Byamba, RIP

Byamba

Like many around the sumo world and beyond, we are extremely saddened to hear the news of Byambajav Ulambayar’s passing at the age of 35. Most sumo fans around the world will have known him simply as Byamba.

Let me first say that the first few times I heard of Byamba, usually my feeling was less curiosity and more of bemusement. Pieces like this VICE article introduced him as a character in an environment very different to how many of us know the world of ozumo. Most times, he would be referenced without much detail as to his origin story, and the caricature of the traveling entertainment tours would be presented as a representation of the sport as a whole. The journalistic lilt in some publications made me miss the bigger picture at first with Byamba.

I’ll stop and say two things here: the first is that many fans look at the NSK-managed ozumo as if it’s the only sumo that matters. Some folks even look at makuuchi as the only division that matters. To miss the rest of the picture is to miss a detailed portrait of a very rich history, sport, and lifestyle.

The second thing is that ozumo doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The sumo life that exists outside of ozumo – from local children’s dojos, to amateur sumo tournaments like the Hakuho Cup for kids and the World Sumo Championships, to upstart associations like USA Sumo and even the vast entertainment work done by Byamba – are things that attract and develop new fans and athletes, and build communities and relationships around a very special game.

To both of these ends, Byamba really delivered.

My first inspiration from him wasn’t anything he did on the dohyo. It was from another video (again, for VICE) which surfaced of him detailing his chanko preparation routine, honed after thousands of preparations in his ozumo stable. While similar content exists elsewhere of course, for a new fan it is an illuminating insight into one of the cornerstones of the sumo lifestyle. And it made me think, “I’ve got to make this myself at home.” While my recipe is admittedly different – as they are in every heya – that inspiration provided me a way to enjoy some of a staple of the Kokugikan and sumo experience in my own home:

As you can see in this video, he also spent time training amateurs (including another certain North American ex-rikishi).

In addition to his sumo media work, Byamba of course competed at the World Sumo Championships, where he won four titles. Our friends at Inside Sport Japan are always keen to remind sumo fans where their favourite rikishi come from: often times, it’s great success at ama-sumo tournaments just like this. In 2012 (several years after his intai), he competed and emerged victorious alongside current Grand Sumo standouts Endo and Ichinojo:

According to his homepage, he was a “global ambassador for sumo, performing 1,000+ live sumo exhibitions, shows, competitions, TV appearances, film shoots, and much more. Many have called him the most prolific sumo entertainer in history.” Owing to this work, many fans discovered sumo, including a gentleman I happened to interview for this site about his experience “fighting” in a live cultural exhibition, as Byamba and pals were traveling across America. Surely, his work in this area paved the way for recent retirees such as Musashikuni to have opportunities on a similar circuit.

As for Byamba’s ozumo career, having been scouted and recruited by the former Yokozuna Onokuni (Shibatayama-oyakata), he fought under the shikona Daishochi (大翔地). He collected an admirable 95-66 record while picking up a yusho in his debut basho in Jonokuchi. Retiring with a career high of Makushita 15, Byamba didn’t face many future sumo stars in his short career in the mid-2000s. He did however face future Ozeki Baruto once, as well as a 17 year old compatriot of his in Sandanme, none other than future Yokozuna Hakuho. Both matches ended in defeat.

Every fan’s origin story in sumo comes from a different place. For some followers, it’s the NHK highlights. For others it may well be Byamba’s fun (and at times cringe inducing on behalf of the comedians) turn with Kevin Hart and Conan O’Brien. It’s a broad church, and Byamba welcomed many.

Byamba’s official site has now opened a tribute page, for fans around the world to share their memories. He is survived by a number of family members including his wife and two year old son.

He is gone too soon. RIP Byamba.

Tunnel at the End of the Tunnel: A Glass Somewhat Full Opinion

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Hands up if you’d like some wins – photo by @nicolaah

Look, let’s not bury the lede: I think Hatsu was one of the poorest honbasho in recent memory. And the recent worrying events around Coronavirus and the “will it/won’t it happen” predicament of future tournaments (imminent or otherwise) are somewhat detracting from the sport’s actual issues.

Most storylines entering the Hatsu basho were reduced either to non-events (Hakuho defending the Emperor’s Cup entering the final year of his career), or damp squibs (Takayasu’s ozekiwake challenge, Goeido in kadoban, Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi’s rebound attempts). Furthermore, the top division is worse for the injury-inspired losses of recent (Wakatakakage, Tomokaze) and less recent (Ichinojo) talents.

