After 6 days and 3 rounds of bouts, let’s take a look at the action in Makushita, where exciting newcomers mix it up with veterans for a shot at the salaried ranks.
As a reminder, the Makushita yusho race is essentially a seven-round single-elimination tournament, in which the 120 or so rikishi are reduced by half over two-day rounds until one man with a 7-0 record takes the title (occasionally, same-heya rikishi and other wrinkles throw a wrench into the works, and we end up with a playoff and a 6-1 champion). Three rounds have been completed so far, and we are left with 15 undefeated wrestlers with 3-0 records. The next round, unfolding over Days 7 and 8, will reduce the number to 7 or 8.
The obvious headliner among the undefeated rikishi is former Ozeki Asanoyama (Ms15e). A lot is at stake for him, as a wrestler in the Ms6-Ms15 ranks who goes 7-0 receives a near-automatic promotion to Juryo, while a 6-1 record merely moves him up into the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone. Tomorrow, Asanoyama faces Ms17w Dewanoryu. Should he prevail, next up would be the winner of the bout between Ms5w Shonnanoumi and Ms7w Tokihayate. The other undefeated men in Makushita are all ranked below Ms20 and do not include any notable names, although, amusingly, we could get Asanoyama vs. Ms56e Asonoyama in the title decider.
After only 3 rounds of bouts, all 9 active wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are still technically in contention (the 10th, Ms1e Kaisei, retired before the basho). It’s too early to speculate on the ultimate outcome, but in addition to the aforementioned Shonnanoumi, Ms1w Roga, Ms2e Tomokaze, Ms4e Tsushimanada, and Ms5e Fujiseiun are off to solid 2-1 starts. They are paired up tomorrow, and victories by Roga and Tomokaze could see them one win away from long-awaited Juryo debut and sekitori return, respectively.
I’ll try to keep these reports coming every two days or so, as additional rounds of bouts are completed.