The Day 1 matchups are out and popular powerhouses Ichinojo and Endo are scheduled to face off in what will be their first meeting and surely a highlight showdown, whatever the outcome. Endo started off poorly but finished strongly in the last tournament, garnering 10 wins and moving up to Maegashira 3. He’ll be facing much stiffer competition this week. Essentially, the Phenom from 2013 starts off 2015 with this match against the Phenom from 2014.
The other sekiwake/M3 matchup features Sekiwake Aoiyama battling Aminishiki. These two have a fairly even rivalry, with Aoiyama having the slight edge of 5 wins to 4 for the elder statesman. Aoiyama has won the last two matches and is my favorite for this bout. He’s been on a roll lately and you can watch him aggressively dominate Aminishiki in their last meeting in November. Sometimes Aminishiki seems to take bouts off like this one. We’ll see which Aminishiki shows up Sunday.
Goeido has owned Ikioi with 6 wins and 1 loss since their first bout in 2013. Goeido faces the pressure of demotion and cannot afford to lose against rank-and-filers. But, Ikioi always seems to give it his all so this will be the upset I’m watching for.
Terunofuji has faced Kotoshogiku twice in his career and won both. Like Goeido, Kotoshogiku is facing demotion and this bout could set the tone for his tournament. He seems to go all in when his ozeki-ship is on the line so I do think he’ll get his first win over Terunofuji.
Kisenosato is the one solid ozeki. He’s usually a lock for a winning record and often tallies double-digit wins as he did last tournament. He’s often in the running early for the tournament. He also leads in the head-to-head against Takarafuji and I see him doing very well again this month.
The trio of yokozuna will likely all win. I’m really looking forward to Harumafuji vs Tochinoshin as I generally root for both. But Harumafuji has been dominant in their head-to-head, having won the last 10 meetings dating back to Hatsubasho 2011, and 13 wins in 17 bouts overall. Kakuryu has been similarly dominant against Takayasu. Takayasu won two gold stars last tournament…but it was Kakuryu preventing the sweep. He’s beaten the fresh Komusubi in each of their last five and seven of their nine total meetings. Lastly, Tochiozan has been no challenge for Hakuho as the yokozuna dominates with 25 wins in 26 meetings. I can imagine Hakuho’s hungry for #33 so I don’t see Tochiozan having much of a chance.
The M4-M16 bouts were pretty well known already as each East rikishi is matched up with their West rival. Of note, Tokitenku faces a stiff challenge on his first bout returning to makuuchi, in the form of Oosunaarashi. Tokitenku had been demoted to Juryo for the November tournament but has returned quickly, courtesy of winning the division with a strong 12-3 record. The Egyptian seemed to be favoring his knees for much of the last tournament so I really hope he has gotten a good rest.