Thus act 1 of the Aki basho comes to a close. The job of act 1 is to sort who is hot, from who is not. This has been achieved with great flair and a satisfying amount of good sumo. For the first time since 1989, all Yokozuna are unbeaten after day 4. None of the Ozeki have more than 1 loss, and there are a pair of 4-0 rikishi in the Maegashira ranks. Mitakeumi keeps his Ozeki campaign burning bright by his membership in the 4-0 club, too. Following day 5, the 4+ wins club in the mid to lower Maegashira will likely find themselves competing a bit higher up the banzuke.
Kisenosato has made a fairly solid return, but I am becoming worried that he is not quite genki enough yet to survive week 2. The enormous amount of trouble he had with Kaisei denotes that he could be in real danger of running out of gas starting this weekend. A 15 day match schedule is brutal, and the Yokozuna’s stamina may not yet be up to the task.
With Kyokutaisei kyujo, the banzuke is un-balanced, and we will see visiting Juryo rikishi every day until things balance out by someone else going kyujo, or Kyokutaisei returning (which he should not do). My candidate for kyujo is Aoiyama, who badly hurt his ankle with an ungraceful dohyo dismount on day 4.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Arawashi vs Ishiura – Arawashi brings a 2-2 record up to Makuuchi for day 5. At Juryo 1 East, a kachi-koshi would bring him back to the top division. Meanwhile Ishiura is probably starting to worry where he can find 7 wins over the next 11 days.
Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – In a nearly as perilous position is the bulbous Chiyomaru, who has a loyal army of fans. If this were Nagoya, he could almost count on a walk-over win from Yoshikaze. Instead Yoshikaze is looking genki, if not quite berserk at this point of the basho.
Ryuden vs Nishikigi – A match of some interest! Both of them are 3-1, their career record is tied at 2-2, and both of them are fighting well in the first act. Nishikigi has been especially surprising, and I do hope he can keep delivering aggressive sumo.
Hokutofuji vs Kotoshogiku – Another of the great day 5 match ups. Kotoshogiku has been hit-or-miss, largely due to the cumulative damage to his body. But he has been on his sumo since day 1 for Aki. Then there is Hokutofuji, who suffered for a few tournaments with his own injuries, but seems to be dialed in for Aki. He is low, fast and aggressive. Hokutofuji will try to drive thrusts to Kotoshogiku’s center-mass, and stay moving. Kotoshogiku will try to lock him up and give him the business.
Shohozan vs Onosho – I am going to go ahead and say that Onosho is probably not ready for mid-Maegashira post surgery. He’s got loads of talent, skill and enthusiasm, but his body is just not in the fight. Shohozan is always in the fight, any fight, any time. So I see this one as another hard one for Onosho.
Kagayaki vs Tochiozan – Kagayaki comes in at 2-2, and because he is so deliberate, and focused on fundamentals, he slips below a lot of people’s attention. Like many of the fading generation of rikishi, Tochiozan has good days and bad, depending on how many of his acquired injuries are plaguing him today. In spot of that, this should be a fairly even match.
Myogiryu vs Abi – Myogiryu is compact an intense. Abi is disperse and frantic. This has ingredients for some fine sumo, but let’s see if they can set it on fire and send it screaming into the stands.
Chiyonokuni vs Asanoyama – Chiyonokuni is bound to catch a break at some time, and maybe he can pick one up from Asanoyama the Black Knight. Asanoyama has been steadily bulking up more or less in tandem with Freshman class president Yutakayama, and it seems to have helped his defense quite a bit.
Endo vs Kaisei – Endo, too, will eventually catch a break. He is looking very tentative right now, and I am starting wondering if he has re-injured himself either during Jungyo or in the practice matches just before the basho. He has been iffy since day one, and I am sure his fans want him to do what it takes to get whole. Kaisei has maintained his good humor during the tougher elements of his tour through the upper ranks, and I expect his score will improve soon.
Goeido vs Yutakayama – I am looking for Goeido 2.0 or higher again today. Goeido has been able to generate consistent offense thus far, and he is doing quite well. Yutakayama is big enough to require some careful work, but I think Goeido is up to the challenge. I also think that once Yutakayama is done being an Yokozuna-Ozeki chew toy, he will have a fair chance of a kachi-koshi.
Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – The big, double-wide match of the day. Tochinoshin leads the series 5-2, and both men are focused, intense and eager for wins. Mitakeumi will try to stay mobile, Tochinoshin will work for the left hand outside. I am just hoping everyone exits the dohyo without further injuries.
Ikioi vs Takayasu – In spite of whatever injuries he was nursing when Aki started, Ozeki Takayasu has been a solid wall of sumo thus far, and none of his opponents have been able to generate much offense against him. Ikioi, meanwhile, is getting the rough and brutal week 1 of the top Maegashira.
Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Kakuryu holds a 9-0 career lead over Chiyotairyu, I don’t see too many chances of that changing today.
Kisenosato vs Shodai – Kisenosato is working harder than he should, most likely because it’s been many months since he has tried to compete. Shodai seems to be evolving, which is quite exiting as it was assume that if he ever got his tachiai into better condition, he would be quite formidable. I still expect Kisenosato to rack another today, but look to see if he struggles to move Shodai.
Takakeisho vs Hakuho – These two have some odd matches in their past. But it seems Hakuho is having some trouble generating forward pressure due to his injuries, and he will default to wanting to throw. This is a challenge against Takakeisho due to his extreme body shape. I still and looking for Hakuho to dominate the Tadpole, but it will be interesting to see how he works it out.