This article is part of our FGC series.
In case you haven’t had enough fighting game action in your life in 2018, it’s time for even more at the Norcal Regionals 2018 this weekend. Just in the first three months we’ve had EVO Japan, Winter Brawl, Genesis 5, and Final Round, to name a few. So I can understand if your head is still reeling from everything that’s gone down. No fear, that’s what I’m here for! As you gear up for another three days of fights, here’s what you should be keeping an eye out for.
The debut of Echo Fox Punk
While Victor “Punk” Woodley dominated the early portion of 2017, he kind of trailed off as the year progressed. He may have won the first ever ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational and came in second at EVO 2017, but he finished just 9th-12th at the Capcom Cup 2017, the biggest event of the year. He also started out the year with a rough 17th-24th showing at Final Round 2018 a couple weeks ago so he’s not exactly lighting things up, to say the least. The Norcal Regionals is a chance for him to start fresh, however.
It was announced on Thursday that Punk was added to the absolutely stacked Echo Fox roster and will make his debut under the orange and black this weekend. He sounds ready to get back to business, saying that he feels “really good” and is looking at this as a “new start, a new team.” He’ll be joining the likes of EVO 2017 champion Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi, Justin Wong, Yusuke Momochi, and Dominique “SonicFox” McLean on the team as Echo Fox continues to try and dominate the FGC. You can look for Punk in not just Street Fighter V, as he’s also competing in the Dragon Ball FighterZ and Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite brackets.
Does KBrad ever sleep?
Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley has been on a roll in 2018. Sure, he hasn’t won a tournament just yet. But it’s not for a lack of trying. After not making it out of pools at Final Round, the man flew all the way to Thailand to compete in TGU 2018. Not only was he one of the only Americans at the event, but he actually managed to crack the top-five. He lost to Tokido in the losers’ semifinal and then was bounced by Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada in the losers’ bracket in a match that he even admitted that he essentially threw away.
Despite not picking up a win, though, he looks better than we’ve seen in quite some time. Sticking with his faithful Cammy, his play has been clean for the most part. If he can shore up some of the overaggression and mechanical mistakes that cost him a top-three finish in Thailand, he can do some damage this weekend. He’ll sure have his work cut out for him, though, as he’s got to contend with Daigo “The Beast” Umehara and Arman “Phenom” Hanjani in his Pool.
Will Infiltration win another title?
The five-time EVO champion Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee is hands down the player to beat thus far in 2018. Tokido might be fresh off a win at TGU and Saul Leonardo “MenaRD” Mena Segundo might be the defending Capcom Cup Champion, but we live in a “what have you done for me lately?” world and in that respect, no one can touch Infiltration.
Infiltration started the year with a win at the first-ever EVO Japan and then followed that up with a big win over Tokido at Final Round a couple weeks back. Through all of his tournament appearances, he has shown off some incredibly clean and polished gameplay. Tokido has been one of the hottest players in the game for the better part of a year, but even he only managed to win a single game in the grand finals of Final Round. His foes will need to bring their A-game in order to contend with this beast in Sacramento this weekend. With a pretty favorable group draw devoid of any other big names, you can bet on Infiltration making yet another deep run.
The field is wide open for Goichi
While Dragon Ball FighterZ has only been out for two months, we have already gotten plenty of exciting matches to sink our teeth into. None have been more exciting than those between SonicFox and Goichi “GO1” Kishida. The two have only met three times now, but the matches have been fun as hell to watch. Despite being fun for viewers, it can’t have been very fun for SonicFox to lose each one. He’s now lost two first-to-10 sets and then a grand finals set that saw Goichi win back-to-back best-of-fives to win Final Round. Maybe that’s why SonicFox decided to not make the trip to the Norcal Regionals this weekend. Whatever the reason, he won’t be there, which gives Goichi a wide open shot at another title.
With his biggest competition out of the way, who stands a chance at doing what SonicFox couldn’t do in three tries? At the top of the list is FGC veteran Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez. While it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen him hoist a trophy, he’s always been one of the stalwarts of the scene, especially when assist-based fighting games like MvC are concerned. He finished in the top-six at Final Round and was runner-up at Winter Brawl. Look for him to be in contention this weekend.
Another name to look out for -- and to bring this post full circle -- is Punk. While he’s certainly made his name in Street Fighter V, his newfound energy and drive could easily translate over into this space. Sure, he didn’t make it out of Pools at Winter Brawl or Final Round, but I have a feeling things will be different this time.
This is far from everything that will transpire this weekend, but this should get you started before you sit down and consume three days of fighting game action. Street Fight V Pools won’t kick off until Saturday at 10 a.m. PT, but Dragon Ball FighterZ, Tekken 7, and Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite all get underway on Friday.