Here we are, heading into the middle weekend of the Kyushu Basho. Typically this is the point were we start reporting a leader board, but right now I just scratch my head and wonder. So many rikishi who should be fighting for slot to try for the cup seem to simply be trying to make it through the next 8 days in one piece.
But the schedulers have given us a few really fun matches for Saturday, and if even one of them pan out, it can bring some interest to a basho that has stood out for its negatives rather than its positives.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Nishikigi vs Kagayaki – I want to see if Kagayaki engages Nishikigi in a mawashi battle. Although Kagayaki is fighting less well than he was last year, I still think his sound fundamentals mean he has the potential to be an upper-Maegashira rikishi. A competent yotsu-zumo toolkit might really change his fortunes.
Terutsuyoshi vs Takanosho – Terutsuyoshi looked terrible day 6, and I hope I don’t see him running around the dohyo in circles again this tournament. Takanosho is doing some decent straight-head sumo, nothing fancy, but he’s getting the job done. With any luck we might see Terutsuyoshi go low and and employ some small-man sumo technique. We can only hope.
Daishoho vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has looked, well, tired the past couple of days. I am sure its a struggle and burden to haul that much rikishi up the dohyo to start the match, but maybe there is some way to restore his vigor. Like so many big men in the top division, Chiyotairyu looks lethargic and unengaged right now, and its not even the endurance challenge of the second week!
Ishiura vs Daishomaru – I like the new dark green mawashi, and I hope it marks a point where Ishiura can return to winning form. He holds a 10-6 career advantage over Daishomaru, so maybe he can rack win #3 today.
Kotoshogiku vs Chiyomaru – I had to check a couple of times, but it seems this is the first time these two have ever fought. The sometime favorite will have the crowd behind him, but the laws of geometry, newtonian and quantum physics mean this one is going to be a logistical puzzle for the ages. Can Kotoshogiku somehow find a grip? If he starts his hip pumping attack, will the standing waves rippling through Chiyomaru’s bulbous midsection damage the dohyo? I love it when sumo can show us things that science can only theorize.
Shohozan vs Shodai – Shodai tends to win against Shohozan, even though Shohozan has demonstrated he is eager to cuff anyone in the face until he gets tired. Shodai, when faced with overwhelming attacks, unleashes what I call “Cartoon Sumo” that quite frequently results in his opponent falling over or flying out of the ring. Another one for the laboratories, as nobody knows what kind of forces might be unleashed.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – Perhaps the best chance for Kotoeko to rally and start a desperately needed winning streak. He has a 6-1 career advantage over Shimanoumi, but Kotoeko’s sumo so far this tournament has been in dire need of offensive power.
Tsurugisho vs Yutakayama – It should be obvious by now that I am counting on Yutakayama to be one of the rikishi standing when the great fade / “intai-wave” hits soon. But I have to admit that this Tsurugisho guy, thought not a young sprout, has potential. I am expecting an early pull / slap down attempt from Yutakayama, and if he fails it’s mawashi time, which favors Tsurugisho.
Sadanoumi vs Enho – Though he is not a headliner, Sadanoumi has really been steadily improving his sumo this year, and I would like to see him score against Enho. Enho, of course, is going to do something energetic and possibly surprising, but if Sadanoumi can keep him from ducking under, it’s his brand of sumo.
Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has never beaten Meisei (0-5), but he surprised me by actually having solid footing and good balance on day 6. If he can repeat that, I am going to think the young fellow has turned a corner and may get back to his pre-injury level of sumo. Fans may not remember, but at one point HE was the leading tadpole, with Takakeisho close behind.
Ryuden vs Endo – Ryuden: the crafty practitioner of deception and surprise vs master tactician Endo. This match is either going to be a complex dance of move, feint and counter strike, or a complete dud punctuated by a henka. To be honest, given how Kyushu is going, I think I would rather see some kind of flamboyant henka from Endo.
Abi vs Aoiyama – The Long Arms fight it out. V-Twin vs Abi-zumo! There are acres of pale white flesh to bash and defeat for Abi, and for Aoiyama the biggest problem might be getting Abi to stay put long enough to bludgeon him into submission. This match has my hopes for reviving a somewhat homogenized sumo basho thus far.
Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – These two are the same person about 10 years apart. Strong, solid core, skilled yotsu rikishi. I am sure Okinoumi looks at Asanoyama with a bit of nostalgia. I am sure Asanoyama looks at Okinoumi and hopes he can get his preferred grip. Thus far its 5-1 advantage for Asanoyama. I know many readers want him to stay 1 off the pace with Hakuho, in hopes the dai-Yokozuna will get bored with winning one day this tournament. (Ha!)
Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – Hokutofuji seems to really be in his comfort zone now. His sumo is working well and he attacks with startling force and effectiveness. But I look at Daieisho, and I see the only rikishi who has beaten Hakuho this month, and think that Hokutofuji will need to be ready with defense at the tachiai.
Mitakeumi vs Kotoyuki – Mitakeumi is not well. Kotoyuki seems to be a backup / time machine copy from 2016 when he was a fairly serious rikishi, and I think that if Mitakeumi pushes this basho too far, he may have to worry about medical treatment for that blow to the head on day 3. He as not won a match since….
Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two have a long history of bashing each other into suffering and pain. It was, in fact, Tamawashi who damaged Takayasu’s left elbow. As if a way to underscore the topics in today’s sumo grump by myself, are we going to be treated to further degradation of this Ozeki?
Takakeisho vs Myogiryu – Takakeisho has never lost to Myogiryu, but I worry that this could be the day. Much like Takayasu, Takakeisho is not really fighting at Ozeki level right now. I know some may be outraged by that statement, but what would you say Takakeisho’s odds are (in current form) against some recent Ozeki in their prime: Kisenosato? Terunofuji? A healthy Kotoshogiku? Yep, I thought so. I can imagine a Takakeisho vs Ozeki Kisenosato match. Kisenosato used to look bored and distracted right up until the tachiai. The suddenly the blazing fire in those odd eyes of his, someone goes flying into the zabuton, and he turns away and looks distracted again. I always used to think he was trying to solve the Hodge conjecture.
Takarafuji vs Hakuho – I know Hakuho is hoping that Takarafuji can bring him some decent sumo. These matches usually involved Takarafuji stalemating the Boss for a while, which can be amusing to dai-Yokozuna if its done with creativity and skill.