I think the perception that oni handles grapplers very well was due to aquasilk getting soul snatched by Sanford a year and a half or so back.
I’ve played this matchup on both sides, and , I dunno, it feels more even-ish with oni having a slight advantage.
Oni definitely has the tools to keep zangief at bay. Any button you could name can serve a purpose in zoning gief out, including oni’s forward command normals (stay away from step kick though. Towards hk is definitely the money maker against gief and all grapplers due to it sending them full screen.
The problem is though…oni’s hurt boxes/low priority on his normals are easy lariat food if the gief starts fishing for it. Oni can’t just hammer gief with zoning normals, and his fireball is one of the easiest for a competent gief to ex hand on reaction. The oni has to constantly be firing on all cylinders checking ranges and changing up his zoning pattern. I don’t even want to dive into what happens if you play a zangief that can OS ex Greenhand under his counterpokes…
Oni is at his most dangerous when he’s able to combine his zoning and rush down effectively, but in grappler matchups implementing his rush down component always carries a huge risk, where the grappler ultimately has to put in far less work (number of times they have to guess right, level of execution required to get maximum damage) to match whatever oni does.
Keep in mind that ultra oni also has lower health… So it’s like, an oni with full ex resources can dish out as much damage as a grappler, except he has MUCH less health, and requires much more precision to access that damage. Which, I like that about oni, but still.
Like, the t hawk oni matchup? All t hawk has to do is guess right once or make one good play to blow up all the work oni put into keeping him out the whole round.
Idk, don’t get the wrong idea, oni can definitely handle the grapplers, and i really enjoy the sets i get to play agaisnt grapplers with him (way more fun than gief mirrors or gief vs grapplers) but it takes a lot more work than some people might assume.