When the road to top 8 closed at Evo 2017, one name on the list of players left most people confused. Naoki “Moke” Nakayama shocked the world in his ascent to top 8 in his very first international event, and at the biggest one of all, at that. He continued to wow until he bowed out in fifth place from a loss to Itabashi Zangief.
After a rapid rise in the ranks at Evo, he continued to mesmerize, quickly amassing enough points to find himself in Capcom Cup 2017 in his first year of competitive play. Will he be the story of the year in taking it all?
The Funnel Cloud
Moke is one of the few players I see use Rashid’s entire repertoire well. While Oil King is strong in the neutral and Gachikun’s aggression rattles players, Moke is about that and more. He is able to play a strong zoning game, while also pushing players further into desperation with his aggression. He also takes some pages from Xiao Hai’s book by baiting people to make desperate attempts to escape the corner and then punishing, either by taking a step back to get a Spinning Mixer, or by going far enough away to land a V-Trigger into a full combo.
Further, Rashid players are so used to applying pressure that they have difficulties escaping it themselves. Moke is again the exception, utilizing a mixture of V-Reversal and EX Spinning Mixer to escape pressure. Many Rashids are afraid of using V-Reversal based on the mix-up potential of V-Trigger, but Moke has been smart in utilizing both tools to keep himself alive.
Moke was able to make Capcom Cup on an abbreviated season. While we talk about his international debut at Evo, his first collection of points came from an online event in June. From then on, he was collecting points like it was going out of style. In the second half of the year — from Evo on — he made five top 8s out of 10 tournaments, including a win at OzHadou Nationals in Australia.
This burst of results not only netted him a sponsor, but enough points to easily secure himself Capcom Cup. He was also able to turn some heads with some wins against high profile players, including MOV at Evo 2017, and others he might face Capcom Cup this year.
After Evo however, he was only able to replicate his success in a Premier only once: with a fourth place at D3 in Chengdu, China. While he was able to take out Capcom Cup-qualified players such as Momochi, GO1 and Verloren on the way to that, he was ultimately sent home by Yukadon and Fuudo, both players ranked within the top 10 of the season.
Beyond that, his success was relegated to ranking events. In Premiers, he was having great difficulties in making it happen. The more stacked the event, such as Japan Cup, the more he faltered — even losing to players not even in contention for Capcom Cup. While this may initially sound like he’s not as solid as his Evo finish may state, it stands to mention that some semblance of familiarity came into play. Being eliminated by all Japanese players shows that they just simply knew his tendencies: having started from playing online solely, players within the region were familiar with Moke.
By October, Moke was finding his stride. He did well at Canada Cup and nearly made top 8. However, he was eliminated by Justin Wong and 801 Strider, two players also qualified for Capcom Cup. While he may have discounted the explosiveness of Laura to give Strider the leg up, Justin is a player who would possibly have been the underdog against Moke. Yet, Moke clearly was found lacking in the match, making people question his ability to close it out on the bigger stages.
There is no way you can discredit Moke’s sudden rise: he’s earned it. However, in his first year of international play, he’s definitely going to — and has — hit some speed bumps.
His play against the best of the best is questionable right now, and can show streakiness that possibly alludes to a pattern they’re catching on to with his play. He’ll learn how to break through this at some point. But right now, let’s just say he’ll be fortunate to get two wins before bowing out in this kind of competition.
Check out our prior articles in the Capcom Cup 2017 Player Analysis series!
Additional source: KFighter032