It’s a week to go before the official rankings chart for the January basho drops on Christmas Eve! Time to take a guess at what the new banzuke will look like. Remember, the point here is not to argue what the rankings should be, or what is and isn’t fair, but rather to try to anticipate the thinking of the shimpan department that makes the decisions.
At the top of the banzuke, we will once again have East Yokozuna Hakuho and West Yokozuna Kakuryu for at least one more tournament. This will be a record-extending 55th appearance by Hakuho at the highest rank. They’ll be followed by East Ozeki Takakeisho, West Ozeki Shodai, and East Ozeki 2 Asanoyama.
At the third rank of Sekiwake, I am predicting that the West side incumbent, Takanosho, will stay at his rank after his 8-7 performance, while November runner-up East Komusubi Terunofuji, who went 13-2, will leapfrog him to occupy the more prestigious East side. This could easily go the other way, and there are not many precedents that meet the conditions of a demoted East Sekiwake, a West Sekiwake with a modest kochi-koshi record, and a Komusubi with a high win total. I am going with the most recent example I could find, Hatsu 2003, when Takanowaka jumped ahead of Kotomitsuki following their 11-4 and 8-7 performances at West Komusubi and West Sekiwake, respectively.
The big wildcard for this banzuke is the 4th rank of Komusubi. There’s no question that West Komusubi Takayasu will keep his rank after his 8-7 performance, and little doubt that he should occupy the top East slot. East Sekiwake Mitakeumi, 7-8, should drop no lower than Komusubi according to recent precedent (and we do have many examples to draw on here). And Daieisho (M2w, 10-5) and Hokutofuji (M4e, 11-4) put up the kinds of performances that would be rewarded with a san’yaku rank on almost any banzuke. However, unlike the most recent instance a little over a year ago in which extra Komusubi ranks were created, the banzuke committee’s hand isn’t forced, and I’m going to predict that they will choose the conventional path of dropping Mitakeumi to K1w and leaving the two high-performing upper maegashira under-ranked at M1.
Here’s the full prediction for the maegashira ranks. Note that should my Komusubi prediction prove wrong, it isn’t simply a matter of sliding everyone up one rank, as (for example) my M2 choices cannot occupy the corresponding M1 ranks instead, as that would mean promotion after a losing record.