Sonya (Updated 11-19-05)
Sonya is a mid tier character in UMK3, ranked around number 12. She is very fast, a great sweeper, has a lot of options and ways to play her. You can rush down or turtle with her, but rush down is your best bet. Another thing you're going to want to look for is guranteed openings for the leg grab which is essentially a free uppercut that allows you to get right on top of your opponent afterwards. Her combos are pretty simple and powerful, and she's a little harder to max out juggles on then most characters but not the level of Shang Tsung or Sheeva where you really have to overcompensate for them. Her ducking LK is golden, and will be explained in depth later. Rush down with run jabs, into her 5 hit pop up, throw in some knee jabs here and there, and remember to abuse her speed and leg grab.
There are some awkward properties here and there on her moves. For one her uppercut hits strangely and deceptively, and it has an extra recovery frame, it looks like the made hers stop one frame too early, but I suppose that makes it hit just a tad earlier. Her roundhouse is high and short on range, and does connect on the frame you would expect it to, the whole move is pretty sudden. It's better for run under roundhouse set ups than normal anti air, so you should go for a simple standing HK, which hers is very good. Her sweep is in the top 3 with Kano and Jax. Extremely little recovery time and sets up traps. Her jabs are slightly short on range, making clean aaHP contact difficult at times, but still works on punishers. Her ducking LK is perhaps the best in the game. It's very pointy, with great range and her hit box is incredibly small while doing it because she ducks so low to the ground. If you time it correctly, it is nearly impossible to hit Sonya with any attack except ones that are intentionally low like a Liu Kang Fireball, Ermac's lift or Mileena's roll. People who are aware of this tactic will sometimes pick characters to counter it but there are ways around it. In the unlikely event someone will pick Mileena to roll through your ducking LK cheese, throw out a couple, and they will attempt to roll, since you expect it, simply block it and punish with aaHP, JP, leg grab for 37%. Against Liu Kang try to bait a ducking fireball, and when they do, don't LK, jump over the fireball for a free 52% combo. You can snuff with it any sweep practically inbetween sweeps, any incoming JK contact can be avoided with it and then counter them as they land. Remember you cannot simply mash on D LK and expect results, you have to recognize your opponent's character's strengths and weaknesses and ultimately take advantage of every little mistake. The ducking LK can also get you out of cross up situations easily with little risk. Her ducking HK can be used a really humiliating anti air attack as well. Her straight up JK can catch some characters if you do it on the way up in a jump, her regular JK is great, it's one of the best in the game. She can snuff lots of attacks with it, including Kabal's spin, frontwards or backwards. Her JP is decent, misses often on wide cross ups.
The Leg Grab is probably one of the most important moves in her set. It has great range, massive damage, quick as hell, can punish just about anything from a good distance and is useable in combos. It has a strange damage protection property in UMK3. Naked, the leg grab does about 21%. If you connect a grounded JK into a leg grab, it does 10%. If you combo more than 2 juggled hits before it, it does 5%. If you combo it in an auto combo with more than 2 connect hits before it, like HP, HP, U LP, it does 3% damage, acknowledging the fact that any juggle hits after an auto combo are DPed and it has it's own special DP as well. There are many situations where an attack leaves someone open for a leg grab even when Sonya blocks it. Watch for situations, or even try to set them up, so a combo will miss, or get a laggy hit in the middle if blocked, this really is only useful in combos where you can actually switch from standing to ducking and blocking, 3 frames of vulnerability, only 1 abuseable so this has to be done in a situation where there are more than 3 available frames, hence the delayed or stuck hit. If timed correctly Sonya will appear to break through the combo and snag them with a leg grab. Also simply watch for combos that suddenly stop and always be ready to stick in a leg grab because it's free damage and puts Sonya on the offensive. The leg grab can beat out sweeps from close range if they start at the same time, so against a sweep crazy Kano or Jax, throw out a leg grab on them right as they go for one. You might also try simply running through the sweep and getting her knee lift before the sweep connects. The main concept is to abuse the hell out of the leg grab at every opportunity, and mix it up with those nasty ducking LKs, then switch it up on them after a leg grab connects and go for the rush down. A standard punisher combo getting use of the full leg grab damage would be, aaHP, JK, leg grab, and it has to be timed well or the leg grab will be blockable, and it has a decent amount of recovery time, but on the other hand it also has a strange collision box when recoiling, making a lot of close range attacks miss on her. The leg grab must be blocked low, like a sweep, and does no chip damage.
The Rings are a standard projectile, slow start up, she holds the pose for a while, but it has quick horizontal movement. It would be inadvisable to use the rings as a zoning move because she leans forward and is wide open for punisher autocombos. You would be better off using it sparingly, and perhaps as a last resort to hit a jumping away opponent for a win.
The Upward Bike Kick is a great wake up and anti air move. Many people will abuse it in close range situations and it can get you out of run jab scenarios if timed properly, like Mileena's roll. Another good use for it is to get out of cross up situations. If someone run jabs you and exhausts their run bar, they might go for a cross up JK to let some run recharge and continue to run jab until you give up the hits in attempt to counter. At this point your choice of escape is either a ducking LK miss or snuff, or, buffer the bike kick as they jump by hitting F,F, D instead of B, B, D, this way as they cross up you will snag them with a bike kick. The timing is tricky, but it's a good psychological tactic and will prevent them from doing so much crossing up in the future. For a move that leaves the ground, it has almost no punishable frames so the only real escape to spammed bike kicks would be to duck and not block, allowing Sonya to go over you and trying to punish her on the way down, perhaps with a containment set up. It has a limit of one usage per combo and can be done after any amount of hits.
The Wave Punch is a good anti air move, and you can use to keep constant jumpers on the ground even if they are jumping away. It is useful for mobility to some extent but not entirely advisable because it can get her into trouble. You can also use it in combos, particularly in the corner. It's possibly to juggle a LK or even a HK after some corner combos on certain characters after the wave punch.
Sonya has an unsubstantiated ground infinite using her leg grab and running in with a LP jab as they get up. I have personally gotten it to work on some characters but the timing is very difficult, I don't even understand how it works. There's no point in even trying it like Sindel's flight cancel infinite.
Sonya can relaunch Sheeva, Robot Ninjas, Kano, Kung Lao, Nightwolf, Jax, Sub-zero, Sonya, Shang Tsung, Kabal, Sindel, Male Ninjas, and Liu Kang. On some characters you can follow their flight path instantly as the combo finishes and relaunch them, but on others you must pause for an instant before jumping, aligning the collision boxes properly. Some characters are not worth attempting relaunching because the timing is too rigid.
Basic Juggles: 1. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, JK, leg grab 8 hits 48% 2. aaHP,HP, leg grab 3 hits 34%
Advanced Juggles: 1. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, aaHP, JK, leg grab 9 hits 51% (can add an extra aaHP on some characters like Jax, Sub and Stryker for 10 hits 54%) 2. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, deep JK, HK 8 hits 52% (on some characters like Jax if you get a deep bleeding JK you can stick in an aaLP, JK, Leg Grab, for 10 hits 58%) 3. aaHP, JK, Leg Grab 3 hits 43%
Corner Juggles: 1. aaHP, RH, Leg Grab 3 hits 45% 2. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP JK, HK, HK 9 hits 59% 3. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, JK, RH, HK 9 hits 60% 4. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, JK, JK, HK 9 hits 60% 5. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, JP, JK, aaLP, Wave Punch 10 hits 60% 6. punch starter, HK, HK, HP, HP, U LP, JK, aaHP, Wave Punch, LK or upward bike kick on some characters 10 hits 62%