Aki banzuke crystal ball


image

My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

Nagoya Day 5 Highlights


Kisenosato

Less Crazy, More Pushing, Thrusting, Throws!

Day 5 closed out the first act of the Nagoya basho with a day that seems to have been devoted to pushing, shoving and all things oshi-zumō. Even the big guys got in on it, and the results were really exciting. As noted last night, Endo is out fairly hard, likely for a couple of months with damage to his ankle to compliment the problem he was already having with his ACL.

This means Ura is now on deck to provide fodder for the upper ranks, as the lack of Kakuryu and Endo (and possibly soon Kisenosato and Terunofuji) means that the lower ranked Maegashira will be tapped to participate in joi level bouts that they might normally avoid. Ura looked very good today (more on that below), so he is going to be alright in his joi bouts over the next 10 days.

Terunofuji is clearly very hurt, and I wonder if he is risking the repair work he had done to his knee by competing. With any luck he will be taken aside by his stable master or some official in the NSK and convinced to heal. We may lose 1-2 Yokozuna this year, and it would be really wonderful to see Terunofuji push for a shot at the rope.

As predicted, the retirement rumors are swirling around Yokozuna Kakuryu. Truth be told that he has the speed and skill to perform at Yokozuna levels, but his body is falling apart, and can’t support the intensity of competition that the modern sumo league has adopted. This raises a question that has been rattling my poor tired brain. Are 6 basho per year too many? Should the NSK move to 4? Perhaps 2 in Tokyo and 2 “Not in Tokyo”. With the Not in Tokyo venues changing to bring sumo to a larger area of Japan. I am sure that to the existing Kyushu, Osaka and Nagoya, a basho in Hokkaido would be greatly welcomed (especially in the height of summer), and an old-timey outdoor basho in Kyoto would be a real marque event.

Last but certainly not least – it was clear that Kisenosato had sustained some injury to his left ankle during today’s match with Ikioi. The big Yokozuna took a dive into the first row of zabuton, landing on a Gyoji. Word from Kintamayama’s daily newsletter is that he was taken directly to the hospital, and they are leaving his status for day 6 as a decision for the morning.

Highlight Matches

Kaisei defeats Gagamaru – To me it looks like Kaisei may have lost weight, or at least is more healthy than he has been in months. He handled a failing Gagamaru well.

Arawashi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi finally loses one. Match started with a matta. that should have been two matta, but Arawashi found his mark and Nishikigi went down.

Shohozan defeats Takekaze – After a Shohozan matta, Takekaze employs a henka, but Shohozan is having none of it. In fact it seemed to really crank up “Big Guns” and what followed was Shohozan chasing Takekaze around the dohyo. Though Takekaze battled back briefly, Shohozan was out for blood.

Onosho defeats Ishiura – Huge tachiai from Onosho was carried into a blistering attack. Match ended with Ishiura taking flight into the second row. Onosho is really impressing me right now.

Ura defeats Tochinoshin – I am trying to restrain my superlatives, but this was damn brilliant work by Ura. Tochinoshin had him on size, reach, weight and strength. What was he to do? His plan seems to have been to get inside and push like mad. Tochinoshin, being the veteran he is, knew this was going to happen, and masterfully kept striking Ura away. Ura set a trap, by backing up to the tawara, baiting Tochinoshin to come push him out. As Tochinoshin moved to take the bait, inside went Ura – who grabbed a leg, and with a quick pivot it was Tochinoshin who left the ring. Ura doubters, take note – this was a big match in the progression of Ura.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi continues unbeaten against Tamawashi, as he strongly took command from the tachiai and forced Tamawashi from the dohyo in short order.

Kotoshogiku defeats Terunofuji – As a gauge of how damaged and in pain Terunofuji is, he allowed Kotoshogiku to set up and execute his trademark hip pump attack, and could do nothing to stop it. I pray that Terunofuji goes kyujo soon, as i am sure if he is healthy he can battle out of the kadoban status at Aki.

Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – A far cry from day 4’s match with Hakuho, Takakeisho faced the run away freight train that is Takayasu. The tachiai stood Takakeisho upright and rocked him back on his heels, and from there Takayasu batted him around a few times and then threw him down.

Goeido defeats Shodai – Shodai once again brings his weak tachiai, and Goeido really blasted him hard. But from there, Shodai put up a really good fight. I also like that we are seeing more Goeido 2.0 action, as I really like that guy.

Ikioi defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato seems to have become an injury magnet. Ikioi focused on Kisenosato’s left arm, and cranked it for all he was worth. The Yokozuna took a dive off the dohyo, and seems to have sustained a left ankle injury as well. Ikioi’s first win of Nagoya is a kinboshi against Kisenosato, whom he has never defeated before in 16 attempts.

