Four takeaways from the SWT Ultimate Championships
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The first iteration of the Smash World Tour went out with a whimper as an unintentional ruleset change raised questions about the competitive integrity of multiple sets at the 2021 SWT Ultimate Championships. Nevertheless, the chaotic event still ended on a familiar note for the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate community as Leonardo “MkLeo” Lopez Perez claimed first place.

Here’s an overview of MkLeo’s win and other significant takeaways from the tournament.

MkLeo becomes the first Ultimate world champion

At this point, the title of “Ultimate world champion” is little more than a formality for MkLeo. Going into this event, he had won five of the seven major tournaments he had entered this year. At the tournaments he didn’t win, MkLeo placed second. A first-place finish at the SWT Ultimate Championships marked a fitting conclusion to the first Smash World Tour for Ultimate’s greatest player to date.

MkLeo’s performance in the round-robin pools phase was about as convincing as expected. He swept Jonathan “Jdizzle” Douglas and Steven “Anathema” Acosta. MkLeo also earned 3-1 victories against both James “Peli” Hunt and Robert “Myran” Herrin, allowing him to start the final bracket on winners side.

As the competition grew tougher, MkLeo conquered his opponents even more convincingly. He ran through Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, Kolawole “Kola” Aideyan and Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez without dropping a game, securing his spot in grand finals on winners side. Brian “Cosmos” Kalu posed the greatest challenge for MkLeo, gaining a 2-1 advantage against him in the Pyra and Mythra ditto. However, MkLeo switched to Byleth to narrowly close out the set 3-2 and win the tournament.

Cosmos makes the grueling run from Last Chance Qualifier to championship runner-up

Of all the competitors at the SWT Ultimate Championship, perhaps none were as busy as Cosmos. He started at the Last Chance Qualifier bracket on Friday, where he suffered an early upset loss to Kobe “Kobe” Murray. Even so, he was able to beat Brenden “Synergy” Neuberger, May “Mystearica” Peterson and “Grape” to qualify for the proper championships.

While the players who qualified through their regional finals got to play some of their pools matches on Friday, Cosmos had to play all four of his pools matches on Saturday, after making it in through the LCQ. Despite the loaded schedule, he managed to beat all of his opponents and finish first in his pool. In the process, Cosmos defeated Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey 3-0, Pau “sisqui” Caire 3-0, Rodrigo “Cloudy” Arias 3-1 and Kiyarash “Kiyarash” Younessi 3-1. He closed out Saturday by winning his winners quarters set over Salvatore “Zomba” DeSena 3-2.

Cosmos started Championship Sunday with a 2-1 lead against Sparg0, showing his expertise in the Pyra and Mythra ditto. However, Sparg0 switched to Cloud to defeat Cosmos in the last two games. Even so, Cosmos started the losers bracket on a strong note, eliminating Dabuz 3-0.

From there, Cosmos beat Zomba again, this time with a 3-1 set count. In losers finals, Cosmos won his runback against Sparg0, winning 3-1 even though Sparg0 played Cloud for the entire set. Cosmos finished his run by pushing MkLeo to the brink, becoming the only player at the tournament to take MkLeo to Game 5. Despite falling short of the gold, Cosmos proved his ability to push through an exhausting schedule and defeat some of the best players in the world along the way.

Zomba’s stocks are rising fast

Zomba rose to notoriety in the national Smash scene as a 14-year-old when he beat Ishiguro “Raito” Tetsuya en route to a commendable 17th place finish at Let’s Make Big Moves in January of 2020. A little less than two years later, he made his major top eight debut at CEO 2021. Now, the prodigy from New York has cemented his status as one of the best R.O.B. mains in the world after finishing in fourth place at the SWT Ultimate Championships.

Like Cosmos, Zomba qualified through the LCQ, where he defeated Mystearica and Luis “Lui$” Oceguera. In his round-robin pool, Zomba won sets against Michael “Riddles” Kim, Tarik “Tarik” Fayazi and Bruno “Br1 AV” Assemany. Even after losing to Enrique “Maister” Hernández Solís, Zomba still finished first in his pool, thanks to a tiebreaker situation that occurred when Riddles beat Maister.

Though he started the main bracket by losing to Cosmos, Zomba had several more upsets left in the tank. He earned three consecutive 3-2 victories against world-class competitors, eliminating Shuto “Shuton” Moriya, Kengo “KEN” Suzuki and Kola. Zomba’s run came to a close after he lost Cosmos again. His character might be big but Zomba’s potential to make upsets has proven to be even bigger.

Sonix is no mere wi-fi warrior

Carlos “Sonix” Pérez rose to prominence over quarantine, becoming one of Smash Ultimate’s best online players. Even after earning solid placements at the SWT Central America Ultimate regional finals and CEO 2021, he still had yet to match the quality of his online performances at an offline event. But, that changed at the SWT Ultimate Championships.

At first, it seemed Sonix would not even make it out of pools. On Dec. 17, Sonix lost 3-2 to Tanner “SKITTLES!!” Jordan in a set where he threw away Game 2 by self-destructing at a low percent. Additionally, Sonix lost 3-0 to Japanese Roy main “alice” at alice’s first international tournament. His poor performance on Day 1 led Sonix to question whether he was capable of competing in high-stakes tournaments.

But, come Dec. 18, Sonix was a seemingly different player. He swept Santiago “Chag” Perez and Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby to advance out of his pool as the third seed. In the main bracket, he was faced with a challenging opponent: Tweek’s Diddy Kong. The players set the pace for an extremely slow set in Game 1, where Tweek did not lose his first stock until nearly six minutes into the seven-minute game. Despite being at a disadvantage for nearly the entire game, Sonix exploded with offense in the final minute. He took Tweek’s second stock and ultimately won the game by timeout.

Sonix’s patient playstyle enabled him to eliminate Tweek 3-1. From there, he earned a 3-2 win over Maister, repeating his victory over Maister from the Central America Regional Finals. Sonix ultimately finished in ninth place after losing to “ProtoBanham” 3-1. While Sonix’s last couple of sets were tainted by the Underdog Boost mechanic, he nevertheless showed off his ability to overcome some of Ultimate’s strongest players both online and offline.

Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.