It’s a quick preview this morning, as I am on my way to Narita to fly back to Dallas. Thanks to Japan for another lovely sumo trip. I have to tip my hat to buysumotickets.com for once again provisioning Team Tachiai with quality seats and sterling customer support. If you are heading to Japan and intend to watch sumo, I strongly recommend them.
Its the middle weekend of the basho, and fankly there is no dominant rikishi who is clearly the favorite. There are some mighty bright hot streaks running, but it will come down to maintaining that intensity into the second week. Advantage may tip toward the rikishi who have taken the cup before. Fasten your seat belts and keep on your toes. There is so many ways this one might end up.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Tochiozan vs Kaisei – I am still liking Tochiozan’s 14-5 career record over Kaisei. Coupled with his highly efficent sumo style, and Kaisei’s damaged undercarriage, this fight may be terribly one-sided.
Azumaryu vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi comes back to the top division to fill the banzuke hole left by all of the kyujo rikishi. He won 4 of their 6 prior meetings, and in addition has been fighting well in Juryo. Let’s hope he can score well enough in January to return to the top division soon.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kiribayama – A first time meeting that puts red-hot Terutsuyoshi to the test. There will be a lot of salt thrown, but can Terutsuyoshi establish control early?
Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – In spite of his excellent size to strength ratio, Kotoeko is struggling this January, and we have to hope that it was just ring-rust. Tokushoryu certainly has opened strong, but like many vets, stamina into week 2 may be a problem.
Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Battle of the legless heroes; we get to see whose lower extremities can handle the stress. Matches like these are terrible to watch, as I keep hoping they both survive intact.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – I have to think that at some point soon, Chiyomaru’s sumo is going to click into “active” mode, and he is going to start racking wins.
Tsurugisho vs Ishiura – I think this comes down to Tsurugisho getting a mawashi grip. If he can land a solid hand on Ishiura’s belt, he likely has the match. If Ishiura can stay un-captured, its his match to lose. [Given that Tsurugisho’s Day 6 bout ended with a ride in the big wheelchair, Ishiura likely gets a freebie. -lksumo]
Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – I am calling it now, Chiyotairyu is nursing an injury, and we are going to see poor performance from him for the rest of the basho. It’s a shame, as having him unleash his thundering tachiai against everyone is really rather fun.
Takanosho vs Kagayaki – Go ahead, Kagayaki, drop those hips and crab walk Takanosho out. We know you want to do it, and it looks great on camera.
Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi has enough speed and agility to avoid Aoiyama’s normal opening gambit. I expect this match will be a running battle, and that format probably favors Sadanoumi.
Shohozan vs Ryuden – I am still sensing a lot of pent up frustration in Shohozan. So I recommend a course of body blows, repeated frequently every few seconds, until Ryuden hits the dirt, or he grabs your mawashi and chucks you overboard.
Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – Takarafuji loves to extend and defend, and that is not going to work in Tochinoshin’s favor. I am assuming he is still too damaged to really work the sky-crane today, although we all want him to.
Meisei vs Onosho – Both men have had terrible starts to Hatsu, and Meisei typically dominates Onosho. So as an Onosho booster, I have no expectations that he won’t end up once again face down in the clay.
Okinoumi vs Enho – Somehow, this is the first meeting between these two. I am eager to see what a rikishi with such an encyclopedic skill catalog as Okinoumi does in response to Enho’s power-pixie sumo.
Endo vs Tamawashi – Endo’s hopes of contesting for the yusho require him to maintain stamina and good health for another week. Fans around the world hope we don’t once again see Tamawashi’s “Arm Breaker” hold that shredded Takayasu’s sumo career. [They’ve met 20 times prior to this basho, with Tamawashi holding a 12-8 edge. -lksumo]
Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – Mitakeumi will work to disrupt Daieisho’s attack at the tachiai, and prevent him from planting his feet and getting a mawashi grip. A mobile, oshi-mode fight favors Mitakeumi, and I expect him to open strong and try to finish before Daieisho can rally.
Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Sigh, Takayasu. Myogiryu holds a 12-8 career advantage over the recent Ozeki, and the latter seems to lack any real power in that damaged arm.
Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – A real high-interest match, as Asanoyama has maybe half a step at the tachiai to either land his mawashi grip before Hokutofuji’s nodowa hits, or move out of the way and engage at an angle.
Shodai vs Goeido – Is the Shodai hype going to overrun Goeido on day 7? Does anyone else join me in feeling a bit sorry for our relic Ozeki? It’s like looking at an endangered species at the zoo. You know they are dangerous, but you just want to find some way to comfort them somehow. [Shodai has five “ginboshi”—like a kinboshi, but when the upset victim is an Ozeki; not an official stat, but it’s a thing—in their 17 prior meetings. -lksumo]
Takakeisho vs Abi – Way to end on a high note! They’ve split their two prior meetings, with Abi pulling the upset in November, and this match features masters of the double arm thrusts. But you have extreme reach from Abi vs some of the shortest arms in sumo on Takakeisho. I don’t think its an automatic Abi win, though.