This post supersedes our normal preview, as lksumo has already knocked the upper matches out of the park. Instead, a few words on the state of sumo at the end of Kyushu’s first act. Act 1 is all about scrubbing the ring-rust from the contestants, and finding out who is hot, and who is not.
First and foremost the cloud hanging over Kyushu now is the depth of trouble that perpetually injured Yokozuna Kisenosato has placed himself. He lost his first 4 matches, all of which were supposed to be more or less warm ups for the main action in week 2. Instead Kisenosato found himself unable to maintain balance, or generate forward offensive pressure. Frankly he was embarrassing himself, and the same foolish pride that kept him from seeking surgery on his pectoral muscle may have drove him to mount the dohyo each day believing “this time it will be different”.
Kisenosato has devoted his entire life to sumo, it’s his entire world. The shame of 8 straight kyujo’s must have hardened his resolve to “gamberize” and tough it out. But now he has had to withdraw in 9 of the past 10 tournaments.
For the NSK, they have a large and unfortunate problem, as Kisenosato had been given firm guidance not to enter a basho just to withdraw before the end. In doing so again he has to some extent embarrassed the sumo association leadership. What do they do with the only Japanese Yokozuna? His retirement would diminish the stature of the sport for a short time in the eyes of the Japanese public, some of whom bristle at the dominance of foreign athletes at what they see as Japanese cultural property.
Tachiai has been covering the Kisenosato problem for the last two years, and there is a good chance the entire situation is now drawing towards its inevitable conclusion – which is a dignified transition for Kisenosato into life as a member in good standing of the sumo association, and his withdrawal from any further competition.
Matches Worth A Look on Day 5
Meisei vs Endo – Meisei is hell on wheels right now, and he seems to be fighting above his banzuke rank. Endo, on the other hand, continues to be day-by-day, though his day 4 match was solid sumo. They split their two prior matches, so I think it comes down to who gets inside at the tachiai, and today I think that’s going to be Meisei.
Onosho vs Okinoumi – Both come in with a 3-1 record, both seem to be dialed into their sumo early. If the match lasts longer than 12 seconds, it favors Okinoumi, who seems to take a more strategic approach to his matches. Onosho tends to open strong and try to blaze his opponents into defeat. Plus, I think Onosho is still only 80%.
Ikioi vs Sadanoumi – Ikioi has been fighting hurt since Osaka, and going against a rikishi who is on a hot streak, as Sadanoumi is, can only spell an uphill fight. Ikioi does not give up, and I know he will give battle with everything he can muster.
Abi vs Kotoshogiku – Great contrast of styles in this match. Abi will want to keep distance and attack with his superior reach, and Kotoshogiku will do anything he can to close the gap and go chest to chest. Double amazing points if Abi decides to unleash some mawashi techniques and beats the Kyushu Bulldozer at his own sumo.
Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – If Chiyotairyu can dictate the match mechanics straight from the tachiai, he has more than enough sumo to dispatch Kagayaki, mastery of fundamentals or not. Kagayaki will need to stay mobile, keep his balance under control, and wait for the burly Chiyotairyu to expend his initial burst of energy.
Takanoiwa vs Yoshikaze – Takanoiwa is still injured, and won’t be doing his normal offense heavy sumo. Yoshikaze will try to get inside and apply maximum pressure up and forward within the first step. Both men can fight with frantic energy, so this may devolve into a slapping battle like two tabbies jacked up on weapons grade catnip.
Shodai vs Asanoyama – This could be a great great match, as both are fairly evenly matched in size, speed and technique. In addition this is their first ever match, so each may surprise the other.