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EVO 2014 Highlights: The Matches We'll be Talking About Until Next Year

Here's some of the best matches from the EVO 2014 tournament this weekend. Upsets, bracket resets, and the Wong Factor add up to an amazing competition.

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Last night, EVO 2014 came to a rousing close. Like every year, there were expected wins, there were saddening losses, and there were some great moments of tournament play. The ultimate king of the ring was Olivier 'Luffy' Hay from Meltdown, a French player who tore his way out of the losers bracket in Ultra Street Fighter IV to clench a first-ever EVO championship for his country. But that was the end of the tournament, what about the best of the rest?

Maybe you love fighting games, but you spent the weekend with family. Maybe you were watching the World Cup. If you want to be prepared to talk fighting games with your friends, these are the matches you need to know about from EVO 2014.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

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Daigo Umehara of Japan, EVO 2010 champion and one of the best players in the community, was shut out of the tournament before it reached the top 32 brackets. Umehara is the number #1 Ultra SF player in Japanese arcades and he even finished off classic Street Fighter player Alex Valle during EVO 2014. Daigo took his Evil Ryu up against John Choi's Ryu, and the latter walked away the victor, ending the returning champ's chances at ending up in the Top 8. Even more shocking is the fight was a clean sweep in Choi's favor.

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Another upset involved EVO 2012 champion Seon-Woo Lee, also known as Infiltration, who made it to the Top 32 bracket only to only to be shutout by Hiroyuki "Eita" Nagata. Eita made it to the Top 16 before eventual champion Luffy stomped him out with Rose.

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The Top 8 was left with mostly new faces and Luffy actually began his domination from the Losers Bracket. He beat Winners Bracket header Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi, who had been destroying his opponents with a solid Sagat for the entire competition, causing a bracket reset. Luffy won 3-1, with solid control of the playing field and an almost relentless ability to build his Super meter on Rose. With hype rising, Luffy turned around and repeated his 3-1 win against Bonchan to clinch the championship. The crowd went wild, because honestly, no one expected Luffy to take the number one spot. The best part? Luffy went through the entirety of EVO 2014 playing on an original PlayStation 1 controller. I mean, damn.

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And if you're looking for some interesting tournament play, here's Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis using Zangief against Louffy and holding his own. Zangief! Snake Eyez also played a great match against Ho "Xian" Kun Xian's Gen.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

This game came down to two great highlight videos, both involving Justin Wong of Evil Geniuses. Wong is a classic Marvel vs Capcom 2 player, capturing the EVO championships in that game seven times from 2001 to 2010. His Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 performance at EVO hasn't been as strong, with a 7th place finish in EVO 2012 and a 2nd place finish in EVO 2013, but it looks like this was his year.

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At EVO 2014 in a match against Ryan Ramirez, also known as Filipino Champ, Wong made a comeback equal to the awe-inspiring parrying performed against him by Daigo Umehara in EVO 2004. Round one saw Wong use his team of Wolverine, Storm, and Akuma to utterly dominate Filipino Champ's Magneto, Doctor Doom, and Phoenix. In round two, it looked like Wong would own the match again with F Champ quickly losing Phoenix and Doctor Doom, but his Magneto was enough to mount a full comeback. Round three was a tense and mostly even match up, but Justin Wong held on for the Time Out. In round four, Wong smashed F Champ's Magneto, but together Phoenix and Doctor Doom took out Wong's entire team. The final round looked like a repeat of round four until Wong heavily damaged Phoenix and Doctor Doom. F Champ takes out Storm in response, activating Phoenix's Dark Phoenix Hyper Combo to refill her lifebar and increase her damage.

Call it a fluke of nature, call it the Wong Factor, but Justin responds by performing Akuma's Messatsu Gou Shouryuu exactly when F Champ calls in Doctor Doom for the assist. The result? Akuma damages Phoenix and Doctor Doom at the same time! He follows up with an X-Factor activation, a sweep, and a standing uppercut to kill Doctor Doom, and a jumping punch to finish off Phoenix. It was so quick that everyone was out of their seats. Craziness.

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Wong carried his hype momentum into the Grand Finals, going up against Chris Gonzalez. Wong quickly closed out two rounds with his team, but Chris G rallied for one round with Morrigan, Vergil, and Doctor Doom. In the end, it was the return of the king, with Wong using Storm to decisively stomp off Vergil and Doctor Doom for the win.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

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The match that everyone's talking about is this Pikachu vs. Fox battle between Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson and GC|Silent Wolf. In Super Smash Bros Melee, this match-up is not in Pikachu's favor at all and that's before you get into the fact that Fox is a top-tier character while Pikachu is mid-tier. Axe brought a Pikachu plushie to the match, showing off his love for the character, and he showed interesting strategy pushing SilentWolf off the edges of the level and keeping him there with midair Thunder Jolts and smashes. Axe won the first round and SilentWolf won the second, but it wasn't until the third round that things jumped to the next level. In the final round (starting at 6:30 in the video above), Axe continuously pushes Silentwolf off the level, fights him in the fringes, and uses Quick Attack to save himself. A mere minute later, Axe took the win.

