Hatsu Day 7 Highlights

Some of our readers, and many sumo fans in general, have complained that recent basho have ended up being “Sumo light”, due to the lack of Yokozuna and Ozeki participation. As we near the half way point of this basho, we are down to 1 Yokozuna and 1.5 Ozeki, and the focus really has shifted to the lower ranks. With so many titans of sumo off the dohyo, the focus has shifted to the lower ranks.

I am impressed that Goeido is soldiering on, and finding ways to win in spite of the problems with his right arm. I expect him to go kyujo after he can manage an 8th win. Thankfully Hakuho looks genki enough, and Takayasu seems to be over his flu.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – Any match with Chiyonokuni has the potential to be a mad-cap barn burner, and today Yutakayama put everything he could towards a win. The result was a wild tsuki-oshi fest that see-sawed back and forth. A great way to start the top division today.

Kotoyuki defeats Daiamami – A second spirited bout to start the day, Daiamami held advanage several times, but The Penguin battled back each time. At attempted slap down reversed the opponents, and Kotoyuki put Daiamami’s back to the tawara, and pushed with purpose.

Yago defeats Daishomaru – Hapless, winless Daishomaru has nothing serious to offer the surging youngster Yago, and goes down to defeat. We did, however, get to see Yago engage in a oshi-zumo match, and win.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s attempt at a face slap embedded in his tachiai (ala Hakuho) results in Ikioi getting poked in the eye. In spite of (or fueled by) this, Ikioi surges into battle with yet another injury and finds a way to overpower his opponent. Word is he was complaining of vision problems following the match.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – There seems to be some magic in Abi-zumo, as he effectively landed a nodowa against a many with no neck. Takarafuji found hims sumo disrupted, and battled to clear Abi’s attacks, but ran out of dohyo to maneuver.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Both men threw the kitchen sink at each other, with Endo calling the tune. At one point their early oshi fest went chest to chest and the competitors actually did look like they were dancing. Post match, Endo was holding his forehead – another oversized bandage for a Kagayaki competitor? Maybe he needs to modify that tachiai.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – Member of the Kagayaki head wound club Sadanoumi cannot endure Asanoyama’s spin attack, and eats clay. Asanoyama picks up a much needed win.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – The only rank and file undefeated rikishi takes a loss at the hands of a surprisingly genki Kaisei. With this loss, Hakuho has sole possession of the lead.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to have completely run out of energy to compete at the Makuuchi level. It’s painful to watch.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – The hatakikomi came quickly, and made me gasp. Few rikishi are big enough and fast enough to roll someone the size of Aoiyama, but Chiyotairyu certainly can.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have lost his fighting spirit, and each day seems to be going through the motions. Kind of tough to watch, but when injuries happen, this is the result.

Hokutofuji fusensho Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi damaged his knee day 6, and is missing an excellent chance to run up the score against a reduced Ozeki and Yokozuna force. Hokutofuji picks up back to back default wins, something that has not happened in decades.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s magical adventure in the joi-jin looks like it has run out of gas. Can he refuel and return to surprising his opponents? I do hope so. Myogiryu gets a much needed win.

Tamawashi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan was on defense the entire match, and Tamawashi batted him about before deciding to finish him.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has reverted to the docile form of whatever species he is, and failed to deactivate Takakeisho’s wave action attack by grabbing his opponent’s mawashi until it was too late and he was already struggling for balance.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Takayasu’s recovery from the flu continues, and he delivers the hug-n-chug to counter Kotoshogiku’s favorite attack strategy. With advantage in size, youth and joint health, Takayasu carried the match.

Goeido defeats Shodai – Impressive that Goeido is finding ways to win, now up to 3 wins out of a needed 8. He was helped by Shodai’s trademark crappy tachiai. Shodai was able to back to Ozeki to the bales, but did not lower his hips to thrust out Goeido, and instead Shodai launched his own body higher. Goeido capitalized on this blunder and won.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Hakuho is the lone undefeated rikishi, and is the man to beat for the Emperor’s cup. Shohozan could not generate much offense, and Hakuho waited for his moment and pulled “Big Guns” Shohozan down.

