Welcome to the final day of act 1 of the Natsu basho for 2021. The fans are allowed back in the Kokugikan, and the super boom-cam is no longer giving us fresh views of the action. At Tachiai, we divide the 15 day basho into three 5 day “acts”, each of which have a purpose and a theme. In general act 1 is to shake off the ring rust and get everyone into fighting form. We also get to see who is hot, and who is not. Following the rallies on day 4, a number of winless rikishi now have at least 1 white star. But Hokutofuji and Myogiryu are still winless. On the other side of that range is Terunofuji with 4-0, and frankly is once again the strongest competitor in the tournament. It’s a remarkable testament to his relentless spirit that as his first tournament back at the rank of Ozeki, he leads everyone going into the final day of act 1. I would not be surprised if he was in contention for the cup in a week.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Akua vs Enho – An injured and winless Enho comes to visit the top division. While it is mathematically possible for him to squeeze out a kachi-koshi for May, the fact is he was banged up even before that day 3 kotenage, and now he’s just trying to make it through 15 days. I had honestly hoped that Hakuho could have Enho and Ishiura by his side in July, for what could be some of his final Yokozuna dohyo-iri. He has an even 2-2 record against Akua, but I am guessing he’s going to get tossed about and dismissed early on day 5.
Ishiura vs Chiyotairyu – I was delighted to see Ishiura rally on day 4 and overcome Akiseyama’s height and mass advantage. He gets to try that ratio again today on day 5 as he goes up against thunder-demon Chiyotairyu. I am sure Chiyotairyu will forego the cannon-ball tachiai today, as that would just beg for an Ishiura henka.
Chiyomaru vs Daiamami – Daiamami holds an 8-2 career advantage over Chiyomaru, winning the last 6 in a row. I expect that Chiyomaru will have his hands full today, and that Daiamami will get a grip on “his roundness” and dance him over the bales without too much trouble.
Akiseyama vs Kaisei – Kaisei has struggled to consistently attack so far at Natsu, so day 5 is going to be a coin toss at if we get Kaisei the statue or Kaisei the mega-fauna. He holds a slight 2-1 advantage over Akiseyamam but it will come down to if Kaisei can move well and keep his balance against Akiseyama’s disrupting attacks.
Kotoeko vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi should have a clear path to bounce back from his day 4 loss to Chiyoshoma. He has a 4-0 career record against Kotoeko, and I am expecting a somewhat more conservative attack plan from Okinoumi today.
Tamawashi vs Chiyoshoma – They have only fought twice before, and Tamawashi has taken them both. But the Chiyoshoma of today seems more focused, and more straight ahead sumo than the last time they met – in 2017.
Shimanoumi vs Kotonowaka – I am not sure what to make of this one. Both of them are well below their potential this May, but I would give a slight edge to Kotonowaka right now.
Terutsuyoshi vs Endo – As expected, Endo has been dominating this far down the banzuke (M8w). He has a 2-0 career record against 1-3 Terutsuyoshi, but I would not be surprised today to see Terutsuyoshi upset sumo’s master technician. Barring injury, Terutsuyoshi is better than his 1-3 record would indicate, and I am expect him to start winning matches going into act 2.
Tsurugisho vs Kagayaki – Both of these guys are struggling with 1-3 records, and can’t seem to get connected to their sumo. Kagayaki has a 2-0 career record against Tsurugisho, but with both of them fighting poorly, its a guess on who would have any advantage today.
Hidenoumi vs Takarafuji – First time match between two long serving veterans who have been in separate divisions for most of their careers. My bias would have me backing Takarafuji, but I have to admit that for now, Hidenoumi has been fighting better, and may have an advantage today if he can keep Takarafuji from setting up a stalemate defense.
Tochinoshin vs Onosho – I think the key to an Onosho win today would be for him to time the “big push” for when Tochinoshin’s weight is mostly on his right leg. It’s tough to resist Onosho’s primary attack without having both feet firmly set, so it will come down to timing.
Hoshoryu vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo is fighting well this May, and Hoshoryu is not. Given their size difference, it may be no more complicated than that.
Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Well, the last two winless rikishi face off, and one of them will get their first white star today. Both of these two have been fighting well daily, and are just a bit out-classed at this rank. Hokutofuji holds a slim 7-5 career advantage over Myogiryu, and that may be some indicator of who will have the advantage today.
Mitakeumi vs Takanosho – You might think that Mitakeumi, the original tadpole, would be the favorite in this match. But in fact Takanosho does seem to have a knack for taking Mitakeumi’s lunch money. He has a 5-1 career advantage, but both of them come into today with matching 3-1 records. Could be some great action.
Takayasu vs Daieisho – Takayasu comes in with an 8-3 career advantage, but his sumo has been all over the map this May. With a bonus, Daieisho, got yesterday off due to his fusensho win over the damage Chiyonokuni. So I am going to look for him to really take it to Takakeisho.
Wakatakakage vs Terunofuji – Wakatakakage has rightly earned a reputation of a giant-killer, and the ultimate test comes today as he faces the kaiju in the first of the Ozeki matches. Frankly, I would have put this one last, just as it’s possibly the highest interest contest of the day. Wakatakakage has actually beaten Terunofuji once in the past, when they were both ranked in Juryo. Since then its been 3-0 for Terunofuji.
Shodai vs Meisei – I think this one is going to be all Shodai. In spite of Meisei having solid mechanics, right now it seems Shodai (who had a 4-1 career advantage) has enough cartoon sumo moves to confound almost anyone.
Kiribayama vs Takakeisho – I am pretty sure the 1 win Kiribayama won’t offer much apart from pushing practice ballast to the Grand Tadpole on day 5.
Asanoyama vs Tobizaru – First ever match, and I honestly worry that Asanoyama may struggle with this fight as well. Tobizaru is over-ranked for his level of sumo, but he is an agile and aggressive rikishi who is quite capable of exploiting a mistake or wrong step.