Incredibly, the Kyushu injury curse continues! Wakatakakage will be kyujo from Day 5, which means that we’ve lost one sekitori per day in addition to Ichinojo, who started the tournament on the sidelines. He has not been officially added to the NSK’s list at the time of writing, but if reports are true, injury has taken one of the co-leaders off the board (and handed a useful win to Kagayaki). It’s a good job these tournaments are only 15 days…
[Edited to add: Tochinoshin has now been pronounced kyujo as well with an abdominal injury. Apart from the extremely unlikely scenario in which he miraculously returns from Day 8 and wins out, this will end his attempt to reclaim his Ozeki status.]
What We’re Watching on Day 5
Terutsuyoshi vs Daishomaru – Daishomaru came with a game plan on Day 4 and he’ll need to show more of the same energy in his pushing attack against an undersized opponent in Terutsuyoshi. Both men are struggling a bit to find their best sumo, and the head to head is split one apiece.
Daishoho vs Takanosho – Woof.
Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – For me, Chiyotairyu was at his absolute best on Day 4. It was an unrelenting forward moving machine. He needs to avoid getting his arms locked up by Nishikigi in this match, which feels all about direction. If Chiyotairyu can go forward in a straight line from the tachiai, he’s got a great chance, but if Nishikigi can redirect him into lateral movement, the match will favour the Isenoumi man.
Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura proved that it’s more about the size of the fight in the dog on Day 4. Interestingly he seems to do better against smaller opponents while miniature stablemate Enho claims to do better against the larger opponents. Ishiura is definitely not getting his arms around Chiyomaru’s belly so again it’s going to have to be mobility that gets used as a primary weapon here. And it seems to work: Ishiura has taken 8 of 12 from the Kokonoe man.
Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – It’s another Kyushu derby, as Fukuoka’s Kotoshogiku gets Kumamoto’s Shodai. There are contrasting fortunes here as the former Ozeki is winless, while a win for unbeaten Shodai would move him into sole possession of the lead. Shodai took more initiative than we’ve seen at the tachiai in the previous day’s fixture and it worked out well for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he reverts to type in this match as it will allow him a better grip on Kotoshogiku’s mawashi. The Sadogatake man hasn’t drawn a lot of luck in the fixture list so far, and I don’t think that will change here.
Sadanoumi vs Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi has won both the past matchups and appears to be yet again quietly putting together a nice tournament. Shimanoumi might be a tough character to move but after his impressive performance against Yutakayama, Sadanoumi will be coming into this match full of confidence. He’s won both prior matches against Shimanoumi.
Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Local fan favourite Shohozan has been at the peak of his powers in this tournament, running roughshod over the middle of the rank and file. I predict a riot in this encounter: after the frantic grapple and throw action on Day 4, I think he has recharged his harite and tsuppari machine. Yutakayama was really motoring along but the manner of his defeat on Day 4 means he will be open for examination here: was it just a blip or is he still coming to grips with routine opposition?
Tsurugisho vs Kotoeko – Tsurugisho seems to be adjusting well to top division life. Kotoeko seems a little bereft of confidence at the moment. This will be the 11th bout between the two, who have registered five shiroboshi apiece in their previous encounters. The form guide would indicate Tsurugisho to hold the best chance.
Aoiyama vs Enho – It’s a first time meeting of two rikishi with vastly different styles, builds and fanbases. I tend to be in the camp that thinks actually, Enho’s on a great career trajectory. That he hasn’t hit a huge 12 or 13 win tournament yet means that he’s slowly adapted to the higher quality of opponent, and he’s been tested gradually rather than getting thrown in at the top end and getting his confidence wrecked. He will still take his lumps from time to time, and there are few better to dole those out than Big Dan. I have a hard time thinking that Aoiyama is going to be able to keep up with Enho’s mobility and simply blast him out of the dohyo, so I think he reverts to the form that has served him well recently and tries a slap or pull down. Spare a thought for Enho, who is likely to try and bury his head in Aoiyama’s… well, let’s not mention it.
Onosho vs Kotoyuki – Here’s a matchup of two pusher-thrusters in rather different form. Kotoyuki has continued his impressive, forward moving, sumo. While there’s not much difference in their records this early on, it’s the manner of Onosho’s defeats that I would consider to be concerning. These guys have split their past matches one apiece, but Onosho’s win came in 2017 and both these guys are different animals now in terms of their genki level. This should be a very quick match, and one that presents Kotoyuki with a great chance to keep up his momentum.
