With lksumo doing a fantastic job of spelling out exactly what is at stake for the remainder of the tournament, let’s talk a bit about the continuing transition period. As we saw at Aki 2018, the transition from the old warriors to a newer generation will not be a straight line. Many of these rikishi are some of the highest skill the sport has seen in some time. In fact the current dominant cohort has had an impressively long and stable tenure. Many of these rikishi have been fixtures of the top division for several years, some of them more than a decade.
Like Aki, we have a point in the transition where the old guard can muster a strong basho, and compete like the “old days”. Frankly I love it, and I am sure the fans love it too. It’s great to see the named ranks laying waste to the upper Maegashira, and fierce action at the bottom of Makuuchi as the staple for each day of the tournament. As much as folks like to gripe about Hakuho, his reign as the king of the ring has been very stable, but it is fading. We don’t need to look back too many years to find Hakuho taking 4-6 yusho a year. Now we see him taking 2, or maybe 1. He has taken to (wisely) sitting out any tournament where he is not strong and healthy. As a result, if Hakuho shows up, he is the man to beat for the cup.
As the old guard comes out the dominate again, we see the tadpoles taking it in the shorts, we see the Freshmen faltering, and we see at least 2 more waves of fresh faces forming up to attack the top division. But make no mistake, we are in the twilight of this era, and setbacks for rikishi like Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji are part of the evolution of sumo. This will be a big year for the tadpoles, the freshmen, and we are going to see the pixies start to elbow their way into Makuuchi too. I think this year we lose at least one Ozeki, and maybe two. I think we may also gain a Yokozuna if you-know-who can take advantage of the next time Hakuho rests up in his sumo-life-extension project.
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu
3 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Ishiura vs Daishoho – A whole lot ‘o make-koshi out for offer in the lower matches. Daishoho is one loss away, and if Ishiura can deliver the goods, it adds another rikishi to the hopper of demote-able guys with lots of pomade in their hair. What are they going to do with this mess – especially if (as lksumo points out) there are not a whole lot of Juryo guys who are making the case for promotion.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoyuki – Once again Mr 5×5 comes to town, ready to crowd surf his way through another match. Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, and winning again today would push Kotoyuki to make-koshi, further hashing the group of the top Juryo men into an even smaller promotable pile.
Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – It’s shin-Ikioi’s time to beat on the ever elusive Chiyoshoma. He’s in a tight spot with wins, so I am going to look for every move, trick or gambit he can think of. And he can think of a lot. Fortunately Ryuden is already kachi-koshi.
Kotoeko vs Yago – Will Kotoeko be able to save his muscular hinder from joining the demote-able, pomade covered dog-pile? Somehow I think the lure of that much hair-grease, and that many mawashi clad fellows might be more than a small town boy from Miyazaki can resist. Aim for the rafters, Yago!
Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Shohozan’s happiness is proportional to the number of times he hits somebody. And lately he’s been losing matches, and he just seems… Well, a little blue. As Yutakayama is close to the squishy center of that pile of demote-able folks right now, he may as well do something benevolent, and help cheer Shohozan up.
Sadanoumi vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima did not muster quite the victory lap in the top division that Uncle Sumo managed. It was less of a “here comes awesome” and more “oh, you again? I had no idea you were still doing sumo”. As a bonafied old person, I can relate. Sadanoumi is no spring chicken, but maybe the two of them can yell at Onosho and Takakeisho to get he hell off their dohyo, then go to the Izakaya and pound a few cold ones while singing 90s tunes.
Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – We can think of Kotoshogiku as some kind of “old guard” barometer. When he’s a mess, it seems many of the other vets are just limping by. Right now Kotoshogiku is really racking up the score, and I think that he may not stop at 10. Meisei has the speed and the high-adhesion feet to make some wild maneuvers in a match. But Kotoshogiku is a master of bracketing these kind of rikishi.
