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Big Bird Wins First Red Bull Kumite for Street Fighter 6

Femi Famutimi
9 min

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Big Bird Wins First Red Bull Kumite for Street Fighter 6
The Marisa player was streets ahead of everyone else and won convincingly

The first Red Bull Kumite for Street Fighter 6 was an incredible event that showcased some of the best Street Fighter has to offer right now. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was won by one of the favorites of the tournament, Big Bird, over Frenchman, Akainu in a dominant 5-1 set using his indomitable Marisa to bully Akainu's Guile to submission.

Street Fighter 6 is a month old now, and while players are a lot better at the game, there is still some way before the top players find their groove. However, as the first major FGC tournament held in Africa, this was a great showcase of a region that little is known about. 

The tournament format was changed slightly this year as the two-group, round-robin format was replaced with a single elimination bracket with players facing off once with the winner advancing and the loser crashing out. Each game was a best of nine, or first to five, meaning that each set was quite decisive, and no one could complain about a lack of games. We got some dramatic moments, especially a most surprising upset as hometown hero JabhiM won against arguably the best fighting game player ever in Tokido and qualified for the Quarter Finals. 

JabhiM makes history


Big Bird's win came on the back of one of the most emotional and traumatic games to take place as the Evo 2019 finalist found himself pitted against best friend and training partner, Angrybird, in the very first round. The set was a classic, but before that, we started the day with a shocker as iDom, fresh from a flight from the United States, lost 5-0 to Problem-X, who was using low-tier hero Lily. The mitigating factor was iDom's hellish week which saw him suffer several cancellations before somehow making his way to Red Bull Kumite. Probably still jet-lagged, the Capcom Cup 2019 champion was not in the best shape and was quickly dispatched. 

The match was followed by another quick speed run involving LCQ winner Kakeru and NL from South Korea. Kakeru is easily one of the best JPs in the world, and it showed both in the LCQ and in these matches. NL, using Cammy who does well against JP, was unable to find a chink in Kakeru's armor. He eventually switched to Luke, but that wasn't much better, and he lost pretty badly to Kakeru.

However, one of the sets of the day was between Angrybird and Big Bird. The two are training partners and even run a YouTube channel together. This means they know each other pretty well, and it showed in the gameplay. Big Bird's Marisa has been the scourge of many online, and even in the casual sets played, had been unstoppable. But, Angrybird, used to Big Bird's playstyle, made him bleed with his Ken which he carried over from Street Fighter V. 

As you'd expect of any match involving the birds, it was entertaining and very even. Both players made it to 4-4, and in a closing interaction, a wake-up level 3 super from Big Bird was the difference between victory and defeat. Angrybird did not expect it, and this was how Big Bird was able to take the win. 

Angrybird vs Big Bird

The next set was also a nail-biter with Mister Crimson, currently the holder of the most number of league points in the world in Street Fighter 6 ranked, facing off against the hero of Puerto Rico, Mono PR. Mono, who gained fame in Street Fighter V with his F.A.N.G and even won CEO 2021 with him, had decided to go into Street Fighter 6 with a high-tier character in Deejay. He and Crimson were evenly matched, and one of the noticeable features of Mono's game was his willingness to use up all his meter and gauge early in the match to get an advantage. So, we saw a lot of early game supers and drive rush just to get the upper hand. Crimson was no slouch either, and he also utilized Dhalsim's long-range normals and his unique rush-in game to make Mono sweat. However, Mono prevailed in the final game and moved on. 

But, easily, the most captivating game of the day was between Tokido and JabhiM. Jabhi was well-known now after his performance at Capcom Cup and his exploits for his community last year. But, very few would have fancied his chances against the great and mighty Tokido. Tokido's Ken had already made short work of many players, including JabhiM in the team match played between Team Logan and Team Rob on Saturday, the 1st of July. When Tokido took the first game, there was a sense that we had a speedrun in our future. But, Jabhi was unwilling to give up, and he took it round by round against the fighting game legend. With each round Jabhi won, the crowd grew in intensity, and the home advantage and backing were certainly doing something for Jabhi

The atmosphere was electric, and Jabhi was playing out of his mind. He punished all of Tokido's whiffs, had a reliable answer to Tokido's fireballs, and was able to utilize Drive Impact really well, catching Tokido unawares a fair few times. 

Jabhi was able to take it in the end 5-3 in what will go down as one of the most memorable sets in all Street Fighter history. 

However, some of the mistakes Jabhi made in the set would come back to haunt him later, namely his reliance on Drive Impact and his inability to anti-air at all. These were the factors that led to his Quarter Final defeat to Oil King, and the Evo Japan winner was allowed to jump in relentlessly with no checks or punishes. His reliance on Drive Impact was soon punished as Oil King started to react to them and punish Jabhi

But, Jabhi can leave with his head held high as he ensured that people sat up and took notice of South Africa. 

After this stunning victory, the most remarkable thing we saw was Kakeru's terrifying ability as he dispatched Problem-X really easily, winning 5-0 and causing Problem-X to comment that he isn't very good at the game yet and needs to level up. However, we should have had a hint at who the winner was going to be when we saw Big Bird completely dismantle the unbeatable Kakeru with relative ease in the Semi-Finals. JP is known as a great zoner, but Big Bird was ready for the zoning game and, by using Marisa's strong armored moves, was able to keep getting in Kakeru's face and dishing out the punishment.

On the other side, Akainu showed that his 5-0 win over Leffen was no fluke following it up with victory over Mono and Oil King. Akainu was very smart with his use of Guile's Sobat Kick and his Sonic Booms. Akainu was also able to decide between offense and defense really accurately. This was remarkable as he had a bit of a controller issue earlier in the day. As narrated by Damascus, Akainu's customary PS4 controller developed some issues, and he was forced to buy a PS5 controller to compete. He was bummed out and worried he would be unable to play optimally with the new pad, which he hadn't become accustomed to. 

Another thing of note was that Akainu was a late replacement for Justin Wong, who was unable to make the tournament and barely had time to prepare before taking a flight to South Africa to play in the tournament. 

His performances were impressive, but against Big Bird, he was facing a juggernaut who could not be stopped. 

The final between the two was largely forgettable, but in the grand scheme of things, South Africa can be proud of how well they hosted the tournament. 

Does the win move Marisa up the tier list? Probably not yet, but the tournament did show a couple of things. Firstly, with a new game, there is a lot of room for anyone to defeat anyone as was the case with JabhiM and Tokido. It also showed that with a new game, there are always bound to be players who come to the fore who might not have been there before. For instance, Akainu's run was surprising despite the fact that he is a well-respected player. 

It will be interesting to see how everyone 'levels' up after this. Also of note were the Japanese players who weren't as dominant with all the classic names like Tokido, Gachikun, and Bonchan all crashing out at the first hurdle. The next huge tournament will be Evo; you can be sure that things will have changed a bit by then. 

Evo 2023 will take place between the 4th and 6th of August and has already broken some registration records

Top 16 Players at Red Bull Kumite 2023

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