Greetings from a surprisingly windy Tokyo!
Now, look: the upside of all of this kyujo and injury business is that if you’re someone who writes match day previews, there’s less writing that you have to do. But honestly, I’d rather be writing another paragraph and get to see the likes of Tochinoshin and Goeido battle it out. What will 2020 look like for them… or any of us? These existential questions and more will not be answered on Day 6 of the Kyushu basho.
Leaders: Hakuho, Asanoyama, Meisei, Enho, Sadanoumi, Yutakayama, Shodai,
What We’re Watching on Day 6
Daishoho vs Kagayaki – Daishoho looks disinterested at this point, so the last thing he probably needs is to face someone who’s fresh from a rest day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Daishoho runs into a couple “exchange” bouts with someone from Juryo in Week 2. Tough to pick against Kagayaki here.
Nishikigi vs Takanosho – Takanosho didn’t have to work too hard to dispatch Daishoho on Day 5, but Nishikigi found himself on the wrong end of a very genki opponent. Both of these guys (2-3) need to start putting up the white stars, otherwise they’re going to be looking over their shoulder. Both of these guys like a good grapple, so if they go strength against strength then it should be fairly entertaining.
Daishomaru vs Chiyotairyu – The Kokonoe man has been in good form the last few days, and he’s a jovial fellow so here’s hoping sumo’s good natured sideburn enthusiast can keep it up. His tachiai should be able to overpower Daishomaru, and I can’t shake the feeling that he’s also a bit more powerful all around than the Oitekaze man. Their career series is 5-4 and usually ends up with someone face down on the clay.
Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both of these rikishi are 2-3 and you can pretty much copy what I said about Nishikigi and Takanosho here, except I think this may be a bit more of a straightforward shoving match. We’re approaching the end of the first week and these guys have yet to blast off the ring rust, so here’s hoping they play themselves into form sooner than later.
Chiyomaru vs Shodai – I had really rather fancied Shodai to win against Kotoshogiku, but he didn’t seem to have any kind of answer for the most predictable move in sumo. Chiyomaru had an easy go of it yesterday, but Shodai may put up a bit more resistance than Ishiura. A clash of styles here, and whoever establishes their preferred method at the tachiai – oshi for Chiyomaru and yotsu for Shodai – should win the day. Surprisingly this is only the third meeting of these two, with honours even.
Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Mirror records for these two: 1-4 Ishiura meets 4-1 Yutakayama. Ishiura has looked really light on his feet this tournament and seems to be simply getting blown out of the ring, so he’s meeting the wrong opponent in Yutakayama, who relies on powerful pushing and thrusting. Don’t @ me, sumo internet…. but with Ishiura looking at a rough scoreline I just have a sneaky feeling we might see a henka.
Tsurugisho vs Kotoshogiku – The crowd has really been behind Kotoshogiku all tournament, so it was a relief to see him finally pick up a win. Tsurugisho has fared fairly well in this tournament up until Day 5. This is the first meeting of the two, and I do wonder whether the gaburi-yori from Kotoshogiku will be effective against an opponent who’s never seen it. If Tsurugisho’s never had to defend against it, he may be in for a tough day out.
Onosho vs Sadanoumi – Onosho showed more of his old self on Day 5 with a real powerful victory. Sadanoumi just keeps motoring along. This should be a pretty good clash, although I could see Sadanoumi trying to hit an early slap down to avoid a drawn out oshi battle. Sadanoumi’s best method here is probably to get Onosho’s arms wrapped up and use a grappling approach to usher him out or down via beltless throw. Onosho has won 3 of 4, but Sadanoumi won the most recent match and is in the better form making it a little more of a coin toss.
Shohozan vs Enho – Right on the halfway mark, we get the first real highlight bout of the day. Between honbasho and jungyo events, these two have loads of epic matches in the tank already. There’s so much narrative in these matches: the young upstart vs the wily veteran, the thrower vs the slapper, precise manoeuvers vs street brawling. All of that to say: Enho has won by oshidashi a time or two, and Shohozan isn’t afraid to go to the belt. Shohozan has won all three previous matches on honbasho clay, but I have a sneaky feeling Enho might just squeak this out and add a bit of needle to the growing rivalry. Anything could happen, and hopefully it will.
