Aki Day 12 Preview

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Hello again sumo fans! Very few people have ever confused me with a Yokozuna, and one more key difference is that unlike them, I’m back in action again on Day 12 at Kokugikan. This means I’m here to bring you the preview of the day’s events, and what I will be looking for in the top division matches. So without further ado:

Aki Leaderboard

Leaders: Takakeisho, Meisei
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Okinoumi, Takarafuji, Tsurugisho
Peloton: Goeido, Endo, Enho, Shohozan, Yutakayama

What We Are Watching Day 12

Quick little burst from Juryo: The schedulers continue to keep 9-2 leaders Ikioi and Kotonowaka away from each other, so we could be in for some senshuraku fun to decide the title. Future caddy Ikioi gets 7-4 Daishomaru in an attempt to add some intrigue to the race, while Kotonowaka contents himself with a duel against Hokkaido’s melon man, 6-5 Kyokutaisei. In Makuuchi action…

Yutakayama vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma, owner of one of the most sported yukata designs in sumo, gets a chance to stress his makuuchi credentials. His dance partner is the rusty pusher-thruster of Tokitsukaze-beya who is finding his way back into form. I think Yutakayama will be heyagashira by Haru and I think he’ll show why in this match, as long as Chiyoshoma doesn’t pull any rude tricks.

Takagenji vs Nishikigi – Sometimes a makekoshi can lift the pressure and weight off a rikishi’s shoulders and allow them to perform better, kind of like when a team gets relegated from the Premier League and all the sudden beats the team at the top of the table. Nishikigi is very much not at the top of the table, but with six losses on his ledger he will desperately be looking to knock off the doomed Takagenji. The two have only met once previously, on the hot dirt of Nagoya where the Chiganoura man was the victor. I fancy Nishikigi to even the score here.

Tochiozan vs Daishoho – It has been a laborious tournament for each of these men, who have winded their way to rather different results. Tochiozan hasn’t looked marvellous but can still eke out a kachikoshi. Daishoho needs wins to stave off relegation to Juryo. Difficult as it may be to watch, another laboured battle may be the tonic for Tochiozan, who lacks the power but perhaps possesses the better grappling ability and stamina than his counterpart here.

Onosho vs Kagayaki – Onosho has shown a bit of life in recent days, and has rebounded to 5-6, the same score as his opponent. “Tactics” Kagayaki has a 5-4 edge in the rivalry and the ability to win by keeping himself square to his man and blunting the smaller rikishi’s thrusting attack. Kagayaki is of course much taller and Onosho will likely be the attacker, looking to push up and raise the centre of gravity in search of a push out win. This feels a bit like a coin flip.

Sadanoumi vs Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho could actually be a bit of a weird dark horse at the moment as he may have had a lot of the matches that he would have against other contenders. That doesn’t mean he has a straightforward shot either at the yusho or even a special prize however: matches like this against a 6-5 rikishi looking to secure a kachikoshi still keep the stakes high, even if the opponents may be lower on the banzuke. Sadanoumi has a 2-1 edge and is better on the belt, and Tsurugisho is probably a better thruster, so this may come down to which style wins out at the tachiai.

Terutusyoshi vs Azumaryu – I haven’t been too impressed with Azumaryu in recent days, but with four matches left, he needs to win two for a kachikoshi. Terutsuyoshi has been largely pretty disappointing after his revelatory Nagoya basho. The goal here for the small man needs to be keeping Azumaryu off the mawashi.

Shohozan vs Kotoyuki – Shohozan has not looked amazing in this tournament but somehow finds himself a win from a kachikoshi and on the distant edges of the slow race for honours. Kotoyuki’s story is as always: uncontrolled momentum. Shohozan has been blasted at the tachiai before but if he can get some tsuppari/harite going and wind Kotoyuki up a bit, or even get a mawashi grip, he can deal with the Sadogatake man. Kotoyuki has a 4-3 edge in the head to head.

Okinoumi vs Meisei – Here’s the undisputed highlight match of the first half of the day’s action, pitting the new unheralded co-leader against the former unheralded leader. Okinoumi leads the career series 2-0, but neither of those matches came in a 2019 which has shown great development for Meisei. That said, I don’t think his sumo has matched up to his 9-2 record and a few of his victories have seemed more fortuitous than commanding, so I think this really comes down to whether Okinoumi, a more experienced practitioner of mawashi work as well as beltless throws, can escape the rot of his 3 bout losing run.

