Hello! Bruce is off shopping for supplies for the upcoming
Kisenopocalypse San’yakupocalypse, so I’m here with the Day 3 preview. I’m going to be at Kokugikan tomorrow, so the “What We’re Watching” section will be quite literal indeed. I was able to meet some Tachiai readers/listeners at the last basho, so come say “こんいちは” if you can find me.
There is no escaping the situation with the Yokozuna 1 East right now, so let’s just put the analysis front and centre. All of the NHK coverage here in Japan (both on the English and Japanese feeds) has constantly cut to segments, interviews, shots, highlights, and lowlights of the Yokozuna. It is said to be a somber atmosphere in the Kokugikan, so I am not so much looking forward but rather waiting with anticipation to experience the crowd’s reaction to the country’s (mostly) beloved Yokozuna tomorrow.
NHK rolled Naruto-oyakata (former Kotooshu) out yesterday for his thoughts on the Yokozuna, given that they started their careers at a certain time, and it’s possible tomorrow may see yet more luminaries from the sumo world to give their thoughts. It’s almost as if we’re witnessing the funeral of someone who’s not quite dead yet. Apparently, the atmosphere in the venue has been very tense and quiet for his bouts so far.
As I mentioned in the Juryo post, NHK’s visuals almost make it look like there could be an intai announcement any moment. Raja Pradhan did mention on the English feed today that a fan shouted to Kisenosato to try again tomorrow as if it were the start, and (late breaking news via Herouth), Tagonoura-oyakata has allegedly stated that he commits to continuing in the basho, as it’s “not over yet.” With 23 wins from 50 after his last yusho, including 5 from his last 16 and 0 from his last 7, it’s a tall task, but I will be glad to see him mount the dohyo as Yokozuna one last time.
What We’re Watching on Day 3
Daishoho vs Kotoeko – Having knocked off one yo-yo rikishi in Takanosho yesterday with an injury-inducing kotenage, the Daishoho will have a go at another in Kotoeko. The Sadogatake man will be looking to recover from being steamrolled on Day 2. The lifetime series is 5-3 to the Mongolian.
Chiyonokuni vs Daishomaru – Another series that’s 5-3, and also in favor of the Oitekaze-beya man. Chiyonokuni absolutely leathered Kotoeko on Day 2, so he’ll want to keep the momentum going against a rikishi who’s found similarly troubled results over the last 6 months.
Daiamami vs Chiyoshoma – Here’s a match-up of two guys with really uninspiring sumo. In the second consecutive Oitekaze-Kokonoe battle, Chiyoshoma will enter with the slight 1-0 lifetime edge. Will the pantomime villain deploy a successful henka for a second straight day?
Yago vs Kotoyuki – Yago got a bit of a learning curve thrown at him in top division sumo from Yutakayama, but here’s a gilt edged chance to bounce back and make steps towards a kachi-koshi in his first tournament. There are few rikishi more inconsistent than Kotoyuki, who is kind of like what you’d call a AAAA guy in baseball: too strong for the minor leagues but not quite consistent enough to hang around in the majors, so he bounces up and down. Yago has refreshingly taken to mawashi work of late and if he can land a grip, it could be fun to see how many spectators will get bowled by the Sadogatake man when he lands. The lifetime score is even at 1-1.
Yutakayama vs Meisei – I’m surprised to see Meisei at 0-2, but I don’t know if he’ll get off the board here. Yutakayama may be finding his sumo – and I think generally he’s going to be more bothered from here on out by the more established guys in the division. The lifetime series favors Meisei 2-1, but those wins weren’t recent so I’m still looking for Yutakayama to put it together here.
Sadanoumi vs Ikioi – Sadanoumi has kind of been making up the numbers, but he may be licking his lips and feeling that there’s never been a better time to fight Ikioi. The Isenoumi man’s heavy metal sumo has left him more battered and bloodied than ever before, as his facial explosion on Day 1 ruined a gyoji’s outfit and then his bandage was popped off by Abi on Day 2, exposing his stitches while he apparently in the meantime suffered an entirely different injury. It is painful to watch, but he’s not on the kyujo list for Day 3 and apparently will fight on. These two have split their matches 3-3 but this will probably be the first time I’ve made Sadanoumi the favorite for anything.
Kagayaki vs Abi – As Raja Pradhan noted on Day 2, it’s possible Abi won by virtue of the beaten Ikioi not being able to see him or where he went. But Abi’s raining in of blows was part of that equation as well. It’s tough for me to see Kagayaki, in his current condition, being quite as open of a recipient, and he leads Abi 4 wins to 2. However, interestingly for fans who want to see Abi develop his sumo – he has beaten the tall man before with a throw.
Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – After five straight make-koshi, we are probably witnessing the (very) slow decline of Takarafuji. He hasn’t started particularly well, but since Asanoyama hasn’t either, someone will get off the mark here, and it will be a mawashi battle. It’s the third straight tournament in which they’ve met, and Asanoyama won both of the last two.
Kaisei vs Endo – Here are two guys who have shown up, and are getting the results to show they are fighting a bit below their talent level. Recent results between the two have been a mixed bag, so it’s probably a coin flip, although if we’re looking back over the last year, Kaisei’s been the more consistent when he’s been able to stay away from injury.
