Red Bull Kumite preview: 3 questions

For the glory in Las Vegas

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The sixth Red Bull Kumite with the battleground being Street Fighter V will take place this weekend, so it was a good time to look at some of the stats behind the event.

It almost seems like this event is one of the few to grab in 2021 with a lot of the other major events taking a pause one more time before ramping up in 2022.

The 2-day event, taking place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, will feature 16 top players, 15 who we know plus 1 fortunate person who battles through the Last Chance Qualifier.

Over the summer, I compiled the in-game totals of each of the five previous events to get some idea of the stats that have taken place during this event. I wanted to keep the ideas and thoughts relative to this event for the most part instead of giving it the broad brush. Red Bull Kumite is exclusive and has done different formats over the previous five events — some of which will be discussed later this month.

With that, here are three questions worth discussing when the event kicks off this weekend.

Question 1: Can Monsieur Crimson defend his championship?

Crimson will try to become the second player to defend the title. If he does it, he’ll join Fujimura as the only ones to successfully do it.

The bonus going for Crimson is that he’s climbed past this tournament format where matches progressively get longer.

First thing that came to mind when I thought about whether he could win the event is the meter. It is going to be one of the most important factors of him controlling the pace of play.

In his title run in May, Crimson was 8-7 when starting a round with more meter than his opponent. The eight wins are the most among the 16 competitors.

The 15 opportunities were the most among the competitors as well. Yes, he did play 68 rounds and there’s something that can be said that more rounds means of course he was going to get more opportunities to have a lead starting that round. Idom, the other finalist, was only 5-2 in rounds where he started with more meter. Seven rounds total, and he played 65 rounds in the tournament. Mr Crimson and eight other players had at least seven opportunities as well.

Mr Crimson in those 15 rounds had an average round time of 44.1 seconds. Overall it was 43.5 seconds. There’s been a trend of successful players keeping their pace at a level no matter the scenario. Other players have a massive swing once we start splitting the numbers into specific splits.

It was surprising that of his 68 rounds played he was only 35-33. His tournament run in May seemed to be more of survival than dominance.

  • Infiltration the 2016 winner: 31-24

  • Nemo the 2017 winner: 35-23

  • Fujimura the 2018 winner: 26-9

  • Fujimura the 2019 winner: 27-18

Question 2: Who benefits from the format?

The format will be similar to last year, where players are placed into groups followed by a single-elimination bracket that adds games to series.

The easy thing to say is that those who benefit will be those who can adjust from 3-game series to 4, to 5, and so on.

The stronger belief is the players to benefit will be the ones who can finish off their opponents faster. Expend less energy and save that juice for the later rounds in the tournament.

If we go back to Crimson, he was 4-3 when on match point victory. Luffy made him work the most, in the semifinal where Crimson needed three chances to take him out.

The only other player who had more match point victory opportunities was Idom, who had 9, going 5-4.

The match point conversion rate all time in the Red Bull Kumite is 55.8 percent. In the May event, the conversion rate was 52.5 percent (31-28), not the worst tournament but far from the 2017 event which was 66 percent (31-16). The 2017 event was a plain double-elimination bracket. This weekend, like in May, will not be.

Question 3: Who will be the biggest surprise?

I wrote this preview on Saturday night, when 14 of the 15 players were announced — the 16th will come via the Last Chance Qualifier in a few days.

I don’t think there’s just one player who can surprise the field. There are several. And my strength of jinxing players is about to get heavily tested in the following paragraphs.

One of those surprise players could be Big Bird. This is his third trip to the dance after making an appearance in 2016 (tied for fifth) and 2019 (tied for ninth).

Despite being 4-4 all time in the kumite, his numbers are just below the median. For example, he’s only 3-2 when he starts a round with more meter than his opponent. He’s 12-15 in rounds where he and his opponent have the same meter to start. He’s faced eight different characters in this event and has a winning record against four. his average round time is 46.9 seconds.

If those numbers slightly go up and his pace quickens, it could potentially mean a deep run in the event.

Problem X could also be a surprise although I doubt anyone would put him in the ‘surprise’ category when he’s likely to go in as one of the favorites to get to the finals.

This will be his fourth consecutive trip to the kumite. He was the 2018 runner-up and followed up with a fifth-place finish the next year and a ninth-place finish in May.

With one more match win, he’ll be the fourth player all time in the Street Fighter V era to get at least 10 wins in the kumite, joining Fujimura, Nemo and Tokido. Two of those three have won the event.

I’ll throw a curveball player out there, Brian F, as a potential surprise. There are no kumite stats of him, as this will be his first time in the cage.

Remember where I said the biggest benefactors of the format will be those who can adjust from 3-game series to 4 and 5? Brian could be one of those. But it will be a tough road.

It could come down to whether he gets out of the pools. Since there isn’t kumite stats of him, I’m looking toward his CPT Top 8 results — and I know this is not ideal to use as a comparison but I’m running with it anyway. He’s 14-22 all time in rounds where he’s trying to go up 2-0 or 2-1. His match value in those specific rounds is -1.49 which is not good at all.

But in this year’s Midwest Top 8, he was 2-1 in those rounds with a 0.21 match value, a much better outlook.

If there’s even a slight improvement in that specific stat this weekend, we could be talking about a big surprise going into the playoff rounds. It all comes down to whether that first hurdle gets cleared.

I might have jinxed all three players or given them a bump. It’s probably the former.