Natsu Day 5 Preview

Endless thanks to Tachiai contributor Nicola for fresh photos from the basho

Well now – it’s the last day of act 1 on the horizon! That was fast, and I must admit, kind of fun. I think day 4 was the best so far, but there is a lot waiting for us on day 5. For those of you who wonder, Team Tachiai describe the 15 day basho arc as being divided into 3 distinct acts, each with its own theme and goal. Act 1, which we are about to close out, is to get rid of the ring rust, and to figure out who is hot, and who is not. Its far too early to kick off any sort of yusho race, but looking at the arasoi… what the?!?..

(leaves the room, hits himself with a nearby shovel).

Ok, here are the 3 that have 4-0 records going into day 5.

  • M5W Tobizaru
  • M11E Aoiyama
  • M15W Ichiyamamoto

Well, it’s only day 4. Maybe there is still time to prevent the apocalyptic outcome of a Tobizaru yusho speech. Who am I kidding, the guy is super nice, and it would probably be up there with Tokushoryu

What We Are Watching Day 5

Azumaryu vs Midorifuji – Azumaryu picked up his first win day 4, and its time to see if he can put another one on the board. This is a balanced match, and they have a 5 match history split 3-2 in favor of Midorifuji. I am looking for Azumaryu to start strong, with a good chance he will carry the match if he can connect at the tachiai.

Oho vs Ichiyamamoto – Now this match has potential. Ichiyamamoto is part of that 4-0 group, and a win today would mean he was perfect in act 1, quite the accomplishment! But he has to overcome Oho, who is still struggling to prove that he really deserves to be in the top division.

Kagayaki vs Meisei – Much as I love Kagayaki and his fundamentals based sumo, I dearly want Meisei to start picking up wins. So I hope he lives up to his 5-1 career advantage and gives Kagayaki the business today.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotokuzan – Well, I made a bit of noise over the 4-0 crew, but there are two sad rikishi who are 0-4, and Kotokuzan is one of them. Hurt? Discouraged? No idea, but I hope he can find his first win today. His opponent Chiyotairyu is in poor shape himself.

Yutakayama vs Sadanoumi – I am very happy with Sadanoumi’s 3-1 score right now. That day 4 match where he gave Oho a proper spanking was a think of beauty, and I wonder if he is going to be able to out maneuver Yutakayama the way he did Oho. They have a balanced 7-7 career record, so this is the kind of match that could be a great brawl.

Aoiyama vs Chiyoshoma – Ah, I see now – well, it’s time to see if someone can get dirt on Aoiyama, and they chose Chiyoshoma to take the first turn. He has a 6-3 career lead over Aoiyama, but I just hope and pray that Big Dan has a mischievous streak in him, and pulls a giant, fleshy, lumbering henka today.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Both are starting today at 2-2, and there is a 7-4 career edge for Nishikigi. The last 2 have gone to Nishikigi, each win was a throw. So hopefully Myogiryu can keep his stance wide and his feet spaced.

Kotoshoho vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin has a 3-0 career lead over Kotoshoho, so I think this is a way to see if the former Ozeki can pick his second win. If Tochinoshin’s knee is workable, he can completely out-power Kotoshoho if he can get a grip on his opponents mawashi.

Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – I would guess that Okinoumi is aiming for a 7-8 make-koshi, so its about time for him to pick up another win. He has a 3-1 career record against Terutsuyoshi, so lets see if he can bring his best sumo today.

Takarafuji vs Kotoeko – Can Takarafuji pick up his first win today? He has a 5-1 career advantage over Kotoeko, so the schedulers are doing everything they can to give him a chance. It’s pretty clear given his 6-9 result in Osaka, and his 0-4 start in May, he’s coping with a possible career ending injury. At 35, he’s about due for an exit, but I admire him sticking with it.

Ura vs Wakamotoharu – Ura has not won against Wakamotoharu in either of his previous attempts. Both of them were in Juryo during the pandemic years, and I am eager to see how things have changed since March of 2021. With Ura fighting well right now, the stage is set for a glorious battle.

Shimanoumi vs Tobizaru – Two years ago, at the start of the COVID pandemic, the NSK canceled the Natsu basho. In response, the wonderful folks at Grand Sumo Breakdown and Team Tachiai created a “Mock Natsu Basho“, and spent 15 days taking our fans and readers through what we thought might have happened (Mitakeumi took the cup). With that as a precedent, I would like to preemptively declare Tobizaru the champion and yusho winner of the Mock Natsu 2022. With that “death note”, I hereby doom sumo’s flying monkey to a power wedgie today at the hands of 1-3 Shimanoumi.