Hatsu Day 6 Preview

On day 6 we start act 2. Act 2 is all about sorting the survivors from the damned, and starting the yusho race. It’s were we get an idea of who will have the stamina to contend in the final act for the hardware. As long as Hakuho is still competing, it’s his to lose.

A primary rival was Yokozuna Kakuryu, at least in theory, but as noted earlier on Tachiai, he withdrew from competition this morning Japan time. He has struggled quite a bit to keep his undercarriage in good repair, and this is simply another in a long string of mechanical problems he has to overcome. We wish him a quick and full recovery.

The next rikishi who is on the kyujo bubble would have to be Goeido. Mathematically, he is in tough shape right now. He needs to win 7 out of the next 10 to avoid a make-koshi. It’s clear he is hurt, and needs medical attention to repair his right arm. We can only hope he does not go “Kisenosato” with this one. There is also a question around Takayasu, who is 2-3 going into day 6, and has been suffering due to influenza. Perhaps he is on the mend now.

For each Ozeki and Yokozuna who drops out, the way opens up for the new generation rikishi. At this point, the Freshmen are in poor shape physically, but the Tadpoles are on the march. Their combined score at the end of act 1 is 14-1. The boss is still undefeated, but I am sure Takakeisho is eager to try his sumo upgrades against the sole remaining Yokozuna.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – Ishiura visits Makuuchi with a solid 4-1 start in Juryo. He holds a 6-4 career advantage over Chiyoshoma, and some may wonder if this will be the battle of the flying Henkanoids. We shall see soon enough!

Yago vs Kotoeko – Its odd watching 4-1 Yago in some ways. He seems both unseasoned, yet skilled. I can’t quiet put my mind around it yet. But this might be a fairly good match, as Kotoeko knows how to beat him.

Ikioi vs Endo – Ikioi is a banged up walking casualty, and Endo seems to be just getting by for now. I give Endo a clear advantage, as he is not nursing a damaged ankle or a head wound like Ikioi is.

Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – At some point along the way, Kaisei’s sumo improved. Maybe he finally healed a long-suffering injury. As I like to say about him, “Being huge is not a valid sumo tactic”, as in you cant just be massive and immobile and expect to win (seek Kenho and others). But since Kyushu, Kaisei’s mobility is actually pretty good, and his sumo is stronger and shows some aggressive direction. Starting act 2 at 5-0, he’s a dark horse contender right now, and I expect him to make fast work of Sadanoumi.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Aoiyama’s record is 4-1, but his sumo is 5-0. Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but the Man-Mountain from Bulgeria is in top form unseen for some time. I am certain he will get tougher pairings in act 2, but I think today’s match won’t be too tough for him to win.

Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – I don’t want to discuss Ryuden or Yoshikaze.

Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – As discussed prior to the basho, I really like Onosho at this rank, and I think he has a good chance to end up with double digits for this basho. This would put him in the joi-jin for Osaka, and I think he would be healed up enough to compete at the top by then. This could mean that all of the tadpoles would be in the joi, and it would mark a significant stage in the changing of the guard.

Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – Right now Mitakeumi seems to be on a mission. He shows up each day looking dialed up to 11 – intensely focused and superbly ready to win. I don’t think Myogiryu, in spite of his excellent skill, will overcome Mitakeumi’s fighting spirit today.

Takakeisho vs Tochiozan – If Tochiozan can keep Takakeisho close, and prevent the wave-action tsuppari attack, he has a chance. But after letting Mitakeumi beat him this way, I am going to guess Takakeisho won’t allow him a chance.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Ichinojo is competing at an intensity not seen in many years, and we don’t want him to stop. Tamawashi will be no walk in the park. He is fast, mobile and at times brutal. This could be the highlight match of the day.

