Surprisingly good sumo for day 1, most everyone showed up ready to fight, even if the Mitakeumi – Ura battle was terribly one sided. I think Ura could not manage the reach around to get a hold of Mitakeumi, and by the time he was ready to try again, he no longer had any room to work. Is it just me or is the crowd in the Kokugikan more animated on day 1 than they have been for quite some time? Perhaps Japan, like so much of the world, has grown weary of COVID protocols sucking the joys out of so many facets of life. I look forward to a return to a packed house full of screaming fans cheering on each match.
Worry not, sumo fans. Those days will return.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Kotoeko vs Oho – Kotoeko had a nice bounce back match against a flagging Aoiyama on day 1, but today’s head to head is likely to be quite different. I am not sure if we caught Oho on a “good” day, or this is going to be his normal sumo. But that fellow was clam, centered and focused. I do honestly hope that we get a LOT more of that, as what we saw on day 1 from Oho had a lot of indicators that he’s destined for higher rank.
Kaisei vs Tsurugisho – Both of these mega-fauna lost their day 1 matches, and are looking to get started on the road to 8. As members of the “near 200” kilo club, they don’t operate at speed, but when they connect, it’s with power. Their last match was day 2 of Aki, which went to Kaisei.
Wakamotoharu vs Aoiyama – This match comes down to the condition of Aoiyama’s undercarriage. At this point we have to assume he’s still not able to transmit power to ground – a continuation of his woes from Kyushu. It may not matter, as Wakamotoharu has never been on the receiving end of the “V-Twin” attack. If Big Dan can get that one started, it may be a real unhappy surprise for Wakamotoharu.
Tochinoshin vs Ichiyamamoto – I really liked Tochinoshin’s day 1 sumo. Quiet, focused and compact. He made sure he kept his feet, and focused on his primary offensive weapon. Today he is going to need to overcome Ichiyamamoto’s hit and shift thrusting attack. His best bet is a capture at the tachiai.
Chiyomaru vs Yutakayama – If Chiyomaru can keep his feet today, this is going to be a fairly good fight. Yutakayama is about due for a “Good” basho, and I want to see him dominate Chiyomaru in a straight up thrusting battle. Chiyomaru will want to go for an early slap down, but I am counting on Yutakayama to have planned for that.
Kotonowaka vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu lacked about 20% of his normal firepower on day 1. Ring rust? Injury? I hope the former more than the latter, and today’s fight with Kotonowaka will tell the tale. Kotonowaka won his day 1 against Chiyomaru when his roundness could not keep his footing, so this may be our first chance to see offensive sumo from Sadogatake’s top rikishi.
Sadanoumi vs Ishiura – Both one their first day matches, and both did a fine job of reading their opponent and employing creative sumo to overcome the challenge. If Ishiura can get close in on the second step, he will likely control this match. If Sadanoumi can keep him at least half an arm length distant, hit will favor his better agility.
Terutsuyoshi vs Akua – Akua is to large, too methodical most times to react to Terutsuyoshi’s low altitude attacks. This is why Terutsuyoshi has an 8-2 career advantage over Akua, and Akua will likely get thrown early in the match.
Chiyonokuni vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu has a lot of ground to make up after a disastrous 2-13 November. He certainly looked good enough on his day 1 win against Shimanoumi, but Chiyonokuni is an entirely different matter. I expect Chiyonokuni will present a lot of forceful sumo today, and we will get to see if Myogiryu has indeed gotten his body back in fighting form. They share a 4-5 career record.
Shimanoumi vs Tobizaru – M8w is a great rank for Tobizaru right now. He’s still consolidating his sumo, and I would love him to finish no better than 9-6 this basho. He needs to gradually work his way back up to the top of the rank and file, while adding probably about 15kg in mass and about 30kg in forward pressure and grip strength. Today is a great test match, as he has a 5-8 career disadvantage against Shimanoumi.
Hoshoryu vs Takarafuji – The plan I suggested for Tobizaru? Hoshoryu seems to have started that following Aki, and it seems to be paying off. He was really out of sorts in November, as he was larger, and not yet used to carrying all that extra weight, and maybe he did not quite have the strength in his lower body to move as well as he thought he should. Once these guys get large, its a lot of work to get used to the mass in terms of balance, and moving about without putting yourself off balance. Much as I don’t want to see Takarafuji take his second loss, I think Hoshoryu is favored today.
Abi vs Chiyoshoma – Abi was a punk, he got himself put in the “time out” box for being a jerk, and had to work his way back up the ranks. We can now clearly see that the punishment mode drove him to focus on his body and his sumo. The new Abi-zumo is a lot like the original. But, if anything, its delivered at closer range, with a fair degree more brutality. I don’t know how high this can take him, but I know we are about to find out. Chiyoshoma need to get a solid grip if he wants to shut Abi down, and maybe deliver a winning throw.
Okinoumi vs Onosho – Onosho is very much a hot streak / cold streak kind of rikishi. He had a nice day 1 match against Hokutofuji, but I don’t think it necessarily indicates which way his sumo will go this basho. He does struggle with his balance, and keeping his body where he wants it, and that may be because he has reached a size that is a touch larger than what he can handle. Into the middle of this comes storied veteran Okinoumi, who takes it all in stride. They share a 7-7 career record, with Okinoumi taking 6 of the last 8.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – Hokutofuji’s matches against Endo are punctuated with an early flurry of frantic, violent activity. Sometimes they amount to very little, and Endo waits him out and cleans up once Hokutofuji gets too far off his center of gravity. But about half the time, Hokutofuji manages to connect early, and trashes Endo in a hurry. Look for Endo to reach for a frontal grip early, and break Hokutofuji’s second step.
Tamawashi vs Daieisho – Daieisho looked strong but a bit “seat of the pants” in his day 1 loss to Terunofuji. I hope he brings a solid match plan against Tamawashi today, because when Daieisho comes in with a solid route of attack, he tends to win. They share an 8-8 record, so this will be a nice and even fight.
Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Hey, lets get some big stuff sumo out of the way, shall we? Original Tadpole Mitakeumi up against the Boulder. I liked Ichinojo’s patience on day 1, and if he can show that kind of focus and grim determination to stalemate, box in and dominate Mitakeumi, he might just hand the Ozeki hopeful a stinging loss.
Kiribayama vs Takanosho – Both lost their day 1 openers, both would like to rack up some week 1 wins if they can before they spend more time being chew-toys for the upper ranks. Takanosho has a clear 9-1 career edge, but Kiribayama has been steadily improving his sumo.
Takakeisho vs Meisei – These two adore shoving each other about like enraged versions pengo characters. Me, I am just hoping I get to see him unleash what I am calling (for now) his “Plowman” style pushing attack.
Ura vs Shodai – Ura was not quite up to the challenge of getting a hold of Mitakeumi on day 1, so it remains to be seen what he does with the bulky lumpy body of Shodai today. Ura has won both of their prior matches, but they were both 5 years ago in 2017.
Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Terunofuji is possibly still getting into honbasho form, so I think we may see Wakatakakage challenge during the opening moments before the Kaiju comes out and finishes the match. Thought it would be nice to see Wakatakakage pick up a kinboshi….