Sumo fans love to speculate about who will be the next Ozeki or the next Yokozuna. This is typically great fun, and we all bring our enthusiasm out and parade them for entertainment. But there is a very situation coming this year to sumo. There will need to be at least 1 new Ozeki and probably 1 new Yokozuna minted this year to replace the ones that we expect to vacate their rank. At the moment, none of our rikishi, even the ones we really love, are really ready for those ranks. It’s all because of Hakuho.
What? Hakuho? He’s out hurt, he’s still amazing, but he’s headed for the sunset of his career.
But truth be told, we have witnessed the greatest rikishi of any age, and possibly for the foreseeable future. What we consider Yokozuna class performance is an amazing abnormality, and we are unlikely to see it’s equal. But as humans, we can’t help but take a look at any rikishi competing in Hatsu and measure them against Hakuho wether we recognize it or not. But for many fans, we are on the exit side of some kind of Grand Sumo Maximum, and the Ozeki and Yokozuna of the near future may be less dominant than what we have come to expect.
Today when the topic of new Ozeki and Yokozuna come up, you rightly hear skeptical sumo fans declare that no one in contention is worthy. But if we assume Goeido is eliminated from Ozeki by July, and both Hakuho and Kakuryu retire before Hatsu 2021, we will likely see new rikishi reach these hallowed ranks before Christmas. I don’t care to speculate who it will be just yet. But we live in a most interesting period of sumo, and 2020 should be a year of revelations.
Leaders: Shodai, Tokushoryu
Chasers: Takakeisho, Yutakayama, Kagayaki
Hunt Group: Hokutofuji, Terutsuyoshi
4 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Azumaryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi needs to win all 4 remaining matches to avoid make-koshi. Azumaryu has yet to win a single match against him, but in Ikioi’s depleted state, the first match of the top division may set the tone.
Terutsuyoshi vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi has an even 4-4 record against Terutsuyoshi, and he too must win all remaining matches to avoid make-koshi. Shimanoumi has won the last 3 in a row, so maybe he can keep his hopes of a winning record going for another day.
Tsurugisho vs Kotoeko – Why is Tsurugisho still fighting? Is he hoping by showing a brave front the banzuke committee will take mercy on him and not send his injured bum back to Juryo? Dream on.
Tokushoryu vs Kagayaki – Tokushoryu has a 4-1 career advantage over Mr. Fundamentals, Kagayaki. They are both likely to try for a thrusting match, so I expect Kagayaki. whose hips are naturally fairly high, to struggle with the absurd body shape and low center of gravity Tokushoryu brings to this match.
Sadanoumi vs Kiribayama – First time match with a Kiribayama win giving him a kachi-koshi for January. But I am looking for Sadanoumi’s lightning quick transition from stalemate to attack to be a big factor in this match.
Kaisei vs Ishiura – Kaisei has lost his last 2 in a row, and i am starting to worry he might be hurt. Ishiura is back to trying to perform actual sumo again, so this could be a solid big man / little man match.
Takanosho vs Kotoshogiku – Another first time match, a Kotoshogiku loss today would be 5th consecutive make-koshi as the once powerful former Ozeki continues to fade as his lower body crumbles.
Tochiozan vs Yutakayama – Will Yutakayama hit double digits this January? It’s a fairly good chance that he will take 1 more out of the last 4 matches. I am interested to see what Yutakayama’s sumo looks like against Tochiozan’s minimalist technique. Yutakayama holds a 4-1 career advantage. A Tochiozan win would be his 8th.
Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – Oversized oshi-zumo practicioners face off, with the loser taking home a make-koshi. Chiyotairyu is going to charge ahead strong, and i have to expect that Big Dan is going to aim for an immediate slap down. The barrier will be Chiyotairyu’s overwhelming forward power.
Chiyomaru vs Ryuden – Ryuden holds a 5-1 career advantage over the bulbous Chiyomaru. In the 4 times he actually won against him (+1 fusensho) its almost always yorikiri. This is quite a tall order given Chiyomaru’s impressive girth. A Ryuden win today would be kachi-koshi.
Tamawashi vs Onosho – Onosho needs to win 3 of the next 4 to reach his 8, and his biggest worry today has to be Tamawashi’s excellent balance, agility and power. Tamawashi tends to hit and circle repeatedly, forcing his opponent to keep shifting to ensure Tamawashi’s is in their front quarter. This robs them of any chance to really produce much offense, and many times Tamawashi’s opponents just jump around getting pounded on. Enter Onosho who will likely try to pin Tamawashi with the same nodowa he shoved in Kaisei’s face on day 11. He has a chance if he can keep his feet.
Shohozan vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi comes into today’s match looking for win #8 against Shohozan who has lost his last 2 matches. To me that simply means he’s going to be fired up and we may see some fireworks from these two blasting each other. Slight 5-4 career advantage to Mitakeumi.
Endo vs Hokutofuji – Endo is likewise looking for #8, and he’s got a 7-3 career advantage over Hokutofuji. Endo wants a shallow grip at the tachiai, and Hokutofuji is going to want to get a hand on Endo’s neck or an armpit. Even if Endo can land a grip, its going to be a wild ride as Hokutofuji’s lower body may still try to win, even if Endo has already defeated him from the waist up.
Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Okinoumi could go kachi-koshi today with a win over Myogiryu. These two have 23 career matches, with Myogiryu taking 11 to Okinoumi’s 12. Myogiryu is already make-koshi, so I am not sure how hard he will push this match.
Abi vs Shodai – What has to be the big match of the day, yusho co-leader Shodai faces his last named-rank opponent in Abi. They have an even split 4-4 record of their 8 career matches. Abi-zumo is ultimately predictable, but what kind of cartoon physics Shodai will unleash is the big question. When Shodai gets in trouble he seems to unleash random, high energy moves that more frequently than not completely shuts down his opponents.
Takarafuji vs Daieisho – Takarafuji needs to take 3 of the last 4 to secure 8 wins. So I am going to predict he will once again work the “Defend and Extend” strategy against Daieisho, against whom he is a nearly even match (4-5).
Enho vs Takayasu – Takayasu is one loss away from vacating his Sekiwake slot, probably to make room for Goeido in March. A rescue is quite unlikely given that he needs to win all 4 from here on out to survive. He has never faced Enho before, and I think he may struggle with small-man high energy grab and tug sumo.
Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho holds a 7-2 career lead over Tochinoshin, as he tends to connect to that broad chest with a double arm tsuppari blast that sends the big Georgian away and off balance. With Tochinoshin fighting with a damaged knee, his ability to produce forward pressure to counter Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks will be iffy at best.
Asanoyama vs Goeido – Asanoyama seems to have faded in week 2, so it is quite possible that Goeido will stave off make-koshi for another day. Many folks consider Asanoyama a strong candidate for Ozeki in 2020, so this may be his best chance to take an Ozeki win for quite some time. Asanoyama holds a 3-1 lead in the series.