The best sumo of the last tournament may have been displayed early doors by Endo, a thoroughly enthralling victory over Hakuho that led to the dai-Yokozuna’s early exit from the tournament. While I joked with the other Tachiais on Sumo Twitter™ that an Endo yusho would be the worst thing for those of us who like to buy tickets to sumo (owing to the revelation in our recent interview with BuySumoTickets that it was Endo’s top division promotion that inspired the dearth of recent years’ ticket availability to begin with), the sumo world would have been better for a sustained title challenge from the Oitekaze pinup. Instead, the wily technician’s trademark inconsistency reared its head and a string of losses knocked him from the race.

Are there silver linings? Yes. But until Tokushoryu burst into tears on the dohyo on Senshuraku, it was a struggle to conjure them up. Takakeisho’s consistency at the thick end of the yusho arasoi bodes well for at least one san’yaku man’s longterm standing in the game. Those who thought Enho would struggle against top division opposition have been proven wrong – not only is he adding excitement but racking up scalps against san’yaku rikishi and consistently challenging for a kachi-koshi. And down in Juryo? I’ll hold my hand up and admit I never saw Terunofuji coming back, at least not like this. You can argue with the sumo, but it’s hard to find fault in the results.

As for Shodai, his delight at winning matches flies in the face of the stoicism that the game demands. He’s worked hard over the years at making himself difficult to love, so it is good to see him loosening up. Can it continue? I hope so.

The problem we now face is that, in an era of transition, the transition can’t actually take place if the new stars aren’t able or willing to take the place of those they are charged with deposing. The ozeki corps as we knew it have now been almost completely destroyed. At least one if not both Yokozuna are ready to mount up for their final sunset.

Andy recently covered some potential Ozeki runs, but at the moment, while I respect and am quite honestly jealous of his boundless optimism, it’s looking like a grim year. I’d love to be proved wrong, but while Asanoyama is technically on an Ozeki run now, I think it will require a another tremendous improvement from him in Osaka off the back of his OK performance in the Hatsu basho, and Natsu may be the earliest that he can realistically punch his ticket to sumo’s penultimate rank. As for the other candidates, I think we’re looking at 2021 as the moment when wheat will be separated from chaff.

In the meantime, the maturity of Takakeisho will be tested – because the spotlight will be firmly on him. Whatever we get from the two Yokozuna is great, but we know now not to expect anything. Takakeisho has to deliver. His fitness has proven to be a bit of a question mark since his Ozeki promotion, and he has at times had to grind out results. It’s been four years now since we had a truly great (or even good) Ozeki worthy of the rank, so the Chiganoura beya man’s cementing of his position with a steady succession of 10 or even 12+ win tournaments would be a much needed victory for the sport as a whole.

With sumo being a zero sum game, there has to be a light at the end of this transitionary tunnel. That light should signify a new emerging star. At times, it’s felt that that light is in fact a train coming to blast a Tomokaze or Murata into a devastating period of kyujo and that at the end of the tunnel there’s only another tunnel. Promising prospects like Naya and Hoshoryu haven’t been able to get it together yet, Yago lost it, and Mitoryu may not have had it. Somewhere in one of these waves there has to be hope: the smart money is on Kiribayama and Kotonowaka to make serious inroads in 2020.

People have different reasons to follow sports. I’m interested in the stories and the narrative. I’ll be in Osaka whether or not there’s a basho, and where Hatsu fell short, I’m hoping – if not expecting – to see a return to the story arc that makes sumo so compelling.

Kyushu Day 6 Preview

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Greetings from a surprisingly windy Tokyo!

Now, look: the upside of all of this kyujo and injury business is that if you’re someone who writes match day previews, there’s less writing that you have to do. But honestly, I’d rather be writing another paragraph and get to see the likes of Tochinoshin and Goeido battle it out. What will 2020 look like for them… or any of us? These existential questions and more will not be answered on Day 6 of the Kyushu basho.

Leaders: Hakuho, Asanoyama, Meisei, Enho, Sadanoumi, Yutakayama, Shodai, Wakatakakage

What We’re Watching on Day 6

Daishoho vs Kagayaki – Daishoho looks disinterested at this point, so the last thing he probably needs is to face someone who’s fresh from a rest day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Daishoho runs into a couple “exchange” bouts with someone from Juryo in Week 2. Tough to pick against Kagayaki here.

