by Patrick O'Neill (Chobopeon)

Let’s cut to the chase. MLG Providence is going to be the hardest tournament outside of Korea and, if we’re being honest, it may be harder than most of the tournaments held in that country. The Open Bracket will be a deathly gauntlet including some of the best players in the world. The Championship Bracket is filled to bursting with talent and potential with players such as EGIdra, EGHuk and SlayerSMMA.

We'll be previewing the entire Champ Bracket in a three-part series, starting with today's installation: the 12th through 16th spots.This part of the bracket contains a relatively overlooked group of players who have performed well enough to earn these seeds in Providence, but not well enough to be considered favorites to take the event. This is a motley crew made up of players perceived as variables, whose finishes can range anywhere from the top of the event on down. Some have attended many Pro Circuit events and finished erratically; some simply haven't shown up often enough to have a proven track record one way or the other.

16. Rain

Remember when everyone hated Rain? He knocked Nestea out and it was called unfair. He had to actually apologize for winning a match, something unfathomable for most players.

That was then and this is now. Rain’s move to Fnatic, and his solid play since then, have led to serious respect from the international scene. In his MLG debut in Anaheim, Rain fought through the Open bracket and then swept a Pool that included MMA. He ended up taking 6th Place at that tournament after falling to Boxer and Ganzi. In Raleigh, Rain fared less successfully, falling to the strong Swedish Terran Sjow.

Unfortunately for Rain, he has landed at the lower end of what may be the most difficult portion of the Championship Bracket. Standing in his way are Bomber, MC and Idra, three players who are playing better than ever and who possess the potential to win the entire event. Rain has simply not played on any of these competitor’s levels, and so it is a stretch to say that he can win even a single match again them. It will take a miracle to see him to the later rounds of Providence.

15. Puma

Puma is one of the best players in the world on one of the best teams in the world. Although he may be occasionally overshadowed by Idra and Huk, the massive celebrities on his team, this is a highly capable player aiming for nothing less than a top finish.

Puma has earned a number of gold medals this year at events including NASL1 and two IEM tour stops. Impressive though they are, the fact is that MLG Providence will be the biggest challenge of his career by far. Then again, that is true for most of the players participating.

Puma’s MLG history is solid, including 7th Place in Orlando and 5th in Raleigh. It took eventual silver medalist MC to knock Puma out of the running in Orlando. MC and Puma have an extensive history, including the seven game classic series between the two in the grand finals of the NASL.

Puma’s slice of the Championship Bracket includes Sjow and Ret, two opponents that Puma seems a class above at present. Puma has been outperforming both for months. The match to watch, if things progress this far, is Puma against Huk, a rare EG team battle. EG will have a number of players competing seriously for this Championship, and that sort of history and friendship always adds several layers to an already deep potential match. If Puma can get past Huk, the MLG Orlando Champion, he can get past anyone.

14. Boxer

Boxer is dead! Boxer lives!

Rumors of Boxer’s demise have aways turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Even after dropping out of Code A, even after uneven performances abroad, fans and players have finally come to know to never count out the Emperor.

It began in MLG Anaheim only a week after an article entitled “The Downfall of Boxer” was the center of attention in Korea. Instead, Boxer swept his group and took wins off of Idra, Sjow and Sheth. In the Championship Bracket, only a deadly tandem of MMA and Mvp could knock him out of the tournament.

In MLG Orlando, with expectations again low, Boxer was mediocre in Pool Play but brilliant in the Championship Bracket, shocking Stephano and Sase before taking Idra to the deciding seventh game of one of the most watched matches of the year.

Boxer’s path in Providence looks favorable for the "old man." As we’ve seen over the last few months, Boxer is still utterly capable of taking down top opponents and, with all due respect to them, Select and Slush are not opponents of the highest tier. Naniwa, on the other hand, has been practicing in Korea and will present Boxer’s toughest challenge if the two should meet.

13. Haypro

Haypro has been derided by critics as unable to beat a computer on Medium AI, as being the StarCraft 2 Bon Jovi, as being undeserving of his spot in the Championship Bracket. If ever there was a place to regain the respect of the masses, MLG Providence is it.  His 2011 Season has been inconsistent, to say the least, as he’s earned a 41% win rate in Pool Play and has not earned a medal all season. Outside of MLG, the Swedish Zerg has not fared much better. 

Haypro’s slice of the bracket is not a place where he can simply luck his way into a victory; current Code S Champion MMA sits at the end of a road that also boasts Code S Zerg DRG and the always potent Kiwikaki. That is to say nothing of the great talent that will be emerging from the Open Bracket. It will take a considerable leap in performance for HayprO to make it past his first match. If he is able to go beyond that, he will have defied the expectations of us all.

12. DongRaeGu

When you’re one of the best Zerg players in the world, being a ZvT specialist is probably a pretty good niche to occupy. Suffice to say, it helps to be proficient against the race that is occupying the highest perch in the StarCraft 2 world. In any case, DRG is more than capable against Protoss and Zerg and is a threat to absolutely every player participating in MLG Providence. DRG’s history in MLG is one of high finishes. Anaheim saw the Korean Zerg take 5th Place, falling only to MMA in the Championship Bracket. In Raleigh, DRG took 3rd after falling to Coca in the Loser’s Bracket finals.

DRG has to be considered the strongest player in this group, having outshined most of these players through the course of the year and earning and keeping a Code S spot through November.

DRG’s slice of the bracket includes Haypro, Kiwikaki and MMA. It seems like DRG should be able to handle Haypro and Kiwikaki without issue. The biggest obstacle for DRG, other than the question mark coming out of the Open bracket, will be the inevitable matchup that the Zerg faces against MMA, Code S Champion and a player who has had DRG’s number on both sides of the ocean. Look forward to another page being added to this growing global rivalry in Providence.

This Championship Bracket looks to be the top of the most stacked tournament ever held outside of Korea. We'll continue looking at the competitors in the coming days, so stay tuned!