Enho vs Takarafuji – It’s a battle of two of the closest stables in sumo, an intra-ichimon affair as Miyagino-Hakuho’s Enho takes on Isegahama’s Takarafuji. Further to that, it’s a clash of wildly different sumo styles – and I don’t mean yotsu vs oshi. In this fascinating match, weaver of magic and bringer of chaos Enho comes up against an opponent in Takarafuji who specialises in defensive sumo and prefers to stalemate his opponents, kill off their attacking manoeuvres and shepherd them to defeat. While a first time meeting would tend to favour the trickster, Takarafuji will have seen plenty of Enho up close and personal and I think he will be wise to kill Enho’s movement and end his faint title hopes.

Ishiura vs Kotoeko – Ishiura has hit an ice patch and gets brought up the banzuke to take on the similarly fading Kotoeko. Ishiura has taken 4 of 6 from Kotoeko, using some serious kimarite (I love a tottari, even moreso when deployed by someone from Tottori). Ishiura has a habit of being a bit streaky so while I think he’s overall in the better form, I think this becomes more of a coin flip.

Kotoshogiku vs Tomokaze – Man alive, did Kotoshogiku ever get done by Enho on Day 11. He now faces makekoshi which seemed a bit unlikely earlier in the tournament, but those losses can pile up quickly. Tomokaze has beaten Kotoshogiku in their only prior meeting, and finds himself just two wins now from another incredible kachikoshi to continue his streak and push him further into the joi in Fukuoka. He has started doing more positive sumo since his bid to become the first all-hatakikomi yusho winner fell apart. The veteran is very capable of winning this if he lands his grip early, but the youngster’s in the better form, so I’ll tip him to send Kotoshogiku down the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Asanoyama – This is a very dangerous match for Asanoyama. Daieisho obviously hasn’t been perfect, but I think his 4-7 record is very misleading and he has worked hard to execute his oshi-zumo style in almost all of his matches. He also absolutely owns Asanoyama, winning the last 6 out of their 7 matchups. This may be the match more than any other that determines whether Asanoyama can take the next step in his development, never mind challenge for the yusho: will he be a left-hand-outside-one-trick-pony like a certain kadoban Ozeki or, when the chips are down, can he win a match that absolutely opposes his preferred style?

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Hokutofuji comes into this match in great form, hoping to come from behind and salvage a decent record in this basho off the back of several strong wins. He has a 6-2 career edge over Chiyotairyu, who looks lost. We all know Hokutofuji likes to slap himself but he will kick himself if he doesn’t win this.

Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Shimanoumi fights deep into the second half of the day’s action in a match littered with disappointment, as the 4-7 Kise-beya man takes his talents to Kasugano’s 2-9 Bulgarian. Big Dan has showed glimpses of his potential during this basho but has more often appeared listless. This presumable oshi-battle will be a good match for Shimanoumi to show whether he’s more often been outclassed or just outgunned.

Abi vs Shodai – Speaking of whipping boys, Abi will look to get his kachikoshi run back on track against 2-9 Shodai. Shodai isn’t a great opponent for Abi as evidenced by the Tokitsukaze man’s edge in their rivalry, so Abi needs to really use his double arm tsuppari to blow him away at the tachiai and sustain the blows. Sometimes Abi can make make one solid push off the shikiri-sen but then not make any forward progress after that no matter how many blows he lands. We know Shodai is just going to stand up and take it, and then look to evade the flailing arms in search of a belt grip. Shodai is already makekoshi and if Abi wants to hang around in san’yaku these are the matches he needs to win.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Tamawashi may have said he didn’t like picking up fusen-sho but the 6-5 cake decorator may have a few other thoughts if he ends this basho with 8 wins. 7-4 Endo had a lovely win against Shodai on Day 11 and is just hanging around the periphery of the yusho race. This incredibly streaky rivalry (6 for Endo, then 11 for Tamawashi) may have turned back towards Endo after he broke Tamawashi’s run against him in Nagoya. Endo has displayed the better sumo this tournament, and while he’s been hit and miss against pusher-thrusters in this tournament, he’s been more good than bad and I back him to win here.

Myogiryu vs Takakeisho – Myogiryu hasn’t faced anyone above Maegashira 4 this basho, so it must be some shock for the Maegashira 6 to find himself all of the sudden pulled up to face the past and future Ozeki and tournament leader after his return from kyujo. I tend to agree with Bruce’s point yesterday that kyujo returns seldom go well, but I think he might still get his 8 wins if he fights in the same manner as his Day 11 victory. Takakeisho can seal his return to Ozeki in this match, and he has incredibly won all six of their past meetings. Like his stablemate Goeido, Myogiryu is speedy, well rounded when it comes to his skills and maddeningly inconsistent. I wouldn’t rule out a shock but Takakeisho will be the presumptive favourite to finish the first job here and shift his focus to an unlikely and heroic Emperor’s Cup win.

