My match flow is often: I get them down to one combo left of health.....then I lose

This is the case with both Guile and C.Viper (much more so with Viper).

I think I have a case of “playing with my food” as Yipes says and I have a hard time breaking the habit. Also, mentally once I get them down really low I start to look for a mistake to get that last bit of health and I start playing very reactively…and guess what? They kill me.

Any tips to “finish your food?”

Speaking quite broadly, once a person is in the danger zone, they’ll tighten up and be looking for you to overextend for a chance to put themselves back in the game. So to compensate you also want to tighten up your offense and give them fewer chances to recover - which is how you should play the game anyway, but doubly, triply so when its coming down to the wire.

So if you have a life lead or are equal:

With Guile: You may want to hunker down. Against a 3/4s screen or full screen guile there’s few ways to get in successfully without taking at least some dmg. Once they recognize their situation they’ll be forced to come in and likely hang themselves in the process.

As Viper: I don’t know viper that well, but for offensive characters try to apply safe pressure. Still slow down the pace of the game to force them to play into your hand but since you won’t be able to kill them from afar you’ll have to tighten your offense. With Makoto for instance instead of going for cmd grabs go for regular grabs. I’ll try to bait out reversals more. becomes s.lp or nothing. The longer you do this the more likely they’ll crack and do something silly. Try to keep your setups reversal safe and always maintain position! Try as much as you can to not let them get into their game because if neutral starts up again it could easily go bad for you.

Just back off. If you have the life lead (especially a big one), back off and make them come to you and make the mistakes.

It is 90% because you are doubting yourself, and thus succumbing to nerves/pressure causing you to be very predictable and/or drop combos more often.

I don’t know about you, but I notice when I start backing off with the life lead (Unless they are easy to read), then I usually get rushed -> pressured -> lose.
If you’re anything like me, then my suggestion would be to (cautiously and smartly) RTSD!

Was a thing on Sonic Hurricane a long, long time ago about “Endgame Strategy” in fighting games, referring to when you’re one combo away from a win:

I have a habit of picking exactly how I’m going to win, and getting so caught up in landing something, that I let other, simpler attacks slide past me.
Especially if I have some meter, I’ll get caught up on using it to finish and it’s not till you watch the replays you realize that you could have blocked, or waited, or counterpoked and got an easier, albeit less flashy, win.

Go for the time out
you have to force over extension on their part so that mistakes can be capitalized
and you cant have tunnel vision its obvious you want that chip low or easy poke
but yeah close in and watch how they move
is it more react based or are they being naturally aggressive
when you have the lead you are afforded the right to get more analytic and observe their intentions in the closing moments
its up to you to break the nuances
but yeah if I see that they are trying to recognize a mistake
wait them out

I have the life lead why approach. Every instance/second we are dancing around trying to capitalize on errors while doing minimal action im winning and eventually with the clock running down the canals of approach to win start to shrink and windows diminish. you gotta be prepared to run clock always.

I think this is closer to what is happening. I think I do back off to 3/4th screen with the life lead “waiting for that one bad jump-in or unsafe approach” and thus I put myself near the corner. Next thing I know Dudley, Bison, or whomever is pwning me.

With Viper it is a lot harder to grab that last bit of health. I know with Latif his combos and strings are much more optimized so I imagine he is just simply killing them in 2-3 mixups. I see him kind of struggle with finishing his plate every once in awhile.

You’re right, you’re not supposed to back off into the corner. Instead, you have to play defensive yet not give up space. You still have to throw out pokes and control space. I’m not a viper players so I cannot give you good suggestions of what pokes to use, it obviously depends on the match up. Maybe try doing a lot of seismo faints to bait them to jump and then dp them. Your is finally a good poke now, use that. It’s no surprise that this problem is more evident when you play viper than when you play guile, guile is much better at controlling space and his normals are safer.

More than likely, this post hits the target. People get too enticed to use that dp fadc ultra finish or whatever your character does and forget that that they can lose the match if they are only waiting for opportunities to use it. Also, people get even more frustrated when they wait forever to get their opportunity and miss it because the wait was so long that they weren’t ready. At that point, that particular mindset caves and people throw the match. Just because you have the meter, you aren’t obligated to use it. What you’re obligated to use in order to win are your opportunities.

One thing you should remember is something that I tell everyone: Everyone becomes a genius when they are about to die. A better terminology is the one I heard Valle use on stream, he said, “Street fighter doesn’t begin until 20% health.” Basically, your opponent is reflecting on the match, so you need to think about what your opponent has learned in your match and focus on what risks they are willing to use or overwhelm them before they get themselves together.

The end game is basically the culmination of what you have proven you can execute and what weaknesses you have shown (this is what makes zoning so strong; if you have gotten this far with zoning, you don’t need to change anything.) If you can’t AA, your opponent will definitely jump in on you. If you don’t watch your toes, you’re going to get randomly dashed in on and swept. If you have shown you have no wake up defense, your opponent will try to get that knockdown for the win. If you have shown that you are recklessly aggressive, your opponent will wait for your offense and try to take their chance then. Finally, when you go from being aggressive to waiting at the end of the match, you are giving your opponent time to plan. While you can turtle up to near guarantee your victory, turtle-ing too much can lead your opponent to out think you, bait you or beat you out. You have to learn how to use safe pressure if you want to turtle end game. This will help stop your opponent from having enough time to out think you. Risk/reward is a big factor when we are talking about safe pressure, so you have to learn your match ups well. Knowing what the returns are on your opponent’s desperation attempts can help you chose which options to stay safe from while still being able to pressure in ways that only open yourself up to lesser rewarding risks. The last thing I will mention is that good players will always have a plan for what they show you and what they don’t. What they haven’t shown you yet will typically come out in the end of the match…

Fuck, I wrote another book…

i definitely agree with the above
you cant back yourself into a corner you have to play aggressively defensive
which sounds really contradictory but you must command the space with your movement. even if in every moment you dont know exactly what your opponent may do you can create a stalemate of sorts with moving in because even at high level especially high level because of the level of confirming is different then one stray hit can turn into nonsense…

youve earned that lead and even if the opponent turns really precise the last few seconds the threat of being random ed out is always viable

this isnt what you want of course but you can project a emasse of options simply by stepping forward every once in a while. even with a quick dash forward watch what you opponent subconsciously does, they are considering the following so they cant help it sometimes.

pace/tempo naturally slows down in the closing moments also so those normal’s that couldn’t fit into windows earlier may work this is for the person with the life lead mostly.

little bit off topic but in the SF ex series (1 and 2) you could back off but sometime you would hit a invisible wall lol they didnt given defined spots for the corner hard to back off when you dont know your exact relative position.