MenaRD shocked the world last year when he took Street Fighter’s top honor in winning Capcom Cup. Not only did he mow through the majority of the bracket uncontested, but he bounced back from losing in Winners Finals to defeat Tokido in a pair of sets that showed MenaRD had the composure to hang with the best in the world.
Unfortunately, soon after his win, questions were raised in some areas of the gaming media, calling into question the “legitimacy” of his win and frustrating the young pro who had just propelled himself into the public spotlight. He has spent this year trying to prove that he is indeed a legitimate contender. Now with Capcom Cup looming, he has the chance to prove himself once and for all — will he rise to the occasion?
Let’s just start right with the question that has seemingly loomed over his head for the course of a year. Make no mistake that MenaRD’s win was indeed legitimate. Forget trying to blame his character on the downfall of so many victims on his path to glory. After losing to Tokido in a very narrow 3-2 Winners Finals, he managed to change it up just enough to beat him 3-2 in the first set, then dispatch him even more quickly with a 3-1 to take the title. That does not speak to me of someone who won on a fluke, but of someone who not only began reading his opponent, but also made proper adjustments to put a master back on his heels.
Nor did Tokido ever discredit the win of the young Dominican; he rather respected his effort and congratulated Mena himself.
The Weight of the World
But regardless of how truly earned his win was, I feel like MenaRD set out on a warpath this year; if people wouldn’t respect his win, he was going to make them respect it by silencing all of his detractors. Typically, this type of mindset succeeds in doing the opposite, and when you see the losses he sustained over the year, starting with falling short of top 8 at Evo Japan, you can tell it took its toll.
It’s a very hard road when you want to gain respect, and can’t seem to get it. In his wins, he was able to show the brilliance he put on display last December. In his losses, he just looked dejected. And that’s the key is his demeanor right now: it doesn’t exude confidence. When you’re looking to repeat in the toughest bracket in the world, this is a key ingredient to do so. Without this, he could easily be stuck.
But let’s look at the way he plays when he is confident. His play at Fighting Fest was nothing short of spectacular, in a tournament that featured 2 players (Crossover and Caba) who will be joining their countrymate at Capcom Cup. In Texas Showdown, he played a solid set against NuckleDu for the title, in a top 8 that featured Problem X and Chris Tatarian as well. With all of these being potential match-ups he’ll have to face at Capcom Cup, this shows that when he’s on, he is still capable of taking on the highest echelon of players.
But to further complicate matters for MenaRD, the people that do respect his play and performance are his peers. The peers that respect him the most are the ones who will be with him in Vegas. Don’t think for a second that they will be sleeping on him. If anyone did last year, it was a fatal mistake that will not be made again.
You can rest assured that anyone who believes they can see him in a bracket will be studying the tapes to figure out what to do against him. What even makes the problem worse is that there was far less footage of him last year than this year. Anything that he has put on the table at any event will now be easily dissected by the public.
What remains to be seen is if he has hidden anything away for Capcom Cup. This could almost be imperative for victory. If all he has is all that we’ve seen, this could be a rough exit for the reigning champ.
This isn’t even going over bad match-ups, of which there is a few. Oil King and Gachikun have reprised their roles as potential bracket spoilers for MenaRD, as Rashid still remains a tough match-up for Birdie. One of the Rashids (Moke) has dropped off the radar since Dragon Ball FighterZ released, which makes the odds of facing one slightly less. However, multiple Guiles, Ibukis, and Menats can also cause him problems.
Ultimately, aside from either dancing around bad match-ups or facing them and overcoming them, the biggest issue is his confidence level. I feel like his confidence level is almost tied directly to feeling like he has something to prove. This was something Xian found out all to well when we won with a low tier at Evo 2013, and something MenaRD has had to also learn.
The biggest key for MenaRD right now is to realize that the only thing he has to prove is the same thing everyone else in the bracket has to prove: that they’re the best in 2018. He won in 2017, and no one can take that away from him. There’s zero asterisks that can be placed on that. Now he just has to evacuate the feelings of proving that win to anyone, take a deep breath, and approach every match-up one at a time.
This was the exact same thing he did last year, and he won emphatically. It’s tough to always capturing that magic at the right time, and 31 other people may fall short of doing this perfectly. But if he is that one that does, then I wish everyone else the best of luck as they try to overcome his onslaught.