I am keenly anticipating the Asanoyama – Terunofuji match. Both men are 0-2, and are having a cold start to Aki, but for markedly different reasons. In the case of Terunofuji, he was probably over-promoted following his yusho. He is a remarkable Cinderella story, and deserves heaps of praise and credit for the hard work, the focus and the dedication to return to the top division. I think in many cases, he is struggling to elevate his sumo to a level needed to compete on peer terms with the joi-jin. I think if he can stay healthy, he will get there. But it is probably too soon.
For Asanoyama, he bought the hype. Sports news in Japan seems to have been handicapping him as the next big hope. When both Yokozuna announced kyujo for Aki, the pressure only increased for him to take this opportunity to begin his road to promotion. I fear he may have lost contact with what got him to Ozeki—his unabashed love for sumo. I am sure it will come back to him, and he will eventually come into his own.
What We Are Watching Day 3
Kyokutaisei vs Hoshoryu – These two have mixed it up in the past, twice in regular juryo matches, splitting them 1-1. Right now I think Kyokutaisei is on better mental footing, and when you have two rikishi who are so evenly matched, I think that gives him an edge.
Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Shohozan really needs a win now, and his 8-3 career record over Ichinojo may be his best shot to arrest the slide that began in January of this year. Of note, if Ichinojo is aggressive and on his sumo today, there are few forces in Tokyo that can stop him.
Meisei vs Shimanoumi – I really liked Shimanoumi’s day 2 sumo against Hoshoryu. I am aware that many sumo fans though there should have been a rematch, and perhaps there should have been. I think it will come down to Shimanoumi getting a hand inside and dampening Meisei’s oshi attack plan.
Kotoshoho vs Tobizaru – Great match to throw into day 3, a pair who are fresh faces having a hot start to the basho from the bottom third of the division. Tobizaru had been stuck in Juryo for a couple of years due to his hit-or-miss performance. His backers can only hope that he has worked that out and will continue to have good sumo this September. I am looking for Kotoshoho to try an early slap down if he catches Tobizaru too far forward.
Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku holds a 17-3 head-to-head career edge. But the former Ozeki looked hurt even before the end of his day 2 match, and in re-watching the bout, he did in fact seem to step out to end the fight. He had been competing without his normal tape load, so I am looking for his knees to be back under wraps for the remainder of Aki. The lighter, faster, stronger Chiyotairyu may be more that Kotoshogiku can handle on a Tuesday afternoon.
Kaisei vs Kotoeko – Both men are off to cold 0-2 starts for the tournament, and neither one has shown up with a lot of sumo offense yet. There is some 70 kg difference between the two, and I struggle to see how a less than genki Kotoeko will overcome Kaisei’s weight advantage.
Enho vs Sadanoumi – Can Enho get it together? He’s the only Miyagino rikishi actually competing in the top division, and he seems to have lost confidence in his sumo. He’s not slower, not less inventive and not less dangerous than he was earlier this year, but something has robbed him of his ability to attack. I think I speak for most of sumo fandom in hoping he can get his genki back.
Onosho vs Wakatakakage – First time meeting here, and if Wakatakakage wants to win this match, don’t remain in the same place for more than one moment. If Onosho can bracket you, he will pound you to the clay. Watch for him to unbalance, and strike.
Tokushoryu vs Aoiyama – A pair of heavies, they have a 4-5 career record, and I think it’s going to come down to whether Big Dan Aoiyama can get his V-Twin thrusting attack at optimum range. As long as Tokushoryu does not try to retreat in the face of that pounding, he can keep Aoiyama from using it to full effect.
Takayasu vs Kagayaki – Takayasu won their only prior match, and I am keen to see what a genki Takayasu is going to do with Kagayaki’s fundamentals-based sumo. Kagayaki still seems a bit rusty, and given the lack of degeiko, he may have a distinct disadvantage to Takayasu for this match (who trains with the relic of Kisenosato).
Ryuden vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji holds a clear 5-1 advantage over Ryuden, and both come into today with matching 1-1 records. I give an advantage to Takarafuji at the moment, as he seems to be more “into” his sumo than Ryuden in the early stage of this basho.
Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – A battle of hapless 0-2 rikishi. Something has put Yutakayama in a tailspin, and I cannot even guess what it is. But his sumo seems to lack focus and drive. I am going to guess that Yutakayama picks up loss #3 today, and Tochinoshin gets shonichi.
Kiribayama vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi has won both prior matches, and seems to have Kiribayama’s sumo dialed in. Both have matching 2-0 records, but to this fan’s eye, Kiribayama is fighting better right now. So I am going to be very interested to watch this match.
Okinoumi vs Tamawashi – Career match record of 11 and 11, these two big, high-skill vets are the embodiment of sumo survivors. At some point this tournament, Okinoumi will get his first win. My hunch is that today is his chance if he can get a hold of Tamwashi’s belt.
Takanosho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has a 2-0 record to start the day, and he continues to look hard and driven as he did in July. Takanosho has been training non-stop with Grand Tadpole Takakeisho, so I am guessing he knows how to fight a tadpole. Could be a highlight match for day 3.
Shodai vs Endo – So Endo dropped his day 2 bout with Myogiryu; will he be on his sumo for Shodai? It’s a “big” match, and Shodai is fairly easy to anticipate. That stand-up tachiai will give Endo a clear shot at a frontal grip that he prefers. This could be act one’s biggest chance to give Shodai a black star.
Daieisho vs Myogiryu – Daieisho has a 7-1 career advantage over Myogiryu, so I am expecting the Oitekaze man to seek revenge for Endo’s loss on day 2, and take Myogiryu’s beer money.
Hokutofuji vs Takakeisho – Is that the sound of thunder? Probably not; it may just be these two colliding at the tachiai. I expect someone to lose a tooth, or maybe a piece of their cranium. It will be a race to see whose hands connect with flesh first. The Ozeki holds a 10-5 career edge.
Asanoyama vs Terunofuji – Ah, Asanoyama. Have you lost sight of your love for sumo? The rank, the pressure… it was plain at the start that they were going to turn you to paste and force you through a cookie press to make some of Tamawashi’s magical treats. If you just give up what everyone else wants for you, and go back to the spot where you would mount the dohyo every day with a happy expression, just lost in the wonder of being in the top division, you will find your sumo again. Until then, I think the kaiju is going to give you a run around the dohyo. Terunofuji won their only prior match, which was on his yusho run in July.