Tamawashi vs Ryuden – I think Tamawashi has the beating of Ryuden in this match, as Ryuden has become a bit of a Tochinoshin-lite for me. While he has great heart, he doesn’t possess the dominating mawashi ability of the Georgian former-ish Ozeki, and he’s also susceptible to pusher-thrusters.
Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – This has to be the highlight bout of the second half of activity. Both of these 3-1 men have a real legitimate shout at yusho contention and/or further san’yaku promotion in their current form. I loved that Asanoyama just shrugged off his bodyslam by Hakuho to come back and reel off another victory. Hokutofuji has been absolutely fearless, and similarly overcame an early defeat to the GOAT to put massive dents in Ozeki promotion and retention challenges from Mitakeumi and Takayasu. Surprisingly it’s only the 5th meeting (past matches have been split two apiece) of these two rikishi, and it could be a rivalry that takes centre stage over the coming years. Hokutofuji must keep up his speed off the tachiai: if he can establish his pushing attack early he has a real chance. But if Asanoyama is allowed any opportunity to pull him off balance with a slap or a mawashi grip, then the former yusho-winner will have a great shot himself.
Abi vs Endo – Both of these guys enter the match in disappointing form. Abi has been far short of his usual energetic self, and has displayed sloppy footwork over his opening matches. That would appear to hand the opportunity to Endo, an inconsistent technician with extremely sound ring sense. But Abi still has it in his locker to blow Endo away, which is going to rely on a storm of tsuppari straight from the tachiai. The longer this match goes the more likely the momentum shifts to Endo. Abi has a 5-2 edge in the rivalry.
Daieisho vs Tochinoshin –
Tochinoshin has done well to bounce back from an 0-2 start, and may feel he’s finding enough form to make his 10 win challenge to regain Ozeki status a reality. Daieisho is probably the worst opponent to run into at that moment, as the smaller pusher-thruster has won the past two from the Georgian (who leads 6-3 overall), has a style of sumo Tochinoshin typically finds it difficult to cope with these days, and is also fighting at the peak of his game to date. Even if he is the presumptive favourite on paper, a win here for Tochinoshin would go a long way to restoring the confidence that he can win at the top level. [Edited to add: there are unconfirmed reports at this stage that Tochinoshin may also be going kyujo, which would be incredibly significant as it would end his efforts to automatically regain Ozeki status. More to follow.][Edited again to add: Tochinoshin is now confirmed kyujo and will be set for significant demotion if as expected he does not return. Daieisho will get the fusen-sho victory and improve to 3-2.]
Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi has had a really horrible fixture list so far, picking up only a fusen-sho in four days of action. But he can take a lot of heart from pushing Hakuho all the way in his previous match, and should be a tough customer for Mitakeumi. The Sekiwake has very little margin for error going forward in his Ozeki promotion push, having dropped another match he would have been expected to win to Daieisho. Okinoumi has won 2 from 3 against Mitakeumi, whose challenge here is to establish a strong pushing-thrusting attack from the off. While Mitakeumi’s all around game has improved immensely, he is not a match for the veteran on the mawashi and needs to tailor his attack appropriately here.
Meisei vs Takayasu – While the form guide would suggest we should be fearful for the Ozeki here, I think Takayasu has a good chance to win this. Meisei has really turned his game up several levels since the start of the Aki basho, but if you look at where Takayasu has been blown away in Fukuoka, they have been in matches against extreme pusher-thrusters: which Meisei is not. Meisei is a tenacious young rikishi who may be a san’yaku fixture for years to come… but I think unless he has lost all confidence, a one-armed Takayasu desperate for wins should be able to get the job done here.
Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – By this point, against a depleted field, Takakeisho probably expects to be in a yusho race no matter what. But the immediate aim is a healthy 8+ wins to retain his Ozeki status for the first time without falling back into kadoban. Takarafuji is probably a good opponent for him, as the defensive specialist needs to be able to actually get a hold of his opponent to stalemate them, and this is not an opportunity that Takekeisho typically affords to his opposition. I’ll tip another win for the Ozeki in this match, with the 3-1 Takakeisho leading their head-to-head rivalry 3-1.
Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Hakuho’s won 19 of 20 from Myogiryu, and the last 8 have all come via different kimarite. The Hakuho of old would be searching to try and win with another different move just to keep himself interested, but at this point in his career, any win that keeps him in the yusho race and on the dohyo will do. Hakuho was given a real mawashi battle by Okinoumi in the previous match, and he’d do well to start to stay away from his opponents’ strengths from now on. Myogiryu is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type, but his calling card is often – like his stablemate Goeido – his speedy attack from the tachiai. Don’t be surprised to see Hakuho deploy another harite off the mark here to blunt and divert that attack.