How New Blood Fares in Makuuchi

mitakeumiIt struck me that we’ve seen lots of exciting newcomers to Makuuchi recently (Takakeisho, Onosho, Abi, just to name a few) and that the rikishi newly promoted to the top division seem to stick around. Obviously, given the fixed number of 42 Makuuchi slots, this would mean a fair bit of turnover. I decided to do a bit of research to see if this impression is accurate, and how top-division debutantes tend to fare.

There are many ways one could go about this analysis. To keep things simple, I looked up the rikishi making their Makuuchi debuts between Nagoya 2015 and the current tournament. This gave me a pool of 26 men. I first asked how many of them are fighting in the top division in Nagoya. The answer is 18, meaning that the majority (70%) of the recent newcomers have stuck around, and that almost half of the Makuuchi ranks from 3 years ago have turned over.

I then looked a little more closely at the 18 rikishi currently in Makuuchi, as well as the 8 who’ve dropped out of the top division since making their debuts. A few interesting categories emerged (the groupings below are somewhat subjective; please leave your own thoughts in the comments).

Head of the class

There are two clear standouts. Both made their debuts almost three years ago, one basho apart, rose rapidly through the ranks, and never dropped to Juryo, or come anywhere close. The difference between them is that while Mitakeumi (17 consecutive basho in Makuuchi) has become a San’yaku mainstay, Shodai (16 consecutive basho in Makuuchi) ascended rapidly to his highest rank of Sekiwake, but since then has dropped into the upper maegashira ranks. The potential is still there for him to take his sumo to the next level.

Makuuchi mainstays

Those in this group have been in Makuuchi for at least 10 consecutive basho and achieved a rank of M5 or higher. Daishomaru, Chiyoshoma, Hokutofuji, and Takakeisho have never dropped to Juryo since making their debuts; Kagayaki went back down after his first top-division tournament, but hasn’t looked back since rejoining Makuuchi a couple basho later.

Future mainstays?

The rikishi in the group so far lack either the seniority, the consistency, or the performance quality of the group above, but may well get there with time and good health. By necessity, this group is rather heterogeneous, and the fates of its members may diverge over time. It includes recent mainstay Daieisho, the underperforming but determined Nishikigi, former Komusubi Onosho, who is returning from injury, Asanoyama, who could use a ranking above M11 and a few more top-division basho under his belt, as well as Ishiura, Abi, Ryuden, and Yutakayama.

Too soon to tell

Kyokutaisei (second Makuuchi basho) and current debutantes Kotoeko and Meisei.

Up and down

Hidenoumi made the earliest debut of the entire pool of riskishi considered in this post (Nagoya 2015). Since then, he’s dropped back to Juryo 4 times, and returned to Makuuchi on 3 occasions, most recently in March. We’ll see if he improves, fades, or continues to yo-yo as his career progresses. Daiamami spent 3 basho in the top division following his debut, but dropped out after his 4-11 performance in May. He is currently ranked J2, and I expect to see him back.

The very, very sad injury

Ura :-(

Cup of coffee

The following rikishi spent either one or two [edit: 3 for Seiro] tournaments in Makuuchi, none recently: Seiro, Akiseyama, Kitaharima, Amakaze, Chiyonoo (as Chiyoo).

6 thoughts on “How New Blood Fares in Makuuchi

  1. That’s a very interesting tidbits of information you got there.

    So about 18 new Rikishi are now staying around in Makuuchi since 2015 ?!? Wow…that’s a lot. I don’t even look like it.

    Now what that number make me wonder is…….if those 18 are new and are staying into the Makuuchi roster since 2015, that’s necessarly means about the same number of Rikishi left and are gone from the Makuuchi war zone. Hmmm…..i wonder who could they be.

    Do you think you could mop up a quick little list of those Rikishi ? That would be interesting to see/remember them.

  2. great stats, and yes, interesting to see who has ‘ permanently ‘ dropped since then…..

  3. Seiro has actually had three cups of coffee. And I think he’ll be served another shot or two of espresso before he’s finished.

    • You are correct, I guess I’d missed that he managed to stick around in Makuuchi for the tournament after his debut despite going 7-8. Three top-division basho, all make-koshi.

  4. Ura: Very, very sad indeed. But at least he is tending to his injury and giving it the time it needs. Not like a certain Yokozuna.


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