We head into the middle weekend of this Tokyo July basho, and I have to say I am completely thrilled by the fact we are already down to three 6-0 rikishi, each of which has prior yusho experience, and each of which could reasonably take the cup. Of course if you have Hakuho 6-0 on day 7, he has to be the favorite to win it. With Kakuryu out of the tournament, the final match of the basho will likely be against Takakeisho, which given his kadoban status might just decide if he can keep his rank. Let’s hope it does not come to that.
Close behind is a whole crew at 5 wins, and they represent some great contenders. I not with some joy that Terunofuji is hanging tough, 1 loss behind the leaders. But Shodai? Shodai! He looks like he has decided that the Ozeki promotion lanes are still open, and he is going to push Mitakeumi out of the way and take the next slot. Frankly given his sumo thus far, it’s not out of the question that by the end of the year he could get himself in position to begin a try for 33. While many think I hate the guy, it was only disappointment that he seemed at times to lose focus, get sloppy and let sumo happen rather than dominating his matches. I know he has come under Kakuryu’s tutelage, and I think perhaps that may be helping him.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Kyokushuho vs Chiyomaru – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho comes up to have his with with winless Chiyomaru. The “round one” has been having a terrible start to the basho, and it would be a real shame for him to exit Sunday already make-koshi. I hope he can find a reserve of Genki and make a stand. Sadly Kyokushuho holds a 9-4 career advantage over the man in green.
Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage won their only prior match, but right now Terunofuji seems to be focused, hard and driven. His body is nothing like it was on his first debut into the top division, but I see the same intensity and mental toughness that he can bring to sumo when he tries. The worry is that he might lose his fighting spirit, and get discouraged. Stay strong Kaiju!
Kotoshogiku vs Nishikigi – Kotoshogiku is fighting well so far, but his body sometimes starts to give him pain and worry in the second week. Drawbacks of being old and getting into fights for a living. The rapid attack chest to chest sumo from Kotoshogiku does play well into Nishikigi’s preferred attack plan, and I think this has the makings of a very good match.
Sadanoumi vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki managed to lose his sumo somewhere about 3 weeks ago, and he has had his tsukebito out looking high and low for it. Its easy to spot, as it looks like an adorable stuffed penguin, but smells of curry. If you see it, please do let someone know, as I am sure he is eager to have it back. Until then, he’s little more than geiko ballast for the opponent of the day, And that’s speed fighter Sadanoumi on day 7.
Kotoeko vs Tochinoshin – I had to check a few times, but yes – first time match between these two! Color me happy that Tochinoshin is well ahead of kachi-koshi right now, and we are far enough into the basho that I can say the extended break seems to have helped that damaged knee repair at least some. Fans of the man who has the strength of a bear, which has the strength of two bears are rejoicing.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoshoho – Is Kotoshoho just having a great first top division basho? Or is he some kind of next-generation steamroller that is crushing everything he can? Of course we will need to wait for the fall to find out more, but he certainly seems to be loading up one of the much lauded double-digit debuts served with a sansho garnish. Shimanoumi has looked completely discombobulated this tournament. I think it’s beyond what I would refer to as “ring rust”
Takayasu vs Myogiryu – This match is, to me, the one to watch in the first half. You have former Ozeki Takayasu who is still struggling to execute his sumo up against another veteran in Myogiryu who seems to be on a bit of a hot streak. Myogiryu holds a 12-9 career advantage, but Takayasu seems highly motivated, and just healthy enough to put some effort into his sumo. But I have notice that every single opponent throws some kind of attack against that injured left elbow. I know its part of the sport, but come on!
Kaisei vs Kotonowaka – Kaisei is only 2-4, but rather than his lumbering and lethargic self, he has put some effort, movement and power into his sumo this tournament. It would make me very happy for him to find a road to 8 wins and leave this odd July basho with a kachi-koshi. His career record with Kotonowaka is 1-1, and I am looking for speed and mobility to have problems with Kaisei’s Newtonian sumo.
Shohozan vs Ikioi – A pair of grizzle veterans who somehow get onto the dohyo every day and fight it out. What keeps them going? Aside from the gallons of chanko, vast oceans of beer and grim determination? I am going to guess their love of sumo. So keep in mind, what you see today on the dohyo between these two today, it’s an expression of love.