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Unfortunately, Axe's Pikachu was eliminated by Armada's Peach, so he didn't make it to the finals. The Grand Final put last year's Smash Bros Melee champion, Joseph "Mango" Marquez of Cloud 9 HyperX team, up against Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma of Curse Gaming. Mango mained Fox, while Hungrybox rocked Jigglypuff. The first two rounds went to Mango, but he won with only two and one stock stocks left respectively, making for some tense games. Hungrybox won the third round with two stocks, dodging Fox's lasers like it was nothing, but round four was a hard-fought battle that Mango gave away. In the last round, both contenders brought their A game, within Mango flipping around like a ninja and Hungrybox steadily smashing closer to victory, but Mango offered an up-smash to win the bout.

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And in an EVO 2013 announcement, Nintendo revealed that Captain Falcon (F-Zero), Lucina (Fire Emblem: Awakening), and Robin (Fire Emblem: Awakening) are joining Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS! Poor Chrom is only in as an assist.

Killer Instinct

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Justin Wong may have won the Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 tournament, but that wasn't the only game he competed in. Here's a particularly great match between Emmanuel "CDjr" Brito and Wong, playing Sadira and Saberwulf respectively. Both are top-tier characters, but Saberwulf is one of the worst match-ups for Sadira. Wong plays the same footsie game you'd find in Street Fighter, waiting for the right opening to punish. CDJr is the same, but he trades heavily on Sadira's Instinct and Shadows to do big, big damage during those openings.

These tactics carry on into the final round, where the time is ticking down below 30 seconds. CDJr is holding onto the full Instinct bar, ready to dish out the pain, so Wong plays it cautiously. CDJr finds an opening and starts his big combo, only to have Justin break it. Unfortunately, Wong doesn't capitalize on his break and a Shadow finds him trapped in a another combo that he fails to break, leaving CDJr to win the match with 26 hits.

There was also an excellent Losers Bracket final between Jonathan "Rico Suave" Deleon and Justin Wong, but there's not video for the match-up online yet. When I find one, I'll update it here. With some strong defensive play from Glacius, Sauve trounces Wong's Saberwulf, bringing him a step closer to the the championship.

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For the final, Sauve tried to take on CDJr's monstrous Sadira with Jago (possibly for his anti-air uppercut), but he lost two rounds in the process. Falling back on the tiers, he switches to Saberwulf for the next round, where a missed combo breaker and lock out on CDJr's part sees some crazy damage and a win. Carrying into the final round, CDJr pulls out some amazing combos during both contenders' remaining lifebars and a missed breaker makes it looks like Rico is out of action... only to have him successfully break the next combo. It looks like Rico is going to make the comeback, but a tiny 8-hit Ultra ensures that CDJr walks away with the gold.

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma

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Nothing in the BlazBlue competitions could beat that final match. It started with Losers Bracket winner Keiji "Garireo" Okamoto's Litchi completely owning part of the first round against Ryo "Dogura" Nozaki's Azreal with some excellent guarding and anti-air. The second match of that round saw Dogura do damage with some solid combos, but not enough to win it. A two-minute second round saw Dogura taking his time to counter-punish and grab a win, Garireo responded with his own win, and Dogura responded in kind with an absolutely brutal win in round four. Round five sees Dogura owning in the first match point, but in the second match, amazing blocking by Garireo keeps him alive with a smidge of life left, which is just enough to win the match. He carries that momentum into the last round, where he wins with an Overdrive, causing a bracket reset.

Now everything is on the line for both competitors. Dogura makes his intentions clear in the first round by winning with Azreal's Astral and he brings that strength into the next round to hold another win. Garireo answers with his own version of pain, dropping two 4000+ damage combos in a row to win point one, and following it with a desperate hold-on to win round three. Seriously, Garireo was showing off the ultimate defense in these matches, surviving within the Danger zone of his lifebar for long enough in round four to punish Dogura's openings and win the round.

The last round? Just watch it and see two masters at work. Garireo and Dogura both brought their best, but in the end, the defensive punishment strategy leaves the win in Garireo's hands.

If you're interested in seeing the finals for King of Fighters XIII, Injustice, or Tekken Tag Tournament 3, you can find them on the EVO2KVids channel on YouTube.

[Header Image via Melee It On Me]

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