Everybody here? Good! Nobody with COVID-19? Good! Rikishi ready to start act 2 of Haru? Very nice!
Act 2 is where we start to shape the yusho race, and we begin to sort the triumphant from the damned. It contains the middle weekend, which will feature NHK World Grand Sumo going live for the final hour of day 8, in their now customary fashion. It’s clear that both Yokozuna are running well, and at present Hakuho is the man to beat for anyone presuming to lay claim to the Emperor’s cup. Looking down the list of who is in position to consider a run at it on day 6, two prior winners: Mitakeumi and Asanoyama, are in the thick of it. I would expect to see both of them rotate through the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps in act 2, and that should make for exciting sumo.
What We Are Watching Day 6
Kotonowaka vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru has dropped his last 2 matches, suddenly looking less genki than he did for the open. His advantage in today’s match is I am sure that Kotonowaka has not really faced anyone or anything configured like Chiyomaru ever before. Sure he fought Gagamaru once, but Chiyomaru is a whole different manner of bulk.
Kaisei vs Azumaryu – Speaking of the “Incredible Bulk”, one of our favorite mega-fauna looks to extend his 2 match winning streak against veteran Azumaryu. Kaisei holds a 3-1 career advantage, and as long as he keeps fighiting the way he has been, he should be able to use his ponderous body to dampen and nullify most offensive moves Azumaryu might attempt.
Shimanoumi vs Nishikigi – Readers probably assume I have a soft spot for Nishikigi. By all accounts he is a humble, mild mannered nice guy, who once escaped his lower Maegashira comfort zone and ascended to the joi-jin. And actually did ok. Well, he has ZERO wins for March right now, and does not look to have much going for him. Shimanoumi won their only prior match, and I am going to guess he may very well take this one, too.
Kotoshogiku vs Daiamami – Daiamami completely overwhelmed Chiyomaru day 5, and frankly that’s the genkiest I have seen Daiamami in a while. He does have a tendency to go chest to chest with his opponent, and that plays into Kotoshogiku’s sumo. He took their only prior match, and Kotoshogiku is looking quite iffy right now.
Meisei vs Aoiyama – Can anyone, or anything stop “Big Dan”? We have seen Aoiyama catch fire before, and really run up the score with powerful sumo. In fact he has been in contention for the yusho in tournaments past. True, he is fighting toward the bottom of the banzuke, but I am enjoying him dominate daily. He comes into today’s match with Meisei holding a 3-1 career record, and a perfect 5-0 record so far in Osaka.
Ikioi vs Terutsuyoshi – Ikioi’s sumo is large and strong, and that may explain to some extent why he struggles against Terutsuyoshi. The Isegahama power pixie does not present enough body for Ikioi to work with effectively. In spite of his banged up condition, Ikioi seems to be holding his own against his peer group in middle / lower portion of the Makuuchi banzuke.
Sadanoumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu showed no sign of injury in his day 5 match against Takanosho, in spite of a brutal fall day 4. He comes into day 6 with a 7-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi, who has been unable to use his typical speed to much effect during the first 5 days in Osaka. I expect him to turn things around before senshuraku, so keep an eye on him.
Takanosho vs Tochiozan – I keep hoping that “today” will be the day that Tochiozan breaks out of his torpor and starts to fight with some kind of energy. But I think this first time match is likely to go to Takanosho, who has only 1 loss so far.
Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Much as I would love to think that Tochinoshin could pick up Ishiura and throw him around like a sack of rice, there is no strength left in that right knee. His day 5 match against Terutsuyoshi fell apart when the former Ozeki could not maintain the “sky crane”, and dropped his pint sized foe. Ishiura brings a somewhat bigger body, and quite a bit more power than Terutsuyoshi did, and I expect that Tochinoshin might eat his 5th loss of this Haru basho.
Shohozan vs Kiribayama – First time match, and we took at Shohozan who also falls into the category of long serving journeyman Makuuchi rikishi who is really struggling this March. With only a single win, this match, which he should dominate, is a big question mark. Can Shohozan bring his sumo back?
Myogiryu vs Kagayaki – Interestingly enough, Kagayaki has never been kachi-koshi above Maegashira 8. Currently ranked at M6w, he is on track for a winning record in the early third of this basho. Can he keep this up, or will he suffer a week 2 fade? His match today against Myogiryu will be the tie breaker in their 2-2 career series.
Ryuden vs Tamawashi – Sadly, Tamawashi is yet another long serving Makuuchi vet who is struggling to produce wins in the first week of this basho. He just seems to be about 20% less potent than before, and I would guess some kind of injury is at work here. Hopefully he can bounce back before May.
Takarafuji vs Onosho – This match has my interest. With Takarafuji traditionally spending most of the match working hard not to lose (aka “Defend and Extend”), he will have to react to Onosho’s often chaotic attacks. Onosho holds a slight career edge at 5-4, but they have split the last 4. I am honestly looking for Onosho to hit 8 wins, and to rise a bit higher into the top of the rank and file for May.
Okinoumi vs Abi – Okinoumi has proven he has a good formula for shutting down Abi-zumo, and he brings a 4-2 career advantage to this match. I keep hoping we will see Abi branch out more, but after all these tournaments of his trademark double arm attacks, I am guessing this is all we get.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – I know Hokutofuji’s fans were looking for some big numbers out of him this basho. Finally in the san’yaku, he can start to try and make the case that he is worthy of an Ozeki promotion. But to reach that goal, he would need to win 8 of his last 10 matches. A tall order for him at this rank. Fellow komusubi, Endo, seems to be fighting a bit better, and has a career advantage of 7-4 prior to today’s match.
Asanoyama vs Mitakeumi – Possibly the big match of the day, a pair of undefeated former yusho winners, only one of them will leave the dohyo with the kensho and the 6th win. While Mitakeumi has a narrow 3-2 career lead, it’s really anyone’s match. The sparks may fly!
Daieisho vs Shodai – If Shodai manages to win half of his remaining matches, he will be kachi-koshi at Sekiwake. This, I think, would be a big deal. To be honest, his sumo right now seems maybe a notch less intense than it was in January. Maybe it’s the lack of crowd at the venue, maybe its a confidence problem, but in spite of my knocks against him, I am hoping he can evolve and improve. He and Daieisho split their 6 prior matches.
Takakeisho vs Enho – I am now officially worried about Takakeisho. The lone surviving Ozeki, he is now struggling to best opponents that he has dominated for months. Are we looking at a re-injury to that pectoral muscle? He won his only prior match with Enho, but he is quite vulnerable to anyone with a hand on his mawashi.
Hakuho vs Yutakayama – Hakuho won their only 2 prior matches. Prior matches? Yes! This harkens back to the day when between Yutakayama and Asanoyama, “Big Unit” Yutakayama was the leader of the Freshmen cohort. I am sure Hakuho is going to completely crumple Yutakayama, but I hope that Yutakayama puts up a good fight.
Tokushoryu vs Kakuryu – Tokushoryu finishes his tour of the Yokozuna today, and I am going to guess this first ever match results in a 0-6 score for the Hatsu yusho winner. Sad, but predictable.