With day 2 set to launch in a few hours, we are well and truly into act 1 of the Aki basho. We divide any basho into 3 distinct acts, each with their own tempo, objectives and flavor. For act 1, its focus is to remove ring rust, and see who is hot and who is not. With just 1 day’s worth of matches on the scoreboard, our worries about the Ozeki are once again front and center. Takakeisho may not be healthy enough to compete yet, though he must find his way to 8 wins to clear kadoban. Shodai continues to be a hot and cold running sumo mess, which must be driving the NSK crazy. We know both of them are arch competitors who have the potential to best anyone on the clay, including shin-Yokozuna Terunofuji. But only if their body and minds are in tune with their fighting spirit. We hope that by the end of act 1, both will be in better form, and dominating their daily matches.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Chiyomaru vs Akua – The banzuke imbalance continues, and today’s its Akua’s turn to visit the top division to fill the gap. Both men won their opening day matches, and seem to have their sumo ready for competition from the start. But this one is likely to go to Chiyomaru, as he has won the last 3 head to head matches. Akua’s best shot is to try to catch Chiyomaru’s belt somewhere on the far side of that bulbous mass of flesh on his belly.
Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyonokuni – I was really impressed with Ichiyamamoto’s performance day 1, and I wonder if he’s going to be able to keep thing rolling today. Chiyonokuni’s sumo is based on constant, rapid hit and move attacks. If Ichiyamamoto can use those long arms to establish and maintain a hold, he will shut down Chiyonokuni’s primary weapon.
Tokushoryu vs Chiyonoo – Tokushoryu looked unprepared for day 1, and I hope the rapid loss to Chiyomaru has him re-focused for today. He’s got a healthy 7-4 career advantage over Chiyonoo going all the way back to 2014! I am looking for a traditional Tokushoryu step back and thrust down gambit today.
Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – Goodness me! I like both rikishi, and I am going to be thrilled for this match. They are evenly matched on height and weight, and employ similar sumo styles. It may come down to who can get inside first, with Kagayaki preferring a center-mass attack, and Yutakayama going high for the face and neck. This could lead to the two of them bashing the daylights out of each other. Dare we hope?
Kaisei vs Tsurugisho – A battle of super-giants, each of which have expanded well beyond the radius predicted by the standard model. I have to think Kaisei is looking to bounce back after that pride destroying nodowa loss on day 1.
Endo vs Tochinoshin – Endo remains an enduring mystery to me. The guy has some firm followers, but to me he is tough to support. He’s able to bring a big fight to Hakuho and put him on the clay, but he throws out “gimme” matches against the likes of Myogiryu. Clearly a career full of injuries has trashed his body, which puts him in good company with Tochinoshin. I am looking for a frontal grip at the tachiai from Endo, and for Tochinoshin to struggle to keep his feet.
Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – Life is not getting any better for Kotoeko, who has a 6-1 career deficit against his day 2 opponent, Myogiryu. I have no doubt he is going to fight with power and courage, but man, this guy is on the mother of all losing streaks.
Aoiyama vs Hidenoumi – Note to Aoiyama – don’t let Hidenoumi close the gap and get inside. You need to keep him at optimum slapping distance, and just V-Twin (alternating hand combos) into submission. Hidenoumi has yet to take a match from you (0-3), and Aki day 2 is not time to start.
Chiyotairyu vs Tobizaru – Another match with high potential. It seems from his day 1 fight against Aoiyama that Tobizaru is ready to nestle into his opponents fleshy lumps to deliver winning sumo. I am sure Chiyotairyu will make it tough for Tobizaru to keep his footing, and deliver a maximum tachiai.
Shimanoumi vs Okinoumi – Its an Umi on Umi battle, with Shimanoumi probably looking to rectify his blundering loss to Onosho, where it seemed he was completely unprepared to get slammed with that much chanko nabe in motion at the tachiai. A different opponent today in Okinoumi; more guile and wit than brute forward power. Prep well, Shimanoumi!
Ura vs Terutsuyoshi – Battle of the smalls, with their last match in 2016. I did not like the tentative tachiai we saw from Ura on day 1, and I hope we don’t see it again today. Terutsuyoshi needs to stash his hit and shift moves for now, everyone is expecting it.
Onosho vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s defensive sumo against Onosho’s offense only mega-thrust attack. It has worked in Onosho’s favor for 3 of the last 4 matches, and I expect he is going to open strong today. Takarafuji would be well advised not to square his hips against Onosho’s charge, and attempt to encourage him to over-balance to the front.
Tamawashi vs Chiyoshoma – In spite of his day 1 loss, I like Chiyoshoma’s straight ahead sumo. He lost patience in his match against Daieisho, and tried to pull. If he can stay calm and trade blows with Tamawashi, I think he’s got a solid chance. Tamawashi is going to dial up the thrust energy early and hope he does not have to keep it going for too long.
Daieisho vs Kotonowaka – First ever match up between these two, and I am expecting some good action. Maybe Daieisho has gotten his body healthy enough to compete this tournament. He has struggled since January, and could use a solid kachi-koshi this September. Kotonowaka is new to this level of sumo, and I am expect him to struggle quite a bit this time out. It’s all part of the process where he becomes a big deal in a few years.
Wakatakakage vs Ichinojo – Hopefully, now that Ichinojo has his fight against Terunofuji out of the way, he can get his head around his sumo and exploit his massive size advantage over everyone and everything expect the nearby Tokyo Edo Museum to dominate his remaining matches. He has never lost to Wakatakakage, and I hope he does not change that today.
Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – Well hello there! These two share a 20 match career record, with a small edge to Mitakeumi. Hokutofuji looked super sharp collecting an Ozeki scalp on day 1, and I have to think that Mitakeumi is going to try to repeat his day 1 match plan today. Get close, hands on his opponents upper body and just blast forward.
Takanosho vs Meisei – Takanosho has never done well against Meisei (1-7), so he’s probably going to have to live with a 0-2 start to Aki.
Shodai vs Takayasu – This match shall either be tremendous, or tremendously lame. There are just so many sumo malfunctions that are possible when both of these guys are on the dohyo at the same time, that I feel the urge to cue up the Benny Hill yakety sax music now.
Kiribayama vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho has not yet shown that he has actually recovered his sumo, in spite of his confident remarks prior to the start of the Aki basho. I dearly want him to clear kadoban, but if he is still suffering motor-neurological problems, it may not be a reasonable expectation. He has a 4-1 career advantage over Kiribayama, so this is one I expect he should win, if healthy.
Hoshoryu vs Terunofuji – It’s all fun and games until you have to fight the kaiju. Ahem, that’s Yokozuna Kaiju there, buddy.