The top of the third division is a fierce battleground for those hoping to reach the paid ranks. A wrestler who manages to go 7-0 while ranked between Ms1 and Ms15 gets a near-automatic Juryo slot, with any other open slots usually going to those ranked between Ms1 and Ms5 with the best rank-record combinations. A minimum of three slots should be open, given the absences of Asanoyama and Shiden and today’s withdrawal of Chiyonoo (0-4).
And on Day 5, we get what may be a showdown for automatic promotion, not to mention the Makushita yusho, as the two leading contenders clash early. In the East corner, we have former Komusubi Ryuden (2-0), currently ranked Ms5e after taking the division title last time on his way back from suspension. And in the West corner, we have 19-year-old phenom Atamifuji (2-0) from Isegahama beya, currently ranked Ms1w. Atamifuji made his debut a year ago, took the Jonokuchi and Jonidan titles in his first two basho, and sports a 38-6 career record. Ryuden will certainly present the stiffest test he has faced to date.
It’s the past against the future, and the winner has to be regarded as the odds-on favorite for the division title, although he will have to fight his way through a gauntlet of veterans and hot prospects to make it to 7-0. I’ll try to provide updates on this race throughput the tournament; in the meantime, don’t sleep on tomorrow’s bout!