My prediction for this group is based largely on the fact that only two of them are likely healthy, Abi & Takarafuji. I see them fighting hard for the second slot.
The first qualification slot from this group will go to Hakuho. At full capacity, the GOAT is capable of 14-15 wins and a cinch for the yusho. Lately, it’s been rare to see him compete at that dominant level from Day 1 through Day 15 but when he’s able to compete he adapts his style and finds a way to win. We won’t really know the actual state of his conditioning until he mounts the dohyo but for this article, I think he will walk up there and find a way to win 11 or 12 bouts.
Takarafuji is a solid mid-makuuchi wrestler and should be good for kachi-koshi. I’m picking him to sneak into the second spot with 9 wins, though 8 could be enough. Unfortunately, I think that’s all one will need to qualify from this group. Abi is still in the joi and that will hurt his chances of advancing. The level of competition and risk of injury is so high, as we’ve seen as our tadpoles attempt to mature. He’s not the only one with the ambition and motivation to shoot for a position in the lower reaches of sanyaku.
Ishiura is at a low enough level, competing with banged up veterans to where he should be able to pick up 8-9 wins. However, his own condition has been questionable of late and I think he’ll be struggling to stay in makuuchi. Aoiyama and Kotoyuki have been in worse shape the last few tournaments, with apparent serious knee issues. Aoiyama has been scraping by with 8 wins but has not been looking good doing it. It seems these three are likely in the 6-7 win category.
I have a feeling this is the group where tie-breakers will be the deciding factor. My first tie-breaker will be the wrestler’s rank with the second tie-breaker being the average rank of his wins. Thus, beating a yokozuna will help while losing to a low level maegashira will hurt.