Harumafuji defeats Hokotofuji – Harumafuji delivers his sumo in a big way today. Hokotofuji is good, and one day he is going to be great, I think, but today it was speed and maneuverability that carried the day. Hokotofuji never had time to counter the Horse’s rocket propelled tachiai, which Harumafuji transitioned seamlessly into a brilliant sukuinage.

Hakuho defeats Yoshikaze – Nobody should be surprised. Yoshikaze was a real threat, and was likely to blast off the tachiai into the boss. That moment of uncertanty would have deicded the match, and there was a fair chance that if Yoshikaze landed a good tsuppari, it could have gotten ugly for Hakuho. I hate to see a Yokozuna throw a henka against my favorite rikishi, but it was kind of the right thing to do here.

Nagoya Day 4 Highlights


Hakuho-Classroom

Nagoya Crazy Train Still Rolling On.

Many sumo fans assumed that at some point this week, the Nagoya bahso would settle down to a standard sumo grind, but this basho is a run away beer truck rolling down hill. The only hope we have is to climb on board and drink the contents while the ride lasts.

With Yokozuna Kakuryu’s withdrawal from the basho, the noises of his retirement have returned at an elevated volume. I think it would be a great loss for sumo, given that his style is fairly unique. But it’s clear that his body is not up to the challenge of supporting the intense schedule of the modern sumo year.

There was a good amount of concern and confusion in today’s match between Ura and Onosho. To the fans in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnaisum, it must have looked that Onosho was a clear winner. In fact it seems that both rikishi were not quite certain who had won. As the gyoji handed the kensho to Ura, the shimpan rose, and Ura assumed that a monoii had been called. Looking confused, he tried to hand the kensho back to the gyoji. In fact it was simply the half way break, and the Shimpan were changing over.

Lastly, in a bout that I loved, but that many in Japan are criticizing, Hakuho completely and utterly deconstructed fast rising star Takakeisho in the final match of the day. It’s quite understandable that Takakeisho would be in awe of his first ever match against the dai-Yokozuna, and Hakuho played on that. After a series of tsuppari delivered to the young challenger, Takakeisho backed off and waited. This prompted Hakuho to encourage him to attack, and it devolved into butsugari geiko. This may not quite make sense, but in that 30 second bout, Hakuho reduced Takakeisho from challenger, to student. Personally I found it endearing, but it seems that a good amount of the sumo mainstays in the NSK found it quite insulting.

Selected Matches

Nishikigi defeats Sokokurai – Nishikigi continues to look renewed in his return to Makuuchi. He is now 4-0 and half way to his kachi-koshi. Sokokurai put up a good fight, but Nishikigi was not going to lose.

Tokushoryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Tokushoryu completely overpowered Chiyonokuni in this match, which resulted in a monii. I have to wonder if Chiyonokuni is nursing some injury from Natsu, as he continues to turn in dismal results.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Aoiyama the man mountain continues to dominate, and remains unbeaten thus far. I am certain that Maegashira 8 is the perfect rank for Aoiyama, as he seems to be doing very well with this degree of difficulty.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – Ishiura showed up with some really solid sumo today, and the crowd loved it. I am not sure if he has physical or confidence problems, but everyone is hoping to see that same hard-charging sumo machine that first entered Makuuchi in January.

Ura defeats Onosho – In addition to the post-match confusion, this was some really solid sumo from both men. Onosho really pushed hard from the tachiai, but lost momentum moments from victory. His final pulling throw at the edge saw his foot out for just a moment as Ura took flight.

Tochiozan defeats Endo – Something happened at the tachiai, and Endo more or less stopped trying just after the initial charge. All of sumo hopes Endo is not harboring some performance limiting injury.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu’s initial shoulder blast seems to have disoriented Mitakeumi, who was never able to get stable and attack. Takayasu continued to press the attack and move forward, and prevailed. This is two days in a row where it seems Mitakeumi became disoriented after a really solid blow to the head on the tachiai.

Goeido defeats Ikioi – Example of Goeido 2.0 behavior. Explode into the tachiai, carry that momentum into your opponent’s chest and just run him off the dohyo. Sadly Ikioi is winless.

Hokutofuji defeats Terunofuji – Hokutofuji is holding up very well against sumo’s top ranks. If he can stay healthy, he will join them before long. It’s clear that Terunofuji is struggling daily to compete through the pain.

Kisenosato defeats Shodai – All of the sumo world breaths a sigh of relief. Not only did he win, but he was producing power through his left side. Maybe he can make a go of it after all. Shodai, of course, had a terrible tachiai.

Harumafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Excellent deploy of Harumafuji’s mini-henka, against an opponent who sort of expected it.

Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – In what I can only call “Mole Boss Sumo”, Hakuho is cat to Takakeisho’s mouse. When they made this Yokozuna, they broke the mould. Much respect to Takakeisho for continuing to try to attack in spite of Hakuho batting him around like a piece of twine.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview


Endo-Doomed

With Kakuryu Out, Endo Joins The Meat Grinder.

Blog contributor and reader Iksumo has correctly pointed out that with Yokozuna Kakuryu’s withdrawal from the Nagoya Basho, Maegashira 3w joins the joi. Readers may have seen us use the term “joi” in the past. It is a fairly loose reference to the top echelon of Makuuchi; those that will have to face Yokozuna and Ozeka as fodder for their sport. Luckily Endo has been in the joi several times before, and is more than ready to take his turn in the meat grinder.

Day 3 gave some comfort to long time sumo fans. At long last all 3 Ozeki won, and Yokozuna Harumafuji scored his first win. But Harumafuji looked far from his poised, aggressive self both before the match and after. He is clearly in a good amount of pain in his lower body, and I worry that he too may find it necessary to sit out some part of this basho.

Sadly, Kisenosato is also looking damaged, and we face a real possibility that we could only have one Yokozuna active (Hakuho) during week two.

Matches We Like

Gagamaru vs Kotoyuki – Both of these rikishi have had a terrible start to this tournament. Gagamaru especially has not been doing well, and is clearly in pain. Kotoyuki as well suffers from a host of injuries, and spent a day kyujo during Natsu.

Nishikigi vs Sokokurai – Nishikigi really has found his stride, and is working to show that he belongs in Makuuchi. He has only faced Sokokurai once before, and lost. Given his 3-0 start, he may be ready to even the score.

Aoiyama vs Shohozan – “Big Guns” Shohozan goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama wins in terms of bulk, power and reach. But Shohozan can take a shot and give as good as he gets. If they get started well, this could be a slap fest for the ages. Aoiyama leads the career series 12-6, so advantage to the Bulgarian.

Ura vs Onosho – Ura was off his sumo on day 3, and I wager he will be back in form for Onosho, whom he has faced several times in the past, and defeated 3 times to 1 loss. Onosho is unbeaten so far this basho, and is looking quite strong and confident. This match has a lot of potential.

Tochiozan vs Endo – Both of these rikishi come into today with 2-1 records, and both of them have been looking fairly well thus far. Endo needs to tune up for his rotation through the upper ranks, but Tochiozan tends to beat Endo with a high degree of predictability.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – The shin-Ozeki vs the future-Ozeki. Day 3 Mitakeumi seemed to have stopped prematurely, so he will get a chance today to apply his sumo with gusto. Takayasu leads their series 5-3, but Mitakeumi has a lot to prove.

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Injured Terunofuji vs the up-and-coming Maegashira who has shown a lot of poise, ingenuity and strength. This is their first meeting, so once again we get to see how both men handle the first encounter.

Kisenosato vs Shodai – Should Kisenosato drop this bout to Shodai, it will be very dark days for the newest Yokozuna indeed. It is clear that he has not recovered, and that thus far he has not been fighting at even Ozeki level. Shodai will (hopefully) get his tachiai together for day 4.

Tochinoshin vs Harumafuji – With Harumafuji sore, Tochinoshin has a real chance for another kinboshi. More recent followers of sumo may not know this, but at one time Tochinoshin (before his injuries) as a serious contender for upper ranks. It is really nice to see him competing at this level once more. Harumafuji leads the career bouts 21-6.

Hakuho vs Takakeisho – Yet another first meeting, this time the hard charging up and comer goes face to face with the dai Yokozuna. I am sure that Takakeisho will be a bundle of nerves, but I just hope he puts up a good struggle.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Withdraws From Nagoya Basho


Big-K

Right Leg Injured In Bout With Hokutofuji

*** UPDATED

It was evident that as Hokutofuji mounted a brilliant counter-attack, Kakuryu twisted his right knee during their match, and was clearly limping as he left the dohyo. It seems that his trainers have decided that it was not a problem that was going to be manageable for day 4, and he has withdrawn from the basho.

Word from the official NSK twitter feed, Kakuryu is suffering “right foot lateral ligament injury” (ankle)

This gives Komusubi Yoshikaze a default win, taking him to a 4-0 start to this tournament.

The withdraw is a huge shame, as Yokozuna Kakuryu seemed to have a good start to this tournament. It once again raises questions on his long term viability, as his legs and back seem to be too fragile to sustain a full tournament schedule.