Ryuden vs Goeido – 6-5 Ryuden has really turned his tournament around with four straight wins, perhaps none more impressive than the tide-turning victory over Mitakeumi on Day 11 which up-ended the yusho race once again. Goeido seems to bounce back from every loss with that angry scowl, and he seems to show up when he has something to prove. He is one win from ending his latest kadoban spell, but I’m not sure he’s going to get it here. He’s still technically in the yusho race, but the key for him is to suffocate Ryuden straight from the tachiai in the manner of his win against the hapless Chiyotairyu on Day 11. Ryuden tends to grow into matches and grow in stature and pull victory from the jaws of defeat, and Goeido can’t let that happen, because….

Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – This may be the highlight match of the second half of action. These two know all about each other (Mitakeumi is said to frequently go to Kasugano for degeiko), and the Georgian has an 8-3 edge in this rivalry. So, let’s look at it tactically:

Mitakeumi on paper is the kind of rikishi Tochinoshin does not want to face. He possesses an explosive pushing and thrusting attack, and Tochinoshin’s main defence in those matches lately has been pulling or slap-down attempts. This being said, Mitakeumi is also a good mawashi handler, but not in the league of Tochinoshin. The Dewanoumi man is also maddeningly inconsistent, conceding matches where he appears to lose focus when he should be in the thick of a title race.

Now let’s think about this: After this match, Tochinoshin is likely to face two mid-Maegashira opponents before Goeido on Senshuraku. Goeido will meanwhile get the two Sekiwake who are in the thick of the yusho hunt. What price on a couple of kadoban 7-7 Ozeki going head to head on the final day?

Aki Day 6 Preview

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I am in attendance on Day 6 of the Aki Basho, so here I am to tell you what I’m going to be looking for when the men in the top division set foot on the dohyo. If any of our readers are also in the building, come say hi! You can probably find me in a Tachiai t-shirt.

As Herouth related earlier, Yoshikaze’s retirement is now official. On a personal level I am sad not to see him take the dohyo again. Seeing him in person was always a great opportunity to tell a friend or a new sumo fan, “watch this” whenever he prepared for the tachiai. His head-first, fearless style of sumo when he was at his best was a joy to behold. In some ways he was very unique. Here’s wishing him the best in retirement, and I’ll look forward to trying to track down “Mr. Feisty” at Kokugikan some day in a blue jacket for a handshake. Of course, by then we’ll have to call him “Feisty oyakata.”

What We’re Watching on Day 6

Yutakayama vs Takanosho – Takanosho comes up from Juryo, where he’s been having a fine (4-1) tournament to make up the numbers after Ichinojo’s kyujo announcement unbalanced the torikumi. It’s a good opportunity for him to test his mettle against top division opposition again, as we’ll likely see him at this level in the next basho should he continue his good form. Yutakayama will sleep well tonight after Day 5’s epic with Kagayaki. I’d look for him to establish his pushing-thrusting style early and overwhelm Takanosho.

Ishiura vs Tochiozan – While I’ve never minded the henkas, I’ve always preferred Ishiura’s sumo moving forward because he is an incredibly strong, compact machine when he wants to be. Tochiozan is a wily opponent but I’d still expect Ishiura to get in low from the tachiai and try and establish an inside position, possibly with a hand on the front of Tochiozan’s mawashi to try and drive him out. Their all time rivalry is split 2-2.

Takagenji vs Toyonoshima – I actually would posit that Toyonoshima is in okay condition, he just doesn’t really have the power to go up against some of these really strong, much younger and powerful rikishi. He has trouble moving people, and I think that will be a problem against Takagenji. If you throw out fusen-sho, Takagenji trails Toyonoshima 3-2 over their lifetime matchups but if he loses this one I think it’s because he beats himself (which can’t be ruled out).

Azumaryu vs Nishikigi – The wheels have come off in the last few days for both of these guys, so both will be looking for a win here to right the ship. Nishikigi has a 3-2 edge in this and will be the favourite having displayed better sumo (even in this basho) and operated at a higher level, though his grappling style may play into Azumaryu’s hands.

Shohozan vs Tsurugisho – This is a first time matchup, which is always exciting! Shohozan rolled back the clock and looked like an animal on Day 5, which I loved. I’ll be curious to see if another all-action melee is on the cards, because if you’re not used to his style of sumo, it has to be a bit shocking the first time you face it.

Onosho vs Daishoho – Daishoho has just looked like a mess, so Onosho will have probably been thankful to see this one pop up on his dance card. A lot of credit is due to Enho for the silky manner which he simply disappeared from Daishoho in their Day 5 bout. I think Onosho, while rusty, has still looked better than his 2-3 record would indicate. He will want some explosiveness from the tachiai. He’s won 4 out of 5 against Daishoho and in their current conditions, a kuroboshi for the man in the magic red mawashi would be a shock.

