またなし(Matanashi) – The Gyoji’s Order To Begin Combat
At long last sumo fans, we come to the start of the glorious 2017 new years basho, at Tokyo’s palace of sumo, the Kokugikan. While it may seem that the period between Kyushu and Hatsu is unusually quiet, plenty has happened in the sumo world. It’s true that many rikishi enter Hatsu at less than full capability, in part because of the New Year’s break, everyone is competing starting Sunday morning.
Please keep in mind that day 1 is more or less an exhibition of who is ready and who is not, but each of these matches count for the tournament champion. Some news from the grape vine before we handicap individual bouts
- Harumafuji’s Undercarriage – He has had ankle problems for 6 months now, since some bad steps in Nagoya. During a period during the run up to Hatsu, he had a difficult time putting power to ground. I expect him to use his mini-henka and choke hold as much as he can.
- Kakuryu’s Strength – He has continued to absolutely dominate everyone and everything he practices against. His fighting style has never been as agile as Hokuho’s or as frenzied as Harumafuji’s. But right now it seems Kakuryu is bringing his A game with a goal to repeat his Yusho
- Hakuho, Is He Healthy Yet? – He has looked very good in training. But in Kyushu he was only about 80% of what we have come to expect from the Boss. Every sumo fan is hoping that was only recovery, and we get some fantastic sumo from him this year, as he pushes to exceed Kiao’s total win record.
- Kisenosato Not Quite Ready? – In the days prior to the basho start, Kisenosato has looked unready, and frankly unwell. He has also skipped important inter-beya training days to stay back and work privately.
Chiyoo vs Osunaarashi – Time to see if the Egyptian is back in form. He has been wearing a massive leg brace that is almost a flexible cast, and some elaborate shoulder taping. Look for him to attack strong. He has met Chiyoo 3 times in the past, and won every meeting.
Takanoiwa vs Ishiura – The Maegashira have had time to study Ishiura’s play book since Kyushu. This will be the first meeting between these two, and I look for Ishiura to come in low and fast, and try to move Takanoiwa sideways.
Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – This is the first time Yoshikazi will have faced the up and coming Mongolian. Both men like to thrust and throw, so it’s going to be a whirlwind battle if it survives the tachiai.
Takekaze vs Endo – Fan favorite Endo finds him self at a comfortable Maegashira 4, and he is facing hanka king Takekaze. These two are even at 4-4. If Endo can survive the tachiai, he will try to push out Takekaze before he can wrap Endo up.
Tochiozan vs Ikioi – Ikioi draws a tough match against Tochiozan, who has a good record of tossing Ikioi around and pulling him down. Their historical record is 8 for Tochiozan and 4 for Ikioi.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – Mitakeumi has skill and hunger, and he wants to be a serious contender for an Ozeki slot. Goeido still has his mind fixed on a Yokozuna rope. We will get an early peek at which Goeido we are going to get. As always I want to see the Goeido that dominated Aki. The one that commits everything to his offense from the moment the match starts.
Hakuho vs Shodai – This is likely the highlight match of the day, even though we are going to see Hakuho dismantle Shodai rapidly. This will show us what kind of condition Hakuho is in, and what kind of strategy Shodai can bring to a high profile match. Many look to Shodai as a future top man of sumo, he may get there, but he has to learn to work the big fights.
Takayasu vs Harumafuji – If Harumafuji is healthy, this may be a great match. But as I think The Horse is injured, I look for him to either mini-henka or choke the daylights out of Takayasu. Takayasu has enormous fighting spirit, and if needed he can and will wear Harumafuji down and drop him like a sack of rice. I don’t expect Harumafuji to let it go that long. Harumafuji has a lifetime 12-4 advantage.
Kakuryu vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin brings massive lower body and back power into the ring against Kakuryu, who seems cranked up to 11 right now, and capable of defeating anyone. As long as Tochinoshin does not try to bear hug and lift the Yokozuna, this has a lot of potential. I look for Kakuryu to get him too far forward, off balance and pull him down. in their 20 prior bouts, Kakuryu has won 19