This weekend, all eyes in the fighting game community will be on Daytona, Florida, for CEO 2022 Fighting Game Championships. The flamboyant tournament that blends wrestling flair and fighting game love will allow audiences to witness the best of offline competition play after the bar set by Combo Breaker last month. With multiple games boasting impressive, registered numbers, this will serve as a starting point (no obvious favorites) to follow the action in Guilty Gear Strive, Tekken 7, and Street Fighter V.
Guilty Gear Strive is starting to look more and more like the Wild west where any competitor worth their salt possesses the chance to take down the entire tournament. As evident by Combo Breaker’s breakdown, it can be an online warrior making noise or an established name that eliminates all the others. The only thing that’s certain for one of the biggest offline competitions in the game’s history is that anything goes, and nothing should be considered an upset. That said, here are a few names who can make it very far this weekend.
Abdullatif “Latif” Alhmili
There’s certainly an argument for those that follow the game to call this man the favorite to win any tournament. For Latif, CEO is just the first of many international tournaments for him to lay claim to, and for a player with his impressive resume and pedigree, that wouldn’t be a stretch. He is the best Zato player in Saudi Arabia and will come to the U.S. with the fanfare and label of potentially being the best Zato player of the world. Anything short of a top-three placement for Latif might be considered a failure; he’s the one to watch out for.
Eduardo “HookGangGod” Deno
I never bet against a motivated HookGangGod or one that is tournament ready and prepared, and that may be the case this weekend. One of the best fighting game players in the world could be returning to top shape just in time to claim a championship belt. If there are more tools than just a monster Faust, and with little-to-no tournament tape for opponents to digest, this could be a great weekend for the “content creator.”
Offline Tekken is back, and while the number of entrants at tournaments still have not climbed above pre-pandemic numbers, the difficulty to take down any major competition is still at an all-time high. There are emerging domestic powers with newly signed sponsorships as well as international youngsters who want to shift the established veteran dynamic, and that’s not accounting for any surprise entrant who may just have a legendary run. The established favorites rule Tekken, but here are the names we’re keeping track of.
Photo credit: Marv Watson / Red Bull Content Pool
Jeannail “Cuddle_Core” Carter
I recently wrote a feature about Cuddle_Core and her potential to become the world’s best Tekken player, and CEO might be her next step in that direction. She will be fresh from a great top-eight finish at Combo Breaker, and with renewed mental energy and competing in just her second major tournament of the year, she could be the scariest player in the bracket.
Jeong “Rangchu” Hyeon-ho
The former Tekken World Tour winner is the favorite to take down CEO. Without a huge international showing with the best from Korea or Japan, Rangchu’s history and pedigree all favor him in doing incredibly well this weekend. It’s an easy pick to take a former world champion as the player to watch, but there may not be anyone on his level to contest him in the grand final.
Street Fighter V
It's potentially the last year for Street Fighter V, with Street Fighter VI set to release in 2023, and despite the lack of a Capcom Pro Tour incentive behind it, the competition still provides plenty of intrigue and story-building. CEO will provide great practice before the possible last Capcom Cup during this iteration of the game, and with a healthy 229 competitors, it remains one of the toughest tournaments to win and comes with its own level of prestige in the form of a championship belt. Instead of just listing the favorites in Victor “Punk” Woodley and Derek “iDom” Ruffin, let’s look at who we should keep tabs on this weekend.
Ricardo “Mono” Roman
Mono is one of those picks that needs a favorable tournament bracket to truly contend for the championship. Playing a niche character in F.A.N.G means that character knowledge and good matchups are paramount to success. This is not discounting Mono as a player because they may very well be in top-eight contention without the need of a good pool and follow-up bracket, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Mono is one of the best scramble players in Street Fighter V with one of the most volatile characters behind it all and is no stranger to winning major tournaments.
Photo credit: Li Xiu Hoang / Red Bull Content Poo
Brian “Brian_F” Foster
It’s not a stretch to predict Brian_F to get top eight this weekend, but there’s a realistic path to a CEO championship at the end as well. Although the novelty of Oro may be gone, Brian_F remains one of the best players to pilot the character, and his relentless lab work in pursuit of the most optimal level of play will still prove problematic for the players who typically do well against him. If the Balrog is back in pristine form, there may be only one or two hurdles to overcome before a CEO win.
Lead photo credit: Francisco Suarez / ESPAT