Ryuden vs Onosho – Ryuden had a solid win on Day 2 while Onosho had to dance out of danger, but good ring sense is part of the package of an excellent rikishi. I still maintain that Ryuden’s hair is just always a mess at the end of any bout and his tokoyama really needs to have a look at at that situation because it’s unbecoming. The last time these guys met (for the only time in 2018), Onosho raised Ryuden up from the tachiai and then hit him with a fairly instant slap down and honestly I wouldn’t bet against a carbon copy match here.
Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Here’s yet another Oitekaze-Kokonoe matchup in the top division. Perhaps whoever wins the best out of three between the heya can buy the other oyakata a box of Ozeki One Cups. Chiyotairyu has yet to get off the mark but he’ll be loving this draw against an opponent he beat in all of their matches last year. Daieisho will feel he was unlucky not to win on Day 2 but you make your own luck and if he can survive Sumo Elvis’s cannonball tachiai then he may feel he can finally find some joy here.
Aoiyama vs Okinoumi – Longtime readers of the site will know I am more of a fan of Aoiyama the man than I am Aoiyama the rikishi. I just don’t like his sumo, but he’s 2-0 and in good shape and while Okinoumi beat him all three times they faced each other last year, Aoiyama is probably the favorite here.
Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – Who’s going to win this Kyushu derby? Yoshikaze has continued to look totally unlike his old self, while Kotoshogiku has shown evidence of rolling back the years, albeit with less gas in the tank and less horsepower in the engine. He does at least appear genki, which I think gives him the slight edge to apply the hug that sees Yoshikaze get chugged.
Shodai vs Shohozan – Neither of these guys have been able to buy a win so far against the same opposition. Takakeisho blew them both away, but perhaps Shohozan was a little less fortunate against Tamawashi whereas I think the Mongolian baker simply bullied Shodai off the dohyo. That probably makes Shohozan the slight favorite on form, but technically I don’t know that his approach is best suited to take advantage of Shodai’s weak tachiai.
Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – I can see a lot of slapping in the future. NHK noted it’s quite early in a basho to see the Sekiwake derby, but my guess (banzuke geniuses please correct me in the comments) that they wanted to get this out of the way so as to save Takakeisho’s big matches for week 2, since we’ll probably be at least one Yokozuna and probably one Ozeki down at that point. I think this could be a tricky test, given that Tamawashi is showing the form that made him a very solid Sekiwake over a good period of time. Takakeisho, who needs 9 more wins to be considered for Ozeki, leads their career series 5-2 however and has to be given the edge on form, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – This is the exact wrong match at the exact wrong time for Goeido. Mitakeumi has been dominant in two wins from two Yokozuna, and with all due respect to Goeido, there’s a reason he’s not on Kakuryu’s level. Goeido needs the better of the tachiai and to be able to execute a game plan here, because Mitakeumi has clearly had a fire lit under him from his demotion and is showing the form of yusho contender.
Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has knocked off two ozeki already and is looking to complete his set. The tachiai is going to be absolutely critical here. With Takayasu not being at 100%, if he can weather the shoulder blast and get the positioning he wants on Takayasu with his “handshake” tachiai, he may be able to take advantage of the ozeki’s currently diminished (but improving) condition, given that he’s still getting over the flu (which begs the question of whether Takayasu should really be deploying his signature cough before each of these bouts!).
Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – The Georgian needs to win, and the order of the joi meat grinder needs to be restored. It’s as simple as that. Myogiryu will make it tough, but with at least one or two Ozeki and two useful Yokozuna yet to come, plus Takakeisho and Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin cannot afford to lose any more matches. We know he’s carrying a knock, but he needs to stem the bleeding by beating the Komusubi here.
Ichinojo vs Hakuho – Ichinojo has looked fantastic in the first two days, and Hakuho really got away with one on Day 2, as evidenced by his trademark cheeky grin after dispatching Tochiozan. This will be a sterner challenge for the Yokozuna, but as he tends to alter his game plan to the opposition, and because he is The Boss, he is in the driver’s seat here. Ichinojo has a better record against him than most, although that’s not saying much: he’s 2-11 against the Dai-Yokozuna.
Kisenosato vs Tochiozan – Each day we wonder who it will be that puts the final nail in the coffin. Putting to one side the question over whether this will be Kisenosato’s final match, there’s the question of the match itself: forget that he’s a Yokozuna, can Kisenosato do Maegashira 1 sumo? The results, the form, the technique and the eye test would all suggest no, and that makes him the underdog for this. Tochiozan nearly took his sixth kinboshi on day 2 in his match against Hakuho and on form, he will be heavily favored to get it here, after taking one from Kisenosato in November.
Kakuryu vs Nishikigi – We live in a world where anything is possible and it’s a new year and a new Nishikigi. When we’re talking about a guy who just went body to body with Tochinoshin and won, so can we really rule him out against Kakuryu? Like most matches this is going to come down to which direction Kakuryu decides to move. If he can move forward, Nishikigi’s not picking up his first kinboshi. While Kakuryu may have already dropped a match, it was to a Mitakeumi who is on another level to most rikishi so far in this tournament, and Big K has the technique and endurance to be able to dismantle Nishikigi. Still, he can dream…