"Download complete," laughed the best Street Fighter player in the world following his championship victory on Sunday night inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Lee "Infiltration" Seon-woo, the 31-year-old South Korean, is known for his robotic precision and sharp intellect. After losing to former Evo Street Fighter champion Ai "Fuudo" Keita of Japan in the winner's final, he fought through the lower bracket like the Terminator. At the end of the night, when Infiltration climbed back to the grand finals to another rematch against the Japanese star, all possible movements and tactics of Fuudo's explosive R.Mika had been broken down and dismantled by Team Razer's South Korean genius.
The win for Infiltration puts him in an elite class, as the SFV championship gives him his fourth title at the Evolution tournament. While he won two tournaments in Street Fighter X Tekken in 2012 and 2013, Infiltration's greatest accomplishment came when he won the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition title four years ago over Bruce "GamerBee" Hsiang from Taiwan. He also joins Daigo "TheBeast" Umehara as the only other competitor to win two mainline Street Fighter titles at Evolution in the modern era.
As anticlimactic as it sounds, this tournament was Infiltration's to lose. After his main rival and greatest threat, Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi, fell in the run-up to the top eight, the obstacles to his fourth Evolution trophy seemed to completely open up for the top-ranked player in the world. It wasn't until Fuudo's mix-up heavy and crowd-pleasing masked wrestler took the stage that Infiltration's throne was in danger.
However, when the excess confetti was shot into the arena air, R.Mika's frenzied play had been neutralized, and Infiltration was draped in his homeland's flag to the delight of his South Korean fans that had traveled all the way to Vegas.
Aside from Fuudo, it was the unexpected Nash player also from Japan, Atsushi "Yukadon" Fujimura, who gave Infiltration the most trouble. The unheralded player from Japan was given little opportunity to take down the South Korean titan in the winner semifinals, and the game play followed the narrative. Infiltration got ahead early and often, and although the Cinderella story was able to take a set off the multi-time champ, Infiltration adapted -- and he adapted easily.
It wasn't until their next match in the loser bracket final where Yukadon showed his possible full potential. The rookie was able to push Infiltration to the brink before the veteran showed his years of professional play by not flinching with his life on the line in the dying rounds.
Yukadon shook off his nerves that seemingly struck him in the opener, and the two had the best Nash vs. Nash mirror we've seen thus far in Street Fighter V, with Infiltration barely edging out the Japanese prospect. In third place, Yukadon has made himself known in the scene, and the coming months will show if this was the start of a new force in the professional scene, or simply a one-off performance.
First at Final Round 19 in March. First at North California Regionals a week later. First at Red Bull Kumite in April. Second at Community Effort Orlando in June, losing only to the "Murderface" Tokido. And now, a first-place finish at Evolution 2016, giving him four major Street Fighter V championships in five outings. With more upcoming in the next months on the road to the ultimate prize, the Capcom Tour Championship, Infiltration still has work to do if he wants this year to go down as one of most dominating years for a single player in fighting game history.
The mind and heart of South Korean Street Fighter -- Team Secret's fiery Lee "Poongko" Chung-Gon would be considered the soul -- Infiltration and his Nash have an entire nation behind them.
Tokido will be coming for redemption. The legend Daigo will be coming for his throne. Fuudo will want to gain revenge. Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue defending his Capcom championship. Arman "Phenom" Hanjani will fight for the pride of Europe. Justin Wong and Joseph "L.I. Joe" Ciaramelli for the United States.
Infiltration will be waiting, though, and ready for the challenge. The more that come, the better -- just more information to download for undisputed strongest player in Street Fighter V's short history.
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