Whatever may happen after the first week, the starting 3 days of Aki have been some of the best tournament sumo this year. With all three Yokozuna and all three Ozeki competing, the action has been intense and relentless. So far all of the rikishi in the top division remain healthy and in the torikumi. As a result, the rikishi at the lower end of the joi-jin are facing the typical pounding that has been the norm since the dawn of organized sumo competition. Traditionally, the Komusubi (and to lesser extent Sekiwake) along with Maegashira 1-3 get obliterated in the first week of a tournament, and many find it hard to rally in week two and secure a kachi-koshi. Across this group, heading into day 4, they have 3 wins and 21 losses.
What We Are Watching Day 4
Kotoyuki vs Chiyomaru – Kotoyuki is still looking for his first win, and Chiyomaru has been lackluster since the start of Aki. We all hope that Kotoyuki can put it in gear, but the same can be said of Chiyomaru. His stamina is not looking good, and he seems to lack much energy past the tachiai.
Yoshikaze vs Takanoiwa – Yoshikaze comes in with a 5-1 career advantage over the returning Takanoiwa, who has started Aki fairly smartly. It makes me happy to see Yoshikaze doing well again! We have yet to see Yoshikaze really “open it up”, and Takanoiwa may give him enough of a fight that he lets the berserker out.
Takanosho vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi at 3-0? Why, that’s wonderful! Takanosho is struggling to find his sumo in Makuuchi, but there is still plenty of time for him to settle down. We have seen some drive and intensity from Nishikigi this basho, it’s not something I am used to, but I like where he is headed.
Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama is clearly struggling. Fans seldom get to know what kind of injuries or aches are plaguing the rikishi, but I am going to guess that he has some mechanical injury that is keeping the man-mountain from peak performance. Hokutofuji seems to have set his dials to “High Output” and is letting the engine roar.
Shohozan vs Kotoshogiku – This promises to be a very intense and busy match. Kotoshogiku will want to go chest to chest, and Shohozan will work to keep it a run-and-gun battle. If the Kyushu Bulldozer can wrap up “Big Guns” Shohozan, I expect Shohozan to uncork some wild sumo to escape before he is scraped off the dohyo.
Myogiryu vs Onosho – With a 3-0 career record, this should be a pickup for Onosho. But thus far in Aki, Onosho is fighting a bit under his norm, and Myogiryu seems to be at his genki-est in a long time. Both of them are fond of playing Pengo till someone gets hurt, but who takes a block of ice to the face first?
Kagayaki vs Asanoyama – Kagayaki has never lost to Asanoyama, but the Aki Asanoyama seems to be somewhat unstoppable. His day 3 bout showed that he considered parts of his body to be some kind of disposable accessory, and like Monty Python’s Black Knight, he might be able to defeat you with just his torso remaining on the dohyo. Possibly one of the highlight matches of the day.
Shodai vs Abi – More Abi-zumo for day 4? He’s still getting away with his “one weird trick”, so why not? With Shodai naturally predisposed to be high out of the tachiai, it’s almost tailor-made for Abi’s trademark double arm tsuppari attack.
Chiyonokuni vs Endo – I am going to go ahead and say that I think Endo is hurt. His performance on the dohyo is down quite a bit from Nagoya and drastically so from Natsu. It’s a shame, because he seems to have a breakdown just at the point he is starting to get his sumo working.
Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Sekiwake fight before act 2? This is going to be a classic basho. Ichinojo has been struggling thus far, and Mitakeumi seems to have set aside his rough pre-basho workup and smoothly transitioned into a fine-tuned sumo machine. He’s on a good trajectory for his Ozeki run, and doing what he needs to – winning a lot. They come in matched 3-3 in their career.
Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – This is all about Tamawashi being able to keep Tochinoshin’s left hand busy somewhere else. Tochinoshin will need to guard against Tamawashi’s arm-breaker kotenage. Who will set up their preferred sumo first?
Takakeisho vs Takayasu – Takakeisho’s loss to Kisenosato was impressive, and his dismantling of Tochinoshin was a clear signal that he will be knocking on the Ozeki door sometime in the next few years. But today he gets to work his sumo against Takayasu. Takayasu has been fighting well in spite of being in so much pain he could not properly train prior to the basho. These two have a 2-3 career record, which speaks volumes on how effective Takakeisho has been in roughing up Ozeki challengers.
Goeido vs Ikioi – Ikioi is facing a traditional Maegashira 1 beating, and I don’t expect his fortune to change against Goeido. Both are strength / blast-em sumotori, and Goeido seems to be on his sumo right now.
Kisenosato vs Kaisei – Kisenosato has an 11-0 record against Kaisei, so this match is strongly biased in the Yokozuna’s favor. Thus far I have been surprised and delighted at Kisenosato’s performance. He is at least at Ozeki level sumo right now, and his fighting sprint is if anything greater than it has been in the last 2 years.
Chiyotairyu vs Hakuho – So far “The Boss” has been able to dispatch all challengers with his traditional sumo. If he’s on his technique, he may be the man to beat for the yusho. A match against Chiyotairyu can be punishing due to his brutal tachiai and extreme momentum. I expect Hakuho will use that momentum to his advantage.
Kakuryu vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has put up some fantastic fights so far. Today he gets to go against Kakuryu, who is quite unique in his sumo technique. Their only prior match went to the Yokozuna, so I am looking for Yutakayama to face another black star today. Chin up, Yutakayama! You can work on your 8 wins starting fairly soon.