Tachiai wishes him a speedy recovery.

Nagoya Day 3 Highlights


Hokotofuji

The Ozeki Recover.

The Nagoya basho has a reputation for being a wild and bumpy ride. With the large number of young rikishi in the top half of Makuuchi for the first time, each day’s torikumi is loaded with potential. Only 3 days into the tournament, the amount of upsets and unexpected results continues to climb. It makes for a huge amount of fan interest because we literally do not know what to expect. I love it.

One thing that is starting to become clear is that some of the Yokozuna and Ozeki remain injured and are not up to the level of performance that they would want. But even so, they are still giving everything they have. In some past basho, you could expect Hakuho to steam-roll everyone, and whoever was injured could gamberize and get by. This works best when the rikishi know each other fairly well, and can assume what kind of sumo they will bring to each match.

Today was the first time that Kisenosato saw purple rain. In his loss in the final match of the day, the fans threw their zabuton at the dohyo. During the basho in Tokyo, Kisenosato racked up several losses, but the fans did not send their cushions sailing. Perhaps it was because they understood how banged up he still was. That consideration seems to be over, and his loss triggered a flurry of purple zabuton floating skyward. Interior decorating choices aside, Kisenosato has little hope of ever recovering to Yokozuna level without surgery on his pectoral. The sooner they get him under the knife the better. Even then, it’s not a sure thing that he will ever be back.

Selected Matches

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Nishikigi remains undefeated. He has really found his motivation after his demotion to Juryo. This rikishi has a lot of potential, and I am glad to see him engaged and winning.

Chiyonokuni defeats Okinoumi – Chiyonokuni finally wins one against hapless Okinoumi. For this first time this basho, Chiyonokuni actually looked solid and on his game.

Aoiyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to look lost and helpless, which is amazing given the strength of his debut basho in January. Aoiyama seems to be at a nearly perfect rank this basho, where his ponderous bulk allows him to slap his way to victory most of the time.

Onosho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo is looking really lack luster again this basho, and Onosho seems hungry and aggressive. The match was quick and very one sided, Onosho just moved Inchinojo out in a hurry.

Kagayaki defeats Ura – This was all Kagayaki, and he countered Ura quite well. Ura seemed to have not really found his footing from the tachiai on. Kagayaki finally picks up his first win.

Yoshikaze defeats Tamawashi – This is the best I have seen Yoshikaze fight since Nagoya last year. In his day 3 match against Tamawashi, the big Mongolian came on strong, and had Yoshikaze off balance for a moment but could not finish him. Yoshikaze battled back fiercely and was able to lock up Tamawashi’s belt. From there, Yoshikaze took charge and won.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Great to see Goeido back in a 2.0 boot up again. Also Mitakeumi seems to have decided he stepped out and accepted defeat perhaps a moment early. Either way, Goeido finally gets his first win.

Terunofuji defeats Ikioi – Monster effort here by Ikioi, and it’s clear as glass that Terunofuji is injured once more. In spite of this, and Ikioi’s fantastic sumo today, Terunofuji found a way to pick up his first win. Frankly it could have gone either way.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – It’s really sad to watch a former great like the Kyushu Bulldozer go 0-3. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to have nothing left of his legs, which was the heart of his sumo.

Harumafuji defeats Takakeisho – Very happy that Harumafuji was able to finally pick up his first win, though for a moment Takakeisho had him on one leg and in perilous position. Harumafuji recovered well and took over effectively.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – Now at 1039 wins, Hakuho dispatched Shodai to remain unbeaten. Hakuho delivered a slap at the tachiai, and it seemed to make Shodai collapse. Not sure what happened there.

Hokutofuji defeats Kakuryu – Big K started strong, but an amazing rally from Hokutofuji results in his first kinboshi for his very first match with a Yokozuna. We keep seeing really impressive sumo from Hokutofuji, and he will be a big deal in the not too distant future.

Tochinoshin defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato is still quite injured, and not performing well. It’s sad, it’s depressing, the NSK would rather nobody notice, but it’s there for all to witness. Prior to his injury, Kisenosato went left, always. Now with his injury, he seems to have no power on his left, and is almost helpless on the dohyo. Please, Great Pumpkin, only medical intervention has a chance at putting you back together. Kinboshi for Tochinoshin.

Nagoya Day 3 Preview


Big-K

Young Blood Creating An Exciting Dynamic

Video from this Nagoya basho always features one thing in every shot – the crowd desperately fanning themselves. I had heard that this event was a hot, sweaty and sticky affair. On top of that, Japan has turned it’s heat and formidable humidity to 11. The greatest and most troubling manifestation of Japan’s tropical tendencies are the catastrophic rain in western Japan, including parts of Kyushu and extreme western Honshu.

