Welcome to day 4, we are fast approaching the end of act 1 of the Haru basho. Act 1 is where we see who is hot, and who is not. The rikishi get to try to break free of their ring rust, and get into their competition sumo. It’s clear that there are a cadre of rikishi who are going to be doing well through the first week (8 with a 3-0 record to start day 4), and 7 who have yet to find their first win. It’s very early in the basho, so you can’t really take much away from these figures, but for fans who watched through the past two basho, there are some notable performances to point out.
First off is Mitakeumi, he is looking very solid, and this is the kind of sumo his fans expect from him. If he could fight consistently at this level, he would have made Ozeki last year. More so than most, I think he has more than a couple of injuries that bother him at times, and keep him from showing his full potential.
Asanoyama – He is on an Ozeki run right now, and I think he is fighting well. Given that there are just 2 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki, he is going to need to beat at least one of them in order to make the case that he should join Takakeisho at sumo’s second highest rank. Good luck to him, he has massive potential, and I think he has a solid chance of making the grade at some point this. year.
Takayasu – Watching the former Ozeki continue to struggle is a real heartbreak for his fans. I am sure that much of the problem is motivation and confidence at this point. That damaged left elbow seems to be working well enough now, but he has still to score his first win of the basho.
Tokushoryu – It should not be a surprise to anyone that dear Tokushoryu is really having trouble fighting at this rank. His posting to the top division in January was a bit of a gift, and his yusho was a marvel of being able to bring some of the best sumo of his career to the dohyo every day. No one can ever take that away from him or sumo fans. But it looks like he has reverted to average, and is struggling.
What We Are Watching Day 4
Azumaryu vs Meisei – In general, these two are evenly matched. But in reality Meisei is still struggling to recover from an injury, and his sumo is all over the place. That gives a clear advantage to Azumaryu to go along with a considerable advantage in height and weight.
Tsurugisho vs Kotonowaka – As with most of Kotonowaka’s bouts in Osaka, another first time match. Tsurugisho is fighting poorly and clearly still working to overcome the rather worrisome injuries sustained in the first week of Hatsu, so I expect him to limp through this basho.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – Speed vs size today, with a healthy dose of genki-gravy, as it seems Chiyomaru has a belly full of high-energy fighting spirit right now. They are tied 3-3 in their career record, so I am looking for a good struggle today.
Kaisei vs Daiamami – Kaisei is still looking for his first win in Osaka, and the only bright spot is that Daiamami seems to really be out of sorts with his sumo right now. I suspect he finds the empty stadium a distraction, and it’s impacting his matches.
Nishikigi vs Aoiyama – Given how wells Aoiyama is fighting right now, I think this could be a brutal match. We have winless Nishikigi going up against lossless Aoiyama. Will we get to see the V-Twin attack from the man-mountain again today? He holds a narrow 5-4 career record over Nishikigi.
Chiyotairyu vs Ishiura – Another Kokonoe rikishi oozing genki (at least I hope that’s genki…), Chiyotairyu is going to face 3-0 Ishiura in a big man / small man match. I know folks get worked up about henka, but seriously, he should deploy a flying henka against Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai today. I would applaud.
Kotoshogiku vs Terutsuyoshi – Kotoshogiku is struggling due to his deteriorating body, and I think Terutsuyoshi is struggling because the setting for the matches is an empty arena, and its distracting him. The guy clearly loves the roar of the crowd, and the lack of any noise in the hall may keep him from getting into “fight mode”. The two have split their 2 prior matches, so it will come down to if Kotoshogiku can get a grip on the highly maneuverable salt master.
Ikioi vs Tochiozan – Two long serving veterans facing off on day 4, and surprisingly we have seen zero good sumo from Tochiozan this march, and his record shows it (0-4). Ikioi is on the short side of their 7-11 career record, but I favor him to take day 4 and leave Tochiozan in quarantine mode with zero wins.
Takanosho vs Tochinoshin – We saw some quality sumo from Tochinoshin on day 3, and everyone is hoping that he’s gotten the start of a recipe to actually compete in spite of that damaged knee. He goes up against 3-0 Takanosho on day 4, and Takanosho won their only prior match.
Sadanoumi vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama won their only prior match, and in spite of bringing his normal rapid attack and lighting fast reflexes to each match, Sadanoumi comes into day 4 with a disappointing 1-2 record.
Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – These two are evenly matched over their careers (11-10), and they come in with matching 1-2 records. It will be a contest between Takarafuji’s “defend and extend” sumo, and Tamawashi’s flat out offense.
Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s fundamentals based sumo tends to shut down Shohozan’s energetic mobiltiy attacks, and as a result Kagayaki has a 9-5 career advantage over “Big Guns” Shohozan. I did really like that lunge at the tachiai Shohozan mixed into his day 3 win. Maybe we will se more of that!
Ryuden vs Onosho – These two are evenly matched, and the outcome seems to be driving by Ryuden attempting a hatakikomi. Thus if Onosho is off balance and forward, we can count on Ryuden to read it instantly and put him on the clay. Both rikishi come into day 4 with matching 2-1 records.
Myogiryu vs Abi – Myogiryu is looking to break out of 0-3 quarantine club, and this may represent his best chance to turn things around. He has split the prior 6 matches with Abi, but Abi’s sumo is even more disorganized and frantic than normal.
Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – Oh yes indeed! The “Big Unit” against the “Original Tadpole”, they have only met twice before, and the split the pair. Mitakeumi has a spotless 3-0 heading into day 4 vs Yutakayama at 2-1. I expect this to be a big oshi battle with a lot of movement, and a lot of bruises.
Tokushoryu vs Endo – Tokushoryu brutal circuit of the joi-jin continues, and today Endo is going to grab the front of his mawashi and send him tumbling. Tokushoryu has not won a single match from Endo in 7 attempts. Sorry, Hatsu yusho winner, it’s more quarantine for you.
Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – You can think of Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi as the appetizer with Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji being the main course. Asanoyama holds a 4-2 career advantage, and comes in at 3-0. But this is a new day, and Hokutofuji is a man on a mission. That mission – to lay the doom on everyone. Should be an excellent match.
Enho vs Shodai – Any why not indulge in a little pudding after your mains? Enho vs Shodai should be just the ticket. I am curious to see if Shodai has become discouraged after his day 3 loss to Mitakeumi. In the past, he would take his first loss, and it would shake his confidence, and he would struggle to return to genki. Don’t let Enho smell indecision or worry, or he will sacrifice you to the elves and sell your bones to the gnomes who live under the chikara-mizu bucket.
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Takakeisho had a moment of worry when he went to the clay day 2 in an ill-conceived yotsu match with Okinoumi. He faces off against Daieisho, who is a member in goods standing of the 0-3 quarantine club. Takakeisho holds a 5-3 career advantage.
Hakuho vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi has beaten Hakuho precisely once. It was Aki day 1 in 2015, and he surprised The Boss with a surprisingly strong yotsu match. Hakuho of today seems to be a bit more vulnerable, but I would be utterly surprised if he gave Okinoumi a kinboshi today.
Takayasu vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu holds a narrow 12-10 career record over Takayasu, and his fans would dearly love to see him rally and start winning matches. A win today would in fact be a kinboshi, as the former Ozeki is now ranked at Maegashira 1. But Takayasu’s sumo seems to lack power, and I am going to look for Kakuryu to give him just enough space to make a mistake.