Shohozan vs Goeido – “Big Guns” Shohozan would normally have his hands full with Goeido, but Goeido is struggling with an arm injury, and is having a tough time generating offensive pressure. I expect loss #5, or a henka.

Takayasu vs Nishikigi – Each time Nishikigi steps on the dohyo, you have to wonder what is about to happen. Takayasu is definitely short of 100%, but Nishikigi’s sumo seems to be surprising everyone right now. I would rather not face Osaka with all 3 Ozeki kadoban, so I am hoping Takayasu can win any match that comes his way.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Hakuho continues to confound opponents with his “Escape” sumo, his opponents think they have him beat, but he uses his unparalleled skill to find a way to not lose. Against Shodai there is a new dimension. He has this odd, almost otherworldly ability, to cause things to go chaotic. I call it “Cartoon sumo”, and it happens too frequently to be an accident. I am eager to see if he can employ it against The Boss today.

Hatsu Day 3 Highlights

Hatsu Day 3
Photo From the Sumo Kyokai’s Twitter Feed

Tachiai’s “Man in foreign lands”, Josh, was in the Kokugikan today, and he shared a great bit of color commentary on the atmosphere for day 3. I think aside from evolving tragedy that is Kisenosato, the big story is the weakness of the Ozeki rank. Two of them are injured (Goeido and Tochinoshin) and Takayasu has the flu. The resulting mess means that all 3 men are fighting well below their abilities, and for the injured ones, they have yet to rack their first win. At this point, its probably more prudent to swallow the kadoban and go seek direct medical treatment. For Takayasu, well, it sucks doing anything when you are running a fever, and battling a 300+ pound rikishi must be completely impossible right now.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Daishomaru – Chiyonokuni has opened Hatsu with 3 straight wins, and seems to be charting a course away from the bottom edge of the banzuke. Winless Daishomaru attempted a rather limp henka, and Chiyonokuni had no problem reacting quickly for the win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daiamami – Chiyoshoma in control from the tachiai, and he finished Daiamami with a swinging uwatenage. Hopefully this indicates that Chiyoshoma is getting his sumo back in order.

Yago defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki beat Yago off the line, and his inital attack succeeded in driving Yago back. But Yago has quite the sumo-sense, and dropped his hips and counter attacked. Yago sealed his win by pulling Kotoyuki forward, sending him to his favorite spot, the crowd. Of course Kotoyuki milled about with the fans for a time.

Sadanoumi defeats Ikioi – Today’s “Battle Damage” match, both men had massive bandaged on their foreheads where they seem to have matching wounds following their respective bouts with Kagayaki. Sure, Sadanoumi won, but it looked like both of them should be on bed rest. At least there was no blood splatter today.

Abi defeats Kagayaki – Abi shows why he is a rising star, as he escapes his match with Kagayaki without picking up a head wound. Good job!

Kaisei defeats Endo – This is a great match, and worth watching a couple of times. The two drive chest to chest from the tachiai, and yotsu battle ensues. What impresses me is in spite of Kaisei’s tremendous advantage in weight and reach, how Endo manages to stay in the fight. Great effort from both rikishi.

Onosho defeats Ryuden – Onosho opens Hatsu 3-0, and seems to have put his knees into working order. I expect him to follow a trajectory similar to his friend Takakeisho for the remainder of 2019. All 3 leading tadpoles are unbeaten thus far.

Aoiyama defeats Okinoumi – Aoiyama has his sumo in great condition this tournament. His matches have been fairly one-sided thus far, and he won by simply grabbing hold of Okinoumi and marching forward.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – It’s clear that Yoshikaze has nothing left in his genki-box right now. He only offered token resistance to Kotoshogiku.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – Shohozan opened strong, and Shodai took it all, and waited for an opportunity to attack. When it came, he planted a hand on Shohozan’s throat and pushed him clear of the tawara. Shohozan is still looking for his first win.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi absorbs Takakeisho’s initial thrusting attack, and rallies to re-center the match. During a split second pause, you can imagine Takakeisho moving the “wave action” dial off of setting 1, and unleashing setting 2, which blasts Tamawashi into the west side zabuton. Takakeisho opens the new year 3-0.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – This one was tough for me to watch. Goeido’s right arm is clearly unable to function well, and the Ozeki creates minimum forward pressure as a result. Mitakeumi seems determined NOT to phone it in this basho, and has been looking focused, strong and genki each match. The two go chest to chest, and Goeido just cant seem to find the leverage to overcome Mitakeumi. Goeido winless at the end of day 3.