Nishikigi vs Takanosho – Takanosho didn’t have to work too hard to dispatch Daishoho on Day 5, but Nishikigi found himself on the wrong end of a very genki opponent. Both of these guys (2-3) need to start putting up the white stars, otherwise they’re going to be looking over their shoulder. Both of these guys like a good grapple, so if they go strength against strength then it should be fairly entertaining.

Daishomaru vs Chiyotairyu – The Kokonoe man has been in good form the last few days, and he’s a jovial fellow so here’s hoping sumo’s good natured sideburn enthusiast can keep it up. His tachiai should be able to overpower Daishomaru, and I can’t shake the feeling that he’s also a bit more powerful all around than the Oitekaze man. Their career series is 5-4 and usually ends up with someone face down on the clay.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both of these rikishi are 2-3 and you can pretty much copy what I said about Nishikigi and Takanosho here, except I think this may be a bit more of a straightforward shoving match. We’re approaching the end of the first week and these guys have yet to blast off the ring rust, so here’s hoping they play themselves into form sooner than later.

Chiyomaru vs Shodai – I had really rather fancied Shodai to win against Kotoshogiku, but he didn’t seem to have any kind of answer for the most predictable move in sumo. Chiyomaru had an easy go of it yesterday, but Shodai may put up a bit more resistance than Ishiura. A clash of styles here, and whoever establishes their preferred method at the tachiai – oshi for Chiyomaru and yotsu for Shodai – should win the day. Surprisingly this is only the third meeting of these two, with honours even.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Mirror records for these two: 1-4 Ishiura meets 4-1 Yutakayama. Ishiura has looked really light on his feet this tournament and seems to be simply getting blown out of the ring, so he’s meeting the wrong opponent in Yutakayama, who relies on powerful pushing and thrusting. Don’t @ me, sumo internet…. but with Ishiura looking at a rough scoreline I just have a sneaky feeling we might see a henka.

Tsurugisho vs Kotoshogiku – The crowd has really been behind Kotoshogiku all tournament, so it was a relief to see him finally pick up a win. Tsurugisho has fared fairly well in this tournament up until Day 5. This is the first meeting of the two, and I do wonder whether the gaburi-yori from Kotoshogiku will be effective against an opponent who’s never seen it. If Tsurugisho’s never had to defend against it, he may be in for a tough day out.

Onosho vs Sadanoumi – Onosho showed more of his old self on Day 5 with a real powerful victory. Sadanoumi just keeps motoring along. This should be a pretty good clash, although I could see Sadanoumi trying to hit an early slap down to avoid a drawn out oshi battle. Sadanoumi’s best method here is probably to get Onosho’s arms wrapped up and use a grappling approach to usher him out or down via beltless throw. Onosho has won 3 of 4, but Sadanoumi won the most recent match and is in the better form making it a little more of a coin toss.

Shohozan vs Enho – Right on the halfway mark, we get the first real highlight bout of the day. Between honbasho and jungyo events, these two have loads of epic matches in the tank already. There’s so much narrative in these matches: the young upstart vs the wily veteran, the thrower vs the slapper, precise manoeuvers vs street brawling. All of that to say: Enho has won by oshidashi a time or two, and Shohozan isn’t afraid to go to the belt. Shohozan has won all three previous matches on honbasho clay, but I have a sneaky feeling Enho might just squeak this out and add a bit of needle to the growing rivalry. Anything could happen, and hopefully it will.

Kotoeko vs Ryuden – The schedulers give us another pair here who are below their usual level. These two have similar yotsu-accented styles, and I happen to believe that Ryuden is simply the stronger practitioner of that style. This is borne out in his 4-2 lifetime advantage over the Sadogatake man. It would behoove Ryuden to put a little run together, and I think this is a good place to start.

Aoiyama vs Okinoumi – It’s the 27th matchup of these two veterans, with Shimane-ken’s Okinoumi leading with 16 victories over the Bulgarian pummeller. Okinoumi’s in much better form than his 2-3 record would indicate, while Aoiyama (3-2) seemed a bit confused by Enho on Day 5. Despite his head-to-head advantage, Okinoumi rarely gets to execute his style of sumo over Aoiyama, and we’re probably primed for an oshidashi or tsukidashi affair. Okinoumi has looked more genki, so I’m tipping him here.

