Bryant “Smug” Huggins wasn’t seen much last year on the CPT. While the first half of the season saw him focus on his studies, the latter half saw him adjusting to a new character, in Balrog. The Dudley main in Street Fighter IV was merely biding his time.
This year saw RISE|Smug bloom into one of the strongest players in North America, earning him a place in the Capcom Cup 2017. Will the mayor of Duff City upgrade his status to president of Duff Nation…?
While it could be assumed that any solid Balrog player on the CPT this year would ascribe their success to the buffs the character received in Season 2, this would be doing a disservice to Smug. If you look back on his success in Street Fighter IV, Huggins was known for dealing out massive amounts of damage and disrespect with his mix-up-heavy Dudley. In that game, Balrog was far more linear a character. Come Street Fighter V, those same traits that made Smug strong with Dudley allowed him to shine with this iteration of Balrog.
His mix-up game has always been his biggest asset, and being able to deal massive amounts of damage from any given touch makes Smug a beast. Further, Smug is one of the best players at reading player tendencies on the circuit. While he will often be seen doing seemingly-random EX uppercuts and dash punches, these moves are often calculated on the belief that his opponent will be pushing buttons. He’s right more often than he is wrong.
Since the start of the year, he has taken his beatdowns on the road, and it has proven profitable for Huggins. Having entered 13 tournaments solely in North America, he has eight top 8s and one win to his name on the CPT this year. When you also factor in top 8 appearances at Brooklyn Beatdown, Northern Arena Knockout, and E3, as well as just narrowly missing the cut at ELEAGUE, Smug has had a banner year.
One of the biggest challenges Smug faces is his own character. It’s argued across the world that Balrog is one of the strongest characters in the game, if not the absolute best. Much like Sagat in Vanilla SFIV — or Yun in SFIVAE — when you are the best, people are dissecting their personal match-ups against that character to learn how to beat them. In Vanilla SFIV, you never really saw a Sagat win a major, and in Arcade Edition, only a scant few Yuns made that ascent. This is because despite tier lists undisputedly ranking them tops, the true competitors will learn to exploit everything there is to exploit about the character.
To date, there is only one Balrog in Capcom Cup — although the Last Chance Qualifier could change that. But make no mistake: the world is ready for Smug, as he is widely accepted as the best exponent of Street Fighter V’s best character.
That’s why we’ve seen him struggle with the likes of Phenom, MenaRD, and Fuudo. While he has a habit of beating top players like Daigo Umehara, there are still demons left in the bracket that will make it tough for him to progress.
Smug has the potential to make it to top 8 — even win it all if he pulls out all the stops. There’s still a swath of Japanese players that struggle against Balrog, and some of them reside in the Capcom Cup bracket.
The problem is the Western players are overall ready for him. He’s got a tough hill to climb to put himself in the position to take it all.
Check out our prior articles in the Capcom Cup 2017 Player Analysis series!