Kagayaki vs Enho – These two have been rivals since they were kids, so it’s going to be a yet another can’t miss match involving the red flame. Kagayaki has won their only prior bout in professional sumo, however, and he looked in rude health on Day 5. Enho has brought magic to all five of his bouts so far, so I can’t wait both to see what he will have planned for Kagayaki as well as the special atmosphere that surely now awaits his bouts.

Terutsuyoshi vs Sadanoumi – Terutsuyoshi (1-4) desperately needs a win, and I’m backing him to get it here. I don’t think that his losses have necessarily come from a lack of aptitude so much as he’s just been outfought by fine margins on a couple occasions. Sadanoumi is really decent in straightforward bouts, but where the opponent shows a bit more in terms of mobility then he can suffer. If Terutusyoshi can use his speed and his lighter frame to stay mobile and use his style to pummel away at his larger, veteran opponent, then he has a good shot to win this.

Meisei vs Kotoyuki – Meisei has turned on the style in the past few days and he is looking on course to bounce back from his tough July tournament. Kotoyuki looks to be in decent condition and is bringing his A game. Their respective records would indicate a lopsided situation, but the lifetime tally is 3-0 to Kotoyuki. If he brings his style of oshi-zumo, I think the Sadogatake man has it in him here to bring Meisei back down to earth a bit.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Kotoshogiku has done really well to execute his gaburi-yori in situations where opponents will not either be experienced, prepared or best suited to deal with it. None of those descriptors should apply to Takarafuji, despite him holding an 8 win deficit against the “Kyushu Bulldozer” heading into their 25th meeting. Takarafuji hasn’t looked absolutely brilliant this basho, and I don’t think his defensive style of yotsu-zumo is necessarily well suited to defending Kotoshogiku as it may invite pressure, but Kotoshogiku’s advancing age and lessening ability to execute his patented move makes this a little more of a coin toss for me.

Shimanoumi vs Okinoumi – Shimanoumi has won their only prior bout, but Okinoumi has looked impressive and prepared en route to his co-leading five wins in this basho. We still haven’t seen enough of Shimanoumi at this level to know if he has the ability to play spoiler up against a veteran makuuchi rikishi at the top of his game, but this match will go some way to informing that. Okinoumi is the favourite heading into this… on paper.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Chiyotairyu’s record after five days is not great at 1-4, but like any match of his, this one will mostly be decided at the tachiai, and by his ability to leave his opponent off balance. Myogiryu, like Okinoumi, is showing a bit of a latter-career renaissance and Old Endo is smart enough to know that if he can take the hit and immediately land a mawashi grip, then his opponent is going to be mostly defenseless. Chiyotairyu has won the last 3 here and 5 of 6, but I think Myogiryu should be narrowly tipped for the kensho under the current circumstances.

Kotoeko vs Ryuden – Kotoeko reaches the dizzying heights of midway through the second half of action in this bout, as he takes on a somewhat struggling Ryuden. It’s a concern for Ryuden that he’s sitting on three losses without having faced many top ranked opponents, and if he doesn’t turn it around then he might not. Ryuden holds a 4-1 edge in this rivalry, and given that this is likely to be a mawashi battle against Kotoeko, I tend to favour his style both attacking and defending on the belt in this matchup.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – These guys are both 2-3. One thing about Tomokaze is that even if he takes a second to settle in at a level (this in spite of his much vaunted unbroken kachi-kochi streak), you can always see him watching and learning and then later applying. This has really helped him develop. That said, he’s been lethargic for parts of this tournament, and I thought he absolutely got out of jail when executing a second pull down moving backwards against an extreme pusher-thruster. You just can’t do that all the time. Shodai is not an extreme pusher-thruster, and this should be a good match because in a tournament where Tomokaze has looked a bit deferential, it will require him to take the initiative from the tachiai. Shodai has won their only prior match.

Abi vs Aoiyama – Abi got paid by Mitakeumi on Day 5 for the loss he should have had from Tochinoshin on Day 4. Aoiyama looks absolutely abysmal and has been moving backwards and trying really weak pull down moves all basho long rather than firing up his old V2 engine. Abi should not let himself get beat by this, and if he can execute his own tsuppari then the Komusubi should easily be the favourite. Big Dan holds the 3-1 all-time edge.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – This is a really tough one to call, simply because I think Hokutofuji has been a lot better than his 1-4 record would indicate, but he’s had the hardest possible schedule so far. Mitakeumi has done well to very professionally eliminate a couple of recent opponents and keep himself in the yusho race at one off the pace. Mitakeumi can absolutely cope with Hokutofuji’s oshi-zumo style and has more tricks besides, but he doesn’t always show up right from the tachiai and this is the nugget of hope that Hokutofuji will hold on to. I don’t think Hokutofuji’s san’yaku challenge is dead yet but a win here would go a long way to reviving it, if he hasn’t mentally beat himself up about his record.

