Key Matchup: Terunofuji vs. Tochinoshin
We will know very quickly whether Terunofuji is healthy. His first opponent coming back from injury is a rather large, strong Georgian. All six matches between these two have been yorikiri force outs with Terunofuji the victor in 5 of them. If he’s going to win this match, the ozeki will need to try something different. A lengthy, straight-up belt battle against Tochinoshin will probably not be the safest method of dispatching this particular opponent if he doesn’t want to break his collarbone again.
Other top battles:
Harumafuji will take on Tochiozan and Kakuryu will face Toyonoshima. Both yokozuna will need to come out of the gate with strong performances but are definitely beatable. Watch this space for upsets. Hakuho, on the other hand, will face Uncle Taka and likely toss him into the crowd. My favorite name for a kimarite is yobimodoshi and here’s an example. It looks like when Takarafuji bizarrely decided to try for a kick, Hakuho pulled and slammed him to the clay.
Surprising high-flier Kotoyuki may fall quickly back to Earth as he faces the worst week of his life with opening bouts against Kisenosato, Sunday, and Hakuho on Monday. He’s going through the rough senior-sanyaku gauntlet for the first time of his career. To this point he has faced one yokozuna and one ozeki, the -fuji’s, both losses. In this tournament he’ll likely face the top 6 wrestlers in his first seven days, obviously Kotoshogiku excepted as they’re from the same stable. He hasn’t exactly been demolishing the dudes in the lower-ranks, steadily squeaking by with 8-7 winning records for the most part.
Goeido’s last “win” was a fusen victory over Aminishiki on Day 6 last tournament. His last “real win” was Day 4 over Ikioi. Since then, 10 straight losses against healthy opponents. If there’s any Japanese ozeki on yokozuna-track promotion, it’s Kotoshogiku while Goeido appears to be on course for demotion. He’ll need to win early and often to stave off demotion but it will be hard against Okinoumi and Tochiozan. Okinoumi could be punching above his weight at this level but certainly is capable of the upset. Meanwhile, Tochi-from-kochi is looking for redemption after demotion from the sekiwake position he had held for four tournaments.
Ikioi has a few days yet to prepare for Aminishiki’s henka. He’s won six in a row off the senior rikishi. Aminishiki likes the nodowa strangle-hold, also, but Ikioi has had the answer. And when your work-life brings you someone like James Harden, Ikioi always shows that there are people in this world who put effort into everything they do.