We come to the end of act 1 in fine and glorious order. Act 1, the first 5 days of the basho, is where we watch the rikishi break free of their ring-rust, and find out who is hot, and who is not. Act 1 has done a fine job of both, so let’s have a look:
Hakuho – He looks a bit tentative, but the dai-Yokozuna is back, and still the most formidable man on the dohyo.
Terunofuji – Hopefully the shimpan will agree, he continues to fight at Yokozuna levels, and is ripe to take the rope.
Tamawashi – He has one prior yusho, and from Maegashira 10, is really cleaning up.
Daieisho – A cold 0-4 start for the Hatsu yusho winner has us wondering if he’s hurt or just having a Maegashira 1 time of it
Takanosho – Unseated from his Sekiwake rank by a 5-10 score in May, he continues to suffer in July
Tochinoshin – This might be the sunset ride for the former Ozeki. His body seems completely spent.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Ichiyamamoto vs Tokushoryu – They have met only once before, with the win going to Ichiyamamoto in September of 2019. I think this basho, Tokushoryu is really fighting well, and his sheer bulk and surprising agility will be a tough mark for Ichiyamamoto. This match actually has some potential. Both are 3-1.
Tsurugisho vs Chiyonokuni – Another pair of 3-1 rikishi from the lower ranks, with Chiyonokuni having a distinct 3-1 career advantage over the much larger Tsurugisho. To my eye Chiyonokuni seems to have overcome his physical challenges that saw him sit out the May tournament, and ranked at M16, he’s going to do a lot of damage to the bottom edge of the banzuke.
Daiamami vs Ishiura – The scheduling team flip the pattern and match up the 1-3 crew now, with Ishiura having a clear 3-1 career advantage over Daiamami. I think back to that May 2018 kirikaeshi that Ishiura delivered to take the match on day 6, and hoping maybe we can see something like that again today.
Chiyonoo vs Kagayaki – After 4 straight make-koshi tournaments, I am starting to have hope that Kagayaki can arrest the slide and finally pull off 8 wins. With a 7-2 career advantage over Chiyonoo in his favor, maybe so? But the last time they met, Chiyonoo won – but that was 2017!
Ura vs Kotonowaka – First ever match for these two, and I hope that Ura has debugged whatever went haywire on day 4 and can fight with some kind of plan today. Kotonowaka is finally having a good basho start, after two straight bad starts leading to make-koshi.
[Kotonowaka 3-1] Shikona: 琴ノ若 | Heya: Sadogatake | Hometown: Chiba | Size: 188 cm 166 kg
Kaisei vs Chiyomaru – A battle of mega-fauna, it’s going to be bulk on bulk in a battle to see who gets to eat the last of the chanko today. They have a 4-4 career record, and they have traded wins every other basho. So it would seem that it’s Kaisei’s turn to win one.
Tochinoshin vs Terutsuyoshi – I am not sure if Tochinoshin is going to be able to score even a single win in July, and that would be a really sad mark for a remarkable rikishi who battled a crippling injury to return and rise to the rank of Ozeki. He has a 1-3 career record against Terutsuyoshi, but Terutsuyoshi is likewise struggling this basho, so maybe Tochinoshin can pick up his first white star today.
Tamawashi vs Aoiyama – Tamawashi seems to be completely comfortable in his sumo right now, and ranked all the way down at Maegashira 10, he’s lethal. He has a 14 match career history against Aoiyama, with a 6-8 deficit. But to me, I think Aoiyama is hurt, and only fighting at about 70% of his capabilities, so I give a clear advantage to Tamawashi.
Takarafuji vs Shimanoumi – The last 2 matches have seen Takarafuji get his sumo in order, and really work to start the match by shutting down his opponent’s offense. If he can keep that rolling, I think he’s a good candidate for a long overdue kachi-koshi. Both men start the day with 2-2 records.
Hidenoumi vs Chiyoshoma – Another match between 2-2 records, I really like how technical Chiyoshoma has become, and I would love to see him end the tournament with at least 8 wins. His record against Hidenoumi is 6-5, so it should be an even match today.
Myogiryu vs Hoshoryu – I credit Hoshoryu’s 3-1 score going into day 5 to some outstanding sumo instincts. It’s clear he has a large amount of natural talent, and has worked very hard to turn that into effective sumo. Myogiryu continues to struggle, and has 4 make-koshi out of the last 5 tournaments.
Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – Back to a pairing on the 3-1 theme, I like how Okinoumi is moving right now, and he is ranked low enough that he should be the favorite for most of his matches. I see this contest as Okinoumi at the lower end of his natural rank range against Kiribayama, who is toward the upper end of his current natural rank range. A great chance for Kiribayama to pick up experience.
Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – Both of those very competent rikishi are having bad starts to Nagoya. But I would say that Chiyotairyu may be doing slightly worse. Chiyotairyu seems to be resulting to a big opening blast followed by a pull, and everyone knows it, and has found a way to blunt that. Onosho seems to be having problems getting any real offense going, and has only a single win. Both men are 1-3.
Takanosho vs Kotoeko – Takanosho has more or less completed his tour of the named ranks, and can finally try to work his way toward 8 wins and try to begin the journey back to san’yaku. At 0-4, the biggest challenge will likely be damage to his fighting spirit. He and Kotoeko have a 2-2 career record.
Wakatakakage vs Daieisho – Daieisho has faced all the Ozeki, and Hakuho, so maybe he can start to start working toward 8. He needs to keep Wakatakakage away from his belt, and just open hard with the oshi attack and never let up off the throttle.
Endo vs Mitakeumi – Endo almost always opens with an attempt at a mawashi grab, and I think that Mitakeumi is a tough man to grab from the front, given his girth. So the sooner Endo gets into an oshi-fight or somehow gets to the side, the better his chances will be for a win. But it is somewhat unlikely, as Mitakeumi holds a 10-6 career advantage.
Takayasu vs Meisei – Takayasu seems to have come back from his 2 day kyujo in good condition, and he has certainly looked strong and stable against Ichinojo and Endo. Meisei is maybe a level of intensity lower than those two right now, so I think Takayasu has a fair chance at expanding his 3-2 career advantage.
Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Oh my, firstly Terunofuji has to be the fan favorite for this match, but Hokutofuji’s duel-mode sumo leaves this one in the “very unpredictable” territory. Terunofuji needs to find a way to limit Hokutofuji’s mobility, and a hearty double arm bar is the best bet for that.
Shodai vs Tobizaru – Perhaps the only rikishi more ridiculous than Shodai this July is Tobizaru. Tobizaru will bring speed an over-active lateral motion, and Shodai will bring bulk and power. So far Tobizaru has yet to defeat Shodai even once, and I don’t see that changing today.
Hakuho vs Ichinojo – I think this match is already lost for Ichinojo, as Hakuho seems to live rent free in the Boulder’s head. It’s seldom that you see Ichinojo put in much of a fight against Hakuho (12-3 advantage for Hakuho), and we may not see any sign of that today.