Welcome back dear readers, after a long break, its time for sumo! Much to my surprise, everyone but Abi is going to start the tournament, and with modified COVID kyujo rules, maybe we will not see a repeat of the train-wreck that was Nagoya. People who test positive will not be required to sit out the entire tournament, but rather more likely only a series of days until you test negative. We will see if it is even needed this September. Hopefully not.
If will be interesting to see if the new Sumo Prime Time channel will have content during the tournament. I do hope so. Thus far Hiro Morita’s channel has been an excellent addition to video for sumo fans to digest. I know the pace of media production during a tournament is grueling, so I wish Hiro and whatever team he has backing him up good health and buckets of endurance if they give it a try.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Shimanoumi vs Hiradoumi – With Abi out for Aki, we start the basho with an imbalance, and we will see Juryo visitors in the top division until someone else drops out. Today it’s Hiradoumi facing his first ever match ranked in the top division against recently demoted to Juryo Shimanoumi. After struggling to make it through the brutal battleground of upper Makushita, he slogged his way to the middle Juryo. After at 10-5 from Juryo 8 in Nagoya, I was surprised to see that they had posted him to the bottom slot of the top division. Hey, congrats Hiradoumi!
Mitoryu vs Tsurugisho – Likewise we have Juryo mainstay Mitoryu suddenly finding himself at the bottom rung of the Makuuchi ranks. After entering sumo in 2017 as a college tsukidashi ranked Makushita 15, he was in Juryo 6 months later, and there he has stayed. He’s up against oft injured Tsurugisho, whose enormous body takes a lot of damage and keeps him from realizing his potential. They have a 15 match career record that favors Tsurugisho 9-6.
Terutsuyoshi vs Yutakayama – Something happened to Terutsuyoshi in the fall of 2020, where at a career high of Maegashira 3, he ended Aki with a 5-10 record, and then began a long slide that two years later see him near the bottom of the banzuke, and in real risk of finishing Aki with a ticket for the Juryo barge of the damned. It would have to be an injury of some sort, and it’s really quite a shame, as we have not seen much of his normally energetic sumo since then.
Chiyoshoma vs Oho – Chiyoshoma is himself on a blazing make-koshi streak as well. He has turned in losing records for 5 of his previous 6 tournaments. His sumo mechanics seem pretty solid, but he’s just been unable to win most of his matches in each of the prior tournaments. I find it a bit of a shame that after he abandoned his slipper henka-centric sumo style, he’s not been able to really capitalize on some good fundamentals that sometimes reminds me of dear departed Harumafuji. Oho has won their only prior match.
Ichiyamamoto vs Ryuden – A hearty welcome back to the top division to Ryuden. After serving a 3 tournament suspension that started in May of 2021, he dropped to lower Makushita and has been blasting his way back up the banzuke since. Along the way he scored one Makushita and two Juryo yusho, and went 47 – 12 over five tournaments – wow. I am going to guess his lower back / hip problems are not bothering him too much right now, and he may continue to show strong sumo this September. He has never fought Ichiyamamoto.
Okinoumi vs Chiyotairyu – A battle of the fading veterans (we will get quite a few of those this basho), we have Okinoumi, who tends to turn in a strong record this far down the banzuke, against Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu seems to have injured himself in the last year, and he’s not quite been the same since. He has a 11-7 career advantage over Okinoumi, so maybe he will start Aki 2022 with a win.
Kotoshoho vs Takanosho – In the category of “Brutal kick down the banzuke” we have Takanosho. Who withdrew from Nagoya after just a single win, and found himself displaced from Maegashira 1 down to Maegashira 10. He and Kotoshoho have split their two prior matches.
Nishikifuji vs Kotoeko – As much as I enjoy Kotoeko’s powerhouse sumo, I look at what Nishikifuji has been able to do since the start of the year and marvel. Of the four tournaments this year, all but one has featured double digit wins. Granted, in Nagoya that featured 3 fusensho wins against opponents who pulled out of the tournament, but his sumo was very sharp in July. This is a first time match, and I am hoping that Kotoeko can give him a surprise on the clay today.
Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – With make-koshi in 3 of his last 4 tournaments, I would say that Hokutofuji is struggling. It’s a shame as he has so much potential, but I would say that an accumulation of injuries has left him a couple of notches lower that what his talent might support. Myogiryu tends to do pretty well this far down the banzuke, but make-koshi much higher ranked than this. They have a 13 match career record with Hokutofuji having a tiny 7-6 lead.
Tochinoshin vs Onosho – I continue to marvel at the perseverance of Tochinoshin. You know that right knee is little more than gristle and stubbornness at this time, yet he manages to win more matches that he loses at least ⅔ of the time. Onosho had an excellent 10-5 record in Nagoya after being horrifically under ranked at Maegashia 15 following a kyujo in May. This will probably be a solid match today, with Onosho going for overpowering core-body thrusting and Tochinoshin hoping to deploy his enormous strength.
Aoiyama vs Endo – Aoiyama had a rough run in Nagoya, finishing 6-9, and that included a freebee win over Daieisho on day 13. With any luck, Big Dan will be back in fine form for Aki. He has a 10-6 career advantage over Endo who had an abysmal 3-10 record before COVID kyujo saved him from a brutal demotion for September.
Wakamotoharu vs Sadanoumi – After his career best 11-4 record in May, fans of Sadanoumi had high hopes for Nagoya. But he squeaked by with a mild 7-8 make-koshi. his first week was terrible, going 2-5, before bouncing back to win a majority in week 2. He has won 5 of the 6 career matches against Wakamotoharu, who tends to lose by yoritaoshi.
Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Welcome back Takayasu. After sitting out Nagoya due to COVID kyujo, the former Ozeki is back in action, and he’s drawn Takarafuji for day one. I am eager to see if Josh’s forecast of a strong performance from Takayasu is something we might start to see from day one.
Nishikigi vs Ura – Nishikigi, who has naturally poor eyesight, likes to close the distance to his opponents, grapple them and then its on to yotsu-zumo. Ura is the master of grab and tug. I expect Ura to give Nishikigi a rough ride and toss him out with a bit of a flourish today, provided that Ura is healthy.
Daieisho vs Meisei – Our first match featuring a member of the oversized San’yaku sees Daieisho work to score an opening day win over Meisei. Daieisho has a 9-2 career advantage, so as long has Daieisho’s body is in fighting condition, it should be fairly straightforward.
Tamawashi vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu, at his highest ever rank, will face a tough opponent in Tamawashi day 1. Hoshoryu has won 4 of their six matches, and I expect him to have a clear advantage today. But one must never underestimate Tamawashi. If he can find an open path to Hoshoryu’s chest, he could send the shin-Sekiwake tumbling.
Wakatakakage vs Kotonowaka – Time to rebuild the case for an Ozeki promotion. After a 8-7 kachi-koshi fell short of the double digit digit mark he needed to make the case for promotion, Wakatakakage needs to win early and win big. In Nagoya he dropped 3 of his first 4 matches, and that more or less sealed his fate. I contrast that with Kotonowaka who was on a hot streak in Nagoya before COVID kyujo parked him after day 10, where he was 7-3. Should be a solid fight.
Midorifuji vs Mitakeumi – Most of our readers seem to agree that Midorifuji and Tobizaru are going to be shredded this basho. I will point to this year’s theme of “weak Ozeki” and look at that forecast with skepticism. I think Midorifuji may have been over-promoted with a 10-5 from M11w, but this banzuke was a absolute mess to begin with. These two have never fought before.
Tobizaru vs Shodai – I really hate that we have to start the basho wondering what flavor of Shodai is going to be on the menu this September. Japan loves seasonal food, and I wonder of “giant daikon” is going to be served hot or cold this month. He’s beaten Tobizaru 3 out of their 4 prior matches.
Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – We have the July yusho winner, Ichinojo, going up against the rather questionable lead of the Ozeki corps. Takakeisho can launch him into next week if he is feeling up to it. But I worry Takakeisho is about 20kg above his optimum fighting weight, and will struggle to move The Boulder. They have a fairly even 9-7 career record.
Terunofuji vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama has not won against Terunofuji in any of the previous 8 attempts. There are some questions about the state of Terunofuji’s knees, and his overall health. So I am hoping the Yokozuna shows up strong and able to fight well.