I find myself unbelievably excited for the middle weekend of this basho. True, we don’t have a Yokozuna dominating the tournament, and forcing the Ozeki to elevate their sumo, but we have a broad, unruly mess at the front of what will soon become a yusho race, and for me that spells out competition and excitement. There are 6 capable rikishi who enter this middle weekend with 5-1 records, including two (Asanoyama and Terunofuji) with prior yusho experience. Following them are 10 rikishi with 4-2 records, who might come into play next week depending on how the one-loss crew fare this weekend. It’s going to be a bit of a brawl, and I am looking forward to the scheduling team working to narrow the field and form up the yusho race.
After having some early day worries, Ozeki Asanoyama seems to have found his sumo, and is starting to look like he’s going to be the man to take the lead at some point. Should that come to pass, I am looking forward to the day that Asanoyama faces Terunofuji, who continues to be a man on an almost biblical march to return to sumo’s second highest rank. We can be almost certain that it will be a power and strength match that may be the highlight of the March tournament.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Akua vs Daiamami – Akua is today’s Juryo visitor, and he’s hoping to pull in 8 and punch his card to return to the top division. He’s facing the last man on the banzuke for March, Daiamami. With only 2 wins going into the middle weekend, Daiamami’s got to be worried about his chances of finding 6 more over the remaining days.
Yutakayama vs Kaisei – Can we just send Yutakayama in for treatment now? I am not sure what’s hurting him, but his sumo has long since departed his body, and is probably off somewhere in a forest communing with sprits that protect Japan. I am looking for a pretty straightforward bag-n-tag from Kaisei, taking him a step closer toward a kachi-koshi.
Terutsuyoshi vs Hidenoumi – After being out of the top division for 3 years, I would dare say that Hidenoumi is putting everything he can into getting 8 wins and staying in Makuuchi. He faces Terutsuyoshi, who has won 3 of his last 4, and needs to overcome his day 4 “sack of taters” loss to Tsurugisho.
Chiyotairyu vs Tsurugisho – Both have 4 losses, and for Chiyotairyu, he seems to be missing about 20% of his “oomf” that makes his tachiai the center piece of his sumo. His opponent, Tsurugisho… I get worried each time he fights as I am half expecting his injured knee to burst like a painful, infected pimple.
Kotoeko vs Ryuden – Ryuden got his first competitive win on day 5, and it’s time to see if he can best Kotoeko’s excellent thrust to weight ratio sumo. When he’s dialed in, Ryuden has excellent balance, and enough mass to make it difficult for a smaller rikishi like Kotoeko to control the match.
Midorifuji vs Chiyoshoma – I am expecting some sharp sumo from Chiyoshoma, but I think it’s well past time for Midorifuji to upend a competitor with a hearty katasukashi. He has never used one against Chiyoshoma in prior matches, so maybe Midorifuji can get it done.
Aoiyama vs Hoshoryu – Although traditionally clad in blue, the “Green Giant” form of Aoiyama is a clear winner. Already destined to ride a fat Harley around Japan following his career on the dohyo, I would not be surprised to see him cozy up to an unnaturally large bean stalk somewhere in the wilds of Mt. Kasuga with an enormous goose for good measure.
Chiyonokuni vs Akiseyama – Sure, Akiseyama presents himself as an unwieldy mountain of flab. But as soon as the match starts, you can see his rather impressive physique that ripples under that unsightly armor of adipose tissue. Of course Chiyonokuni could care less about this, as he intends to beat Akiseyama like a drum and stay in the leader group. He holds a career advantage of 6-2 over Akiseyama, winning 4 of the last 5 matches.
Tobizaru vs Ichinojo – I am very happy that Tobizaru seems to be back in good form following a disappointing January. I am equally elated that Ichinojo continues to fight well. But I think that all Ichinojo has to do today is plant his feet and laugh at the flying monkey. With an almost 90 kg difference, there are few things that Tobizaru can do to move “the Boulder” as long as Ichinojo is not in motion already.
Tamawashi vs Kotonowaka – A first time match, but I am looking for Tamawashi to dominate this one. Although just a fraction of his former power, I think it will be enough to exploit the 20 kg mass advantage that Tamawashi enjoys.
Kagayaki vs Okinoumi – Will these two mount the dohyo and try to out-fundamental each other? Will they channel the ancient spirits of Nomi no Sukune and Taima no Kuehaya? With the divine spirit of Emperor Suinin come to officiate? Sure, why not. To help this happen, I am going to be into my 3rd glass of sake by now.
Endo vs Tochinoshin – Ah, Endo. What injury plagues you and keeps you from fighting at full power? I wonder if Tochinoshin’s recently acquired and mostly improvised right-hand dominant sumo will be enough to overwhelm a clearly damaged sumo wonder-boy and national heart-throb.
Myogiryu vs Wakatakakage – Sure, Myogiryu took his first loss on day 4, but he’s still cranked up to high power. Although he and Wakatakakage have split their 2 prior matches, I don’t think that the leading Onami brother will have the power to take down Myogiryu today.
Hokutofuji vs Onosho – Ol’Stompy Hokutofuji really gave some Ozeki a rough run. But this is just the kind of match that Hokutofuji tends to lose. Now Onosho holds a 6-4 career advantage over Hokutofuji, but he has shown poor balance and foot placement this March, and may not be up to the job of taking Hokutofuji down a notch.
Takayasu vs Takarafuji – I think long suffering Takayasu fans may need to brace themselves for the unexpected notion that he may, just maybe, do well this tournament. It’s been a long and rocky path for us fans of the hairy beast, but I am starting to have hope that he has his body and his sumo aligned and may be on a route to a good basho. Takarafuji has been fighting well, but losing lots, and Takayasu holds an 18-9 career advantage.
Daieisho vs Takanosho – I am sure Daieisho is really ready for Haru to end, or for his sumo fortunes to change. Of course, after winning the Hatsu yusho, there was a lot of attention, interviews and the like. Maybe it was enough of a distraction to dent his preparation for March. But he is now at 1-5, and he’s up against Mr Consistency, Takanosho the human onigiri. I expect Takanosho will win this one.
Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is too large and struggly for Terunofuji to sky-crane him out like he did to Kiribayama on day 5. Fortunately for our kaiju, Mitakeumi is close to nature’s perfect shape – the sphere! I therefor call upon Terunofuji to roll him down the hanamichi, with extra points awarded if he can get him past that illuminated “Exit” sign.
Takakeisho vs Meisei – Meisei has yet to take a match from Takakeisho, ever. With kadoban on the line, I am looking for the Grand Tadpole to toss Meisei like a pizza crust and heave him over the bales with a jaunty shove in the middle of his sternum.
Kiribayama vs Asanoyama – This should be a “milk run” for Asanoyama, an obligatory battle that will serve to help run up the score while he works toward the big matches in week 2. Kiribayama is struggling at Maegashira 4, and he may not quite be ready to fall in with the mainstays of the joi-jin.
Shodai vs Shimanoumi – Shodai. if you lose this one, I am going to expect you to be kyujo before Monday sunrise, and kadoban for May. Is it injury, a reversion to a bad, old form, or just some kind of bad luck? Whatever it is, the last thing sumo needs right now is another kadoban Ozeki.