The final day of Hatsu “Act One” is upon us! Act one is all about knocking the ring rust off of the competitors, and see who is hot, and who is not. We are once again on kyujo watch here in Tokyo, as we wait for word on if Yokozuna Kakuryu is going to withdraw from the January tournament after his 3rd consecutive loss.
Kakuryu is in an even tougher spot that Hakuho. Since the death of Izutsu Oyakata, there has been a thought to have Kakuryu take over the heya upon retirement. But to do that, he would require Japanese citizenship lined up first. Maybe he started working on that, but it would take a year or two to be granted. This implied that Kakuryu would remain active as a Yokozuna until he could take citizenship and assume leadership of his old stable.
But if Kakuryu does as expected, and withdraws from Hatsu today or tomorrow, we will be in yet another “Nokazuna” tournament. The beneficiaries of this might be Goeido and Takayasu, who won’t need to overcome any Yokozuna to reach their goals. But the younger generation is already taking the leadership away from the Yokozuna, and this is a natural part of the evolution.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Azumaryu vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu has proven highly proficient in the first 4 days of Hatsu. In spite of his odd physique (even for a sumo wrestler), he is effective and dominant. He is an even match with Azumaryu (8-9) with almost all of the matches ending in yorikiri.
Kiribayama vs Shimanoumi – A first time meeting, with both rikishi coming into the match with 2-2 records for January. I would look for Kiribayama to try an early slap down.
Tochiozan vs Kotoeko – Tochiozan’s guile and speed don’t seem to have much effect against Kotoeko, who holds a 3-0 career advantage in their matches.
Kotoshogiku vs Kaisei – Another fight between long-serving favorites, with Kotoshogiku having a distinct career advantage (10-2). Both have bad knees, and neither have any real lateral movement. So this will be an odd match with surprisingly little power from two heavy men.
Terutsuyoshi vs Chiyomaru – Terutsuyoshi takes his zero loss record into a fight with big Chiyomaru, who showed us yesterday that if you lock him up he will unleash hell upon your face. Terutsuyoshi’s face is several centimeters lower than Tsurugisho’s, but the effect may be similar. It would be interesting to see Terutsuyoshi start 5-0…
Tsurugisho vs Ikioi – Ikioi, after looking strong in November, has had a cold start to January, and is at real risk of starting Hatsu 0-5 if he can’t find a win against Tsurugisho today. But having watched Tsurugisho fight the first 4 days, Ikioi is going to have to try something new and different to get his first win.
Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Readers know I am a fan of Kagayaki’s fundamentals-first sumo approach, and he has a real chance to start 5-0 if he can overcome Chiyotairyu today. Chiyotairyu has not brought his normal power and intensity to his matches this January, and I wonder if some injury or illness is at work.
Sadanoumi vs Ishiura – Career records favors Ishiura, but Sadanoumi has been fighting better this tournament, and I think it’s going to be a fast fight at the tachiai to see who dictates the form of this match. It would not be out of question to see an Ishiura henka today.
Takanosho vs Yutakayama – I have a high degree of interest in this match, its a clash of two strong oshi-zumo men. I expect Takanosho to go low and Yutakayama to go high at the tachiai, and its anyone’s guess which gambit will pay off.
Aoiyama vs Ryuden – This match will be decided if Ryuden can get a mawashi grip on Aoiyama’s expansive blue belt. If “Big Dan” can keep moving and keep Ryuden reacting to his attacks, he should be able to get Ryuden off balance and down.
Takarafuji vs Onosho – Onosho’s sumo seems to be completely disrupted and broken at the moment. His balance is all over the place, and he can’t seem to keep his feet when under attack. I am going to guess some new damage to that repaired knee, and it portends a miserable January and possibly a difficult recovery this spring.
Shohozan vs Enho – I imagine that Enho might be a bit eager to recover some dignity after yesterday’s loss to Tochinoshin. Frankly I have seen that carry employed on a toddler, and I am sure the effect was not loss on Enho. Sadly for the cause, Shohozan has never lost to Enho, but perhaps this is the day.
Meisei vs Tochinoshin – Winless Meisei comes up against Tochinoshin today, and although we saw the sky-crane in action on day 4, the condition of Tochinoshin’s knees have to be taken into consideration when assessing his ability to fight. Meisei has had a terrible start, and I am not sure he will be able to overcome Tochinoshin even in his weakened state.
Hokutofuji vs Shodai – Possibly the highest stakes, highest intensity match of the day. Both are undefeated, both bring size and strength to the match. Hokutofuji wins by speed, and Shodai wins by power. I can’t wait to see which factor carries this match.
Abi vs Myogiryu – After writing off Abi’s matches to his pre-basho knee problems, we saw a bit of the fire ad drive which have kept him in the San’yaku for 4 tournaments. Can he bring it back on day 5 against Myogiryu?
Daieisho vs Takayasu – Takayasu is unable to muster Ozeki class sumo performance, that’s the sad truth. But he has a 6-1 career advantage over Daieisho, and that may account for enough to bring him another desperately needed win.
Asanoyama vs Endo – The second high interest match, both of who are seen by the fans in Tokyo as “next generation leaders” for sumo as the old guard fade out. Both are skilled yotsu practitioners, and Endo is possibly the most technical rikishi in the top division. I am going to look for Endo to try for his favored frontal left hand mawashi grip during the tachiai, and for Asanoyama to focus on his footwork. This could be quite the match.
Okinoumi vs Goeido – Goeido has to be in survival mode at this point. He started the basho with 3 straight losses, and seems to still be having problems with his surgically reconstructed ankle. Okinoumi does have strong enough sumo to beat him, and this may be another disappointing day for the Ozeki.
Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – Battle of the power-pushers as it may come down to who can hit center mass with everything they can first. This match may end within the first 2 seconds, be warned.
Mitakeumi vs Kakuryu – I don’t think this match is going to happen, and if it does happen it’s likely to be another loss for the Yokozuna.