Daigo Umehara is officially back after a phenomenal performance at CPT Japan Qualifier 3. We break down the Grand FInals vs Kawano.

The ‘Michael Jordan’ of Street Fighter books his place at the Capcom Cup Finals once again, as Daigo Umehara takes victory in the CPT 2021 Japan 3 qualifier this past weekend.

Daigo ‘The Beast’ Umehara may have had a tumultuous relationship with the ever changing landscape of Street Fighter in the era of balance patches and DLC releases, but one thing has been undeniably consistent and that is his ability to qualify for the Capcom Cup Finals.

As one of the only players to make it to every single Finals since the Pro Tour’s inception in 2014, Daigo once again will be amongst the 32 fighting it out for the biggest prize in fighting games. Another player to qualify recently was Singaporean Tjie Wai “Oswald” Kit who won the CPT SEA Qualifier.

Daigo continues to excel with Guile after switch

While many questioned his choice of moving from Ryu to Guile in Season 2 of Street Fighter V (a character switch he mirrored in Super Street Fighter 4 in 2010), Daigo Umehara’s dedication to training and experimentation with the character saw him claim major titles once again within the year.

After embracing the ‘work from home’ environment of 2020’s competitive era and making the most of his controlled play environment with high refresh rate monitors and high spec PC builds, Daigo emerged, to steal a phrase from the late great Kobe, the same beast but a different animal.

Going in to Capcom Cup 2020, Daigo was one of the heavy favourites after an incredibly dominant year, pulling out the type of gameplay that made him the biggest name in the sphere of Street Fighter.

However, as Covid robbed us of a true offline finals we never got to see him in action against the best of the rest of the world. His absence from Red Bull Kumite in London earlier this year left fight fans champing at the bit. And now with his qualification to Capcom Cup 2021 the Beast will finally be unleashed.

Daigo Umehara was sporting a new style for the CPT Japan Qualifier 3
Daigo was rocking a new look for the CPT Japan Qualifier 3

The Beast warms up before crushing in top 8

Daigo coasted through to the top 8 on Saturday, successfully navigating past dangerous grapplers in Itazan and Trashbox as well his SFL team mate YHC Mochi. And on Sunday the real fun began as he opened up his top 8 run with a 3-0 white wash of a shell shocked Kawano who pulled out his Vega.

Kawano, who is famed for his Kolin, was pushed in to this character switch due to the unfavourable head to head between him and Daigo online in recent months. However, the Spanish matador was not the answer to unlocking Daigo’s impenetrable defence.

Daigo Umehara beats Kawano’s Vega

Despite retaining great reach with his claw normals as well as more accessible answers to the Sonic Boom zoning game than Kolin, it is still universally accepted that Vega is not a winning match up against Guile. Daigo displayed mastery of proactive defence and was able to sweep his way to winners final against Moke’s Rashid.

Moke’s Rashid gets 3-0ed by Daigo Umehara

Rashid is certainly more mobile and a very dangerous prospect for Guile, but Daigo’s stubborn refusal to be distracted from his game plan along with his unerring ability to convert every opportunity in to a momentum swing saw him repeat the 3-0 scoreline. He awaited in Grand Finals on winners side looking unstoppable.

Kawano resets the Grand Finals. One first 3 decided the winner

It was Kawano who made it through to Grand Finals for the run back against Daigo, after sensational displays against both Fujimura and Moke. And this time round he did indeed go back to the Kolin pick.

Using the tools at his disposal Kawano managed to grind Daigo down to final game, final round of the first set and ultimately reset the bracket with a 3-2 victory. Kawano made the most of Kolin’s limited anti projectile tools by playing around her V Trigger 2 ‘Absolute Zero’ and Critical Art ‘Frost Tower’.

Daigo Umehara faced Kolin specialist Kawano
Daigo cruised to a 3-0 despite Kawano resetting the Grand Finals

Despite needing a full v meter or EX gauge to access these, Kawano correctly identified that his only path to victory in this match up was cornering Daigo’s Guile and forcing him in to making bad decisions on defence in the face of the Kolin pressure.

Some clutch conversions saw Kawano able to close out rounds where he was heavily down. And the score was reset to 0-0 as one last first to 3 set would determine who was headed to Capcom Cup Finals.

The Grand Finals: Daigo Umehara faces Kolin maestro Kawano

Last season on SFL Japan, Daigo recognised the ability of Kawano by drafting him on to his ‘Umehara Gold’ team which qualified for the SFL Finals.

This year, Kawano has forged out a path on his own by switching to team ‘Good 8’ alongside Gachikun, Pugera and Kichipamu. And whilst Good 8 is flying high in the current standings, Daigo’s team ‘Beast Mildom’ has fared much worse.

Daigo Umehara secures a Perfect K.O. in the Grand FInals
During the final series Daigo Umehara pulled off a perfect K.O. without using any resources

With the renewed confidence of resetting the bracket in this difficult match up, Kawano stepped in to the set looking to repeat his strategy of playing around his V Trigger and Critical Art as answers to Daigo’s Guile. But Daigo showed why he is one of the most dangerous players in the history of the genre.

Not only immediately adapting his Sonic Boom use to almost nil any time he sensed Kawano was obviously looking for a V Trigger or Critical Art counter attack, Daigo’s proactive defence saw him letting off EX flash kicks and mixing up with wake up buttons and throws. This totally threw off Kawano in moments where the Kolin player was dictating his offence.

Daigo’s stubborn refusal to play to his opponents’ tune was no better shown than this pixel health comeback which sent the community wild.

In the end it was a very comfortable 3-0 victory for Daigo who showed that he was still able to get the job done in the face of a new younger scourge of players looking to dethrone him. Despite multiple setbacks in the past year, it is an incredible example for aspiring players that hard work really does pay off.

Daigo will now be travelling to the Capcom Cup finals at the end of the season, once again taking up his familiar place amongst the world’s best. A title he has been challenging for now across 4 decades. And of course he was immediately back to streaming, sharing his insight and knowledge with the community just as he always has done.

Will this year be the one he is able to finally secure the title that has yet eluded him in his illustrious career, the Capcom Cup? The question remains. And also, what is with that towel?

Logan Sama - SFV commentator

Logan Sama

SFV commentator | Twitter: @WSOLogan

Logan Sama has been a fixture on Street Fighter broadcasts for over a decade now. Covering Capcom Cups, Evo Championships and Red Bull Kumites. Most recently creating and hosting the 'Fighting Words' series and 'Round One' pre game show for Capcom Fighters. He also runs his own successful WinnerStaysOn events, which have been a mainstay in London since 2010.