The Road to Evo leads to Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend, as top players compete for Evo 2012 seeding points at the fifteenth annual Final Round tournament! Action begins Friday, with casual fights, money matches, interviews and more streaming live [via]. Then Sunday, March 4 will belong to Mortal Kombat as pools and top eight action run all day!

"Final Round" might sound like a contradictory name for a tournament successfully run since the late nineties, but the name will have special significance for MK fans when one of the scene's biggest rivalries explodes in a 5v5 main event showdown!

It'll be Team 16Bit versus Team VSM in a turf war even the Elder Gods don't want to be involved with! At the centre of the heated feud is one of the hosts of The Kombat Tomb podcast and captain of Team 16Bit, !

With a pedigree that currently places him #4 in the NFG Rankings, and includes a much discussed victory at SoCal Regionals, he's a master of fan-thrown disaster and the perfect man to get the full story from. With the 5v5 just days away, Mortal Kombat Online ran sixteen questions by Osu16Bit to get the lowdown on Final Round and his opinions on the scene.

[MKO]: 1. Who are you and what brought you to the MK tournament scene?
[Osu16Bit]: I am Osu 16 Bit from Springfield, Illinois and I've been a hardcore fan of Mortal Kombat from the beginning with the original arcade game. I've also played fighting games competitively for years. Previously I played in Tekken tournaments. As we all know, MK has had great characters, a deep mythology and fun gameplay, but it wasn't designed or balanced for competitive play. When Netherrealm Studios decided to go in that direction for MK9, I dropped Tekken and now play MK9 as my tournament game. Overall they did a great job, I'm glad to finally be able to play my favorite fighting game series at a competitive level.

2. You're one of the very best Kitana players on the scene. What is it about her that you like?
I always thought the female ninjas were cool and Kitana is easily the best. She has the most unique weapon in the series and how can you not respect a princess who is also a trained assassin? I doubt Kate Middleton has ever decapitated an enemy of England.

From a gameplay perspective she completely suits my style of play. I am very conservative and lame, sometimes I'm accused of spamming. With Kitana I can keep the opponent away and stay in my comfort zone.

3. There's a threat of counter picks against Kitana. Do you think that's a big issue?
It's an issue but it's not bad enough to need a second character.
In Kitana's case she is good enough that even her worst match ups are still quite winnable. I've never lost in a tournament and felt it was only because of a bad match up and not that I was out played.

I am not much of a counter picker anyway. There are great players who can adjust to switching characters in an instant under pressure but I'm not one of them. I also think it's neat when players are known for their character.

4. At Final Round, you'll captain a team of five against Team VSM in a seriously hyped encounter. What has led to this intense match-up?
There's been a war of words between us for a long time now. We've gotten into arguments in forums and chats, and talked trash about each other on streams many times. For me the boiling point was when CD Jr disparaged my major tournament victory at SoCal Regionals in December. From their perspective, they're upset over some of things we've said on our podcast. There's a lot of backstory behind some of the potential match ups in this 5 on 5 too. You have me and Crazy Dominican Kitana vs. Kitana. Detroit and Morty Seinfeld defeated Maxter and CD Jr at NEC. REO came to Arizona in October and won their own major. This is pretty much the perfect storm of hype and salty runbacks in the scene right now.

But the biggest story here is New York vs. The World.
The guys at VSM clearly have much tournament success. They take pride in being the #1 region in the United States. However, many of us point out that their success has mostly been within the East Coast. REO did win Devastation in Arizona and placed second at EVO in Nevada but the 3 Dominican brothers have only left the East Coast once, for Season's Beatings in Ohio, and have never crossed the Mississippi river. The last time a bunch of top players from other regions came to them(NEC in December) they lost. So we're challenging them to face some of the top Midwest and West Coast players to prove they can dominate outside their home region.

This will actually be the 3rd time a VSM 5 on 5 has been planned. One was supposed to take place at Season's Beatings against Ohio and another at NEC against a group of players from across the country. Both were canceled for one reason or another. This time it's finally going to happen.

5. What are the key ingredients that will lead Team 16Bit to victory?
The great thing about my team is that it's made up of guys who have history beating VSM but also guys who VSM probably underestimates and haven't been paying much attention to.

I've known Slips for years, back to the Tekken days. His best trait for my team is his experience and his character, Scorpion. Slips was a top Tekken player for over a decade and has played in numerous high pressure situations, I can count on him to not choke or be intimidated by VSM's reputation. I've also seen VSM disrespect Scorpion. IMO there is no better Scorpion player in the world. If they don't consider that character a serious threat they're in for trouble.

Dizzy is Chicago's best and a top Johnny Cage player. I go up to Chicago for tournaments frequently and every trip there he has improved. He's the kind of player that really does his home work, he studies the frame data, he finds all the holes in other character's offense, and he's willing to grind out Johnny Cage's bad match ups until he finds a way to win. He's brining a great rush down character to the table, who can go toe to toe with their Jax. He also has a great deal of experience playing Kitana and Kabal.

Morty Seinfeld and Detroitballin I met last year when I went to Arizona for a tournament. I enjoyed playing them and knew they were great players, so it was no surprise to me when they did so well at NEC. With their success against VSM putting them on my team is a no brainer. Morty is a Sonya expert and will do well against CD Jr's Jax and Maxter's Johnny Cage and Detroit's Shang Tsung will help beat the zoners on their team like REO's Kabal.

6. What do you think of Team VSM? How will they try to take you guys down?
To be honest they're awesome players.
I've played REO before and consider him one of my toughest opponents ever. The Dominican brothers are ridiculous, no question. I especially have great respect for Crazy Dominican Sr, he's the exact opposite of me as a Kitana player, so it's always interesting to see how offensively he plays her.
I'm assuming they plan to counter pick us. I expect them to bring out their zoning characters when Morty or Dizzy are up. I predict against me they'll have CD Jr play Smoke, assuming that if I can't throw fans I'll be helpless.