Takanosho vs Kotonowaka – Ok, back to the real Natsu 2022 basho. I think Kotonowaka is on a roll right now, and I think he’s going to best Takanosho today. I did really like Takanosho’s day 4 win over Tamawashi, who is no easy mark. But rignt now Kotonowaka is in a bit of a hot streak.

Takayasu vs Kiribayama – Many fans had expected Takayasu to be quite dominant this basho, and he has been able to manage a 1-3 record after facing all of the Ozeki and the Yokozuna. So now its up to him to build from that crummy 1-3 and try to get to 8, at a minimum. Kiribayama comes in with a matching poor score, and will be hard pressed to overcome Takayasu’s mass and experience advantage.

Daieisho vs Abi – Oh good, a pair of super-thrust rikishi face off with a 6-7 career record. Abi will open high with an attack to the face and neck, Daieisho will (hopefully) go for center-mass and break Abi’s balance. This is a quintessential attack vs attack battle, and I think it may not last more than a couple of seconds.

Wakatakakage vs Hoshoryu – I predicted that Wakatakakage was going to be make-koshi this tournament, and I am standing fast on that forecast. His footwork has been terrible, and his form has been degrading. He has yet to face the Ozeki or the Yokozuna, so he’s got a tough road ahead o him. He does have a 5-2 career advantage over Hoshoryu, so I give him a slight, but rough, edge today.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Before anyone gets too jazzed about this match (it looks good from the wrapper, doesn’t it?), know that Mitakeumi has a 27-3 career advantage over Tamawashi. I call that decisive. So we may see Mitakeumi pick up his 3rd win today, but lets all hope that Tamawashi makes him work for it.

Onosho vs Takakeisho – Tadpole fight! We get a battle of the big thrusters, and I am going to be watching to see if Takakeisho can make a dent in Onosho’s offense when he only has one working arm. The Ozeki does have a 10-3 career record over Onosho, so Onosho has a hill to climb today.

Endo vs Shodai – Well, if we had normal Shodai, this would be a clear advantage for him, given his 10-5 career lead. But this form of Shodai is pretty random, and I have no idea if he’s going to fight today, or lie flat. Both come in with 1-3 records, and both of them are fighting poorly right now.

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Hoping to see a dominant Terunofuji today. Early capture of Hokutofuji, a set up, and a powerful toss out of the ring. Hokutofuji has beaten Terunofuji 3 times in 11 attempts, so it is possible for him to post a victory today, but Hokutofuji has not won against the Yokozuna since Terunofuji’s return to the top division in 2020.

The Strange Mirror of the Mock Basho

“… the Mirror shows many things … some never come to be …”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

What will the upcoming July basho bring, assuming that it takes place as scheduled? Some rikishi must fervently hope that the mock Natsu basho was a preview of things to come, while for others, it’s a scenario to be avoided at all costs. Let’s take a look at three camps:

Would take the mock basho results in a heartbeat

Mitakeumi This is almost too obvious to state. A 13-2 record, an unprecedented third non-Ozeki yusho, back-to-back victories over both reigning Yokozuna, and a solid chance to make Ozeki in the following basho—what’s not to like?

Asanoyama No shin-Ozeki hangover here: a solid 12-3 jun-yusho, a win in what’s shaping up to be a great rivalry with the yusho winner, and victories over both Yokozuna, including a first-time defeat of Hakuho. Sure, Asanoyama must wonder what might have been without the losses to lower-ranked Takanosho, Daieisho, and Aoiyama, but you can’t have everything.

Shodai, Daieisho, Yutakayama, Takanosho, Onosho, Aoiyama A winning record in lower san’yaku or joi maegashira is never something to sneeze at. Shodai would extend his run at Sekiwake to a 3rd-straight basho, Daieisho would have his first san’yaku kachi-koshi, Yutakayama would make his first-ever san’yaku appearance, and Takanosho would record a 5th-straight career-high rank.

Chiyotairyu, Tokushoryu, Ishiura, Sadanoumi, Kotoshogiku, Nishikigi Everyone in this group recorded 10-11 wins, not something one would predict. And while former Ozeki Kotoshogiku might not be happy to find himself lumped with the other names on this list, a 10-5 record would be a remarkable turn-around after 6 straight losing records that saw him drop from M1 to M14.

Acceptable, with room for improvement

Hakuho The greatest rikishi of all time cannot be satisfied with an 11-4 record, including back-to-back losses to Onosho and Takarafuji, but finishing the tournament with a solid Yokozuna kachi-koshi and being in the race until the final day certainly extends his career, providing more opportunities to add to his unequalled laurels.

