The Jonokuchi division has rapidly filtered down to two men, Aoifuji, a new recruit from Isegahama-beya and Nakashima Kaede. No relation to Nakashima Mika. I think. (Wouldn’t it be wild if he’s like her brother? Her commercials have been playing nonstop during the Abema coverage.)
First up in our coverage today is the bout between Aoifuji and Nishikimaru. Aoifuji sticks to his winning slapdown strategy. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Oshi-style sumo doesn’t have to be strictly about shoving your opponent out. Many wrestlers, like Makuuchi’s Bulgarian Boogeyman, Aoiyama, make a career out of the slap-down, or the pull-down kicker.
These wrestlers use oshi-zumo to get the opponent off balance and then finish with hatakikomi or hikiotoshi. It sometimes leads to a curious type of wrestler: one who loses more often to oshidashi, than they actually win. Aoiyama has won 128 bouts with oshidashi, but he’s lost 135. That kind of success rate doesn’t lead to a meaningful career. However, 121 hatakikomi wins to 34 losses is apparently a proven method to compete with the sport’s elite.
I doubt Aoifuji’s shikona is a nod to Aoiyama, but during this tournament at least, it is creating an interesting comparison.
Next, we’ve got Nakashima. He’s proven he can compete comfortably in higher divisions so Jonokuchi has been a breeze. Today, that breeze blew Sawanofuji away swiftly. This sets up a potential show-down on Match Day 6 with Aoifuji but I think that the schedulers will instead opt for match-ups with one-loss rivals. If both lose in that scenario, there would be a four-man showdown for the yusho. If both win, however, it would all come down to them on the final day. If one loses, there would still be a potential for a playoff of senshuraku if the leader their last regulation bout.
I’ve included Tanimoto’s victory over Fukuminato at the end because with one loss, Tanimoto is still very much in this race. Wakayahara, Tochihayate, Chiyotaiko, Sonoshun, and today’s defeated Nishikimaru, still have hopes. Wakayahara, especially, seems like he could play spoiler.