The big, ultra wide mega match of the day is a pair of 2-0 rikishi who have been fighting well above their rank so far. It’s Ozeki hopeful Hoshoryu vs recently demoted Ozeki Mitakeumi. This could be the highlight match for the first week if the stars align, and I am eager to see how it plays out. Hoshoryu has the speed and power to put Mitakeumi away at the tachiai. If the match goes longer than that, I am looking for Mitakeumi to summon is tadpole power and dominate the much smaller Hoshoryu. I hope we may see both of them contend for the cup in week 2.
On the trail of Ozeki hopefuls, dear old Takayasu is looking very humble. His wild man sumo that served him well last basho has him looking a shambles right now. Its still possible for him to get on the path to success, but he has to overcome his arch competitor Tamawashi today to turn thing around.
All in all, a surprisingly important day of sumo for it only being day 3.
What We Are Watching Day 3
Takarafuji vs Azumaryu – Lower rungs of the banzuke are at times an interesting place, they collect the damaged and the up and comer alike. Today we have Takarafuji who is in an 8 wins or head to Juryo situation up against Azumaryu, a long serving vet who has yet to have his first time division kachi-koshi. Both have a 2-0 start, and one of them will take their first loss today. If Takarafuji is still in fighting form, he should be able to dispatch Azumaryu without too much worry.
Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyomaru – In contrast, two men who are 0-2, both hoping to be the one that will receive their first win today. Ichiyamamoto has a narrow 3-2 career lead, and he’s going to be up against the sumo spheroid, Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru is thus far not fighting well, and may be facing an immediate return to Juryo if he can’t shake off the ring rust and fight with more skill.
Mitoryu vs Kotoeko – Mitoryu at 0-2 has had a tough pair of matches to start the new year, losing to super-jumbo Tsurugisho, and then Azumaryu. He has not won against Kotoeko, with 2 tries, and today looks to be another rough day on the clay for Mitoryu.
Kotoshoho vs Tsurugisho – Speaking of Tsurugisho, he faces Kotoshoho, both of whom are 2-0. They have split their two prior matches. Tsurugisho as an enormous size advantage, and Kotoshoho does too, in that he does not have nearly 200 kg of stored chanko nabe to cart around the dohyo.
Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – Two long-serving veterans with 23 career matches between them, split 11-12, narrowly favoring Tochinoshin. With 0-2 Okinoumi looking much worse right now than 1-1 Tochinoshin. Okinoumi’s best attack path is to follow what Hiradoumi did on day 2, deny Tochinoshin that left hand outside grip and wait for him to get off balance.
Chiyoshoma vs Kagayaki – To me this is a high interest match. Kagayaki (1-1) has the mass and strength, and Chiyoshoma (0-2) has the overwhelming urge to henka. I know it will make the readers howl, but I think he should deploy the henka today. Mostly because Kagayaki is likely to buy it wholesale.
Hiradoumi vs Endo – When they fought for the first time in November, Hiradoumi surprised Endo with his power and speed. I am keen to see if he will approach today’s match with Hiradoumi with more caution, and a plan to draw Hiradoumi into an ill considered move. Both are 1-1.
Takanosho vs Aoiyama – Takanosho (1-1) continues to be hit or miss so far, with a solid opening day against Endo, and a severe miscalculation against Onosho on day 2. Aoiyama (2-0) has dominated both of his prior matches. If he is healthy, we have to look for him to rack up the wins this far down the banzuke. They have an evenly split 3-3 record.
Oho vs Ura – 0-2 Oho has been fighting with a lot of vigor, and nothing to show for it. Perhaps he will find the sumo today to take his first win against 1-1 Ura, who has beaten him both prior matches. Given Oho’s performance in November, we now know he has all the pieces for a solid Maegashira, if he can just put them together. Thus far in January, he cannot.
Onosho vs Myogiryu – I know when I comment on Onosho (2-0), I tend to cite his habit of being too far forward. So far his opponents have all seemed to assume that he is so far forward, he is an easy pull down target. Both times so far this basho, it has been a costly mistake. Today we will see if 1-1 Myogiryu will follow the crowd, or time something else. Hint: try something else.
Ryuden vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi at 0-2 is having is worst start since July of 2022, and I would like to think he’s going to find his first win some time in act 1. But he’s not got a strong record against 1-1 Ryuden, who wants to bounce back after his loss on day 2 to Midorifuji.
Nishikifuji vs Hokutofuji – A battle of the ‘fuji crew. Both of them come to the dohyo on day 3 at 1-1, and I expect both of them to be 7-7 at the end of day 14. They have each won one of their two prior matches, with both of them in the two prior tournaments.
Nishikigi vs Midorifuji – Nishikigi (1-1) will have a tough opponent in Midorifuji today (2-0). Not only is katasukashi specialist undefeated so far this month, he also holds a 2-5 career lead. Nishikigi’s typical fight style is battle hug and dance. This does tend to leave the door wide open for the katasukashi, which I would not mind seeing for two days in a row.
Kiribayama vs Wakamotoharu – Wakamotoharu spent 2022 quietly climbing the banzuke, happy to let his brother Wakatakakage attract all of the attention. But now he finds himself as a Komusubi, its nothing but tough matches all day every day for 15 days, thus the 0-2 score. He’s held his own against Kiribayama (1-1) in the past (3-3), with Wakamotoharu winning 2 of their 3 matches last year. Should be a good fight.
Meisei vs Abi – At this point I am expecting 2-0 Abi to contend in week 2. So his opponents this week are more or less training ballast. He has a 4-4 career record against Meisei (0-2), but I don’t think that’s going to count for much on day 3. They split their two matches in 2022, but right now Meisei has yet to find his first win, and with Abi’s sumo looking very sharp, he may not get his shonichi today.
Mitakeumi vs Hoshoryu – In my opinion, the big match of the day. This might have been a miserable watch in November, but in the early stages of the 2023 Hatsu basho, this one is red hot. Both of them come in at 2-0, both of them are fighting quite well, with Hoshoryu’s sumo bordering on brilliant. Although dethroned from his Ozeki rank, the Original Tadpole has plenty of fight left in him, and I am looking for him to use his big body to counter Hoshoryu’s speed an agility.
Wakatakakage vs Tobizaru – Wakatakakage had a tough fight day 2 against a resurgent Mitakeumi, but I still think he is going to be pushing for double digits this January. Tobizaru is a surprisingly good match for him, as sumo’s flying monkey is able to dodge and weave better than most of the opponents Wakatakakage faces. Their 12 prior matches have includes a couple of brilliant “kitchen sink” battles that were part of the highlight reels, but Tobizaru’s record against Wakatakakage since joining the top division is only 2-5. Both come into today 1-1.
Kotonowaka vs Shodai – All of Shodai’s easy days are behind him. Much as I would love to see him rally, and for the ur-Shodai to rise and summon the Wall of Daikon to crush his opponents, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Instead these two 0-2 rikishi will battle it out today to see who will get their first win of the basho. But it should be mentioned that Shodai has only beaten Kotonowaka once in six attempts.
Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Thirty Three (33!) career matches between these two, including one where Tamawashi wrecked Takayasu’s arm. The come in with mirror image records: Takayasu at 0-2, Tamawashi at 2-0. Given how they have performed in the first two days of Hatsu, I think Tamawashi will be the favorite today.
Daieisho vs Takakeisho – These two long time friends are nose to nose today on the clay. I have not seen Daieisho in this kind of form since his 11-4 finish in May of 2022. Takakeisho day 2 loss to Tobizaru is a head scratcher, but anyone can have an off day. Takakeisho holds a 15-6 career advantage on the clay.