7. When the dust settles, will this be the final round between Team 16bit and Team VSM? Or is this feud destined to continue?
Of course not! It never ends. That's the cool thing about the tournament scene. There's always another major on the horizon. The losers will go back to drawing board, think hard about why they lost and hit up practice mode. No matter what happens at Final Round, 3 weeks later we'll all be back for MLG.

8. Team VSM are keeping their fifth man secret until closer to Final Round. Who do you think it's gonna be? What do you think of this tactic?
It's fun, I love it. Adds to the hype and intrigue. I was going to do it myself with Detroit but I just couldn't help but reveal him early. My prediction is Tom Brady. Tom and I have been feuding since the game first came out and everyone wants to see us go at it in a big match. The only way this 5 on 5 could be any more hype is adding Tom to the mix.

9. What were your impressions of the action at Winter Brawl 6? [full story]
I enjoyed seeing Tom's new Raiden and Sawnik Fawx blow up adult top players but CD Jr needs to lose already! It's getting old seeing him win every East Coast tournament. I'm always rooting for REO, sooner or later he's bound to beat Jr.

10. Sawnik Fawx made a splash at Winter Brawl. What do you think of the kid?
It was neat. For some reason there's a bunch of kids that are good at MK. He shouldn't be old enough to be playing this game but he can beat 90% of the community?

I hope his success, and the success of other online players, motivates fans that only play online to come out to tournaments.

11. What do you make of the Road to Evo so far?
So far, with the early tournaments being on the East Coast, it's gone just about as you'd expect. Final Round and on should be very interesting. There will be majors in places like Canada, Texas and Illinois that normally don't have the spot light. We will probably see strong performances from players that don't travel often or haven't been to a tournament before.

I'm looking forward to seeing Konqrr play again. In the early days of MK9 he was the first top Kitana player and placed 9th at EVO. He's been too busy to travel since then but I hear he's still playing locally and remains very strong. There's all this hype about me and Crazy Dominican but watch out for Konqrr.

Placing top 8 at EVO is so difficult I don't know what to expect for myself. Last year I had the major advantage that Kitana was underrated. The community was still realizing just how good she was and even top players weren't familiar with the match up. Now every local scene has a Kitana player. On the other hand I've become a much stronger player. I believe I can place top 8 again but it won't be easy.

12. As a game, how do you think MK has changed since Evo 2011?
To me, the patches have been a positive. I agree with the majority of changes they made and I did not mind the frequency of the patches. Maybe I'm biased since my character has never been drastically changed but I don't understand the complaints that they've patched too much.

There are rumors of one final hot fix to get rid of some of the ridiculous combos and resets for characters like Jax, Cyrax and Smoke. I support this and in my opinion those characters will still be great without them and the top players using them will be able to adjust.

13. Controversy from Capcom's "Cross Assault" has brought attitudes in the fighting game community under scrutiny [via GiantBomb]. Do you have any opinions about the situation?
I did not see Cross Assault so it wouldn't be fair of me to comment. However, I will say that the MK community is amazing. One of the advantages of it being smaller is that you get to know the players more and there's less of a bridge between the "famous" top players and players new to tournaments. If you're an online player and you've wondered how you'd match up against the guys you see on stream you can do it. You can go to a tournament and play with Tom Brady.

"... MLG's large prize pot, it's a motivator for everyone..."

14. How do you see the MK tournament scene evolving? What's the next major step?
MLG is a big deal [read more]. I just talked about one of the advantages of a small scene but now I'll say one of the disadvantages is the smaller pots for tournament winners. You cannot make money playing MK. Even if you win you're not going to make enough to cover your travel costs. Traveling for a tournament now is a huge commitment and it has to be for the love of the game. Earlier I criticized VSM for not traveling but to be fair to them it's asking a lot. With MLG's large prize pot, it's a motivator for everyone to go to these single big tournaments. We're even going to see the return of Perfect Legend at MLG.

But I also feel we need to continue to support the grass roots majors. After EVO interest in MK will slow down, with the game being over a year old and at two EVO's by then. It's going to be up to us to continue to show the rest of the fighting game community we still care. Even if we don't get on stream and we can't have 100+ turn outs we need to continue to have a presence for the rest of MK9's life.

15. If there's a new game, what will it need to take into account?
The #1 thing that needs improvement is online play. There's no excuse for poor netcode in this era.

I also hope they stay on track with this engine. They have a history of scrapping the entire engine and starting over and it's one of the biggest reasons the games haven't been balanced for competitive play. I'm hoping they stick with this core game and only fix what's broken.

16. Any final thoughts/messages before Final Round?
To all the fans that enjoy watching me on stream and to my fellow Kitana players that support me...I'm ready for Final Round. I have some new tricks, I've worked on some of my deficiencies and I've got a new outlook for some of her harder match ups. I've been playing very well for the last couple of weeks. I feel better going into this tournament than I have for a while.

And for VSM, I hope they bring it. Bring their mystery partner. Bring their block infinites and resets. Bring their hitbox. Bring the New York National Guard. I want their best. I don't want any excuses about not knowing match ups, or underestimating us, or that they were hung over. We're angry, we're hungry, we're coming with our A game. I expect nothing less from them.

Final Round is the next stop on the Road to Evo! Top three winners share major seeding points as the tournament series counts down to the Evo Championship 2012 spectacular, in July!

All the MK Final Round action will be streaming live throughout the day of the tournament and before. Mortal Kombat Online will endeavor to have full coverage of the finals and rankings updates. Discuss everything Final Round on the forums. @Bambamguitar will be tweeting live from the event. Follow @MK_Online for all things MK.