Whew. We made it. Nakabi…the sumo equivalent of hump day. But without Kotoshogiku, it just won’t be the same. Our fearsome leaders, Ozeki Takakeisho and former the Ozeki, Terunofuji, are tearing up the competition with seven straight wins. Unfortunately, neither are on my Kachi-Koshi bingo card. Nevertheless, I hope a lot of y’all will pick up your first checkmarks tonight.
Three maegashira are in the hunt if either stumbles, led by Uncle Takarafuji. I know Aminishiki was Uncle Sumo but I swear, Takarafuji looks like my Uncle. Chiyonokuni is also having a great time in his first tournament back in Makuuchi. Shimanoumi was starting to give me concerns about another makujiri yusho and he stays in the chase but this week will get more difficult for him if his success continues unabated.
Lower Division Yusho Races
If you enjoy the early matches, there are some real treats tonight. The lower division yusho races will tighten as some of the part-timers go for their fourth wins and kachi-koshi, Darwin-style. In Jonokuchi there’s one such bout between Wakakaneko, a young rookie from Kochi-ken, and Adachi, a Jonidan regular. There are five such 3-0 matches in Jonidan, one of which features Naruto-beya rookie Ofukasawa versus Kasugano’s Tochinoshima. And a little further up in Sandanme, Oguruma’s Takeoka will face seasoned vet Chiyotenfu. Taiyo is one of Takeoka’s maezumo classmates and will feature in his own bout with Daihisho, a promising young grappler from Oitekaze stable.
The big bout may well be Hakuho’s prospect, the undefeated Hokuseiho versus Nihonyanagi. The two-meter tall Hokuseiho already has two consecutive zensho yusho under his belt and is working on his third. He’s honing his yotsu- chops but Nihonyanagi is a pretty good pusher-thruster. Will he be able to keep the young giant off his belt?
Of the five 3-0 bouts in Makushita, Roga will hope to reinvigorate his hopes of making it into Juryo. Like Hokuseiho, he started his sumo career with two consecutive lower division yusho before his winning pace slowed. After a few setbacks earlier this year, he did quite well in September. He will face Nakazono from Nishonoseki. Both men favor yotsu-zumo so this will be a great match.
Juryo, as usual, is setting up to be a barnstormer. Six men with five wins and another eleven men are one loss off pace, including Ura. His bout with Chiyootori will certainly be a great one to watch as both – and Jokoryu – are solid makuuchi wrestlers who suffered through serious injury.
What We Are Watching In Makuuchi
Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru: Chiyomaru visits from Juryo today. Two avid pusher-thrusters means there will be some fireworks. Expect a brawl, especially since both are fighting well and are fiercely motivated. Shimanoumi, from his position on the last rung of the makuuchi ladder, is fighting to stay out of Juryo while Chiyomaru will want to come back.
Hoshoryu vs Ichinojo: These two grapplers should be performing better if there weren’t the rumored injury problems. Hoshoryu still has the speed and is the favorite in this match up.
Yutakayama vs Kotonowaka: I’m leaning toward Kotonowaka in this bout. Yutakayama is an oshi-tsuki wrestler while Kotonowaka prefers the belt…but Kotonowaka is no slouch when it comes to pushing and thrusting. I presume Yutakayama’s injury from last tournament is still nagging him.
Chiyoshoma vs Kaisei: Henka
Akua vs Enho: Enho doesn’t seem to just be lacking confidence and hiding injury. He also seems to be desperate. His desperation is leading him to take risks when I wish he would slow down and think things through. He should be able to beat Akua because I don’t think Akua has been exposed to these pixies.
Ryuden vs Chiyotairyu: The Twerker or the Bowling Ball? I think Ryuden will get inside Sumo Elvis’ head. While living rent-free upstairs, he’ll establish a solid belt grip and roll the bowling ball off the dohyo.
Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi: Big Dan’s V twin appears to be in the shop for repairs. Sadanoumi’s not been having a stellar tournament but unless Aoiyama can get his engine off concrete blocks, Sadanoumi’s yotsu should be favored here.
Tochinoshin vs Meisei: Tochinoshin will pull here and Meisei will fall to hatakikomi. It won’t be a henka, but critics of the Georgian’s recent tactics will not be happy.
Chiyonokuni vs Endo: The standard thinking here would be if Endo gets the belt, it’s over. However, Chiyonokuni is fired up and won’t let Endo anywhere near it.
Takarafuji vs Kotoeko: I’m going with lavender here. Kotoeko is steadily improving and is pretty versatile on the belt AND in a brawl. I don’t think he’ll let Takarafuji inside and Uncle Takara will fall a bit further off pace.
Tokushoryu vs Tamawashi: Even without that fearsome kotenage, Tamawashi’s thrusting attack is quite the challenge. Of these yusho winners, I’d have to give the nod to Tamawashi. He won’t let Tokushoryu in the same zipcode as his mawashi.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoshoho: This will be a very interesting oshi battle. These two have faced off once before, with Terutsuyoshi taking the win. He’s got a serious weakness in his susceptibility to fall for hatakikomi and Kotoshoho knows how effective those pulls can be. Will he time it right tonight?
Kagayaki vs Okinoumi: Kagayaki’s not having a bad run in the joi. Okinoumi has been quite the yo-yo, capable of securing a position in sanyaku only to have poor runs like he had in September. With two straight losses, I’ve got a feeling Okinoumi’s on another schnide. Kagayaki wins by oshidashi.
Kiribayama vs Wakatakakage: Personally, I’d like both of these wrestlers to use a win today as a turning point and start the next week on a positive note. Sometimes it seems stressors at home affect performance at work. I think Wakatakakage will keep Kiribayama distracted and unable to secure a grip.
Terunofuji vs Daieisho: BEAST-O MOD-O!
Onosho vs Takayasu: Takayasu’s still in the hunt! I swear! And he’ll pick up an easy win off this whipper-snapper. Takayasu knows how to wield hatakikomi as an effective weapon but he’s got his own problems getting pushed around.
Mitakeumi vs Tobizaru: A first time meeting between Mitakeumi and Tobizaru. Mitakeumi is the dark horse in this tournament, yet to face either Terunofuji or Takakeisho and he will have designs on winning both of those meetings. If he wants to pick up a third yusho or get off to another Ozeki run, he’s going to need this win. With solid footwork and a calm pace, he should have no problems sending the flying monkey, well, flying.
Myogiryu vs Takanosho: I expect a brawl here, with youth winning over experience. Takanosho has been doing well of late and I think it’s about time I start taking him seriously.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji: People whine at me about spoilers but Hokutofuji revels in BEING a spoiler. He’s got the ability to beat all the top players but lacks the consistency to get him to the next level. I gotta say, this will be one heck of an upset and one heck of a payday for the man in grey.