Asanoyama vs Tomokaze – The schedulers love these matches. The winner gets their kachi-koshi. The other one gets a face full of dirt. Asanoyama has kept his spirits up and his outlook positive, so I think he can make it happen. This is their first ever match.
Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s sumo is defined by patience. But sometimes we wish he would just throw down like someone had dented his wife’s Toyota Harrier in the Aeon parking lot. We can be sure that Kagayaki will do his utmost to make this match as colorless and basic as possible, but will execute with absolute form.
Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – I love me some giant Aoiyama slap-happy sumo. Which will carry the day – a couple of big hits from the heavy guns, or a stream of burning hell from the berserker? They have an 11-11 career record, so give thanks you are not in the front row of the arena, as I suspect that we will see blood.
Ikioi vs Abi – Et Tu Abi?
Okinoumi vs Shodai – At this point I think Shodai is so demoralized, he would be happy to have this end. I am guessing this may be his worst spanking since his disastrous 5-10 at Nagoya in 2017 (which included a fusensho), and he may even exceed that basho’s terrible performance.
Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – Both of these guys join Shodai and Kaisei in the “broken toy” box. All of them have had a terrible tournament and are probably going to be happy for Sunday night parties and the start of the spring jungyo. All 4 of them are worthy members of the top division, but this tournament they were little more than target practice for the more genki elements higher up the banzuke.
Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho has his back on the make-koshi line again today, and he has to take a win from the speedy Daieisho to stay out of the losing column for Haru. Daieisho has a 2-6 record against Onosho, but as we have seen from this tournament, Onosho is having balance and foot placement issues.
Kaisei vs Endo – Both in the make-koshi bracket with the rest, both of them capable rikishi who were strip mined for shiroboshi for the past 12 days, and are in no mood to continue. But the show must go on, and we will see size vs agility on display.
Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Actually, this match has a lot of potential. Myogiryu has been a tough competitor in a really brutal joi-jin, and he still holds on to a chance to win out and be promoted. Hokutofuji has bounced off his first trip to San’yaku, and will have to regroup for a couple of tournaments before we see him test his mettle again. It’s going to come down to that handshake tachiai and nodowa, I think. Land it – and you have control Hokutofuji. Miss and Myogiryu is going to make you dance, and then eat dirt.
Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Should we start by saying that Mitakeumi has a 6-3 career advantage over Ichinojo? Maybe we should point out that Mitakeumi is hurt, and Ichinojo seems to have adopted Terunofuji’s kaiju form – at once both dazzling and terrifying to behold. I think this one is Ichinojo’s to lose, but I am also going to assume that Mitakeumi is going to work to make sure he does not drop out of the san’yaku.
Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – The time for Tamawashi to rally is now. He has trouble with Chiyotairyu’s big hit tachiai, but I am certain that the Hatsu yusho winner can take the cannonball and push for a win.
Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Sumo fans, we can see this one coming from over the horizon. Takakeisho is going to attack with the wave-action, and Takayasu is going to use the smooth tachiai he has shown for most of the basho. If he can land even one hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi, it’s likely the end of an Ozeki bid. I am looking for Takayasu to finish with at least 11 wins, and to me it looks like his next will likely come day 13 if he boxes up Takakeisho.
Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu – This is not a good match for Tochinoshin. He is 3-22 against Kakuryu, who is one of the few rikishi (along with Hakuho) who can escape the “Skycrane”. But we are to the point now where he must win to defend his rank. As I said at the beginning, Tochinoshin is not beyond sacrificing his body to protect his rank. He might do something that leads to worsening his condition, knowing that he might have a few months to try to overcome it, if he can just clear kadoban. A desperate man might unleash some wild sumo power. I am going to watch for it, as he is nearly out of options.
Hakuho vs Goeido – The rikishi with the best chance of putting dirt on the sole leader of the yusho race will face Hakuho today. Goeido in his genki GoeiDOS 2.2 form has been a damn fine rikishi, and he has delivered wins with speed and brutality that match some of his best sumo from Aki 2016. I predict no matter what way this goes, it may only last single-digit seconds.