Hokutofuji defeats Takayasu – Takayasu should be in bed nursing his fever, but instead he wanted to come play with the delightful Hokutofuji, who completely disrupted the Ozeki’s attempt at offense. Hokutofuji continues to improve his “handshake tachiai”, and its starting to really pay. Takayasu was high, off balance and looks like he feels miserable.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – Also in the winless column, Ozeki Tochinoshin can’t find his grip while Myogiryu gets to work straight away. I supsect that Tochinoshin’s thigh injury is impacting his performance, he is looking quite out of his element.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – I wanted to send Ichinojo a truck full of ice cream and a couple of freshly brushed ponies after this match. He really took the fight to the dai-Yokozuna, and made him work. What’s impressive is to note that for a time early in this mawashi battle, Ichinojo’s hips are actually lower than Hakuho’s. That is quiet and accomplishment for someone his size. Hakuho tries several of his distraction tricks, and Ichinojo does not fall for any of it. Great sumo all around, and Ichinojo continues to give me hope.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – Of course he did. Kisenosato and Tagonoura oyakata may be the only two people in Japan who thinks the Yokozuna can still compete. Kisenosato gives up his 2nd kinboshi of the only 3 day old Hatsu basho.

Nishikigi defeats Kakuryu – Nishikigi takes a kinboshi in his first ever match against a Yokozuna. The two went chest to chest at the tachiai, and Nishikigi advanced strongly. Driving the Yokozuna back, Kakuryu attempted a throw at the bales, and both men went out in unison. The gyoji gave the gumbai to Nishikigi, but a monoii ensued. Watching the replay, I am not sure that Kakuryu was the dead body here, but the shimpan upheld the gumbai, and it was Nishikigi’s 3rd consecutive win.

Hatsu Day 2 Highlights

What universe is this?

Takagenji visited makuuchi today from Juryo to face Daiamami but left empty handed. After a well met tachiai, it was all Daiamami as he drove through the Chiganoura beya youngster for a swift yorikiri win, his first of the tournament. Both men are 1-1. Chiyonokuni followed up, dispatching Kotoeko with a few forceful slaps to pick up his second win. Before the bout, my money was on Chiyonokuni by hatakikomi but as it worked out, he got the tsukidashi win before he even needed to pull. Kotoeko falls to 1-1.

Chiyoshouma studied Daishomaru and feared the oshidashi loss, effectively neutralizing the threat posed with a glorious henka – to the groans of the spectators. It was the smart move. Chiyoshoma is a solid grappler, winning mostly with throws but vulnerable to oshidashi…and yorikiri. Chiyoshouma picked up his first win while Daishomaru fell to 0-2.

Yutakayama and Yago offered up a great bout of very similar competitors yet different styles. Yago’s mawashi is a bit darker but both sport the royal purple with very similar builds. Yago favors the belt but Yutakayama is a much more committed oshi/pusher-thruster. Which style would prevail? Yutakayama’s forceful nodowa immediately after the tachiai effectively kept Yago from getting a grip and backed to the edge. Rather than be forced completely out, Yago circled and regrouped to the center. The fatal mistake was going for the hatakikomi. The backwards pull worked to his opponent’s advantage as he followed through with a successful oshi attack. Yutakayama is off to a great 2-0 start while Yago’s setback has him at 1-1.

Kotoyuki put another W in the win column for Team Oshi as Meisei allowed him to fight their bout his way. Relentless pushing-thrusting favors the Sadogatake man and Meisei had nowhere to run, eventually shoved out hard, nearly landing face first in the salt basket. Kotoyuki’s on 1-1 while Meisei is still looking for his first win, 0-2.