While the discomfort for the fans in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium is quite real, the heat endured by the athletes is even more extreme. Within the dohyo awning suspended from the ceiling, There is a battery of high intensity flood lamps, cameras and microphones. These lamps are meant to light the action, and easily raise the temperature on the dohyo by 10°. So if you wonder why the rikishi are drenched in sweat when you see them either exit the arena, or in the interview room after a bout, this plays a significant part.

As anticipated, the placement of so many strong, healthy and new rikishi this high in the banzuke is creating some unpredictable results in the first third of Nagoya. Readers of this site know that it is my theory that any basho follows a fairly predictable evolution, that can be thought of as 5 day “thirds”. The first third is the warm up, the second is the heart of the competition, where you see who is hot and who is not, and the final third determines the yusho. The roster of who is in Makuuchi has been surprisingly stable for at least a year, and so the pace and contests within each day’s torikumi can feel almost familiar.

With this much new talent in the top Maegashira, it’s a surprise each day. First time match up coupled with raw talent, uninjured rikishi scrapping to make their mark on the sport they will likely dominate for the next decade or so. Let the chaos cauldron continue to boil! Nagoya is just getting started!

Matches We Like

Nishikigi vs Chiyomaru – Both have started the basho with two wins, and both are Maegashira 15. Looks like it’s time to sort these two on the clay.

Arawashi vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji as never lost to Arawashi, but Arawashi has won his first two bouts of the basho. I would expect that Arawashi will need to do something to escape Takarafuji superior reach and complete lack of neck.

Aoiyama vs Ishiura – Classic sumo big man / little man match. We have yet to see any real sumo from Ishiura this tournament, and it would warm the hearts of many fans to see these two provide a good battle. This is, in fact, their first match.

Ichinojo vs Onosho – Another big man / little man match, Onosho has really been high energy and dangerous since May. As always Ichinojo is hit or miss. Another of the great first ever meetings between these two.

Ura vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has been struggling to get his sumo running in Nagoya. Now he is up against Ura, who has dialed back the acrobatics and is winning with solid sumo fundamentals. Perhaps today Ura will unleash some of his non newtonian physics for the fans.

Tamawashi vs Yoshikaze – Both rikishi are coming into the match with two win starts, and this one could be one of the better matches of the day. Yoshikaze has been surprisingly deliberate in his two prior wins. Tamawashi has been unleashing explosive sumo from the start, and making it work. Their career match ups are essentially even, so this could be a real battle.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – Mitakeumi has only beaten Goeido once before, but Mitakeumi could care less. Mitakeumi is starting to remind me of a Honey Badger now. Goeido is getting into a really troublesome mode right now, I had jokingly nominated him for kadoban, but he seems to be on a fast track this time.

Terunofuji vs Ikioi – One could imagine a healthy Terunofuji would stop by the Ryogoku McDonalds for some dipping sauce to enjoy with what was left of Ikioi. But it’s clear that the big Ozeki is injured. Ikioi could really use the win, so it will be somewhat unpleasant to see what happens here. Surprisingly, Ikioi leads their career bout record 7-2.

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – Another cringe inducing match. As we stated before we hate watching Kotoshogiku suffer, but he insists on turning up to compete. But for Takayasu, he needs to settle down and produce Ozeki class result. Hopefully Ojisan Kotoshogiku will provide him with a good match.

Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – We can assume after the first two days that Harumafuji has some medical / mechanical issues in Nagoya. The question is does he soldier on? Takakeisho is a big mystery here, this is their first ever match, and he is both nervous and fired up.

Hakuho vs Shodai – The boss is looking for win #1039 on his march to the record. Shodai will likely provide some contest for a few seconds, but I expect Hakuho to dispatch him. Short of injury, Hakuho is making the case that he will be the man to beat.

Hokutofuji vs Kakuryu – Another potential for a great match. These two are meeting for the first time, and we will have two rikishi who have mass, strength and a great defensive approach to sumo. Sure Hokutofuji can implement a masterful attack, but I am expecting to recognize that a match with Big K is going to be a game of cat and mouse.

Kisenosato vs Tochinoshin – Someone is going to really hurt Kisenosato, I fear. And with the overwhelming strength of Tochinoshin, I fear this could be the match that unleashes agony for the Yokozuna and the Japanese sumo loving public. If The Great Pumpkin can make it through this match and even win, it would do a lot to shut people like me up, who think his current left arm is some cutting edge robotic attachment from the labs at Tohoku University.