Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


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Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.

Mid-Maegashira

M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.

Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.

For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.

Aki Day 6 Preview


Harumafuji-Kohei

With news of Ozeki Terunofuji’s withdrawal, the upper rank blood bath continues. For Kyushu, he will be ranked Sekiwake. Provided Takayasu can return to action, there will be just 2 Ozeki for the Kyushu basho. For some bright news, Sadanoumi has come out of kyuji status, and will be in Friday’s torikumi.

Thus we enter the middle third, or second act of Aki. This is where we get our first look at who might be in contention for the Emperor’s Cup. Typically the middle weekend of any basho features several high-stakes match ups, but with so many (5 out of 7) of the named ranks out, the schedulers are going to be struggling to create a compelling torikumi.

While there will be a lot of great sumo action today, there are a few matches that are actually pivotal in the emerging yusho race. The match of the day is, without a doubt, upstart Maegashira 3 Onosho vs Kadoban Ozeki Goeido. Goeido has been pulling punk moves in his last several matches, and as a fan I find it very disappointing. All we have to do is tee up footage from Aki 2016 to see what the real Goeido is capable of. We can only assume that he is hiding an injury, and is desperate to hang on to his Ozeki rank.

Second of the headline matches will be Chiyotairyu facing Yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji currently has a losing record, and if for some reason he should lose on day 6, we can expect him to go kyujo. Nobody wants that to happen, so we are all counting on Chiyotairyu to come out of the tachiai, rampaging forward recklessly, like an insane water buffalo.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Nishikigi vs. Endo – Nishikigi has never beaten Endo, but “Mr Popular” is competing with a partially healed ankle, and is far short of his full capability. Nishikigi is still working to ensure he won’t be back in Juryo any time soon, so he’s pushing hard for every win.

Daishomaru vs. Asanoyama – Mr happy goes up against Daishomaru’s 4-1 hot streak. Asanoyama sits on the bottom rung of Makuuchi, but is doing fairly well at 3-2, but my gut tells me Friday will not be his day. This is their first match.

Yutakayama vs. Sadanoumi – A hearty welcome back to Sadanoumi, he faces a struggling Yutakayama who has been unable to really finish off anyone. His offense is sloppy, but not without potential. Sadanoumi has missed the first 5 days due to injury, and we hope he is healed enough to survive his return.

Ishiura vs. Takekaze – 38 year old veteran Takekaze is still struggling for his first win at Aki. He faces an Ishiura who seems to be lacking real vigor in his sumo. Ishiura has massive potential, but every basho he spends 8-7 or 7-8 in the middle of Makuuchi is an opportunity lost.

Daieisho vs. Arawashi – Battle of the 4-1, this is likely to be a real contest, as both of these rikishi are in the hunt group for the leadership.

Ichinojo vs. Kagayaki – Large asian men hitting each other, slowly. One of them will fall down.

Tamawashi vs. Tochinoshin – Hapless Tochinoshin is still hunting for his first win. Tamawashi is eagerly trying to start piecing together his kachi-koshi. Tochinoshin is capable of a win here, but he needs to get his gamey left leg to cooperate.

Mitakeumi vs. Kotoshogiku – Now that Kotoshogiku’s unbeaten run has ended, perhaps Mitakeumi will feel up to getting his own record up to 3-3. Mitakeumi will need to stay mobile and not let the Kyushu Bulldozer lock him up and chug him across the bales.

Onosho vs. Goeido – I am fine with Goeido winning this one, as long as I see him actually move forward and execute at least one sumo move. But given what happened to Harumafuji on day 5, Goeido will be lucky if he is not forced into some involuntary yoga position on his way to the upper deck.

Chiyotairyu vs. Harumafuji – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, please give us one more triumphant Harumafuji death-spin. Let Chiyotairyu launch from the dohyo like a North Korean missile headed for Guam, but land safely in the lap of some lovely and adoring fan.

