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). A 7-0 record from Ms1-Ms15 is a near-guarantee of promotion to Juryo, which otherwise usually requires a winning record from Ms1-Ms5. Three rounds have been completed so far, and we are left with 15 undefeated wrestlers. The next round, unfolding over Days 7 and 8, should reduce the number to 8.
Unlike in many recent basho, Makushita this time around lacks star power in the form of top-division mainstays fighting their way back from injury or suspension (think Terunofuji, Abi, Ryuden, and Asanoyama) or white-hot prospects like Hokuseiho, Kinbozan, Oshoma, and Ochiai. The closest to the latter group is Ochiai’s stablemate Ms3w Kawazoe (4-0), who looks to be well on his way to a sekitori debut. Other notable names among the undefeated 3-0 group are Ms6e Shiden, who was forced to sit out his only sekitori tournament to date, and Ms12e Ukranian Shishi. They should be matched up on Day 8, with the winner facing Kawazoe.
After only 3 rounds of bouts, all 10 active wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are still technically in contention for a Juryo spot, but it’s already a long shot for the top-ranked Ms1e Tsukahara (0-3), who must win out. Everyone else, aside from Kawazoe, is either 2-1 or 1-2.
I’ll try to keep these reports coming every two days or so, as additional rounds of bouts are completed.