokido, the previous Evo champion of SFV and favored son of Japan, in a showdown against his friend, countryman and rival Fuudo.

Being one of the most famously analytical players in the scene, Tokido had brought his dominant Akuma all the way to top 8 once again. Fuudo chose the always-strong Rainbow Mika, and wisely stuck to her unconventional long-range normal attacks to harass Tokido and open him up to her powerful grabs. Tokido’s usual mastery of footsies didn’t help him much against Fuudo’s aggression, as he landed three sudden Critical Arts and plenty of EX moves. It seemed like Tokido had a chance to win a match with a procession of well-timed fireballs… until Fuudo pulled his V-Trigger, dropping Mika’s tag team partner out of the air like a rock and knocking Tokido into loser’s bracket in an upset.

Set 3 (Loser’s Round 1): THE COOL KID 93 vs. BJKE RB|Luffy

Moving down to the first set of the losers bracket, we got to see a Chicago native and the last remaining American in the tournament: The Cool Kid 93. Playing the colossal and brutally damaging Abigail, he was up against another R. Mika controlled by Luffy, who is perhaps France’s best SFV player.

Cool Kid beat on Luffy in the first few rounds with a remarkable combination of EX, V-Trigger and a Critical Art, but Luffy quickly figured him out. Once Luffy had gotten past Cool Kid’s intimidation game, he started constantly pushing him into the corner with everything in Mika’s arsenal. Abigail simply didn’t have time to react, and despite tying things up at 2 matches to 2, Luffy finished him with a Critical Art and eliminated him from the tournament. Cool Kid went back to Chicago, leaving the stage visibly saddened.

Set 4 (Loser’s Round 2): RISE|Caba vs. Fudoh|Fujimura

Next on stage was Caba, the sole representative of the Dominican Republic in SFV top 8 finals. Earlier, he had defeated no less than Daigo Umehara himself in a brilliant Guile mirror match, removing him from the competition.

Caba’s opponent in this set would be Fujimura, the man responsible for putting Ibuki on the map as a useful character. Both Guile and Ibuki are known for their fast and dangerous unique normals, and that’s exactly what we witnessed from both players. The two poked each other back and forth, trading quick but powerful combos and making liberal use of their V-Triggers in an tensely balanced series of matches.

At first, it looked like Caba would come out on top after two different Critical Art finishers, going up 2 matches to 0. But Fujimura ultimately brought it back, dodging Caba’s moves and making unexpected decisions with his aerial mastery to take the victory and send Caba home.

Set 5 (Losers Quarterfinals): Echo Fox|Tokido vs. BJKE RB|Luffy

After getting a wake-up call from Fuudo in his first set, Tokido landed here in losers quarterfinals - but he was far, far from finished. He knew he would be facing a different kind of R. Mika in Luffy, but it was still Mika, and Tokido had clearly adapted to the problems that she caused him with Fuudo. Luffy only took a single round at the beginning of the set, which Tokido treated like data and went on to bait out almost every move that Luffy could throw at him.

Even if Luffy managed to toss him into the corner, Tokido was completely unfazed; his Akuma had total control. He had gotten into Luffy’s head by the second match, and continued to read him like a book as he punished each miss or poor decision to win the set with a straight 3-0. Luffy was out, but he had certainly given France something to be proud of at Evo.

Set 6 (Losers Quarterfinals): gachikun vs. Fudoh|Fujimura

We got a thrilling battle of speed versus speed with Gachikun’s Rashid facing off against Fujimura’s Ibuki. The two started dashing toward each other in an incredible but deadly dance, both trying to be the first to land a normal attack and confirm it into a rapid combo or cross the other up for a big damage opportunity.

As befits a character matchup like this, Fujimura stuck to a stronger ground game while Gachikun largely had control in the air. Trading attack after attack and counter after counter, they seemed evenly matched for most of the set with neither overcommitting or getting too cocky. But Gachikun figured out how to break the cycle with his commanding corner pressure and combos, closing out the set by tricking Fujimura into blocking high before landing in front and hitting him low instead.

After a surprise Critical Art finish and another empty jump-in in the final round, Gachikun got the win and Fujimura was no longer in the competition.