Abi vs Daieisho – It’s a Saitama derby! Abi really showed up on Day 5, but again his footwork was sloppy and almost lost him the match. I don’t think that’s going to cut it against Daieisho who has been in great form, and will be rested after getting the day off after picking up a fusen-sho. What is almost guaranteed is that this will be an all out tsuppari battle. Daieisho won 4 of their first 5 matches, but Abi has since won four in a row from his smaller opponent this year. I’d make this a bit of a coin flip, Abi’s ability cancelled out by Daieisho’s stronger form.

Hokutofuji vs Kotoyuki – Hokutofuji has nothing to worry about after his Day 5 loss in my opinion, but he might if he drops this. Kotoyuki has more or less been in good nick. Both men are oshi-zumo practitioners, and Hokutofuji has been fighting at by far the higher level. It’s a good test for Kotoyuki and a win for him would certainly make it easier to envision him making it back to san’yaku someday soon. I just think Hokutofuji is going to have too much for him though. This could be the match where we see Kotoyuki head a few rows into the crowd, although he may well get slapped down to the clay first.

Asanoyama vs Endo – Asanoyama has looked strong and has to be a serious yusho contender. He came out to execute his style of sumo against Hokutofuji and was dominant in so doing. Endo has started to resemble the hit-and-miss Endo that we grew accustomed to in recent years before he really turned the corner the last couple tournaments to make his san’yaku case. This could and in fact should be a really good belt bout. Endo’s best chance might be to come out with a pushing attack and put Asanoyama on the back foot a bit, but it might be a risky move. Endo has won 4 from 6 overall in this rivalry, giving Asanoyama a little history to overcome… but I think Asanoyama will do it and keep himself firmly in the title race.

Mitakeumi vs Takarafuji – Mitakeumi looks awful to me, and he simply has to win this match. He’s reaching a point where he’s not only jeopardising his chances of Ozeki promotion this tournament (he probably needs to win out), but if he keeps coughing up matches to lower rankers then he might not have a chance to seal the deal in January. You know what you’re going to get from Takarafuji: a strong defence against any kind of mawashi or grappling strategy, so Mitakeumi is best served reverting to a powerful oshi attack to try and blow the veteran away.

Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – It’s surprising to me that Takakeisho has owned Tamawashi to the degree that he has (7 wins out of 10). This should be a cagey pushing-thrusting battle with either rikishi capable of throwing a few wild tricks into the bargain. Takakeisho will be the narrow favourite, with oshidashi the nailed on favourite no matter who takes the kensho.

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Myogiryu has coughed up a couple easy ones this basho, which may be what Takayasu needs. I thought Takayasu was strategically sound in his Day 5 loss to Meisei. He picked the correct style of sumo to deploy, but simply wasn’t able to execute at the same level of his opponent. He did worryingly start to feel his injured arm again after that match. If he doesn’t go kyujo (and I don’t think he will), Myogiryu might be the type of opponent he needs to face: speedy, but with no one skill that’s better than any of Takayasu’s.

Meisei vs Hakuho – The highlight bout of the second half of the day, and one featuring a first meeting of two men who are in no mood to lose. Meisei’s defensive work was fantastic against Takayasu, but he’ll need to take that to another level to cope with The Boss. Hakuho looks in good shape as he can smell opportunities to win. He should keep his focus though, because this could be a real banana peel for someone who’s been serving up more kinboshi lately than anyone would like. He’ll need more than he did against Myogiryu, and he’ll probably noticed that a weakened Takayasu had Meisei on the ropes with a strong pushing attack. Add to that a stronger tachiai and better finishing moves, and Hakuho should still be a strong favourite to get the job done here.

Kyushu Day 5 Preview

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Incredibly, the Kyushu injury curse continues! Wakatakakage will be kyujo from Day 5, which means that we’ve lost one sekitori per day in addition to Ichinojo, who started the tournament on the sidelines. He has not been officially added to the NSK’s list at the time of writing, but if reports are true, injury has taken one of the co-leaders off the board (and handed a useful win to Kagayaki). It’s a good job these tournaments are only 15 days…

[Edited to add: Tochinoshin has now been pronounced kyujo as well with an abdominal injury. Apart from the extremely unlikely scenario in which he miraculously returns from Day 8 and wins out, this will end his attempt to reclaim his Ozeki status.]