Two bouts into the tournament and Kagayaki draws blood yet again, this time from chasing Sadanoumi. Kagayaki came charging like a Pamplona bull, as Sadanoumi tried ducking, twisting and turning any which way of escape. This time, though, I worry for Sadanoumi’s knee as it buckled awkwardly. He was slow to get up but made it back down the hanamichi under his own power. Kagayaki and Sadanoumi are 1-1.

Ikioi charged out like a barnstormer yesterday but I hope he goes kyujo after today’s bout with Abi. Abi’s slaps could not be contained and as Ikioi tried to weather the storm, I’m afraid he may have been briefly knocked out as he dove straight forward, face first into the tawara when Abi side-stepped. In the fall he appeared re-injure his ankle. He also reopened yesterday’s headwound but that may have come from Abi’s tsuppari. Ouch. Both are 1-1. As a side note, Ikioi is a big guy. I’m not sure if he’s still the tallest guy in makuuchi, but it’s really surprising. It doesn’t really sink in until he’s standing there next to a guy like Abi, making Abi look small.

Takarafuji has yet to wake up from his “long winter nap,” as Kaisei barely shifted and Takarafuji lost his balance. It wasn’t a henka. Takarafuji just fell. Hopefully the ring rust will be knocked off by the end of Act One? Takarafuji falls to 0-2 while Kaisei takes the gift to move to 2-0. Endo followed by convincingly backing Asanoyama over the straw bales. Endo also improves to 2-0 while Asanoyama falls to 0-2.

Ryuden was too eager to get things going against Chiyotairyu, initiating a matta. But once they got things going, he grabbed Elvis in a bear hug and then just barreled through, forcing the Kokonoe man into the first row of seats. Ryuden picked up his first win, 1-1, while Chiyotairyu falls to 0-2.

Shou-time (sorry) as Onosho tangled with Daieisho. After a well met tachiai, Onosho backed to the edge where he used the leverage from the tawara to slip to the side and allow Daieisho’s own momentum to force him out and pick up his second win while Daieisho falls, literally, to 1-1.

Aoiyama never let the hug-n-chug get going, nearly breaking Kotoshogiku in half with a forceful hatakikomi. Aoiyama is 2-0. I know it’s early but he has been in yusho races before, only to fold under the pressure of top level bouts. Will he be in the hunt at the weekend? Definitely one to watch. Kotoshogiku is at 1-1.

Yoshikaze never got going against Okinoumi. Rather than a nodowa, it seemed Okinoumi wanted to force Yoshikaze’s cheeks into his ears. Ho-po-wa? I don’t think I’ve seen that attack before. With the backwards force, Yoshikaze’s left knee gave out. Koshikudake was the call, with Okinoumi picking up his first win while Yoshikaze fell to 0-2.

Finally, sanyaku. Takakeisho fought Takakeisho’s bout. Shohozan was just along for the ride. Once those T-Rex arms get going…look out. If you’re in the crowd, you may end up with a rikishi in your lap. So, while Shohozan (0-2) conversed with the second row spectators, Takakeisho (2-0) strolled over to pick up his kensho envelopes.

Tamawashi learned from Takakeisho’s bout and blasted Shodai off the dohyo. The blueprint against Shodai is just like what you learn playing tennis and golf. Follow through. Rather than bouncing off at the initial charge, you’ve got to just keep running through and do not let Shodai get a hand of the mawashi or space to regroup. Tamawashi was all attack and picked up his second win while Shodai is 0-2.

Takayasu picked up his first win in controversial style against Myogiryu. This was a gift as Takayasu was clearly down first while Myogiryu was still in the air. Takayasu was looking solid, had good tsuppari going and great position in the center of the dohyo. But then he lowered his shoulder and bulldozed into Myogiryu, who appeared to everyone to successfully jump out of the way as Takayasu fell to the dohyo…but no mono-ii.

