Welcome to the end of act 1 of the 2021 Hatsu basho! At Tachiai, we segment a basho into three 5 day periods we call “acts”. Act 1 is where we remove ring rust, see who is hot and who is not. This is the perfect time to see how things are turning out.
The Hot List (4-0)
- Daieisho – Solid upper Maegashira rikishi who has turned into a giant-killer with 3 Ozeki wins in 4 days.
- Meisei – Has always struggled at any rank over Maegashira 7, he finds himself looking strong and winning
- Akiseyama – Blubbery and ripped at the same time, this guy is all power and coming to put you on the clay
The Not List (0-4)
- Takakeisho – He looks hurt, and I worry he is just going to make it worse by continuing. Rope run to kadoban in a handful of days.
- Kotoshoho – Looks like someone gave him two left feet. Maybe it’s just a cold start, or maybe he’s injured.
- Hoshoryu – Known to have lower back problems, he served as a mattress for 200kg worth of Ichinojo on day 2, and that may be all it took.
With the ranks in the top division starting thin due to COVID and injuries, I am sure that some rikishi feel a sense of responsibility to give the fans quality sumo every day to enjoy. But stop kidding yourself, gents. Nobody wants to see you guys flounder and fail. If you are hurt, take your lumps and go kyujo. The March banzuke is already going to be a mess due to the forced heya-wide kyujo for some of the big stables, just chalk it up to poor timing.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Yutakayama vs Sadanoumi – A match that I have been waiting for since I figured out that Yutakayama was reasonably healthy. This will be a great contest between speed (Sadanoumi) and size (Yutakayama). They have split their 10 prior matches, so I am looking for some big effort from both, and a close contest. Great start to what could be a potent day.
Hidenoumi vs Midorifuji – Juryo visitor Hidenoumi draws Midorifuji for day 5, both coming in with 3-1 records. I think Midorifuji will be favored, in spite of a 2-1 career advantage for Hidenoumi. It will likely come down to if Hidenoumi can prevent Midorifuji from setting up a throw within the first few moments of the match.
Hoshoryu vs Akiseyama – Oh my, the scheduling team pick one from the hot list, and one from the not list. Too easy you say? Well, in their prior 3 matches, Akiseyama has no wins against Hoshoryu. This should be a fairly definitive test of just how hurt Hoshoryu’s back is.
Kotonowaka vs Terutsuyoshi – We have seen some solid sumo from Terutsuyoshi in act 1, but we have not seen any of his “crazy tiny power rikishi” routines, and I hope day 5 is when he unpacks them from the akeni and cranks it up to the next level.
Akua vs Kotoeko – Matching 1-3 records going into day 5 mean both of these men are more or less on a make-koshi path unless they rally. Their career record is 2-3 in favor of Kotoeko, but I think this will be a straight up brawl. Both of them are solid fighters, but having a really tough time getting started.
Shimanoumi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo is on a roll, and when a boulder is rolling, all you can do is get out of it’s way. Word to Shimanoumi – be careful.
Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – In spite of the size difference between these two, Myogiryu holds a slight (11-10) career advantage. The both come into today’s match at 2-2, so it’s going to be a good brawl. It may come down to Aoiyama keeping Myogiryu at optimum bludgeoning range.
Kiribayama vs Tobizaru – Well, Tobizaru seems to have almost nothing in his sumo bucket right now. So I am guessing even an injured (knee) Kiribayama and cut through his monkey shines and put him on the clay. Sure there will be plenty of Tobizaru motion and action, but it seems to lack much forward thrust this January.
Meisei vs Tokushoryu – Meisei needs to approach this match with a measure of caution. Tokushoryu only has a 2-2 record (with Meisei at 4-0), but for an enormous round fellow, he can be remarkably agile and slippery. I would love to see Meisei continue to shine at Hatsu, so keep your eye on last year’s Hatsu yusho winner.
Ryuden vs Okinoumi – I was happy to see Ryuden get a bit closer to being dialed into his sumo on day 4. But he’s going to go up against a fairly genki Okinoumi, who while not in his best form, seems to be fighting well. They have split all 8 prior matches.
Endo vs Kagayaki – This has a lot of potential, both of them are focused on solid sumo mechanics, and both of them seem to be quite specific about their match plans. I give a slight advantage to Endo, who seems to be fighting a bit better than Goth Mode Kagayaki this January.
Tamawashi vs Onosho – Onosho took his first loss on day 4, but I would like to see him resume his strong showing at Hatsu. Tamawashi is fighting well enough right now, and has shown some flashes of inspired sumo. Onosho has a 5-2 career lead.
Takayasu vs Daieisho – The 7-2 career advantage that Takayasu holds over Daieisho may not matter much, as Daieisho seem to be super genki right now. I am hoping that we can see him bring some really high quality oshi-zumo to the second half, and exit act 1 with a 5-0.
Mitakeumi vs Takanosho – Takanosho has been putting everything into each day’s match this Hatsu, where Mitakeumi seems to really only be engaged in his Ozeki matches. Is Takanosho at Sekiwake close enough?
Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Terunofuji had a strong start, but has dropped a match to Takayasu and Onosho. Like any rikishi, he is aiming for 8, and hes on a good course for that. But Terunofuji is really pushing for 10 or more, and to stoke his goal of returning to Ozeki. Hokutofuji needs to regroup after his day 3 face smash in his win over Takakeisho, which may have knocked him down a notch.
Takakeisho vs Kotoshoho – Both of these dismal wrecks are 0-4. Would a Takakeisho loss on day 5 convince the Grand Tadpole to go kyujo? If not, I am not sure what will.
Asanoyama vs Tochinoshin – Asanoyama can still recover and reach the safety of 8 wins, but his next opponent has shown surprising resiliency this basho. Will they both go for the belt, and will Tochinoshin have the knee power to shut down Asanoyama’s preferred attack?
Takarafuji vs Shodai – Mr. Defend and extend is going to take on Shodai, and out of their 14 prior matches, he’s only taken 11. When Takarafuji shuts down Shodai’s offense, its when things tend to get a little weird. I have not had a solid dose of cartoon sumo in a good long time, so maybe we can get that lovely gift in the last match of the day.