Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour finals preview: Kazunoko, SonicFox top the list

Dominique "SonicFox" McLean celebrates his win in the grand final of Dragonball FighterZ at Evolution 2018, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Gail Fisher for ESPN

Finally, all seven Dragon Balls are collected and together just in time for this weekend's conclusion to the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour at the Red Bull Final Summoning in Los Angeles. The finals will pit eight of the best players in the world in a climatic saga to prove who is the strongest warrior.

If you watched any major event in the DBFZ World Tour, you knew that the results at the top were near-repeats from the last tournament. The rules state winning one Dragon Ball meant automatic entry into the final event, while winning multiple Dragon Balls meant the runner-up qualified for the last chance qualifier. That choice allowed a player to win more than one Dragon Ball during the season, leading to the incomplete field for its finals.

Here's what we know: Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue, Goichi "Go1" Kishida, Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, and Eduardo "HookGangGod" Deno are in the final tournament because they won a Dragon Ball. But because of Kazunoko's dominance, one man holds four out of the possible seven balls. There will be four total last chance qualifiers to create the final bracket of eight players for the tournament. While the excitement of seeing players play essentially an elimination game to get into the playoffs is built-in, it does highlight the issues of the tour's limited qualification opportunities and the wide gap between a top finalist and a strong competitor.

Here's what the scouter says: Kazunoko is the top power level and the favorite to take down the final event of the tour. One major advantage for Kazunoko is his innovations and team compositions showcase a unique style; preparations for him cannot be covered by general strategy. His defense is his offense -- and his offense is relentless.

Speaking of offense, SonicFox is the man to watch. For the first third of the tour, Sonic was feared for creating controlled chaos regardless of whatever team combination. While his tournament appearances died down toward the latter half of the season, his skill and place among the favorites cannot be overlooked. He still may be the man to beat.

On the other side of the coin, Go1 is the only player that creates his opportunities through impenetrable defense. His was unquestionably one of the best in the world until the rest of the field caught up. Many of the defensive techniques and timings for guards and reflects were his making, but in a game where offense continues to rule supreme, it may not be enough to take home the crown.

The last known name, HookGangGod, may be the only player with a handicap by means of team composition. His character choices lead to an easier time to game plan against, but his results were stellar with two finishes at second or better at Saga events, so the resume backs up the hype. He may be the name that receives the least buzz out of the four qualified players, but his first-place finish at the Summit of Power proves he can come through at the most surprising of times.

The rest of the field is still an unknown, but many of the best players, such as Jon "dekillsage" Coello or Tachikawa Toru that put up strong results throughout the season, will be in attendance. It would be difficult to predict the final four players that will join the finals, but there are a couple notable names that could qualify.

Shoji "Fenritti" Sho

Fenritti suffered from the same fate as many of the top competitors of DBFZ toward the latter half of the tour: they lost to Kazunoko. He lost to him at CEO 2018, then again at SEA Major 2018, and finally in a heartbreaking set during the grand finals of Japan Round 2018. If it wasn't for the wall of Kazunoko, we would include Fenritti's name amongst the qualified. His incredibly suffocating and efficient offensive output from seemingly any hit make him a threat to kill off any character. He may be the name most players fear facing.

Naoki "moke" Nakayama

For most of the year, moke's name appeared in every significant top eight of a DBFZ tournament. However, outside of a top-two finish at SEA Major 2018, he could not take home a championship on the final day of a tournament. He plays at the fastest pace out of every top player and uses his incredible movement to confuse and intimidate opponents. In a large last-chance qualifier field, his pace of play will be a key asset toward his qualification bid.