With the start of day 6, its onward into act 2, which features the first real look at the leaderboard, the middle weekend, and the inflection point where rikishi realize just what kind of record they are likely to end up with. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. We can already see that Yokozuna Terunofuji is struggling. Clearly his lower body is not up to the task of fighting as sumo’s top man. The question is: What to do about it? We can go kyujo, but Terunofuji seems to take his role as the lone Yokozuna quite seriously, and feels a responsibility to the fans and to sumo to show up every day he can. But each day he’s a bit worse.
I could talk about all of the 5-0 rikishi, but right now I would like to examine Oho. I have not paid much attention to him since he reached Juryo, as frankly he was not very inspiring at all. He had a couple of double digit records in Juryo, but since showing up in the top division in May, he was make-koshi and kachi-koshi one time each. His lower division records were strong, but not overwhelmingly strong. In spite of the noise around his entry into sumo and his climb up the banzuke, it was evident from 2018 that this young fellow might be able to have enough sumo talent to be a big deal. A 5-0 start is a good sign, but most of the opponents he has faced so far have (as of day 5) losing records – it could be said he has been squaring off against injured rikishi, and his real score could have been much lower. Again, I report that a rikishi can only fight the opponent he is scheduled to face.
I am keeping an eye on him. Maybe he’s made a step change and will be a solid mid-Maegashira rikishi for a time.
What We Are Watching Day 6
Terutsuyoshi vs Tsurugisho – Its a pair of Maegashira 15’s with dreadful 1-4 records to start the day. May as well get down to act 2 business straight away. Both of them are in real risk of being flushed to Juryo given their current trend. This match ensues that one of them gets a life line, and one of them gets a shove further down the tubes. Tsurugisho has a moderate 9-6 career lead. Both are looking a lot less capable than they did at their best.
Chiyoshoma vs Tohakuryu – Juryo vistor Tohakuryu comes to the top division for a visit to fill Abi’s banzuke gap. He went COVID kyujo in July after establishing a 3-8 score in Nagoya. The banzuke committee gave him a 1 full rank demotion, which is about as gentle as you might ever see. He has his first ever match against Chiyoshoma, who I hope uses some kooky sumo against him.
Ichiyamamoto vs Hiradoumi – Matching 3-2 records, but I have more concern around Hiradoumi. He won his first 3 in convincing fashion, and how has two losses. Granted, one of them as a Chiyoshoma henka, but he should not have let that impact him for his day 5 match against Mitoryu. Ichiyamamoto won their only prior engagement. In May of 2017 when they were both in Jonidan. I know for a fact I saw this match in person at the Kokugikan…
Mitoryu vs Oho – Now that Oho has gathered some attention for starting the basho 5-0, I want to see if maybe he starts over-thinking his matches. We will be able to tell if he tries “big sumo” things that are out of his usual catalog of moves and techniques. We can also tell if he flubs the easy stuff. I hope this does not happen, and he instead sharpens his focus going into act 2. He has never won against Mitoryu (0-4), so this match is an excellent gauge to judge if Oho has made a step change in his sumo.
Yutakayama vs Ryuden – Matching 1-4 records, both of these rikishi look like they need a cruise around Okinawa and a week of relaxation more than they need to fight each other. But here they are, ready to see which one of them might have a chance to climb back to 8 wins and the safety of kachi-koshi. They have a 5-6 career record that favors Ryuden by 1, and Ryuden has won every match since January of 2020.
Kotoshoho vs Chiyotairyu – I think Chiyotairyu looks lost right now. He is trying some sumo things, most of which are not working, and that is reflected in his 1-4 score starting act 2. At Maegashira 11, he would need a pretty deep make-koshi to be at risk of demotion. But right now it’s kind of tough to watch. His henka attempt was especially bothersome, but then again I am not a sumo legend as he is. He has 2-3 Kotoshoho, who is also struggling quite a bit this September. He has a narrow 3-2 career lead, but it’s anybody’s guess what happens today.
Okinoumi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko sometimes has tournaments where he struggles for every win. An example of that is Nagoya 2021, where he finished 2-13, or the 3-12 from Kyushu 2021. His performance right now reminds me of those tournaments, and it’s no fun at all (less so for him). I think Okinoumi will be able to dispatch him today with minimal fuss.