Set 7 (Winners Final): mousesports|Problem-X vs. CYG BST|Fuudo

If you almost forgot about Problem-X at this point, his Bison in this next set served as a forceful reminder. After his decisive victory over Gachikun in the first set of top 8, Problem-X had been waiting for his time to fight Fuudo in the winners final as the losers bracket shook out. He may not have the prestige of Tokido or Fuudo, but now the UK’s last hope had a chance to prove himself against Fuudo’s dirty R. Mika - the one that had just sent Evo 2017 champ Tokido into the losers bracket.

Fuudo immediately grabbed a win in the first match of the set by flipping Problem-X’s Bison into the corner and taking advantage of his weak defense to pull out massively damaging V-Trigger combos and throws. He continued to steamroll him with a stun at the start of the next match, but Problem-X changed his game plan and started going in with Bison’s scissor kicks and teleports to avoid being put on the defensive again. Neither one seemed to have the upper hand, matching pressure with pressure and both getting good chunks of damage.

Fuudo became his own worst enemy with a few execution errors at crucial moments, but he was still able to go to a fifth game after a 2-2 tie. Problem-X cleverly made Fuudo dance to his tune with composed pressure in the first round and Fuudo got Problem-X with some painful corner reads in the second round, leading to an ultimate tiebreaker in the third. Problem-X went on the offensive immediately, slamming into Fuudo with aggressive reads and carrying him all the way to the corner. Fuudo got desperate at the last second - he tried a raw Critical Art to get Problem-X off of him, but Problem-X jumped out of the way and answered with a lethal combo. Just like that, Problem-X was going to grand finals and Fuudo was going to the losers final.

Set 8 (Losers Semifinals): Echo Fox|Tokido vs. gachikun

It was almost strange to see Gachikun - a relatively young competitor and unsigned newcomer to this highest level of SFV - go up against one of the game’s most seasoned veterans, Tokido. Nonetheless, Gachikun showed no fear with his diehard Rashid as he matched footsies against Tokido’s deadly Akuma.

Gachikun pulled off a win in the first match with some impressive baits and reactions, as well as getting a near-perfect round in the next one when Tokido got a little too gutsy with Akuma’s unique normals. By the second game, though, Tokido had worked things out. He used his impeccable footsies to control the fight and bring it to his pace, allowing him to pick his moments for those characteristic instant counters into major damage. Gachikun fought back valiantly, but Tokido ultimately knocked him out of the tournament with a Critical Art and went on to rematch Fuudo in the losers final.

Set 9 (Losers Final): Echo Fox|Tokido vs. CYG BST|Fuudo

Tokido had fought all the way back through the losers bracket to get here: a fated rematch with Fuudo and his oppressive R. Mika. Only one of them could go up against Problem-X, the unexpected dark horse of Evo 2018, in the grand finals.

Tokido dashed in at the very beginning, getting some damage on Fuudo and trying to set the pace of the battle. Fuudo was ready too - he swung Tokido back into the corner multiple times in the first match, as the two of them literally wrestled each other back into the corner again and again in order to gain the advantage. The history between these players was on full display as they baited one another back and forth, fishing for their big-damage setups. Tokido maintained Akuma’s superb mid-range game for most of his attacks, but Fuudo’s Mika needed to be at point blank range to get any real damage, and Tokido knew it.

With great use of red fireballs and his V-Trigger’s damage adjustments, Tokido shut down Fuudo with a 3 to 1 victory, proving he was still one of the best ever and reaching grand finals for the second year in a row.

Set 10 (Grand Finals): Echo Fox|Tokido vs. mousesports|Problem-X

At last, we had our top two competitors in grand finals at Evo 2018: Problem-X and Tokido. It was already rare to have contestants from so many different countries in top 8, but to see an up-and-comer from the UK face off against one of Japan’s supreme SFV players was unexpected, to say the least. As they sat down, Tokido seemed oddly calm… he smiled and glanced around like it was just another day at the arcade. Problem-X seemed a bit more serious - he knew what he was up against, having watched and waited from the winners bracket as Tokido came right back up from the losers bracket to grand finals.