Endo vs Takakeisho – This one looks like the match of the day, with 4-1 Endo coming up against undefeated Takakeisho. With Kakuryu’s loss on Day 5, Takakeisho now finds himself in the driver’s seat for the yusho race, and it will be interesting to see how this affects his sumo going forward. He has shown incredible positioning and ring sense in the first five days which have helped make up for his physicality not being where it usually is. This being said, he was as close to 100% against Hokutofuji as we have seen in a long time, and holds a 2-1 edge in this rivalry. Endo has performed above expectations, dropping only his bout to Kakuryu and winning several in impressive fashion. This should be Takakeisho’s toughest challenge yet.

Asanoyama vs Goeido – Just when it was looking like the lustre had faded a bit, up pops Asanoyama again with a stunning win against a Yokozuna and his first kinboshi. Goeido has by and large been a ruthless killing machine as he looks to both shed the kadoban tag and get in yusho contention. Goeido needs to execute his high octane brand of sumo straight from the tachiai. If he comes forward hassling and harrying Asanoyama into a defensive position, it will be very tough for the Maegashira to defend. But if Asanoyama is afforded time to get his preferred left hand outside grip, then Goeido will be in trouble.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Tochinoshin comes in 2-3 but has a load of reasons to feel good about where his sumo is going at this stage of the tournament. He faces another pull-down candidate here in Tamawashi, though it might be a thought to maybe try a different technique than grabbing the back of the head as he was dangerously close to the top-knot again against Tomokaze. Tamawashi only has one style of sumo which is a brutal tsuppari, usually incorporating a strong nodowa, with the plan B of an arm-breaking kotenage if his thrusting doesn’t get the job done. Tochinoshin is already down one limb but given that his weakness has always been pusher-thrusters, I can see him trying another pulling manoeuvre even if his quality of opponent means he may end up circling the dohyo a few times to do it. Tamawashi trails 18-10 in the rivalry, but has won the last two and I’d make the odds here fairly even.

Kakuryu vs Daieisho – NHK has spent a lot of time talking about Kakuryu’s desire for a first zensho yusho, but after his upset loss on Day 5, it won’t be happening here. Prior to that, he had shown an almost Hakuho-like approach to tailoring his game plan to his opponent’s strengths. However, he walked right into the battle Asanoyama wanted, and if he doesn’t want to cough up another kinboshi, then he will need to have a think about how he’s going to deal with Daieisho. I think Daieisho actually did a fabulous job of executing his style of sumo for the first four days of the tournament, and I don’t think his record reflects his form particularly well. When he starts to get rank-and-filers again, we should see the wins come back, but he’s a massive underdog against a Yokozuna he has never beaten in four prior attempts.

Aki 2019 Day 3 Preview

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We’ve had two days of fantastic sumo at the Aki basho. While some things are very much going according to plan (Kakuryu, Takakeisho, Asanoyama), others (Hakuho, Tochinshin) have changed the landscape of what to expect over the next week and a half.

In the week of Typhoon 15, and before a prolonged spell of rain sets in on Tokyo, let’s preview Day 3 of the Autumn tournament…

What We Are Watching on Day 3

Takagenji vs Tochiozan – Takagenji has struggled as predicted in the opening of the basho, while Tochiozan has looked, to my eyes, a little less than makuuchi standard in his opening fixtures. That’s not a good thing when you’re trying to stay in makuuchi. I feel somewhat emboldened by my Day 1 predictions so let’s get off the fence here and back Tochiozan to continue the misery for Takagenji, as I’m just not sure a veteran who has good all around technical ability and an ability to generate a plan B is the opponent that Takagenji needs to face right now.

Yutakayama vs Azumaryu – Azumaryu hasn’t really needed to get out of first gear to rack up two wins, and that’s exactly the kind of start he’d have hoped for on his return to the top tier. Yutakayama, meanwhile, has displayed some real quality sumo. For me this comes down to whether Yutakayama can establish his pushing and thrusting attack. History is on his side, having beaten the Mongolian 3 from 4 by oshidashi. Yutakayama looks good value for a deep run into the tournament high up the yusho arasoi. He should be targeting a special prize.

Ishiura vs Toyonoshima – Ishiura’s sumo is very erratic right now. Toyonoshima needs a win. He didn’t have enough strength to overwhelm Azumaryu, but I don’t think that will be a factor in this match. Ishiura can’t use a submarine tachiai against the joint-shortest rikishi in the division (though he may try), and I don’t know that any weird tricks will help him here, so that somewhat explains why their lifetime series is split 2-2 with all four matches decided by oshidashi. I’m backing the old timer here.