Ozeki Terunofuji Withdraws From Aki


Terunofuji

Having re-injured the knee he had surgery for, our favorite Kaiju – otherwise known at Terunofuji, has decided to accept reality and withdraw from the Aki basho. This means that he will appear on the banzuke as a Sekiwake at Kyushu, and will have one chance to regain his Ozeki rank – with a score of at least 10 wins.

A healthy Terunofuji is capable of that kind of performance, but it remains to be seen if there is any road back from the damage he has sustained.

As we are quite fond of Terunofuji, we will be hoping and begging the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan to convene with the deities to speed his healing.

Aki Day 5 Preview


Good-Squishy

As Kintamayama has labeled it, “The Wacky Aki” continues to be outside the ordinary. Sumo has been a static or slowly evolving system for a good many years, and most fans have come to expect a specific and repeating dynamic to hold power during a basho. For at least this basho, those forces are gone, and we are seeing host of new rivalries and dynamics trying to form. As the Tachiai crew has maintained since Aki last year, the lack of a strong menacing Yokozuna corps is the biggest factor that is at play. With your typical Yokozuna taking in 10-13 victories per basho, that’s a whole lot of losses to the lower ranks to absorb. Sumo is, in fact, a zero sum game. For every win, there is a loss. For a rikishi that has 15 wins, there are 15 rikishi with 1 additional loss. Add to that an Ozeki corps that takes 8-11 wins per basho, and you define the strong headwinds any rikishi faces getting movement up the banzuke.

For the Wacky Aki, we have a Yokozuna who is now 2-2, and looking hurt (as was expected), 3 Yokozuna in dry-dock due to injuries, 1 Ozeki injured for at least a month, 1 Ozeki that is in no condition to fight, and 1 Ozeki who seems too worried about maintaining his rank to give battle to even the most middling opponent.

Can we turn our hope to the San’yaku battle fleet, who in the last few basho have stepped up where the Yokozuna and Ozeki crumbled? Between the Sekiwake and Komusubi, there are 3 wins, and 13 losses at the end of day 4. The west side has yet to win a single match, and if it were not for Tamawashi playing through the pain, east would not even have 3.

What is the result? The rank-and-file rikishi are calling the shots, taking the lime light (and rightfully so) and everyone is watching in eager anticipation of fierce competition. The result is a lot of oshi-zumo.

Which brings us to day 5 – This is the final day for what I call the “First Act” of Wacky Aki. After this, everyone needs to pay close attention to who can still scrape together a kachi-koshi, and who has an outright shot at the yusho. Much as it baffles me to say it, the chance of “Kotoshogiku Day” are brighter than I would like them. But starting Friday, all of the tadpoles are going to have to work out their emotions of possibly contending for the Emperor’s Cup. Frankly some of them won’t be able to keep their sumo under control, and may self destruct. Stay tuned, as the warm ups are about over. The middle weekend will, more than possibly any time in the last few years, really sort the wheat from the chaff.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Endo vs. Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki make a return from Juryo to face a resurgent Endo. Kotoyuki has been a long time Makuuchi guy, who simply could not continue to compete with the various injuries he was nursing, but is 3-1 in Juryo 3w, and may very well be able to win his place in the top division this basho. Endo is coming back from surgery, and has not practiced much, but is doing very well at the bottom of the Maegashira banzuke. This could be another solid match like the one Endo turned in day 4.

Daieisho vs. Chiyomaru – Daieisho is still in the unbeaten group that features several tadpoles. He holds a narrow 3-2 advantage over Chiyomaru in his career record, but Chiyomaru has been flagging the basho, and is not looking very energetic.

Takanoiwa vs. Arawashi – Both of these rikishi are fighting well, and have winning records coming to today’s bout. Takanoiwa enters unbeaten, and holds a 7-3 career advantage over Arawashi. But Arawashi’s day 4 win over Chiyoshoma looked particularly nice, and maybe we are going to see some additional outstanding sumo today.

Takarafuji vs. Kagayaki – Takarafuji has been quietly plugging away in the middle of the banzuke, doing very solid sumo (albeit, with no neck whatsoever). I expect him to completely roll Kagayaki, who has been pretty terrible at Aki expect for his drubbing of Takakeisho day 4. Kagayaki won their only prior match-up.

