“Is this the one?” commentator Phil “EE” Visu asked Edgar “Sparg0” Valdez after his winners finals victory over Paris “Light” Ramirez at Smash Ultimate Summit 4 on Sunday.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fans have been asking the same question since Sparg0 placed third at Smash Ultimate Summit 3 in August of 2021. It was his breakout offline event after months of dominating the online scene.
After Ultimate Summit 3, Sparg0 placed in the top three of his next five majors, cementing his status as the No. 2 player in North America and, arguably, the world. But, despite coming close multiple times, he never broke through to first place.
However, the tides finally changed for Mr. Second Place at Smash Ultimate Summit 4. Without dropping a set, Sparg0 defeated Light, Leonardo “MkLeo” López Pérez, Santiago “Chag” Perez, Takuma “Tea” Hirooka, Matt “Elegant” Fitzpatrick and Karthik “Lavish” Ganapathy to win the tournament. In doing so, the 16-year-old rising star from Mexico made a huge step in his climb to the top of competitive Smash Ultimate.
Amazing performance across the board and very well deserved! LET'S GO SPARG0!!! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/TjxlOZyjDp
— Beyond the Smash @ #UltimateSummit (@BTSsmash) March 7, 2022
It’s easy to draw comparisons between Sparg0 and his Mexican compatriot, MkLeo. MkLeo was only 15 when he won his first international supermajor, 2GGT: ZeRo Saga. He went on to become the best Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player after Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios’ retirement. MkLeo’s status as No. 1 in the world has gone largely uncontested since the release of Smash Ultimate.
Sparg0 nearly toppled his forerunner at Mainstage 2021. After losing to Chag early in the bracket, Sparg0 won seven sets in the losers bracket in order to reach grand finals, where he faced MkLeo. He even reset the bracket with a 3-1 win and held a sizable percent lead in Game 5 of the second set.
However, MkLeo’s Byleth forced Sparg0’s Mythra offstage, spiking the character with a down-air to kill Sparg0 at only 57 percent. MkLeo jumped out of his seat, marking a rare pop-off for a typically stoic competitor.
“I think he will be the best eventually,” MkLeo said of Sparg0 in an interview after grand finals at Mainstage. “The fact that Sparg0 is right there tryharding every single tournament just makes me [not] want to stop.”
In many ways, their winners semis face-off at Ultimate Summit 4 was a reversal of what happened at Mainstage. After MkLeo forced him offstage at a deficit of more than 100 percent, Sparg0 used a creative Cross Slash to intercept MkLeo’s edgeguard attempt and return to the stage. From there, he landed a back-air into forward-air spike to take MkLeo’s stock at only 42 percent and win the set 3-1.
— Beyond the Smash @ #UltimateSummit (@BTSsmash) March 7, 2022
Like his forerunner, Sparg0 isn’t prone to popping off after winning sets. But, just as MkLeo had popped off against him at Mainstage, Sparg0 couldn’t help but shake his fists and stomp his feet after beating MkLeo at Summit.
“I’m just shaking right now,” Sparg0 said in a post-match interview. “I’m feeling pretty happy, but it’s not over yet.”
Light at the end of the tunnel
In winners finals, Sparg0 faced Light, another player who had snuffed out his first place aspirations in the past. Light entered grand finals at Super Smash Con: Fall Fest after a five-set losers run, then double-eliminated Sparg0 to win the tournament.
Even so, Sparg0 told the Ultimate Summit 4 commentators that he was confident going into his set against Light. He had eliminated Light 3-0 in the midst of his own losers run at Mainstage.
While their Summit set went the distance, Sparg0 still came out on top in Game 5 against Light. Sparg0 jumped to his feet before the game even finished, in what Sparg0 called his first “real” pop-off.
My first real pop off 😳 https://t.co/hXxcjYa3Tp
— Sparg0 (@Sparg0ssb) March 7, 2022
Despite his loss, the close set imbued Light with confidence.
“I’m playing good enough to win,” Light said in a post-match interview. “I’m happy about that. [I’ve] just got to come back and do more.”
Meanwhile, EE asked Sparg0 if this was the one he would finally win. With a supportive MkLeo standing by his side, Sparg0 made sure not to let the win against Light get to his head.
“I would like to think so,” Sparg0 said in response to EE’s question. “But, I don’t have to get confident enough. I still need one more set.”
Sparg0 breaks through at Ultimate Summit 4
Light played hot in the losers bracket, earning a 3-0 win over Naoto “ProtoBanham” Tsuji in losers finals. Nevertheless, with a win over MkLeo already under his belt, Sparg0 was able to enter grand finals without any nerves.
“I wasn’t nervous [in] grand finals because I know it was my time,” Sparg0 said in a post-match interview.
Sparg0 piloted his Cloud to a 3-0 win over Light, securing the lion’s share of the second-largest prize pool in Smash history. More than six months after his breakout at Ultimate Summit 3, Sparg0 had finally clinched his first major tournament win at Ultimate Summit 4.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Sparg0 said in a post-match interview. “I finally did it. I always thought since Mainstage that, at my peak, I could win a major; I could beat everyone. Summit being my first major win feels really good.”
According to Sparg0’s coach, Melee god Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, this victory has been a long time coming.
“I told him years ago I think he could be the next MkLeo and believed in his potential, skill and approach to the game, and that if he was confident (believe in himself) and prepared he could reach incredible heights,” Mew2King commented on the VOD of grand finals. “It turns out that was true after all.”
LET'S GO @Sparg0ssb WORLD CHAMPION!!! SUPER HAPPY FOR YOU!!! GLAD U COULD ACHIEVE YOUR DREAM!!! 😺
— Jason Zimmerman (@MVG_Mew2King) March 7, 2022
Smash Ultimate Summit 4 was historic for many reasons. ProtoBanham finished in third place, marking the best performance of anyone in Smash Summit history who started on losers side of the final bracket. In addition, MkLeo placed fourth, missing grand finals of an offline tournament for the first time since Get On My Level 2019 nearly three years prior.
But, of all those historic moments, Sparg0’s win may be the most impactful. If MkLeo’s career is any indication, then Ultimate Summit 4 may mark the beginning of a dynasty for the Mexican prodigy.
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.