Tsurugisho vs Nishikigi – These guys haven’t met in quite a while, so the history goes a bit out of the window and you focus more on form. Tsurugisho has acquitted himself well enough so far, though he did get outthought by Ishiura on Day 2. Nishikigi doesn’t play games like Ishiura does, but I do think he is a better grappler than Tsurugisho and is in very good form coming into this match, so I’m going to tip the Isenoumi man.

Kagayaki vs Daishoho – Hard to separate these two. Kagayaki did well to see off Shohozan, but his sumo runs hot and cold it seems he isn’t always mentally dialled in to execute against his good tactical awareness. Daishoho hasn’t been able to get anything going so far, and while it’s still early I’m skeptical about his long term prospects in the division. Lifetime matchup is 1-1, so I’m staying on the fence. It’s a coin flip.

Onosho vs Shohozan – Shohozan isn’t really the opponent that Onosho needs when he’s 0-2. He has looked livelier now that he’s back in his red mawashi, but he has yet to really establish his powerful pushing and thrusting offense. To me this feels like it will be won in the tachiai because Onosho certainly has the ability to blow Shohozan away off the line, but if Shohozan can stay in this match, he has the dexterity and the movement to cause problems for Onosho, who is running on questionable wheels and can struggle with a mobile rikishi as we saw in his inability to finish Enho. Shohozan leads the series 5-3 and it wouldn’t be a surprise for Onosho to win his desperately needed first, but the smart money is on the veteran.

Enho vs Kotoyuki – Enho has had to pull some tricks out of the bag with two incredible finishes to his opening bouts, but if you look solely at that then you overlook both the things he’s been able to do to keep himself in those matches, and also issues that put him into a position where he needs to win in “come from behind” style at the edge. Kotoyuki looked good when he was able to blast Takarafuji off the dohyo, but really struggled against a mobile target like Terutsuyoshi. I think Kotoyuki will have another good tournament but if Enho can keep it moving then he should win this.

Terutsuyoshi vs Meisei – Meisei, like many before him, will be wondering how he lost to Enho on Day 2. He’ll likely not be too thrilled to see the pixie’s similarly undersized training mate staring back at him if he was hoping to put Day 2 out of his mind, especially given the 4-2 advantage that the Isegahama man holds in this rivalry. Terutsuyoshi is a more straight forward opponent. Again this comes down to the prevailing style at the tachiai – while Terutsuyoshi is by no means solely a pusher-thruster, if he can establish some chaos and keep Meisei away from him then he’s got a good shot to win this.

Sadanoumi vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji got absolutely dismantled on Day 2 whereas Sadanoumi did well to come back and beat Onosho, but I think this is the type of battle that the Isegahama veteran loves. He owns the rivalry 11-5, including 7 of the last 9 – but that’s really a nod to the styles at play. Sadanoumi is an opponent that can give Takarafuji the time he needs to set himself, dismantle his opponent’s attacking strategy and then either load a throw or walk him out for a yorikiri having neutralised him. Takarafuji can be a ponderous victor, which can sometimes make him hard to root for, but a Sadanoumi win would be a surprise here.

Okinoumi vs Kotoeko – Okinoumi has looked very decent against two very different types of opponent. Perhaps he was a bit fortunate to beat Kotoeko’s stablemate Kotoshogiku on Day 1, with everything coming down to foot placement. Kotoeko got torched on Day 2 and will want to get back on track, and I think his best bet here is a Takarafuji style war of attrition against the veteran Okinoumi, who I think will want this over with as quickly as possible. Okinoumi has the 3-0 edge and is the presumptive favourite.

Kotoshogiku vs Myogiryu – This is an excellent long term rivalry! Myogiryu leads it 12-10 if you discount fusen-sho. Myogiryu is in good form and comes into this as an easy pick, but I think just looking at Kotoshogiku’s two losses is a little misleading when you take into account he lost the first day by crossing up his footwork. The reality is that Myogiryu has the tools and speed in his locker to blow Kotoshogiku away but if he allows this to become a grappling match then the ex-Ozeki certainly still has enough to win it. Myogiryu has to execute with the speed of his stablemate Goeido without getting sucked into the veteran’s gaburi-yori.

Shimanoumi vs Ryuden – These guys haven’t met since they were back in Makushita, which might add some spice to the proceedings as both have developed quite a bit since then in terms of their overall ability to execute. Ryuden looks to have got therapy for his matta-addiction and seems to have adjusted well to the rhythm of upper tier sumo. Shimanoumi has a few tools but against someone like Ryuden who will want a grip and then to swing you one way and then the other, the biggest one he’ll need is composure. Shimanoumi is unquestionably the underdog in this, a match Ryuden will want to win with bigger tasks yet to come in his battle to move back toward san’yaku.