In a very appropriate Bison versus Akuma set, both players were constantly playing mind games. Problem-X meticulously avoided Tokido’s grab range in the first round and was rewarded with a win, but Tokido swapped sides with him during the second round and absolutely slammed Bison into the corner with multiple combos and a stun. Problem-X got some paypack in the final round of the first match by turning up the pressure and dealing a stun of his own, and even when Tokido fought his way out of the corner, Problem-X still countered with a remarkable jumping EX move. He had a similar plan in the next few matches, using Bison’s overwhelming close-range game to suppress Tokido’s options. But Tokido certainly fought back (despite a few bad confirms) using Akuma’s aerial fireballs and setups for pressure, calling out Problem-X’s mind games all the while and eventually tying things up 2 matches to 2.

When both players have 2 wins in the SFV Evo grand finals, only two things can happen: the player from winners bracket wins a third match and takes home the trophy… or the loser wins a third match and resets the bracket, forcing them to play another set. In this case, it seemed like it could go either way: Problem-X and Tokido both started off with equal pressure and solid blocking, until Tokido got a series of very good reads and cleanly KO’d Bison in the first round. Tokido maintained that momentum in the second round by making the right guesses against nearly all of Problem-X’s moves, and when Problem-X had one final chance to turn it around, Tokido stuffed him again with an aerial counter into a lightning-quick ground combo. Tokido had just taken a second lease on life in this tournament by resetting the bracket, and turning it into a grueling battle of endurance for Problem-X.

As the new set began, both players stared each other down, now more wary than ever of the risk of even a single missed attack. The match largely took place in the middle of the stage, as they each built meter for V-Trigger and EX moves in order to be as prepared - and as dangerous - as possible. Tokido activated V-Trigger as soon as his was ready, knocking Problem-X down and getting the upper hand for a split second… before Problem-X activated his own V-Trigger, and used Bison’s baffling teleports to mix Tokido up. In a desperate gamble, Tokido used Akuma’s Raging Demon but missed, losing the round and all of his meter. Problem-X kept him in the corner for most of the next round, stunning him and running away with the first match.

Instead of aggressively pushing his advantage in the next match, Problem-X patiently played defense and only needed to pop off with a few EX moves to knock out Tokido and secure the first round. It almost seemed like Tokido had finally adapted to Problem-X in the second round as they baited each other out in equal measure, leading to a nerve-wracking standoff that ended in a perfectly timed sliding kick from Phantom-X.

In spite of the reset, Problem-X now only needed one more match to win the Evo 2018 Street Fighter V championship.

Tokido got surprisingly offensive in the final match by putting lots of pressure on Phantom-X, looking for even one missed block or mistaken attack. But Phantom-X knew when to hold back, and only struck when he was sure of himself - like teleporting straight through a fireball to get a flawless corner combo on Tokido. But Japan’s golden boy refused to give up; even after Problem-X pulled his V-Trigger and seemed like he would win with his teleport mixups, Tokido outsmarted him at the last second with his own V-Trigger Dragon Punch and took a round of his own.

The crowd’s mouths hung open as the final round started. Problem-X poured on the steady pressure, eventually forcing Tokido back into his own corner. After he threw just one bad fireball, Problem-X jumped on him with a combo that drained half of Tokido’s health. Tokido responded by leaping over Bison and getting him caught in the same corner, but only for a brief moment - with a perfect succession of V-Reversal, punish, and throw, Problem-X ended the round just as quickly as it began.

With that final throw, Problem-X became the Street Fighter V champion at Evo 2018. He shook hands vigorously with Tokido (who still kept his signature smirk on his face) and embraced his teammates as they lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him around the stage.

Against all odds, rising from self-promoted beginnings all the way to defeating Street Fighter V's reigning champion, Problem-X has made the United Kingdom’s Evo dreams come true.

Final Results:

1st Place - mousesports|Problem-X (United Kingdom)

2nd Place - Echo Fox|Tokido (Japan)

3rd Place - CYG BST|Fuudo (Japan)

4th Place - gachikun (Japan)

5th Place - Fudoh|Fujimura (Japan)

5th Place - BJKE RB|Luffy (France)

7th Place - RISE|Caba (Dominican Republic)

7th Place - THE COOL KID 93 (United States)

Top image source: ESPN.