Ichinojo vs. Ikioi – A great and magical event happened on day 4. Chiyonokuni seems to have managed to toggle Ichinojo’s “mode switch” from bridge abutment back to sumo wrestler. With any luck it stayed in the sumo mode and we can see him try to fold Ikioi more than 7 times without using a hydraulic press.

Chiyonokuni vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho seems to have reverted to some larval form day 4, with his charge-and-retreat sumo that got him taunted by Hakuho at Nagoya. Chiyonokuni will chase him down and give him an atomic wedgie if he tries that today, so I expect some very strong oshi-zumo from these two. Chiyonokuni leads career series 3-1.

Shodai vs. Kotoshogiku – It’s as if an earlier, more genki Kotoshogiku stepped out of a time portal from last year and is running crazy with no healthy Ozeki or Yokozuna to stop him. I anticipate that at the tachiai, Shodai will stand up woodenly and embrace Kotoshogiku, who will immediately apply the hug-n-chug. Thankfully NHK no longer shows us views of Kotoshogiku adjusting the butt-strap on his mawashi.

Tamawashi vs. Tochiozan – Tochiozan, if you were going to make a case for being San’yaku, this was the easy basho to do it. But instead this very capable rikishi is part of that ugly 0-4 crowd. Tamawashi is hurt, but I would give him the advantage in spite of Tochiozan leading the career series 10-2.

Hokutofuji vs. Yoshikaze – Also on the “wake me up before you go-go” list is my beloved Yoshikaze. I don’t know if he is hurt, distracted or just plain having a crummy basho. But I want him to get it going, please. Hokutofuji is fresh off of a rather spectacular victory over the lone surviving Yokozuna, and he is likely feeling very genki indeed. Hokutofuji has a 3-1 advantage over Yoshikaze, so I am not hopeful the Berserker will correct his side on day 5.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochinoshin – Contributor and commentator lksumo nailed it, this is the “battle of the disappointments”. Both of these rikishi came into Wacky Aki with the potential to really advance their careers. Instead both of them are struggling to find ways to stave off brutal levels of demotion. Prediction for the fight – both men skip the dohyo-iri, and get shit-faced starting at noon. They show up wasted and giddy around 3:00 PM, and only partially secure their mawashi. Bout ends with a rapid cut away on NHK as both men do their impressions of the final scene of “The Full Monty”.

Chiyotairyu vs. Goeido – Chiyotairyu! Expect the henka. Please give Goeido some dirt therapy for all of us fans, to encourage him to actual do some sumo. Goeido, boot up in 2.0 mode and show that bulked up Chiyotairyu that you’re his daddy. Make us think you have some sumo left, show us some fire sir, or it’s no Okonomiyaki for you!

Terunofuji vs. Shohozan – I am really concerned that Terunofuji does not have the strength to actually do Ozeki sumo. Furthermore, I fear that he is going to get hurt because he is competing without a whole lot of strength. Shohozan holds a slight 3-2 advantage over their career match ups.

Onosho vs. Harumafuji – This one fills me with excitement and trepidation at the same time. Onosho really showed a lot of level headed calculus in his pre-match confrontation with Terunofuji day 4, so we know he is not easily intimidated. Harumafuji is not at 100%, and I fear additional losses may put pressure on him to go kyujo, leaving us in the dreaded “No-kazuna” situation we hoped to avoid. With problems in both arms and both legs, Harumafuji is one bad fall away from intai.

Aki Day 4 Preview


Kotoshogiku-Harumafuji

With day 3 behind us, we can all hope that everyone who has survived thus far has gotten their rusty sumo techniques old and working, and the basho proper can get underway. With just 3 days complete, no one’s record is beyond recovery, and everyone still has a kachi-koshi as a possible outcome.

I beg and pray that the Aki blood bath is complete, but something tells me we will lose one or two more. Tamawashi looked like balls today, and his damaged ankle will likely keep him from doing much real sumo for at least a few days. He may still end up declaring himself kyujo before day 15.

