Two Candidates: Both Long-Shots
It has been more than a decade since a Japanese born sumotori achieved Yokozuna status. With each year that goes by, the cultural desire to see a native Yokozuna seems to grow. In recent years, two candidates have emerged at having a chance of promotion, but both of them have been unable to maintain the level of performance needed to close the deal.
Kisenosato – He is consistently a top performing Ozeki, but he has yet to actually win a tournament. His sumo technique is very strong, but is not usually varied, and the means to defeat him are known, and are consistently exploited by Harumafuji and Hakuho. In the multiple times the YDC has considered Kisenosato for promotion, the criteria of a tournament win is underscored as his remaining barrier to promotion. Yet it still eludes him. Even with Hakuho injured during Aki, Kisenosato could not gather his spirit and overcome his own distractions to win.
Goeido – Where Kisenosato has been Mr consistency, Goeido is hit or miss. In fact, he has frequently be kadoban since his promotion to Ozeki. You cannot tell from day to day in a tournament which version of Goeido will mount the dohyo. The Aki version of Goeido was an over-the-top sumo machine, unstoppable in any way and totally committed to victory. It was that version of Goeido that the YDC declared a worthy candidate, if he can win a second Yusho. His performance in Kyushu was good, and I think marred by a couple of questionable calls by the Shimpan.
Should either of these two win the Hatsu basho, it would be down to the YDC to decide, at least publicly, what to do about the win. The Japanese public are eager for a native, non-Mongolian Yokozuna, but the committee is wary of promoting an Ozeki that is not going to deliver the absolute top level of performance, tournament after tournament.