Wakatakakage, Kotoshoho When your Makuuchi debut is derailed by an injury after a promising 4-0 start, sending you back to Juryo for two tournaments, you’ll take a 9-6 record in your second top-division appearance. And while Kotoshoho failed to claim his conditional kanto-sho on the final day, a kachi-koshi has to count as a successful start for the shin-Maku.

Everyone else with a kachi-koshi or mild make-koshi, with the exception of Kakuryu (see below) and Takayasu (injury).

Let’s pretend this never happened … oh wait

Kakuryu The often-beleaguered “other Yokozuna” surely wouldn’t want to withdraw for the 4th time in the last 5 tournaments.

Takakeisho The only acceptable outcome for a kadoban Ozeki is reaching 8 wins.

Okinoumi Seven losing records in seven san’yaku appearances? Not great!

Endo His worst performance in almost two years would bring to an end an 8-basho streak in the joi.

Enho Everyone’s favorite pixie surely would not want to follow his worst record in the top division with an even worse one.

Kaisei, Tochinoshin Two proud veterans we’re used to seeing much higher up the banzuke would find themselves on the demotion bubble.

Chiyomaru, Kotoeko, Kotoyuki The first rule of the top division is that you want to stay in the top division.

Terunofuji Saving the worst for last: obviously, the former Ozeki does not want his return to Makuuchi for the first time since January 2018 to ignominiously end with an 0-7-8 record. The last time the kaiju finished a basho in the top division with a winning record? May of 2017, when he recorded his second-straight jun-yusho from the East Ozeki rank, and looked headed for Yokozuna, not Jonidan.

Which rikishi do you hope put up either similar or very different performances in the next real tournament? Let us know in the comments.

Wrapping Up the Mock Natsu Basho

Thanks for following our coverage of the mock Natsu basho. In the alternate timeline where this tournament took place, what do the results mean for the rikishi?

The upper ranks

While Yokozuna Hakuho cannot be happy with an 11-4 record and a final-day loss, he did enough to extend his own record of 53 appearances at the top Y1e rung of the banzuke. Yokozuna Kakuryu pulled out after recording 8 wins and 4 losses, a result that will be questioned by the YDC. Oh, and he’ll once again occupy the odd Yokozuna-Ozeki rank, because we will have a lone (East) Ozeki, ascendant Asanoyama (12-3, jun-yusho), who did not miss a beat in his debut at sumo’s second-highest rank. Kadoban Ozeki Takakeisho failed to record 8 wins, dropping to Sekiwake on the next banzuke.

Lower san’yaku

Mitakeumi’s 13-2 yusho should vault him over fellow Sekiwake Shodai (8-7) for the East Sekiwake rank, with Shodai sliding over to the West side. Takakeisho will occupy an extra Sekiwake slot (S2w to balance the banzuke). Daieisho (8-7) left it late, but his final-day victory will extend his stay at East Komusubi, while his counterpart on the West side will be shin-san’yaku Yutakayama, who also recorded an all-important 8th win on senshuraku.

Upper maegashira

The top 5 maegashira ranks should be occupied, in order, by M2e Takanosho (8-7), M2w Onosho (8-7), M4w Aoiyama (9-6), M8w Chiyotairyu (11-4), M5w Hokutofuji (9-6), M7w Tokushoryu (10-5), M8e Ishiura (10-5), M3e Takarafuji (7-8), Kw Okinoumi (5-10), and M4e Kagayaki (7-8), with M12e Sadanoumi (11-4) just outside this range.

Demotions and promotions

We have 4 clear demotions from the top division: M17 Terunofuji (0-7-8), M16 Kotoeko (5-10), M17 Kotoyuki (6-9), and M15 Chiyomaru (5-10). There are only three clear promotions in Juryo: the yusho winner J5e Kyokutaisei (12-3), the top-ranked J1e Meisei (9-6), and J4e Daiamami (10-5). The lucky fourth promotion should go to J3w Kyokushuho (8-7).

Two more Makuuchi rikishi have demotable records, but may survive by virtue of banzuke luck: M10 Kaisei (3-12) and M11 Tochinoshin (4-11). Tochinoshin’s final-day win likely ensured a stay in the top division, while Kaisei lost and is on the bubble, with the best candidate to replace him being J5w Ichinojo (9-6).

Mock Natus Basho – Videos?

It seems some amazing soul has been piecing together daily highlight reels (where possible) from the Grand Sumo Breakdown Mock Natsu basho from prior matches. I know more than a couple of readers said “I wish I could see that match” in response to my write ups, well some enterprising soul named Tanar Dial gave it a shot. I am impressed.

Go take a look at enjoy the basho that could have been.