Best Moments from EVO 2023: Arslan Ash dominates Tekken 7, Street Fighter 6’s EVO debut, more

Virginia Glaze

EVO 2023 was the largest it’s ever been, ushering in a new generation of fighting game fans and delivering some of the tightest competition we’ve ever seen. Here are some of the best moments from this year’s tournament.

The Evolution Championship Series is the crown jewel of the FGC. As the world’s largest fighting game tournament, EVO is the number one place to be out of the entire competitive season — and it always births unforgettable moments that cement themselves in the halls of fighting game history.

This year’s EVO was the largest of all time, boasting a grand total of 9,182 unique players. Fans from all across the globe came to test their mettle in fighting games both new and old, to witness announcements for upcoming games, and to gather together in communion with other fighting game players.

From major announcements for upcoming games to jaw-dropping moments in the Top 6 and more, here’s our list of the best moments to come from EVO 2023.

A screenshot of EVO stage

Mortal Kombat 11 goes out with an emotional farewell

It was Mortal Kombat 11’s very last year at EVO before the launch of MK 1, and it certainly went out with a bang. Grand Finals saw three of the game’s finest players duke it out in a hand-wringing fight to the finish, with Chilean twins Nicolas and Scorpionprocs losing to American pro Ninjakilla_212.

It was a close battle, and Ninja was the clear crowd favorite. He took the Grand Finals victory in a heroic 3-2 bracket reset against Nicolas, who’d actually dumped him into loser’s earlier in the evening.

His win was nothing short of euphoric, with friends and fans gathering around the stage to catch him as he fell in a celebratory trust fall. It was a beautiful moment that captured the essence of the fighting game community, and one we feel firmly deserves a place on this list as a perfect sendoff to Mortal Kombat 11.

Blind Warrior Sven wins a game blindfolded

The fighting game community is a place where everyone can compete, and Blind Warrior Sven is a shining example of this. Sven is a notable player in the Street Fighter community and is known for knocking heads together, all while being legally blind.

Sven made a fantastic showing at this year’s EVO and went viral on social media after taking a streamed match in pools 2-1 with E. Honda, all while wearing a blindfold.

Sven’s victory shone a light on Street Fighter 6’s many accessibility features, which help players like Sven fight on equal ground with their opponents. Sven isn’t the only disabled player to make waves in fighting games, either, with the likes of Brolylegs competing at a pro level using only his mouth to control his character.

Fans get emotional after Mark of the Wolves announcement

After Xiaohai won the EVO tournament for KOF XV, SNK showed off a trailer for the new Mark of the Wolves game, which was initially announced at EVO 2022. A year later, we finally got a good look at Terry Bogard and Rock Howard, along with some intriguing details about what we can expect in this latest SNK throwback fighting game.

It’s a welcome revamp to the beloved title, which initially released over two decades ago in 1999. In fact, fans were so excited about it that cameras caught two fighting game fanatics hugging it out in tears after watching the trailer on the big screen.

While it might be a small moment in the grand scheme of things, it certainly showcases the passion and love that the fighting game community has for its favorite games — titles that bring them together in excitement for both competition and cooperation.

Joey Fury knocks Knee into Loser’s Side

Joey Fury is a longtime Tekken pro — but he sent the status quo flying when he knocked another famed Tekken god, Knee, into the Loser’s Bracket.

We spoke with Joey after he joined FaZe Clan just before EVO kicked off, and he had his eyes set on taking home Tekken 7’s last EVO. However, this meant getting through Knee.

Joey Fury sent Knee into the Loser’s bracket with Marduk in a moment that took the FGC by storm. Colossal matchups like this happening in pools are a common occurrence for a title like Tekken 7 that has so many strong competitors. Their fight was close, but Joey took it home in a convincing 2-0 victory off-stream, earning applause from players spectating around their match.

Knee getting knocked into Loser’s side is bound to be a pivotal point in any tournament — but this was just part of Joey’s game plan all along. Unfortunately, Joey ended up getting knocked out of the running by his longtime friend and rival, Anakin, in a Jack mirror match that saw both competitors pushing themselves to their absolute limit. Anakin would make his way to Top 6 before getting felled in his first loser’s bracket match and ending in 5th/6th place.

With Daigo getting knocked into loser’s by EVO 2023 Grand Finalist MenaRD in Street Fighter 6’s pools, it just goes to show that some of the tournament’s best matchups happen outside of the top 6.

Tokido qualifies for Top 6 over Nemo with a perfect KO

Fighting gamers gathered late in the evening to see which pros would qualify for Sunday’s Top 6 — and they weren’t disappointed. Tokido, a former EVO champion, faced off with Nemo in a nail-biting battle for the finish; Tokido’s Ken vs Nemo’s JP.

Fans were so curious to see who would come out on top between these two seasoned fighters that even two-time Capcom Cup champ MenaRD put his match against Fujimura on pause so he could tune in to catch the action. The secondary EVO stream put a camera on the projector so fans watching at home didn’t miss out, either.

Nemo fought hard; but it was Tokido who won out in the end, 3-1, with a fashionable Perfect KO — a result that obviously pleased MenaRD, who popped off in celebration for the ‘Murderface’ before going on to fight Fujimura. The crowd had to travel from one end of the convention center to the other to watch Mena’s match, another fight that has earned a spot on our Best Moments list.

