Despite regularly featuring the most known names from across the globe in competitive Street Fighter 5, we’ve seen an odd pattern of younger players performing especially well at the high stakes event. A 20 year old NuckleDu took home gold in 2016, an 18 year old MenaRD then took it in 2017, and a 23 year old XSET|iDom won in 2019.
We’ve also seen some notably younger last chance qualifier winners, (Chris CCH and ZJZ quickly come to mind) and this year we very well may see the 19 year old BLG|Zhen Kuang claim the title of both LCQ and Capcom Cup 2023 champion. The Chinese M. Bison player not only took the last chance qualifier in winners amid a group of absolute killers, but has been blazing through his first pool of qualified Capcom Cup competitors as though it were a slow Tuesday.
On the way to simply qualifying for the big dance this year, Zhen faced Capcom Cup 2018 champion RB|Gachikun, Saishunkan|Shuuto, AZ|Kichipa-mu, Evo 2018 champion MOUZ|Problem X, and Broski among others.
He clinched Capcom Cup berth the hard way and then was tossed into the proverbial deep end of pools and found himself in a group consisting of RR|Mono, NASR|BigBird, as well as the only person to win a Capcom Cup and an Evo (as well as an Evo Japan): Victrix|Momochi.
He beat all of them.
Zhen has now clinched berth into the top 16 of Capcom Cup IX with a 5-0 record in pools (his overall record is only matched by M80|EndingWalker, a European Ed user who just so happens to be 16).
In his post LCQ win interview with James Chen, the young Bison player shared some of his training practices.
“Lately I’ve played in two offline tournaments, and won one of them. Mostly [my practice] has been online, and the connection is not so good so I’m really glad I could play offline here,” he explained.
When Chen asked if there was a particular player Zhen would most like to face off with, he had this to say:
“That’s tough. I think, maybe Momochi? I really appreciate his neutral, he’s just so good. I think he’d be fun to play with, plus he plays Cody and I practice that match up a lot.”
As noted above, the two did indeed end up being placed in the same pool. When they fought, Momochi (who has indeed been using Cody) fell 1-2 to Zhen’s M. Bison.
The 19 year old flew from China this weekend as a relatively unknown competitor, but has already begun to make a name for himself across the first two chapters of Capcom Cup. It’s still early and, as we’ve seen plenty of times, anything can happen during this world stage event. That said, Zhen has a chance to etch his name in stone here this weekend in what’s almost certainly going to be the final Capcom Cup for Street Fighter 5.
He’ll be facing off with the 2022 Evo champion, HB|Kawano, next in top 16. Be sure to check out our regularly updated Capcom Cup IX results story to keep up to date with the action.