What We’re Watching on Day 5

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishomaru – Daishomaru came with a game plan on Day 4 and he’ll need to show more of the same energy in his pushing attack against an undersized opponent in Terutsuyoshi. Both men are struggling a bit to find their best sumo, and the head to head is split one apiece.

Daishoho vs Takanosho – Woof.

Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – For me, Chiyotairyu was at his absolute best on Day 4. It was an unrelenting forward moving machine. He needs to avoid getting his arms locked up by Nishikigi in this match, which feels all about direction. If Chiyotairyu can go forward in a straight line from the tachiai, he’s got a great chance, but if Nishikigi can redirect him into lateral movement, the match will favour the Isenoumi man.

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura proved that it’s more about the size of the fight in the dog on Day 4. Interestingly he seems to do better against smaller opponents while miniature stablemate Enho claims to do better against the larger opponents. Ishiura is definitely not getting his arms around Chiyomaru’s belly so again it’s going to have to be mobility that gets used as a primary weapon here. And it seems to work: Ishiura has taken 8 of 12 from the Kokonoe man.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – It’s another Kyushu derby, as Fukuoka’s Kotoshogiku gets Kumamoto’s Shodai. There are contrasting fortunes here as the former Ozeki is winless, while a win for unbeaten Shodai would move him into sole possession of the lead. Shodai took more initiative than we’ve seen at the tachiai in the previous day’s fixture and it worked out well for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he reverts to type in this match as it will allow him a better grip on Kotoshogiku’s mawashi. The Sadogatake man hasn’t drawn a lot of luck in the fixture list so far, and I don’t think that will change here.

Sadanoumi vs Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi has won both the past matchups and appears to be yet again quietly putting together a nice tournament. Shimanoumi might be a tough character to move but after his impressive performance against Yutakayama, Sadanoumi will be coming into this match full of confidence. He’s won both prior matches against Shimanoumi.

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Local fan favourite Shohozan has been at the peak of his powers in this tournament, running roughshod over the middle of the rank and file. I predict a riot in this encounter: after the frantic grapple and throw action on Day 4, I think he has recharged his harite and tsuppari machine. Yutakayama was really motoring along but the manner of his defeat on Day 4 means he will be open for examination here: was it just a blip or is he still coming to grips with routine opposition?

Tsurugisho vs Kotoeko – Tsurugisho seems to be adjusting well to top division life. Kotoeko seems a little bereft of confidence at the moment. This will be the 11th bout between the two, who have registered five shiroboshi apiece in their previous encounters. The form guide would indicate Tsurugisho to hold the best chance.

Aoiyama vs Enho – It’s a first time meeting of two rikishi with vastly different styles, builds and fanbases. I tend to be in the camp that thinks actually, Enho’s on a great career trajectory. That he hasn’t hit a huge 12 or 13 win tournament yet means that he’s slowly adapted to the higher quality of opponent, and he’s been tested gradually rather than getting thrown in at the top end and getting his confidence wrecked. He will still take his lumps from time to time, and there are few better to dole those out than Big Dan. I have a hard time thinking that Aoiyama is going to be able to keep up with Enho’s mobility and simply blast him out of the dohyo, so I think he reverts to the form that has served him well recently and tries a slap or pull down. Spare a thought for Enho, who is likely to try and bury his head in Aoiyama’s… well, let’s not mention it.

Onosho vs Kotoyuki – Here’s a matchup of two pusher-thrusters in rather different form. Kotoyuki has continued his impressive, forward moving, sumo. While there’s not much difference in their records this early on, it’s the manner of Onosho’s defeats that I would consider to be concerning. These guys have split their past matches one apiece, but Onosho’s win came in 2017 and both these guys are different animals now in terms of their genki level. This should be a very quick match, and one that presents Kotoyuki with a great chance to keep up his momentum.

Tamawashi vs Ryuden – I think Tamawashi has the beating of Ryuden in this match, as Ryuden has become a bit of a Tochinoshin-lite for me. While he has great heart, he doesn’t possess the dominating mawashi ability of the Georgian former-ish Ozeki, and he’s also susceptible to pusher-thrusters.

Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – This has to be the highlight bout of the second half of activity. Both of these 3-1 men have a real legitimate shout at yusho contention and/or further san’yaku promotion in their current form. I loved that Asanoyama just shrugged off his bodyslam by Hakuho to come back and reel off another victory. Hokutofuji has been absolutely fearless, and similarly overcame an early defeat to the GOAT to put massive dents in Ozeki promotion and retention challenges from Mitakeumi and Takayasu. Surprisingly it’s only the 5th meeting (past matches have been split two apiece) of these two rikishi, and it could be a rivalry that takes centre stage over the coming years. Hokutofuji must keep up his speed off the tachiai: if he can establish his pushing attack early he has a real chance. But if Asanoyama is allowed any opportunity to pull him off balance with a slap or a mawashi grip, then the former yusho-winner will have a great shot himself.

Abi vs Endo – Both of these guys enter the match in disappointing form. Abi has been far short of his usual energetic self, and has displayed sloppy footwork over his opening matches. That would appear to hand the opportunity to Endo, an inconsistent technician with extremely sound ring sense. But Abi still has it in his locker to blow Endo away, which is going to rely on a storm of tsuppari straight from the tachiai. The longer this match goes the more likely the momentum shifts to Endo. Abi has a 5-2 edge in the rivalry.

Daieisho vs TochinoshinTochinoshin has done well to bounce back from an 0-2 start, and may feel he’s finding enough form to make his 10 win challenge to regain Ozeki status a reality. Daieisho is probably the worst opponent to run into at that moment, as the smaller pusher-thruster has won the past two from the Georgian (who leads 6-3 overall), has a style of sumo Tochinoshin typically finds it difficult to cope with these days, and is also fighting at the peak of his game to date. Even if he is the presumptive favourite on paper, a win here for Tochinoshin would go a long way to restoring the confidence that he can win at the top level. [Edited to add: there are unconfirmed reports at this stage that Tochinoshin may also be going kyujo, which would be incredibly significant as it would end his efforts to automatically regain Ozeki status. More to follow.][Edited again to add: Tochinoshin is now confirmed kyujo and will be set for significant demotion if as expected he does not return. Daieisho will get the fusen-sho victory and improve to 3-2.]

Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi has had a really horrible fixture list so far, picking up only a fusen-sho in four days of action. But he can take a lot of heart from pushing Hakuho all the way in his previous match, and should be a tough customer for Mitakeumi. The Sekiwake has very little margin for error going forward in his Ozeki promotion push, having dropped another match he would have been expected to win to Daieisho. Okinoumi has won 2 from 3 against Mitakeumi, whose challenge here is to establish a strong pushing-thrusting attack from the off. While Mitakeumi’s all around game has improved immensely, he is not a match for the veteran on the mawashi and needs to tailor his attack appropriately here.

Meisei vs Takayasu – While the form guide would suggest we should be fearful for the Ozeki here, I think Takayasu has a good chance to win this. Meisei has really turned his game up several levels since the start of the Aki basho, but if you look at where Takayasu has been blown away in Fukuoka, they have been in matches against extreme pusher-thrusters: which Meisei is not. Meisei is a tenacious young rikishi who may be a san’yaku fixture for years to come… but I think unless he has lost all confidence, a one-armed Takayasu desperate for wins should be able to get the job done here.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – By this point, against a depleted field, Takakeisho probably expects to be in a yusho race no matter what. But the immediate aim is a healthy 8+ wins to retain his Ozeki status for the first time without falling back into kadoban. Takarafuji is probably a good opponent for him, as the defensive specialist needs to be able to actually get a hold of his opponent to stalemate them, and this is not an opportunity that Takekeisho typically affords to his opposition. I’ll tip another win for the Ozeki in this match, with the 3-1 Takakeisho leading their head-to-head rivalry 3-1.

Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Hakuho’s won 19 of 20 from Myogiryu, and the last 8 have all come via different kimarite. The Hakuho of old would be searching to try and win with another different move just to keep himself interested, but at this point in his career, any win that keeps him in the yusho race and on the dohyo will do. Hakuho was given a real mawashi battle by Okinoumi in the previous match, and he’d do well to start to stay away from his opponents’ strengths from now on. Myogiryu is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type, but his calling card is often – like his stablemate Goeido – his speedy attack from the tachiai. Don’t be surprised to see Hakuho deploy another harite off the mark here to blunt and divert that attack.