MenaRD qualifies for Top 6 with near-perfect set against Fujimura

MenaRD vs Fujimura was Street Fighter 6’s last battle of the evening on Day 2, and one of great interest to fighting game fans. Throughout the entire tournament, Mena was looking exceedingly strong, knocking opponents out of pools left and right with Blanka and Luke.

It seemed like Mena might make it all the way through in Winner’s side; but he was knocked into Loser’s by Kakeru’s JP in the Winner’s Quarter-Final, tasking him with winning two additional matches in order to qualify for the Top 6.

It’s safe to say that Mena had his eyes on the prize. In a spectacular show of skill, Mena trounced Fujimura in a near-perfect 3-0 set with Blanka, celebrating his victory with a well-deserved pop-off on stage and dropping to his knees in exhilaration. He even caught a Blanka-chan plush thrown out of the crowd and showed it off for the camera.

Of course, we can’t forget to mention Mena’s win over Daigo off-stream, either. This was a jaw-dropping upset that saw Daigo knocked into Loser’s side — but even though their match wasn’t streamed, Smash pro Hungrybox managed to film the action and uploaded it to YouTube for fans to view in classic fighting game fashion.

Smash Bros legend Leffen sweeps Guilty Gear Strive

Despite starting his competitive career in an entirely different game (and winning his own EVO title in Smash), Leffen crushed every match he played on the path to winning Guilty Gear Strive at EVO 2023.

He didn’t drop a single set for the entire tournament, dominating the bracket and proving himself to be the absolute best Guilty Gear Strive player out there. It wasn’t close.

With this win, Leffen has put himself alongside other multi-game champions like SonicFox and Justin Wong. Being the best at one fighting game is one thing, but being the best at multiple games is a next-level commitment.

Asrlan Ash sends off Tekken 7 with historic fourth EVO victory

Arslan Ash shook up the Tekken scene in a major way after winning EVO Japan 2019, cementing Pakistan’s status in a game traditionally dominated by players from Korea and Japan.

Since then, Ash has been on a tear throughout the Tekken World Tour, taking two more EVO victories at EVO 2019 and EVO Japan 2023. He was primed and ready to make another grand showing at EVO 2023 — and he did just that.

Arslan did not lose a single match throughout the entirety of the tournament, the biggest in EVO’s entire history. He dispatched opponents left and right with Kunimitsu and continued his undefeated roll into the Grand Finals.

Arslan defeated Japanese Kunimitsu player AO in the Winner’s Final in a convincing 3-1 set. AO fought his way back to the Grand Finals in a runback that had players from all around the world on the edge of their seats to see if Arslan could pull off a fourth EVO victory — on top of taking home the final EVO trophy for Tekken 7.

These two pros faced off in a mirror match that only further cemented Arslan’s status as one of the game’s “most dominant players of all time,” as told by commentator Tasty Steve. He didn’t lose a single game in their best-of-three, trouncing AO in a solid 3-0 victory that earned him a fourth EVO win. There’s no debate; Arslan is the strongest Tekken 7 player right now, and there’s no telling where the game will take him next with Tekken 8 on the horizon.

MenaRD faces off with Tokido to run back Capcom Cup 2017

Out of many amazing moments that took place during Sunday’s Finals, we have to mention MenaRD’s nail-biting match against Tokido in the SF6 Loser’s quarter-finals. These two met once before in the Grand Finals of Capcom Cup 2017, which MenaRD won, securing his first-ever Capcom Cup championship.

These two players knew they were running it back and celebrated their fated meeting by having a literal face-off that took the FGC by storm, hearkening back to Street Fighter Alpha 2’s classic artwork. Their set went down to the wire, but Mena clutched out the victory, setting him up to take on Punk in the Loser’s Final.

Angrybird fights to the finish against MenaRD

It could be said that MenaRD’s EVO run stole the show; but it was AngryBird’s victory that sealed the deal. Although Mena had a slew of nail-biting moments in the Top 6 that are enough to fill an entire article — he fought tooth and nail from Loser’s side all the way into the Grand Finals — AngryBird’s Ken gave him a run for his money in the final fight of the night.

Mena managed to reset the bracket and looked poised to clutch out another win, but AngryBird’s momentum was just too great. AngryBird came out on top 3-1 and celebrated his victory with an outpouring of emotion that echoed Arslan Ash’s monumental EVO 2019 win.

EVO gets its very own holiday

EVO is one of the most special times of the year for fighting game fans, leaving players with memories they’ll never forget. In fact, EVO is so monumental that the event now has its very own official holiday in the state of Nevada, as told in a decree by the State’s Governor presented on stage.

The EVO founders, Tom and Tony Cannon, were even awarded the Key to the City of Las Vegas. If that isn’t amazing, we don’t know what is.

Congratulations to all the many players, employees, volunteers, and fans that make EVO such an unforgettable experience every single year. Here’s hoping for many more. Shoryuken!

About The Author

Virginia is Dexerto's Entertainment Editor and an expert in all things TikTok, YouTube, and influencer-related. Boasting a background in esports, she's been tackling the social media space for over five years. You can reach Virginia at: