While we focus these posts on the top division (to match what most of our readers get to see via NHK World’s daily summary), there is a great story in Juryo. Former Ozeki Terunofuji was eliminated from his rank, and subsequently sat out 4 tournaments trying to overcome multiple problems and nurse his body back to health. He re-entered competition ranked all the way down at Jonidan 48 in March of last year, and has been battling to climb the banzuke. He won the Makushita yusho with a perfect 7-0 score in November, which launched him back into the salaried ranks.
Ranked near the bottom of Juryo, he has been fighting with strength and conviction, and is currently alone in the lead for the Juryo yusho with a perfect 8-0 record. More than just winning matches, he seems to have found a way to execute his sumo while protecting his badly damaged knees. There have a been a couple of glimpses of the old “Kaiju” form along the way, where some great power takes over and Terunofuji delivers overwhelming offense in the blink of an eye. While a yusho (even a perfect one) from Juryo 13 probably won’t bring him to the top division for March, the time is approaching where we may see him return in the top division. Its one of sumo’s great come-back stories, and I am eager to see how far he can take his return.
What We Are Watching Day 9
Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – They have only met once before, and that match went to Terutsuyoshi in Nagoya 2019. This January, Terutsuyoshi is fighting very well, and I think he’s going to give Kaisei a lot of trouble.
Ikioi vs Kotoeko – This version of Ikioi is injured and really unable to fight effectively. Kotoeko is in dire need of wins, so today may be most fortunate for him.
Kotoshogiku vs Kiribayama – First time meeting both come into the match with 4-4 records. I would say that Kiribayama needs to find a way to stalemate Kotoshogiku for at least 15 seconds, at which point the veteran may be in trouble with his knees.
Tochiozan vs Chiyomaru – Tochiozan has a good formula for beating Chiyomaru, holding a 5-1 career advantage. The plan will be to stay mobile and keep Chiyomaru from centering Tochiozan in his sights.
Tsurugisho vs Tokushoryu – This should be an easy match for the surprisingly genki Tokushoryu, as Tsurugisho has enough knee damage that he can barely walk, let alone fight. A Tokushoryu win will be a triumphant kachi-koshi for the veteran’s return to the top division.
Shimanoumi vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki continues to quietly go about his sumo, staying low and fighting well. I think in spite of the 1-1 career record, it’s his match to lose tomorrow.
Sadanoumi vs Azumaryu – These two are evenly matched, with a 3-2 career record, but in my opinion Sadanoumi has been fighting better this tournament. If the fight goes more than about 20 seconds, I would expect it to be one sided in favor of Sadanoumi.
Chiyotairyu vs Ryuden – Chiyotairyu’s sumo is focused on overwhelming power delivered at the tachiai, blasting his opponent to defeat at once, or disrupting their offense so much that Chiyotairyu can just mop them up. Ryuden will try to use a matta or two, I would expect, to disrupt Chiyotairyu’s tachiai, and work to either immediately slap down the larger man, or land a mawashi grip for a throw.
Aoiyama vs Ishiura – Aoiyama’s play will be to expect Ishiura to start low, possibly a submarine tachiai, and to swat Ishiura to the clay in the opening moments of the fight. Even if Ishiura can escape that opening gambit, Big Dan is surprisingly mobile right now, and Ishiura will have a lot of work to do.
Yutakayama vs Onosho – A high interest match for me, two nominal pusher-thrusters, with Onosho finally fighting well enough this basho to actually challenge Yutakayama. Onosho holds a 6-3 career advantage. When Yutakayama wins he usually does so by slapping Onosho down at the tachiai. When Onosho’s sumo is working he tends to bash Yutakayama about a bit before bodily throwing him out of the ring.
Shohozan vs Takanosho – The scheduling committee decided – Hey, two 4-4 guys with a 1-1 career record. Sounds like a match for a Monday! Its been a few days since Shohozan has drawn blood, so Takanosho may want to guard his face.
Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – With his bum knee all but useless, Tochinoshin either deploys a henka or gets railroaded out by a stampeeding Tamawashi.
Okinoumi vs Mitakeumi – Many fans assumed that after his November san’yaku defenstration, that Mitakeumi would be down a few ranks, but would strongly battle his way back up in fine fashion. Well, maybe not. Coming in an 4-4, he has not looked strong at all. He faces Okinoumi today, who holds a 3-1 career advantage over the former Sekiwake.
Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – We have yet another basho where Hokutofuji produces well for the big matches, but seems to not quite have the same intensity for the rest. This is a “bread and butter” match for Hokutofuji, and a strong showing today would do a lot for his ranking in March, as I suspect another log-jam of winning records making promotion tricky to predict.
Abi vs Endo – Endo always struggles in any fight where he can’t predictably get a hand on his opponent’s mawashi. His career record (2-6) against Abi bears this out. Endo will need to try and come in very low, and get that left hand frontal grip that he prefers.
Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Normally this would be a dependable win scenario for Takayasu, but the former Ozeki is so banged up that he is a fair target for Takarafuji. Again, I expect Takayasu’s opponent to focus on his left side, and exploit his injuries for a likely win.
Asanoyama vs Daieisho – Daieisho is quite skilled at defeating Asanoyama, holding a 7-2 advantage, Asanoyama struggled against Shodai, but I am looking for him to focus on going chest to chest with Daieisho, and overpowering him. If the match is mobile exchange of thrusts, its going to be a Daieisho win.
Enho vs Goeido – Goeido loves to deliver overwhelming offensive force in the first few seconds of the match. Even if he needs a second volley, its almost always something huge, powerful and focused to his front. This is not going to be effective against Enho unless he catches Enho off his game. First time match up that is sure to be exciting.
Takakeisho vs Shodai – I am sure everyone in the sumo world wants to know if Hatsu 2020 Shodai is genki enough to take down Takakeisho. He has only beaten him twice in their 9 matches, and right now Takakeisho seems to be in good form. Whomever wins today takes away kachi-koshi.