The last thing this tournament needed was for Hokutofuji to start bleeding all over the place in the musubi-no-ichiban. The scent, and now presence of blood/chum will bring more piranha out to play. As we close out the first third of the tournament, Act 1 as Bruce calls it, it’s quite possible no one will be left with an unblemished record. Only two remain undefeated, Terunofuji and Myogiryu and both had scares in the form of very entertaining bouts with Meisei and Tamawashi, respectively. As we move into Act 2, the ring rust better be well and knocked-off as we head into the meat of the campaign.
What we’re watching:
Kaisei vs Daiamami: Kaisei has been pushing his weight around the ring pretty effectively this tournament which is good news as we have seen several makuuchi regulars with a decided downward trajectory of late. Surely, a mere kachi-koshi record will not be enough for the former Sekiwake so I believe he’ll pull out all the stops against Daiamami. Daiamami has yet to establish himself in makuuchi, peaking at M11 back in 2018. Kaisei owns their short head-to-head rivalry, 3-1.
Chiyomaru vs Tsurugisho: Chiyomaru visits from Juryo while Tsurugisho needs to turn his ship around if he wants to avoid heading back. Tsurugisho, along with Daiamami form a new wave of Oitekaze sekitori in Makuuchi. Tsurugisho seems more likely to take it to the next level and establish himself alongside Tobizaru, Endo, and Daieisho as solid maegashira. Meanwhile, Chiyomaru has taken a great first step back to the division but will need to keep the wins coming to make it official.
Kotoeko vs Hidenoumi: Kotoeko’s strong start is at risk against Hidenoumi. The difference between a 4-1 start and 3-2 seems more significant than just a win.
Terutsuyoshi vs Yutakayama: Case in point, the mirror situation of Terutsuyoshi’s 2-2 start seems worlds away from Yutakayama’s 1-3. Yutakayama has yet to get into his groove. Yesterday’s loss to Daishomaru demonstrated little maneuverability or power as he was driven back and hog-tied into submission by yesterday’s Juryo visitor. Despite the size advantage, Terutsuyoshi should win this handily.
Akiseyama vs Chiyoshoma: The henka is coming. We know it. Akiseyama has been having a good basho and I need a reason to break out my new nickname: Chiyosho-mua-ha-ha. Am I the only one who imagines Chiyoshoma as Snidely Whiplash?
Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama: As we climb up the banzuke, the matchups only get better. This bout should be a barn-stormer. The two giant pusher-thrusters should make for quite the barroom brawl. I’ve got my popcorn ready.
Chiyonokuni vs Ryuden: Ryuden has seemed hapless of late. He has had one kachi-koshi since this whole Covid business started, back in November. At that tournament, though, he jumped out to a 9-2 record before cooling off. His lone win comes from Kotoshoho’s kyujo. Meanwhile, Chiyonokuni has come off Covid-kyujo looking fresh. It’s great to see him back, ready to re-establish himself in the division after his injury recovery dropped him back into the Abi-reaches of Makushita.
Midorifuji vs Tobizaru: This is where the fireworks are scheduled to really begin. Tobizaru will want to avoid the katasukashi but he’s yet to find a solution for Midorifuji. Shimpan, beware! I’m expecting a kitchen sink thrown here.
Kotonowaka vs Hoshoryu: Kotonowaka is heyagashira for the storied Sadogatake-beya. He will face a very frustrated but agile and beguiling Hoshoryu. Have a nice trip!
Tamawashi vs Kagayaki: Tamawashi battled with a lot of skill and enthusiasm in his loss against Myogiryu. I expect Kagayaki to be greeted as if he were back in the joi and sent packing under heavy fire.
Tochinoshin vs Okinoumi: Was I the only one very pleased to see Tochinoshin’s skillful throw yesterday? As yorikiri begin to be deployed against him rather than by him, I hope he will deploy more tools other than henka.
Ichinojo vs Myogiryu: Ichinojo quit when he was still 6 feet from the edge. (If a Creed song did not just involuntarily pop into your head, I did not do my job and will need to Knock a Little Harder.) Myogiryu will put everything he’s got into this match and he won’t quit.
Endo vs Shimanoumi: Endo’s not kyujo yet. If he loses today, kyujo may be eminent for that calf injury. Shimanoumi is not enjoying the fruits of his recent strong performances, only picking up one win so far. Interestingly, these two have met twice. The first time was way back in 2013 during Endo’s inaugural tournament, the other in 2019. Shimanoumi has clearly improved while Endo is injured. This could be Shimanoumi’s chance to turn that frown upside-down.
Takayasu vs Kiribayama: What else is there to say about Takayasu’s Houdini act yesterday? It was great to hear the insight from Morita Hiroshi last night that his former Oyakata instilled within him the idea that matches are won on the edge. That work produced a win that I will remember for a long time. Kiribayama will have his work cut out as Takayasu is about to make a charge. Takayasu may need to force a Sekiwake slot if Terunofuji comes up just shy in his quest.
Daieisho vs Mitakeumi: At this point, Daieisho will be desperate to rid himself of the bagel while Mitakeumi’s loss reminds us of his streaky tendencies, hot then cold. Mitakeumi has a slight edge, 8-6, in their head-to-head. I expect both to bring their best and this could be a surprising match of the day.
Takarafuji vs Takanosho: If Takarafuji had hoped to bring himself back into sanyaku, he’s left with a lot of work to do. It will be hard to turn things around against Takanosho. He has the experience but seems a bit listless after his losses. I think Onigiri-kun gets the nod today.
Terunofuji vs Onosho: Kaiju fought back and powered through a very strong Meisei last night. That had to take a lot out of him to turn around and get back out there today. Onosho, meanwhile, has been a bit more disappointing than Mitakeumi of late in that he’s been forgotten and excluded from most conversations about rikishi who could take the next step during this time of flux. Just the formula for an upset.
Shodai vs Wakatakakage: Shodai suffered a humiliating loss against Hokutofuji yesterday. He’s likely out of any yusho contention, fighting to ensure he doesn’t go kadoban again. That’s not much of a goal. Aside from his win over Takakeisho, Wakatakakage has not been able to get things going in the joi. Shodai should be able to pull this off.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji: I’m going with Hokutofuji on this one. He’ll pick up yet another Ozeki scalp and go 7-8 for the tournament. Come on T-Rex! Get out there and fight like you want to be Yokozuna! There wasn’t much wave action there yesterday, luckily it wasn’t really needed.
Meisei vs Asanoyama: Asanoyama won yesterday, but not with good sumo. Meisei lost yesterday despite demonstrating excellent power sumo. With a fat stack of kensho on the line, Meisei will try to put aside the soreness and bitterness from yesterday’s disappointment and pull off the upset. Then again, this could be the first day of the tournament when all three Ozeki win. Yeah, right.