Chiyotairyu vs Tokushoryu – What would it look like if two camper trailers suddenly decided to do battle? What if you hooked one to a piece of earth moving equipment and another to a Tesla model S? Chiyotairyu has shown some of his better sumo early on, but like Tokushoryu has managed no better than a 3-3 record. Chiyotairyu holds a distinct 7-4 advantage in the series.
Ishiura vs Ryuden – A battle of disappointing sumo, both of these long serving top divisions mainstays is having a crummy start to this tournament. I would like to think that Ishiura could have continued his good sumo from March, but I would count him (heck, Ryuden too) as a rikishi who is hampered by lack of adequate prep before the basho. With any luck the sumo kyokai will take this into account leading up to Aki, and make sure that the kanban rikishi have ample opportunity to hone their sumo prior to shonichi in September.
Enho vs Tamawashi – Enho has twice gotten knocked back into a squat that was a prelude to a loss, and frankly he is not really doing much in the way of good sumo right now. This is his first match against master basher Tamawashi, who appears to have enjoyed a great many of his baking projects during the government mandated isolation period. This is their first ever match, and I am just hoping Enho comes through uninjured.
Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – Both of these rikishi are struggling as well. From Maegashira 5, I expected Hokutofuji to dominate most of his matches, and re-assert his position in the joi-jin for September. But I now have my doubts, as he seems to lack the fire, the blistering tachiai and the “oh my god” crazy offense that has been the hallmark of his sumo. Hokutofuji won their only prior match, so maybe he can end the day at 5-2.
Takanosho vs Onosho – Tachiai readers know I am a fan of the red tadpole, Onosho. But right now he is not just battling Takanosho, his fighting spirit is all but extinguished. I try to keep in mind that Onosho tends to suffer from ring rust, and tends to be very streaky. I would be delighted if he could turn things around from a 0-6 start. But more likely, Takanosho will catch him too far forward over his toes and put his face in the clay.
Endo vs Yutakayama – Also in the screaming “WTF” category is the original head of the Freshmen, Yutakayama, who has a stinging 0-6 start. If its any consolation, he is facing Endo who is almost as big a mess as “big unit”, Yutakayama, whom I fear is in for a day 8 make-koshi.
Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Although he is only at 3-3, I have been delightfully surprised by the quality and intensity of Okinoumi’s sumo this July. In this all Komusubi battle, its advantage Okinoumi as his sumo looks better this tournament than Daieisho’s and he holds a 10-5 career advantage.
Abi vs Mitakeumi – I want to see Mitakeumi continue to just dominate every match this tournament. He came out the winner in the mock Natsu basho in May, and he looks sharp, strong and focused right now. Abi is holding on to a middle of the road 3-3 record now, but is hardly looking a likely candidate for a kachi-koshi. I am hoping for at least 10 wins for original tadpole.
Shodai vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama will try to stand Shodai up, and slap him down. I am looking for Shodai to uncork some cartoon sumo similar to his day 6 looney toon ballet against Endo. Will Big Dan’s V-Twin be enough to overcome whatever Shodai comes up with at the last minute?
Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Come on, you are pulling for an Asanoyama yusho. You know you want one. First of a matching pair needed for a new rope to be woven in September? Yeah, too soon with the Boss still owning the dohyo and dispatching all challengers. But that day may yet come. I expect him to try to limit Takarafuji’s effort to extend the match. He holds a 6-1 career advantage.
Takakeisho vs Kagayaki – The kadoban Ozeki, Takakeisho the grand tadpole, is not looking genki, much as what happened in the May basho simulation. Kiribayama really took control of the day 6 match, and left the senior Ozeki powerless to do much but lose. Kagayaki has a 4-1 career advantage over Takakeisho, and I think the low, deliberate and fundamentals driven sumo may disrupt any thrusting offense that Takakeisho may try to muster today. Please, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, don’t let it come down to a 7-7 day 15 battle against Hakuho….
Hakuho vs Kiribayama – Hey, Kiribayama! Welcome to the big leagues. Please enjoy your flying lesson. The clay facial is a free perk of a match against Hakuho.