Chiyotairyu vs Shodai – Shodai did well to get a win from Ryuden in his last match but this is a very straightforward bout to analyse: Chiyotairyu will probably come in his with cannonball tachiai. If Shodai can take the hit and immediately get the mawashi grip he wants or manoeuvre into position for a beltless throw, then he will almost certainly win. If Chiyotairyu is able to knock him back from his standing position, he will be able to establish his own thrusting attack with a minimum of work needed to finish the job.

Tamawashi vs Tomokaze – It’s a first time meeting, and both of these guys are in good shape. If Tomokaze thinks that he will be able to sidestep Tamawashi like he did to Abi and hit a pull/slap down however, he’s got another thing coming. Tamawashi is more of a finisher (which is why I’ve felt his career represents a ceiling for Abi in Abi’s current form). If Tomokaze tries to win going backwards then he’s going to need to get in position to pull a throw if Tamawashi overcommits, and I don’t think that is a high percentage play. For that reason, I think this will be fought in the middle of the dohyo. Tomokaze is slowly learning and adapting to this part of the division but it’s clear he has the required tools to the job.

Abi vs Daieisho – Abi will be refreshed from his freebie win on Day 2, but he meets an opponent here who has thrown absolutely everything at his first two matches only to end up with nothing to show for it. This is as nailed on of a street-fight as we’re likely to see in the day’s fixtures. If Daieisho can use his lower centre of gravity to keep Abi high, he’ll have a decent chance of making progress in the match. The lifetime series is split 4-4, but Abi has won all 3 matchups in 2019 including one with a throw, which may be his key here if he wants to keep Daieisho winless, in what is a key match to preserve his own san’yaku status.

Asanoyama vs Takakeisho – Something has got to give here: either Asanoyama’s perfect start in pursuit of san’yaku or Takakeisho’s perfect start to his Ozeki reclamation bid. Takakeisho – at far less than 100% – has done a good job of using his ring sense to eke out results thus far. While he’s faced two pusher-thrusters, this match against Asanoyama will present an entirely different challenge and the speed with which the May yusho winner landed his preferred grip against Tochinoshin was impressive. That will be much harder to do against a less obliging opponent: to me it’s unclear that Takakeisho is necessarily in far better condition than the Georgian, but he certainly isn’t going to invite a mawashi battle. Asanoyama is in both the better form and fitness, but Takekeisho has showed us time and again to expect the unexpected.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – As Bruce predicted in our pre-basho podcast, Ichinojo has more or less showed up switched into “on” mode. Mitakeumi, to these eyes, has not looked impressive, and Daieisho gave him hell on Day 2 even though he managed to prevail. If Ichinojo can keep this match in the centre of the dohyo, block Mitakeumi’s attacks, and maintain a strong grip, then I think this is winnable for him (either via yorikiri or throw). However, most of Mitakeumi’s strategy revolves around a relentless forward attack (either in oshi or yotsu mode), and the Mongolian’s biggest weakness is his uncontrollable backward momentum, so I think the Sekiwake will squeeze out another result here. Mitakeumi holds an 8-4 advantage including 7 of the last 8.

Tochinoshin vs Hokutofuji – Tochinoshin looks awful right now. That said, I do think he should stay in the basho until it’s absolutely confirmed that he will have a make-koshi, because especially with Hakuho having left, he still has a better chance to win 8 of 13 here than I think he will of taking 10 of 15 next time. And he can win this. But I don’t think he will, because he hates facing opponents like Hokutofuji (especially genki ones). And whereas Kakuryu was able to step back and defuse the extreme thrusting of the Hakkaku man by reverting to his own old school oshi-zumo ability, Tochinoshin’s whole game revolves digging right in and establishing his preferred grip. So, inviting someone who’s (at least) a step or two quicker than him off the blocks to pummel away at him does not feel like a winning recipe.

Endo vs Goeido – These two have split their rivalry 6-6, but Endo has won 6 of the last 8 dating back to the start of 2017, so he’s got the Ozeki’s number. Endo’s sumo was impressive against Tomokaze, whereas Goeido didn’t have to get beyond second gear in beating the giants Aoiyama and Ichinojo. It seems clear that he will remove his kadoban tag yet again, but this is the kind of match that can tell us whether he can mount a title challenge that is very much there for the taking in the absence of Hakuho and Takayasu, and the poor form of some of his other competitors. It’s a tough call. The percentages and odds make my head say Goeido, but experience and gut makes me say Endo.