Kotoeko vs Ryuden – The schedulers give us another pair here who are below their usual level. These two have similar yotsu-accented styles, and I happen to believe that Ryuden is simply the stronger practitioner of that style. This is borne out in his 4-2 lifetime advantage over the Sadogatake man. It would behoove Ryuden to put a little run together, and I think this is a good place to start.
Aoiyama vs Okinoumi – It’s the 27th matchup of these two veterans, with Shimane-ken’s Okinoumi leading with 16 victories over the Bulgarian pummeller. Okinoumi’s in much better form than his 2-3 record would indicate, while Aoiyama (3-2) seemed a bit confused by Enho on Day 5. Despite his head-to-head advantage, Okinoumi rarely gets to execute his style of sumo over Aoiyama, and we’re probably primed for an oshidashi or tsukidashi affair. Okinoumi has looked more genki, so I’m tipping him here.
Abi vs Daieisho – It’s a Saitama derby! Abi really showed up on Day 5, but again his footwork was sloppy and almost lost him the match. I don’t think that’s going to cut it against Daieisho who has been in great form, and will be rested after getting the day off after picking up a fusen-sho. What is almost guaranteed is that this will be an all out tsuppari battle. Daieisho won 4 of their first 5 matches, but Abi has since won four in a row from his smaller opponent this year. I’d make this a bit of a coin flip, Abi’s ability cancelled out by Daieisho’s stronger form.
Hokutofuji vs Kotoyuki – Hokutofuji has nothing to worry about after his Day 5 loss in my opinion, but he might if he drops this. Kotoyuki has more or less been in good nick. Both men are oshi-zumo practitioners, and Hokutofuji has been fighting at by far the higher level. It’s a good test for Kotoyuki and a win for him would certainly make it easier to envision him making it back to san’yaku someday soon. I just think Hokutofuji is going to have too much for him though. This could be the match where we see Kotoyuki head a few rows into the crowd, although he may well get slapped down to the clay first.
Asanoyama vs Endo – Asanoyama has looked strong and has to be a serious yusho contender. He came out to execute his style of sumo against Hokutofuji and was dominant in so doing. Endo has started to resemble the hit-and-miss Endo that we grew accustomed to in recent years before he really turned the corner the last couple tournaments to make his san’yaku case. This could and in fact should be a really good belt bout. Endo’s best chance might be to come out with a pushing attack and put Asanoyama on the back foot a bit, but it might be a risky move. Endo has won 4 from 6 overall in this rivalry, giving Asanoyama a little history to overcome… but I think Asanoyama will do it and keep himself firmly in the title race.
Mitakeumi vs Takarafuji – Mitakeumi looks awful to me, and he simply has to win this match. He’s reaching a point where he’s not only jeopardising his chances of Ozeki promotion this tournament (he probably needs to win out), but if he keeps coughing up matches to lower rankers then he might not have a chance to seal the deal in January. You know what you’re going to get from Takarafuji: a strong defence against any kind of mawashi or grappling strategy, so Mitakeumi is best served reverting to a powerful oshi attack to try and blow the veteran away.
Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – It’s surprising to me that Takakeisho has owned Tamawashi to the degree that he has (7 wins out of 10). This should be a cagey pushing-thrusting battle with either rikishi capable of throwing a few wild tricks into the bargain. Takakeisho will be the narrow favourite, with oshidashi the nailed on favourite no matter who takes the kensho.
Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Myogiryu has coughed up a couple easy ones this basho, which may be what Takayasu needs. I thought Takayasu was strategically sound in his Day 5 loss to Meisei. He picked the correct style of sumo to deploy, but simply wasn’t able to execute at the same level of his opponent. He did worryingly start to feel his injured arm again after that match. If he doesn’t go kyujo (and I don’t think he will), Myogiryu might be the type of opponent he needs to face: speedy, but with no one skill that’s better than any of Takayasu’s.
Meisei vs Hakuho – The highlight bout of the second half of the day, and one featuring a first meeting of two men who are in no mood to lose. Meisei’s defensive work was fantastic against Takayasu, but he’ll need to take that to another level to cope with The Boss. Hakuho looks in good shape as he can smell opportunities to win. He should keep his focus though, because this could be a real banana peel for someone who’s been serving up more kinboshi lately than anyone would like. He’ll need more than he did against Myogiryu, and he’ll probably noticed that a weakened Takayasu had Meisei on the ropes with a strong pushing attack. Add to that a stronger tachiai and better finishing moves, and Hakuho should still be a strong favourite to get the job done here.