Lower Division Yusho Races
Yesterday, we saw Wakakaneko’s narrow escape as he kept his Jonokuchi title hopes alive. Today, he will face Etsunohana, a journeyman grappler who’s cracked into Makushita and has spent the past two tournaments kyujo. Etsunohana’s experience and talent will be a real test and the bout should be a treat to cap off the fun in Jonokuchi.
Jonidan has a further five Darwin bouts for the large group of men with yusho hopes. Of those, I’m paying close attention to Kenho as he faces Shoryudo. Kenho’s pusher-thruster skills should carry the day. He should get a real boost up the banzuke after this tournament. We’re also watching Hagiwara as he faces Yurikiri. If Hagiwara can maintain solid footwork and avoid falling for hatakikomi, he should prevail, particularly if he can force a grapple.
Up in Sandanme, Takeoka will take on the hilariously named, Imafuku. I expect a quick brawl with Takeoka prevailing, particularly if Imafuku gets caught too far forward. I’m on the lookout in the Kotonoumi and Taiyo battle for the same thing but Kotonoumi has to be the favorite. But the bout to watch is Hokuseiho versus Kaizen as Hokuseiho continues his impressive run.
In Makushita, all eyes will be on the Roga/Naya bout. It’s an interesting contrast of styles here with Roga preferring the belt and Naya preferring a brawl. Naya’s best chance will be to keep Roga away. If Roga gets inside, Naya will likely lose.
Juryo’s yusho race is crazy with nineteen wrestlers in striking distance at this early stage. Azumaryu, a former maegashira, will face another former maegashira in Daishomaru. While Ura will take on Makushita visitor Shiraishi, Herouth’s favorite Chiyonoumi will battle Hakuyozan. Jokoryu vs Tsurugisho and Midorifuji is paired off against Nishikigi. I hope Jokoryu will distinguish himself early this week and run the table. It would be a treat to finally see him back in Makuuchi. Speaking of…
What We’re Watching in Makuuchi
Akiseyama vs Akua: Akiseyama is having a great tournament and is well on his way to kachi-koshi. If he can pick up three more wins this week, he’ll be a lock for promotion into makuuchi. Standing in his way is Akua, fresh off his dominating win over Enho and back on track to preserving his own rank after a rough start. If Akua’s gaining confidence in his grappling skills, Akiseyama will be eager to test. This is a close call but I’d give the edge to Akua based on the confidence from his recent run of three wins in the top division and the fact that despite his preference for pushing-thrusting, he wins by yorikiri three times as often as he loses to it.
Hoshoryu vs Kotonowaka: Hoshoryu has not been able to solve Kotonowaka in their previous two bouts and I think Kotonowaka will keep the streak alive. I think he’ll try hard to keep Hoshoryu off his belt, but even if Hoshoryu gets inside, the Sadogatake man is rightfully confident on the belt.
Ichinojo vs Kaisei: Both giants will be motivated to win today since they’re both rather low on the banzuke and have quite a bit of work to do to come close to a kachi-koshi, never mind actually achieve a winning record. Ichinojo’s got the edge here, though, as Ricardo has found Ichinojo a difficult puzzle to solve. Expect a lot of leaning.
Yutakayama vs Shimanoumi: Shimanoumi’s apparently got banzuke position on his side, as well as the lackluster recent performances from Yutakayama. Shimanoumi’s also a confident oshi-master but if he really wants to freak out Yutakayama, he should go for the belt.
Sadanoumi vs Chiyotairyu: Sadanoumi needs to turn things around fast and Chiyotairyu’s been strong but beatable. I expect Sadanoumi to pull off the win by disrupting Chiyotairyu’s thrusts.
Tokushoryu vs Chiyonokuni: Chiyonokuni will do his best to keep Tokushoryu away from his belt. The Hatakikomi artist will have a difficult time with Tokushoryu but persistence should pay off, unless he gets careless again.
Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi: I really want to see a double henka.
Aoiyama vs Enho: Aoiyama’s tsuppari was very effective today and if engaged tonight, he should blast poor Enho into the nearest shimpan. If I were wearing a black hakama, I’d crouch or sit seiza and be ready.
Meisei vs Endo: This could be a great yotsu battle between two specialists. Or, Meisei could do his homework and realize his chances are better against Endo if he keeps him running and away from his mawashi. In matches decided by oshidashi, Meisei wins at a 2:1 clip. Either way, it should be a fun match.
Tochinoshin vs Ryuden: Tochinoshin’s been finding ways to win lately that don’t involve a belt. This will be particularly useful against Puff the Twerking Dragon.
Kotoeko vs Tamawashi: This should be a fun brawl. I’ll give Tamawashi a slight edge here but will be happy with an outcome that doesn’t involve kotenage.
Takarafuji vs Okinoumi: Takarafuji is off to his best start in four years. I’d love to keep this going but he’ll face a big challenge in Okinoumi. The pair have quite the rivalry with Uncle Takara carrying a slight 2 win edge in 22 meetings. Let’s keep it going! Stay in the hunt!
Kagayaki vs Hokutofuji: Well, I don’t do well predicting these two. I do predict an oshi battle with Kagayaki being a bit more calm and Hokutofuji having had a few too many cups of coffee. Slow and steady wins the race, right? So Kagayaki should squeak out a close one, despite being behind in their head-to-head.
Daieisho vs Wakatakakage: Wakatakakage needs to turn things on if he wants to remain in the joi. But Daieisho shocked the world and sure impressed me the way he did not panic when faced with an angry Kaiju. Daieish-oshi will bounce Wakatakatakakakakage as revenge for testing our patience with the tongue-twister.
Kiribayama vs Onosho: Sad face Emoji. Anyway I slice it, I’ll still have a sad face emoji at the end of this bout but I think Kiribayama will join Enho as makekoshi.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu: Sometimes it feels like Terunofuji’s losses come in clusters. I don’t think it will happen this time, though. He’s wiser than before and driven to be Ozeki again. Wait, which one am I talking about? Yes, they’re both driven to come back but I have to give the edge to Kaiju.
Kotoshoho vs Takanosho: Kotoshoho will deploy hatakikomi as a weapon against Takanosho, who’s rather susceptible to the tactic. It should be a fun fight!
Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu: Mitakeumi fought well against Tobizaru yesterday and I think the momentum will continue. Myogiryu, on the other hand, gets a bit down-in-the-dumps like Endo. I hope he can turn it around but against Mitakeumi that’s a tall order.
Takakeisho vs Tobizaru: Takakeisho will bounce Tobizaru and will be Yokozuna by March.