Kakuryu vs Aoiyama – Because Goeido is such an unreliable customer, Kakuryu will see a clear path to retaining the championship. His route next goes through Big Dan, and Kakuryu owns a dominant 19-1 mark against the Bulgarian. Aoiyama came out with a plan for Takakeisho on Day 2 which he failed to execute, so it will be curious to see whether he brings a strategy to the Yokozuna beyond his signature twin piston attack. Whatever he brings, we can expect Kakuryu to react and dismantle it accordingly.

Aki Basho Day 1 Lower Division Intrigue

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Following our earlier, proper preview post, here are a few “ones to watch” from Day 1’s action. If you’re a follower of lower division activity then you may well look forward to some of these…

Jonokuchi

Hattorizakura (Jk34) vs Chiyotsurugi (Jk33) – The main man Hattorizakura gets the basho underway, with a current losing streak of 24 very much under threat from lowest ranked debutant Chiyotsurugi.

Senho (Jk31) vs Urutora (Jk32) – Another Hakuho recruit, Senho starts his career against Hattorizakura’s mildly higher achieving but still tiny 30 year old stablemate, who makes his return to action after a lengthy layoff.

Ayaminato (Jk29) vs Hokutenkai (Jk29) – As referenced in the recent Tachiai Podcast, I’ve been looking forward to Hokutenkai’s debut since seeing him in action earlier this year during a keiko session at Onoe beya. He’s the nephew of former sekitori Takanoiwa.

Nishikio (Jk26) vs Murata (Jk27) – Murata, who had a storming start to his career and made it to the very edge of the line separating heaven and hell at Makushita 1, is slated to return following sporadic appearances during a long injury layoff which slowed his descent down the banzuke. Will he be back or will this be it for the basho?

Jonidan

Motobayashi (Jd16) vs Imafuku (Jd18) and
Marusho (Jd15) vs Tochinoshima (Jd17):

I’ve bracketed these both together as Marusho and Motobayashi (the winner) were two of the three Naruto beya recruits to contest the Jonokuchi playoff in an intra-heya battle last time out. The third, Sakurai, is not in business on Day 1. Both of them get veterans who more or less live at this level.

Sandanme

Wakaichiro (Sd67) vs Fujitaisei (Sd67) – Wakaichiro fans will cheer him on from his highest banzuke appearance to date. Curiously he gets an opponent who was recruited into the original Musashigawa stable before Musashimaru branched off the current version (hat tip to Asashosakari for the catch). American fans will want to note that Wakaichiro’s stablemate Musashikuni is listed as kyujo from the basho, so he’ll be the sole American representative from Musashigawa at least to start the tournament.

Tokisakae (Sd44) vs Oyamatoumi (Sd43) – Jonidan yusho winner Tokisakae makes his Sandanme bow in this match, and the former university man should be expected to plough through the division again this time out before facing tougher scrutiny in November.

Yoshoyama (Sd17) vs Hisanotora (Sd17) – The 21 year old Mongolian Yoshoyama, who entered with some degree of fanfare a couple years back, has made very slow and steady progress, but the wheels came off in his last tournament when he made his Makushita debut. He’ll be looking to right the ship.

Makushita

Ayanoumi (Ms47) vs Chiyonokuni (Ms46) – The feisty man from Mie, Chiyonokuni makes his return to the dohyo, and will attempt to kickstart his career from Makushita 46. Here’s hoping he can follow the path trodden by the likes of Tochinoshin and vault himself back to even higher successes.

Shiraishi (Ms42) vs Okinofuji (Ms42) – Hot prospect and former Sandanme Tsukedashi man Shiraishi will look to follow up last tournament’s 5-2 with a second strong appearance in the third tier. He takes on a long time Makushita veteran, and no prizes for guessing he might be a stablemate of Okinoumi and Hokutofuji at Hakkaku beya.

Wakatakamoto (Ms22) vs Hatooka (Ms22) – It really would be lovely to get all 3 Onami brothers up towards the sekitori ranks, especially with Arashio oyakata set to yield the stable early next year to Sokokurai. 27 year old Wakatakamoto seems to take a step back for every step forward, so a first win here would be good progress.

Chiyoarashi (Ms18) vs Hakuyozan (Ms17) – Hakuyozan had a promising start to his sekitori career before being derailed by injury, and then had a horror show in the last basho upon his return. He needs to stop the rot in this tournament otherwise he may be facing a very difficult journey back.

Naya (Ms10) vs Toyohibiki (Ms10) – Another decent bellwether for the up and coming top talent, Naya faces longtime top division man Toyohibiki as he gets his Aki basho underway.

Midorifuji (Ms4) vs Kototebakari (Ms4) – A classic big vs small match as two very promising, perhaps second tier prospects face off on Day 1, with promotion very much a realistic possibility with a good result in this basho.