With day 6, the Aki basho begins the 5 day period we call “Act 2”. In Act 1, it was all about the rikishi getting into tournament mode, shaking off any ring-rust, and finding out who was hot and who was not. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. For the threads we are following, the interest has not waned.
Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid is alive and doing quite well, the Sekiwake began at 5-0, including a win over Ozeki Tochinoshin. From here on out, his schedule will become more difficult, and we can expect him to pick up some losses. His magic number is either 10 or 11, and it will be a tough grind to reach that level with 3 Yokozuna and 3 Ozeki all battling it out.
Kisenosato’s return to action seems to be working out well enough, but he is looking less in control of some of his Maegashira matches than one would think a Yokozuna would be. But he did start the basho 5-0, and I think the fans are happy to see him winning. With 4 Yokozuna and Ozeki opponents to face, he will have plenty of opportunities to pick up 3 more wins in the next 5 days.
Ozeki Tochinoshin is struggling a bit to clear his kadoban. With 2 losses, including the somewhat surprising loss to Mitakeumi on day 5, the big Georgian make take it to late in week 2 to rack the necessary 8 wins. He will spend at least 5 days fighting the Yokozuna and Ozeki, and he need 5 more wins to clear kadoban.
What We Are Watching Day 6
Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze has started Aki showing fast, efficient sumo. None of his opponents have given him a difficult bout thus far, but I have hopes that Ryuden might reverse that trend. Ryuden had a terrible Nagoya tournament (as did Yoshikaze), and I think both of them are currently fighting at the level of a higher rank. Looking forward to see who comes out on top.
Kotoyuki vs Takanoiwa – Kotoyuki seems to have left his sumo in the same akeni that he was storing his light blue mawashi in, as they have both returned. He holds a slight 7-5 edge over Takanoiwa, who has thus far made a solid return to Makuuchi. To be clear, Takanoiwa’s goals is 8 wins no matter what, as I know he wants to remain in the top division.
Chiyoshoma vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi has never won a match against Chiyoshoma. But this match has a good potential of turning out differently. Both men head into their competition with a respectable 3-2 record. Nishikigi is fighting better than any time in recent memory, and I think he has a good shot to racking up his first win against Chiyoshoma. But keep in mind, Chiyoshoma is fond of things like mattas to throw of peoples timing, and an occasional hanka.
Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – With his miserable 0-5 start, Aoiyama is not a credible opponent right now. While there is no official word, he seems to be having undercarriage problems that keep him from moving well. As a result he has not really been able to generate much offense, or much in the way of Aoiyama style sumo. I expect Kotoshogiku will struggle a bit, but he is fighting fairly well this basho.
Hokutofuji vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan’s day 5 match was a lesson in experience. With a cold, smooth efficiency, he dispatched Kagayaki. Hokutofuji is going to present a much more complex and difficult challenge. Hokutofuji has a few combination moves that no one has been countering, and they give him distinct advantages in early, mid and late phases of the match.
Shohozan vs Asanoyama – This match has nearly infinite potential for fun and excitement. Shohozan will be blazing away with his big guns, and Asanoyama will be soaking it up with his big, squishy body. At some point one of them will grab a hold of the other and someone is going to win. In the mean time, let’s see if Shohozan’s mighty arms get tired. This is their first ever match.
Chiyonokuni vs Onosho – Chiyonokuni has been suffering a bad bout of “almost won” so far at Aki. Onosho only began to show his sumo on day 5, and it will be a mystery if he can bring it out a second day in a row. Chiyonokuni needs to not lose heart, and just keep plugging away. He’s going to get the wins if he can keep pushing forward.
Kagayaki vs Abi – Right now Abi seems to have no end of takers for a ride on the Abi-zumo tilt-o-whorl. As boring as it may seem, the guy has 3 wins. But Kagayaki holds a 3-1 career advantage over the stick-insect, and his school of sumo fundamentals may carry the day.
Myogiryu vs Endo – We may never know if Endo re-injured himself or if he is coping with something new. But he is a fraction of his genki self, and its really tough to watch him compete every day with no drive, energy or cunning. So I am fairly sure that Myogiryu has the upper hand on day 6.
Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – Takakeisho got a valuable lesson on day 1, he had a narrow window to beat Hakuho, but he allowed himself to break contact with the Yokozuna, and was too distant to capitalize on Hakuho’s emergency stop and reverse. Ichinojo has been hit or miss again this basho, but I would love to see him have another “bad pony!” moment with the bulbous Takakeisho.
Kaisei vs Takayasu – For a man who started the basho with copious back pain, Takayasu has been fighting with strength and determination. But facing Kaisei is a different form of challenge. At almost 190 kg / 400 pounds he represents a huge amount of ballast that will resist any attempts to control. Takayasu holds a 9-6 career lead.
Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Perhaps THE match of the day, Goeido has the advantage of a day off thanks to Yutakayama’s kyujo. He will face Mitakeumi rested and ready. Mitakeumi already beat one Ozeki with some rather clever sumo. I am eager to see if he enters day 6 with a recipe to overcome Goeido’s flash-fire sumo, which seems to be working well for him thus far.
Ikioi vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really needs this win. At 3-2, he is starting to move into a risky territory with the difficulty we expect him to face with the Yokozuna and Ozeki matches in week 2. He still needs 5 wins to clear kadoban, and he needs to not let any Maegashira opponent get the upper hand.
Shodai vs Hakuho – With a 5-0 start, Hakuho has been able to avoid any further problems with his damaged knee, and has produced some exiting sumo. Shodai is now in the most difficult part of his schedule for Aki, where he will face the Ozeki and Yokozuna, and each one of them seem to be genki and ready to fight. I expect that Shodai will not be able to do much against the dai-Yokozuna, and we will see Hakuho at 6-0.
Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has found ways to beat Kakuryu, their career record is 8-4 in Kakuryu’s favor, although right now Tamawashi as not been able to piece together his first win. Kakuryu, in contrast, is not only unbeaten, but looks smooth and in control.
Kisenosato vs Chiyotairyu – Hopefully Chiyotairyu comes off the shikiri-sen at full power, even if he thinks it was a matta. Kisenosato keeps winning, but seems tentative with each match. I expect that as the days tick off, we will see him weaken and perhaps exit the tournament by early in week 2. Having not actually competed in many months, the 2 week daily grind may be more than he is capable of right now. We can rest assured that this tournament, as long as he does not get hurt, marks a return for him, and we will probably see him regularly now.