Tochinoshin vs Takanosho – I was very amped for Takanosho’s Aki for the first 3 days, and now he has dropped 2 in a row (3-2). This would tend to indicate that he’s continuing to have problems with whatever knocked him out of competition in July. He has a 4-1 career record over 2-3 Tochinoshin, but if Takanosho is hurt, that may not matter.
Nishikifuji vs Hokutofuji – I have a lot of interest in this match, as they were supposed to fight day 15 of Nagoya, but Nishikifuji got a fusensho thanks to Hokutofuji being kyujo. This call the a do-over of that day 15 match. Mass favors 5-0 Hokutofuji, but I think he will not have an easy day against 4-1 Nishikifuji.
Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – 26 match history between these two veterans, and it narrowly favors 1-4 Aoiyama at 14-12. Aoiyama continues to not have any forward power, perhaps indicating problems with his gear train or universal joints. So I think 3-2 Myogiryu has a good chance to pick up a win today.
Wakamotoharu vs Onosho – I think 4-1 Wakamotoharu is going to dominate the unbalanced 2-3 Onosho today. It’s time for Onosho to have one of those tournaments where he can’t quite keep his feet, as we have seen since Saturday. He won their only prior match, but when Onosho is on a cold streak, it’s tough to get him out of that rut.
Takarafuji vs Endo – Somehow, somewhere 0-5 Takarafuji is going to get his first win. He can’t be so banged up that he can’t beat anyone in the top division. But I would not count on 2-3 Endo giving him a freebee, as he could use the white stars himself.
Nishikigi vs Sadanoumi – This is a very balanced match, they have a 10-10 career record, Nishikigi has a 2-3 score for September, the mirror image of Sadanoumi’s 3-2. Both of them are capable of an endurance match grappled to each other’s mawashi. Nishikigi has more endurance, and Sadanoumi has better speed. Which one will rule the match today? They last fought on day 4 of Nagoya 2021 in Juryo.
Takayasu vs Midorifuji – As with most of 2-3 Midorifuji’s matches, today is a first ever fight against 4-1 Takayasu. The extra time not in honbasho competition does seem to have left him strong and ready, possibly in the best condition in quite a while. I am hoping for a Midorifuji surprise today, maybe an abisetaoshi?
Tobizaru vs Hoshoryu – 4-1 Hoshoryu should be favored in this match of young up and coming stars. He has the higher rank, the better score and a slight edge in the 6-5 career record over 2-3 Tobizaru. But I also consider those 2 wins came against a Yokozuna and an Ozeki. Good golly!
Wakatakakage vs Ichinojo – 2 consecutive wins for Wakatakakage, maybe he is out of whatever sapped his performance at the start of the basho. He js up against Ichinojo who is also at 2-3, and might be getting a bit of a reality check on his sumo following his boosted performance in Nagoya.
Daieisho vs Kiribayama – I had to double check, but yes, Daieisho has a 1-4 record to start the day. Worse yet he is not dependable to beat Kiribayama, who holds a 6-4 career advantage over him. So it will be a battle of the big thruster vs the man who can fight well using a variety of styles. Their last match, in Nagoya, went to Daieisho by hatakikomi on day 7.
Meisei vs Shodai – Shodai has a 9-2 career advantage over Meisei. But I am not going to say that the Ozeki has this in the bag. Something is keeping this guy’s sumo in check, and his 1-4 proves it. I don’t want to see him go kadoban again, so maybe he can pick up his second win against 2-3 Meisei today.
Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – 5-0 Tamawashi has a lot of sumo momentum right now, and I think it might be enough to overcome whatever 4-1 Takakeisho intends to throw at him on day 6. Both of these guys are looking in good form right now, so this could be the big fight for the day. Takakeisho has a 12-7 career advantage.
Kotonowaka vs Mitakeumi – 2-3 Kotonowaka has a distinct 3-1 career match advantage over 3-2 Mitakeumi. I think he may be the only Ozeki to be kadoban in two consecutive tournaments, a distinction that is not one to be broadcasting. But Mitakeumi is fighting well enough, when he remembers to keep his weight centered over his feet.
Terunofuji vs Ura – Ura has never beaten Terunofuji. But the kaiju is not looking well, and it could be kinboshi time again today. Both have 3-2 records to start act 2.