Take Nishikigi and Tochinoshin, plop them in the middle of the ring, both with firm two-handed grips of each other’s mawashi. I ask you, “Who wins?” Not in a million years would I have said Nishikigi. Tochinoshin even did his textbook lift today but it came up a few feet short, and that appears to be the difference. As Nishikigi’s feet came down, he was able to use his belt grip to throw Tochinoshin. Two Ozeki scalps in two days and the same absolutely bewildered look as he picked up another fat stack of kensho-kin.

Goeido gave it his all against Hokutofuji today. His mistake, the pull. He drove Hokutofuji to the edge but couldn’t get him over. So they regrouped in the middle of the dohyo. Rather than be patient and try again to drive forward, Goeido decided he wanted to end it now. So he backed up but ran out of real estate as Hokutofuji maintained his balance and ran the ozeki out for his second loss in two days. 6 ozeki bouts, 5* losses…with an asterisk on the one win. Unbelievable. Well, pretty soon they’ll be facing off against each other so some will have to win.

Someone finally got it through to Kisenosato that he needs to shift his style because of his injury. He tried with all his might to push the big boulder it was for naught. The pivotal moment came early when Kisenosato was laying into Ichinojo but Ichinojo was able to easily manhandle the Yokozuna and yank him around like a My Little Pony. Rather than try to expend energy and drive through Kisenosato, the Mongolian used his positional advantage, and adequate space for a pull, to unleash a hatakikomi pull down. He claimed a gold star and made it look effortless. This Ichinojo is dangerous, and 2-0. Kisenosato is 0-2 and on intai watch.

Mitakeumi sent more shockwaves through Kokugikan as he simply pushed Kakuryu off the dohyo. Kakuryu seemed to want the leverage of the tawara, letting Mitakeumi drive him like a blocking sled to the edge. But when his feet hit the tawara, Mitakeumi’s attack kept coming and the Yokozuna never had a chance to offer a counter-attack or to try to deflect and dance his way to victory. Kakuryu falls to 1-1 and is likely only saved from his own intai-watch by the hapless Kisenosato.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was saved for the Boss. His Houdini-like escape from a Tochiozan throw only emphasizes the dire state of the senior sanyaku. We saw a tantalizing glimpse of the old Hakuho against Myogiryu yesterday. We were so eager for him to destroy the maegashira from Kochi and show us all that he’s back and ready for another yusho run.

All that was shattered, however, as Tochiozan got his left hand on the Boss’s mawashi, spun the Boss around and up to the very edge. Hakuho’s tune-up must have come with a new set of brakes because just as it looked like he was done and Tochiozan had the biggest kinboshi story, screeeeech! Hakuho brought his momentum to a stop and gently guided Tochiozan out. Tochiozan falls to 0-2, Hakuho escapes and improves to 2-0. He’s clearly still the Boss…but for how long?

Hatsu Day 2 Preview

toilet-paper-stacking

Day 2 has a large mawashi to fill, as day 1 brought us more than expected. While there was great action across the top division for day 1, surprisingly little is being said about Kisenosato. Everyone expect this to be a rough ride for him, and sadly that is turning out to be the case.

In an article unearthed by Herouth, members of the YDC share their worries about Kisenosato, which is an unusual step and likely prefaces some more dramatic back-channel discussions with the ailing Yokozuna. Kisenosato went into battle on day 1 attempting to use his damaged left arm, and was roundly trounced by Mitakeumi. Now Mitakeumi is no push over, but Kisenosato had to know that leading left is no longer a viable attack strategy. The article mentions that he is falling back into the same bad, failed gambits that he used during his zero-win basho at Kyushu. For Kisenosato fans, this may be the last basho.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Daiamami vs Takagenji – Takagenji visits the top division, and we hope his dohyo etiquette is set to “excellent”. Daiamami did not look especially bright day 1, and I am sure he would like to even up his score with a win.

