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Punk takes NorCal Regionals over NuckleDu with mindgames, solid play

One of Victor "Punk" Woodley's goals for the year was to sign with a professional esports organization. Mission accomplished: Panda Global picked up the Street Fighter V star in March. Provided by ELeague / Turner Sports

At NorCal Regionals 2017 in Sacramento, California, Panda Global's Victor "Punk" Woodley took home the gold in Street Fighter V against Capcom Cup 2016 champion Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang with pure braggadocio.

Punk was coming from the losers side of the bracket after NuckleDu bested him in winners semifinals. For Punk to take the tournament, he had to beat NuckleDu's Guile in not one, but two best-of-five sets. The first grand finals set went three-games-to-one to Punk as his Karin was able to answer many of NuckleDu's approaches.

But it was in set two that Punk ramped up the mind games.

As NuckleDu was looking over notes on his phone, Punk was trying to provoke him, or make him lose focus. At the character select screen, Punk continuously selected Karin, forcing the game to repeatedly make sounds. It was drawing laughs from the crowd and commentators.

During the actual matches, after a combo or stun, Punk would press down on his game pad repeatedly, forcing his character Karin to go into a crouch animation. That's right - Punk was teabagging.

While it's uncertain if Punk's shenanigans were making an impact on NuckleDu's performance, it was clear that Punk was playing confidently. In one instance, after winning a round, Punk turned towards the camera tapping his finger to his head, which got big laughs from the crowd.

But Punk was right. He had NuckleDu's number; he had NuckleDu downloaded.

NuckleDu did take one game, but it was domination by Punk overall. He took set two three-games-to-one winning the tournament. NuckleDu stood up to hug Punk and congratulate him on his win, seemingly no hard feelings between the two after Punk's mindgames.

The Top-8 overall was packed with incredibly close matches. Almost every single match in Top-8 went to final game, final round.

One of the notable matches in Top-8 was NuckleDu vs Team GRAPHT's Keita "Fuudo" Ai. It was game four with NuckleDu up two-games-to-one as both players hit each other at the same time, resulting in a draw. While it was surprising, both shook hands and walked off stage. But the tournament organizers weren't so sure if that was the end of the set. According to the official Capcom rulebook in section C, 6b "a draw match as determined by the game must be replayed, unless the game awards the draw to a player." Both NuckleDu and Fuudo were called back onstage to replay the entire round. Fuudo ended up winning the round, tying the set two-to-two. But NuckleDu came back in game five to take the set.

The major takeaway from Top-8 at NorCal Regionals 2017 was the American dominance. Many of the top Japanese players were knocked out earlier in the tournament. And just like Capcom Cup 2016, it was a North American grand finals. Street Fighter V might be the era of NA.