Our very own Logan Sama had the chance to catch up with Punk in the wake of his CPT NA East victory over iDom, resetting the bracket in a massive comeback win.
Victor "Punk" Woodley has long been one of North America's hottest Street Fighter V players, and he proved his mettle a few weeks back qualifying for Capcom Cup VIII via the Capcom Pro Tour NA East event in an epic comeback victory over his east coast rival Derek "iDom" Ruffin.
The Capcom Pro Tour is being held online this year, which has introduced some interesting results as the year has marched onwards and more regions have begun their qualifiers. There was some doubt about whether or not Punk would be able to come back after iDom reset the bracket, but Punk was resilient and managed to adapt well enough to bring the match back and win it 3-2 after a character switch from iDom's Poison to Laura.
Punk on facing Poison: "The matchup is really hard for Karin"
"The matchup is really hard for Karin, you have to play at your best against Poison when you're playing Karin," Punk told esports.gg's own Logan Sama. "It's not really normal for Karin to have to deal with because normally she's the bully with her buttons. Her neutral is a lot better than most of the cast, so you have to approach it way differently. I feel like I have experience in the matchup because I have to play Fuudo's Birdie so many times. You still have to rely on playing on the ground even though you're really out-ranged."
iDom's Poison specifically seemed to give Punk some difficulty. With the poor Karin/Poison matchup in Street Fighter V, there were habits that Punk was able to exploit to help him secure the comeback.
"When I put iDom in the corner he gets really panicky and wants to jump out. So when you see me play him I do a lot of aerials because Karin, her stand fierce and crouch fierce aren't very good. You'll get hit a lot of times before you press it. His defense, in general, is really random, he gets panicky and does things like throw out a random EX overhead that I can't understand what the reason behind it because it has no invincibility or anything.
"You have to look out for those, and his reversal jab timing is pretty good, but I think I have a pretty good read on it because he does it every single time. I'm always trying to be aware of when I have V-Reversal and when to use it - that's the most important thing in this matchup. EX hard read will just kill you."
Punk wasn't always so sure of himself heading into this match. When he went down 0-2 in the opening salvo of the Grand Finals, he was ready to eat crow for all of the boasting he had done on his stream while playing in the event.
This is one of the more unique aspects of online tournaments, after all - you have the chance to see each player's perspective playing in the event and see how their attitude might be changing throughout the match. This is unlike live fighting game events where the most you might get is a reaction shot after a player wins or loses - but not so in this case. While Punk was confident after coming into Grand Finals, he didn't remain so.
"You know, I talked a lot of trash after winning the winner's finals. I figured [when I went down 0-2] I dug my grave, I have to lay in it now. [laughs] I would have never heard the end of it, I didn't get any lag, it would have just been on me. Everyone can give me all the shit they want, it doesn't really bother me, I've been hearing it for years."
The moment everything changed
However, anything in fighting games (and especially Street Fighter V) can change in an instant. Sometimes all it takes is just the will to recenter yourself, and that's exactly what Punk did, showing a lot of poise in the high-pressure situation. The biggest swing in momentum came when iDom swapped over to Laura, a move that Punk seems to think defined iDom's loss - a clear show of a mental disadvantage as soon as Punk showed signed of adapting to the playstyle.
"When I won the second round in the last game, I felt like I unlocked a different part of the matchup. Then he switched right away, and I don't know if that was his best option but you're welcome to try things," Punk said, smiling. "He came in hot after beating Mandrake, I didn't really have an answer for anything. I thought about switching to Cammy, but I figured I could do it with Karin, took a deep breath, and I felt much better, my nervousness went away. My mind got clear and I was good to play."
"When he went back to the character select screen I already knew I won the set. I think he mentally cracked and he choked. If I won five games with a character I'm not switching. Maybe that's what happened to iDom, he just wanted to get in and run his offense," said Punk.
"I don't really see another reason - Laura's a very strong offensive character, he used Poison for so long and wore me down, and he thought he could throw me off by switching from a long-ranged game to a more in-your-face style with Laura. But I'm always prepared, when I saw him go back to character select, the matchup is much better for Karin against Laura, so I wasn't really worried."
What does the victory mean for Punk's CPT run?
With Punk having taken this event, it means that he won't have to worry about qualifying in later events this year for Capcom Cup. While this should come as no surprise that it's a relief and weight off his shoulders, Punk seems proud of the victory, and that it should mean more to the community in their opinion of him.
"Winning the first time around is much more important than winning the second time because everyone entered this one," Punk said with a chuckle. "I probably could have won the second [qualifier] but people might not enter again, or they might not try as hard. I feel like winning this one just means a lot more."
Punk will now await the rest of the qualifiers at Capcom Cup VIII, which will run through January. Other qualifying players include Mago, MJ_Gama, Nephew, NL, NeroTheBoxer, RonaldinhoBR, AngryBird, Takamura, RobTV, DingChunQui, Mister Crimson, and Travis Styles. The date for Capcom Cup, and whether it will be played offline, has yet to be announced.