I am surprised to see Tsurugisho on the torikumi, as he was listed kyujo on day 4 with a fever, and at least someone in the sumo press suspected COVID may be in play. But there he is, ready to go? The banzuke imbalance continues, and we will continue to see visitors each day from Juryo to fill in.
With day 5 we are at the end of act one, and we now know who is hot and who is not. In the hot group: Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Myogiryu and Chiyonokuni, with the first two men on the list facing off in today’s final match. In spite of Chiyonokuni’s day 3 freebie, I think he belongs in this group. At the bottom of the banzuke, a genki Chiyonokuni can do nearly infinite damage, and there are indications that he has his health problems contained, and should dominate most of his remaining 11 matches.
In the “Not” group we can place Takakeisho, Ichinojo, Takayasu, Chiyoshoma. The first two are suffering from known medical problems, and the last two are a mystery. The risk is highest in this group for Takakeisho, who is a kadoban Ozeki and could be demoted to Sekiwake in November should he not find a way to win 7 more matches before senshuraku.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Ichiyamamoto vs Wakamotoharu – Wakamotoharu arrives for his day in the top division. Like so many in the promotable range in Juryo, he is suffering a losing record (1-3) that may indicate that he won’t have a chance to make his debut in the top division. He has an equal 2-2 record against Ichiyamamoto, who may or may not have gotten hurt in his day 4 match against Yutakayama.
Tokushoryu vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama is not performing as strongly as he could this far down the banzuke in the top division, though he still has a fair chance of a kachi-koshi at the end of Aki. These two have traded wins back and forth for the past couple of matches, and I don’t think either has a clear advantage. Yutakayama has show a preference for nodowa this September, and I think that will set up some good offense options for Tokushoryu, should Yutakayama choose that offense.
Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni, at 4-0, got a day off on day 4 when Tsurugisho was absent. I think this gives him a distinct advantage today, in spite of Kaisei’s 7-4 career match lead. I am looking for Chiyonokuni to try to put this one away early, as the longer the match lasts, the more it will favor Kaisei.
Chiyomaru vs Tsurugisho – I will be interested to see if this match actually happens. The JSA has shown themselves to be very caution about COVID and potential COVID cases, so if there is even a shade of doubt, this one is a freebie for Chiyomaru.
Kagayaki vs Chiyonoo – Both come into today 2-2, and Kagayaki is looking especially tentative this far down the banzuke. My assumptions going into Aki is that he was likely to have a strong showing, but he has dropped the last two in a row. His 7-3 career record against Chiyonoo favors him today, but given he is not fighting well just yet, it’s really a toss up.
Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – I think this match represents one of the better chances in the next few days for Tochinoshin to pick up his second win. Chiyotairyu will favor straight ahead tsuki/oshi sumo, and that should present opportunities for Tochinoshin to attempt a throw using his one good knee. He is favored 9-3 over his career against Chiyotairyu.
Kotoeko vs Hidenoumi – I am now looking with interest to see if Kotoeko has somehow suddenly switched from terrible to genki, and if so what magic elixir did the trick. He has a 4-8 career deficit against Hidenoumi, but Hidenoumi has not been dominating matches yet this September.
Aoiyama vs Endo – Normally I would be quite excited for this match, as it portends a brutal beating for Endo concluding with a muddy wipe out for Aoiyama, courtesy of an Endo throw. But Aoiyama seems to only be running on one cylinder of his normal V-Twin engine, leaving him open to trying to prevent Endo from doing “his brand” of sumo. This is likely to signal a disorganized mess of a match that is really anyone’s to lose.
Myogiryu vs Tobizaru – I have a narrow hope that we can see these two grapple and throw each other in opposite directions at the same time in some glorious, symmetrical quirk of sumo physics. Both are fighting well, both are winning matches with skill and energy, making for a lot of potential for an exciting match.
Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – This one should be Shimanoumi’s match to lose. They both come in today at 2-2, but Shimanoumi has a distinct size advantage that has translated into an 8-4 career record against Terutsuyoshi. In fact, Terutsuyoshi has lost the last 7 in a row to Shimanoumi, making a the odds of a Terutsuyoshi slim indeed.
Okinoumi vs Onosho – A very balanced match. Both have 3-1 records, both are fighting well this tournament, and they share an even 6-6 career record prior to today. If Onosho wants to win this one, he has about 5 steps to put Okinoumi out before the veteran can organize his defense and take control.
Chiyoshoma vs Takarafuji – One of these matches, Chiyoshoma is going to score his first win. I am quite surprised he has opened 0-4, as his sumo mechanics seem to be workable enough right now. I do note that at least a couple of times he has tried for an early pull down, and in doing so has given control the the match to his opponent. This is a scenario that Takarafuji will be certain to be ready to exploit.
Ura vs Daieisho – I am not sure what is happening with Ura’s sumo. Maybe he’s in poor physical shape right now due to problem with that knee, but he is fighting very tentatively each day. He lines up well back of the shikiri-sen, and tries to avoid most of the tachiai, then seems to just wait. I think today he’s going to catch a chest full of Daieisho thrusting attack and find himself forced to respond or take a quick ride off the dohyo.
Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – I am hoping that we won’t be seeing a strong and potent make-koshi from Hokutofuji this September. He still has a few more of the named ranks to face, and with any luck he can dominate his lower ranking matches and at least get to 8 wins by next Sunday. Takanosho looked really injured following his day 4 match against Shodai, and I would not be surprised to see him kyujo today.
Takayasu vs Hoshoryu – As a Takayasu fan, I just have to wonder what is holding him back this month. It’s a let down, whatever it is. I don’t like his chances against Hoshoryu today, who finds himself with a 1-3 record starting day 5, and needing to find some wins going into the middle weekend.
Ichinojo vs Meisei – At the start of Aki, we mused which version of Ichinojo would mount the dohyo. Sadly it seems like his bout with COVID may have taken at least a temporary toll, and he is maybe no better than 75% of his best. This is common with people I know who suffered through COVID, many of them still find intense physical activity challenging to their lungs, with things slowly improving over months after recovery.
Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – This should be a Mitakeumi pick up. During the time a few years ago when these two were quasi permanent in their Sekiwake posts, they had a bit of a rivalry going. But Mitakeumi holds a 23-3 career advantage, and is fighting a bit better that Tamawashi is this month.
Kotonowaka vs Takakeisho – A first time match, and I have no illusions that Takakeisho is going to be able to apply Ozeki grade sumo today. His first win, coming on day 4, was a sloppy mess that could have gone to Hoshoryu at least twice. Kotonowaka has proven to be remarkable durable at M3, and is indicating that he may have the ingredients to be a joi-jin mainstay for 2022.
Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Both come in today with 3-1 records, with Wakatakakage’s 3-1 career advantage over Shodai showing that he as a working recipe for defeating Shodai’s strong defensive and counter-attack techniques. But as mentioned in the day 4 preview, it may be time to rally around Shodai and try to cheer him on to at least 8 wins, given the sorry state of Takakeisho’s sumo.
Kiribayama vs Terunofuji – A high interest match to finish the day. Both come in with perfect 4-0 records, and Kiribayama looks a noticeable level stronger and more intense in his sumo that I can recall seeing before. He has never won against Terunofuji in 3 attempts, but I think this match has a strong chance at a kinboshi.