Yago vs Yutakayama – These two are similar in many ways, with the exception that Yutakayama is nursing multiple injuries. Yago may be on a energetic upward grind that may continue for the next few basho. The jury is out on Yutakayama and the status of his injuries.

Ikioi vs Abi – If Sadanoumi has Abi figured out, I am going to guess that Ikioi has as well. Hopefully Ikioi can exit the match without any blood this time, and I predict that Abi is going to bring out some of his alternate sumo if he faces an increasingly losing record.

Endo vs Asanoyama – Being an Endo fan is a rough ride, as the “Golden Boy” has a tough time maintaining rank above Maegashira 6. But he showed some good sumo against Takarafuji on day 1, and maybe he has it back together this time.

Daieisho vs Onosho – I expect Onosho to continue to dominate his matches. This basho is more of a test for his recovery more than anything else, and I think he will be slugging it out in upper Maegashira by mid-year.

Kotoshogiku vs Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain vs the Kyushu Bulldozer! Their series is always a battle to see who will win the tachiai, and set the terms of the match. Naturally Kotoshogiku wants to take Aoiyama to his chest and bounce him around and out, where Aoiyama will want to stay mobile and rain blows down on Kotoshogiku. Aoiyama’s mobility looked excellent day 1, so I may have to give him the edge this time, even though Kotoshogiku holds a 14-5 series lead.

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – The real question I have: Does Yoshikaze have any genki left in the batteries? Both men are fading stars of the era, and have long and well earned reputations as top division rikishi. But both are more frequently “muddling through” their matches, and show fewer sparks of their fondly remembered brilliance.

Takakeisho vs Shohozan – Shohozan’s poor footwork / ring rust on day 1 cost us a prolonged slug fest. He will need to focus on his stability in the face of Takakeisho’s increasingly complex wave-action attack modes.

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I am looking for Shodai to return to his improved form that we saw in Kyushu today. I think getting tossed around by Takakeisho may have woken him up. And if not, I am sure a couple blows to the head by Tamawashi may help.

Takayasu vs Myogiryu – Between the fever and the fact that Myogiryu holds an 11-5 advantage over Takayasu, I am looking for the Ozeki to have another crummy day on the dohyo. Takayasu is not overly nimble when genki, and he will be hard pressed to deal with Myogiryu’s mobility.

Nishikigi vs Tochinoshin – I am looking for Tochinoshin to bounce back today, too. I think Nishikigi caught Goeido trying to file down some ring-rust, and cashed in. Tochinoshin was rough on day 1, but Nishikigi likes to go chest to chest, and that will put Tochinoshin in the drivers seat.

Hokutofuji vs Goeido – I think Hokutofuji has one chance, and that’s to land that handshake tachiai again today. Goeido is going to be spun up and fierce after letting Nishikigi literally roll him around like a piece of discarded mochi. I look for the Ozeki to accelerate inside of Hokotufuji’s initial nodowa gambit and put maximum pressure full ahead. If he finds him mark, Hokutofuji may wonder what happened.

Kisenosato vs Ichinojo – Much to Josh’s delight, I am starting to stack my toilet paper horde for the approach Kiseno-pocolypse. Before he was a tragic Yokozuna, he was one of the most solid Ozeki the sport had seen in years. In spite of his damaged body and his deconditioning, Kisenosato has the capacity to find a way to win. If we see the same Ichinojo that chased Takayasu out of the ring, the Mongolian behemoth may find himself enjoying the rarely seen Tagonoura sandwich with tonight’s ice cream.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Herouth pointed out that at the end of day 1’s match, Kakuryu looked disappointed at Tochiozan for a somewhat pathetic henka attempt. Day 2 will bring a more meaty battle against Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi dispatched a disoriented looking Kisenosato with solid sumo, and I predict he will will give Kakuryu a straight ahead fight.

Tochiozan vs Hakuho – The boss is back, and he’s looking lean, strong, and aggressive. Tochiozan needs better sumo than day 1, or he’s going to be on the receiving end of one of Hakuho’s famous flying lessons.