The first Super Smash Bros. major of the year in the U.S. begins Friday at Genesis 7 in Oakland, California. Heading into the tournament, one player remains the favorite: three-time champion Leonardo "MKLeo" Lopez Perez.
Genesis marks a special moment for MKLeo. In 2017, he won Genesis 4, his first major championship after he gained notoriety and impressed competitors in smaller tournaments in California and Canada and locals in Mexico. Since then, he has won them all, and in multiple games, too.
His first was in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U at Genesis 4, where he defeated then-reigning Evolution Championship Series winner Elliot "Ally" Bastien Carroza-Oyarce in the grand final. He repeated that feat in 2018 by besting Bayonetta main Tamim "Mistake" Omary. Late 2018 marked the official release of Smash Ultimate, and MKLeo started dominating there, too. Genesis 6 saw him beat James "VoiD" Makekau-Tyson, a tournament and fan favorite, in the grand final.
MKLeo hasn't achieved the status of Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios, who once chained together a 56-tournament winning streak in the early days of Smash for Wii U. But MKLeo is the second-best thing: a dominant player who instantly gains a better than 50% chance of winning in every tournament he enters.
Genesis is his to win, and come this weekend, toppling MKLeo will prove to be difficult for any challenger. Not to mention that Smash Ultimate competitors stand divided this weekend, as many Japanese and other international players are instead competing at Evo Japan.
But MKLeo isn't totally bulletproof. Some players have bested him before, and others have come close. Here are the players with the best shot heading into the three-day event in Northern California.
Ezra 'Samsora' Morris
Ultimate set record vs. MKLeo: 5-13 (Game record: 27-45)
Panda Global 2019 fall rankings: No. 2
Samsora is consistently one of the best Smash Ultimate players in any given tournament. It's why he finished second in the semi-annual Panda Global rankings. He has lost more to MKLeo than Tweek, but he has also played him in seven more sets the past two years and won more, too. Half of Samsora's 18 sets against MKLeo have been in a grand final, grand final reset or a winners or losers final, according to Smashdata.gg. That alone speaks to Samsora's place near the top of the game.
For the longest time, it seemed as if MKLeo intimidated Samsora. At tournaments, Samsora would clearly beat himself up over mistakes and seemed flustered knowing that, after a win in the upper bracket or a run through the losers side, MKLeo was his next opponent. That wall nearly broke at Super Smash Con in August in Virginia and then eventually did a couple of weeks later in Boston at Shine.
Realistically, Samsora could best MKLeo at Genesis. He's no stranger to winning big matches at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland: At Genesis 6, he sent MKLeo to the losers bracket before bowing to him in the losers final.
Gavin 'Tweek' Dempsey
Ultimate set record vs. MKLeo: 2-9 (Game record: 16-29)
Panda Global 2019 fall rankings: No. 3
In the past 13 months since Ultimate hit stores in the United States, MKLeo and Tweek have formed somewhat of a rivalry. The two competed most recently in the grand final of 2GG: Kongo Saga in Southern California in early December. MKLeo won that set.
But the matchup that sticks out the most between the two occurred at Evo in August in Las Vegas. Tweek took an early 2-0 lead in that grand final before blowing it, leading to a bracket reset and then a crushing 3-0 loss to MKLeo in the final series.
Tweek's biggest enemy has often been himself. While MKLeo is able to remain composed, even in the toughest of matches, Tweek struggles to keep it together when it's for all the marbles. But the skill differential between the two, on a pure game basis, isn't that far apart. Heading into Oakland, Tweek has something to prove.
William 'Glutonny' Belaid
Ultimate set record vs. MKLeo: 3-9 (Game record: 12-29)
Panda Global 2019 fall rankings: No. 8
France's Glutonny has established himself as the best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player in Europe. Part of that has come from being competitive against MKLeo and at times even beating him.
The pair's most recent set came at Kongo Saga, where Glutonny reset the bracket on MKLeo with a 3-0 set before getting shut out by MKLeo 3-0 in return. Gluttony beat MKLeo at Ultimate Fighting Arena in Saint-Denis, France, in October, and the two competed in a grand final rematch in Vienna in November. Gluttony lost the latter in the grand final but beat MKLeo before in the winners final.
He has taken only one set off MKLeo in America: the first of the two sets at Kongo Saga. Glutonny will have the opportunity to show he can do that again this weekend in Oakland.
Tyler 'Marss' Martins
Ultimate set record vs. MKLeo: 7-9 (Game record: 27-38)
Panda Global 2019 fall rankings: No. 5
Marss has played MKLeo nearly as often as Samsora, and he has a 43% overall set win rate, too. Marss has become one of the best players in Ultimate in the past year, and a highlight during that ascent was beating MKLeo at Smash Factor 8 in July in MKLeo's home country of Mexico.
Marss has faced MKLeo a lot in non-grand final matches. That presents a challenge for the American player: He'll need to either get past MKLeo earlier on in the bracket or face him late in the bracket and hope that he can beat the likes of Samsora and Tweek.
It's not impossible, and Marss is more than talented enough to do it. But it's all about momentum, and that's something that MKLeo carries better than anyone.
Nairoby 'Nairo' Quezada
Ultimate set record vs. MKLeo: 3-7 (Game record: 14-24)
Panda Global 2019 fall rankings: No. 4
Nairo is the most experienced player on this list, and at times, that's a benefit. A new generation of Smash players took over the upper echelon of the game during the second half of Smash for Wii U's life cycle, and many of them -- including MKLeo, Marss and Tweek -- have remained there and even improved in the past year of Ultimate.
Nairo comes from the era of Wii U and Brawl, and he's also the man that broke ZeRo's 56-tournament winning streak.
Nairo beat MKLeo at Mainstage in Southern California in September, and the two have played only once since, at Smash Ultimate Summit 2 in the losers final. In the past six to eight months, Nairo has found his footing and become one of the most consistent players in Ultimate. Beating MKLeo is the next step toward regaining the No. 2 spot that he once held firmly. This weekend gives him a shot to do so.