The real story in the first three days, besides the injuries, is the strength of the new group of rikishi who are really blasting everything they have faced this far. This includes Daieisho, Onosho and Takakeisho. It’s far too early to talk about the yusho, but it’s possible one of these guys might be in contention during the second week.

One thing of note, with so many rikishi out, the entire torikumi has gotten much shorter.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Tokushoryu vs. Asanoyama – Tokushoryu has had a really poor showing this basho, and on day 4 he is taking on Asanoyama, who seems to be really having a great time and doing fairly well. This is a first meeting between these two men. Tokushoryu has yet to win a single match, so at some point soon, he is going to get really eager to win by almost any means he can.

Endo vs. Yutakayama – Endo seems to be well enough to handle lower Maegashira opponents, and the sumo world is glad for it. There is hope that he can continue to strengthen and improve, and possible return to some of his former glory. Yutakayama is having a bit of a rough ride in his first basho in the top division, but that is not unusual.

Daieisho vs. Kaisei – Daieisho is so far unbeaten, and he faces a resurgent Kaisei, who is a bit stronger than I expected. Is it just me, or did he drop some weight too? He had gotten horribly large, and I think it diminished his sumo. Daieisho won their only prior encounter.

Takanoiwa vs. Takekaze – Takanoiwa is also unbeaten, interestingly enough, and on day 4 he takes on Takekaze, who has yet to win any match during Aki. Takekaze is not looking overly energetic thus far, so maybe he will wake up and show us at least a majestic henka on day 4.

Kagayaki vs. Takakeisho – Kagayaki is another of the “no wins yet” crew, and he faces a really energetic and highly combative Takakeisho, who has yet to lose. It’s strange to note, that in their 3 prior matches, Takakeisho has yet to beat Kagayaki once.

Shohozan vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s extra mass seems to have really complimented his sumo, and his opponents are having a difficult time blunting his attacks. But his day 4 match against “Big Guns” Shohozan may be a new story. It’s possible that Shohozan could bench press Chiyotairyu on a good day. Chiyotairyu leads the series 3-2.

Mitakeumi vs. Tamawashi – Mitakeumi needs to continue bouncing back, and Tamawashi is hurt. I don’t doubt that Tamawashi is going to put up a huge fight, but if Mitakeumi is going to make a play to keep his Sekiwake rank (let along start an Ozeki campaign), he needs to start dominating now.

Kotoshogiku vs. Yoshikaze – These matches between these two are one sided in Kotoshogiku’s favor. Plus it seems that Yoshikaze is flagging for multiple reasons (none of which I know). So I am going to expect Kotoshogiku to win this one, and maybe Yoshikaze start’s bouncing back on day 5.

Terunofuji vs. Onosho – Now this one is interesting, the big Ozeki against the angry tadpole. It’s time for Onosho to test himself against a fairly capable Ozeki class rikishi. Granted, Terunofuji is not at full health, but it’s a great test.

Tochinoshin vs. Goeido – Henka probably won’t work for Goeido today, so I expect him to actually have to use some sumo against Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin has beaten him a few times, but Goeido really needs to line up the wins and clear the kadoban flag sooner rather than later.

Hokutofuji vs. Harumafuji – I am sure Harumafuji will be aggressive, focused and unless the gyoji whacks him with the war-fan, he’s not going to stop no matter what. Now, Hokutofuji, is certain to give him a good, solid fight, and I have hopes that this match can be a real contest.

Aki Day 3 Highlights


Matta?

Day 3 in bizzaro basho, and the whole Tachiai crew, along with the cat, are wondering if this thing is ever going to settle down and stop pooping it’s diaper.

If you have yet to watch the NHK highlight reel, or Jason or Kintamayama, I strongly recommend a stiff drink before and during. With now 7 rikishi out kyujo – Including the majority of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps – each day seems a bit more odd and off pace. Yet there is abundant great sumo taking place, and in the absence of the top guys, the up and coming team are really in the spotlight. With rikishi like Takakeisho and Onosho clearly standing out every day, they are getting a great deal of attention, and probably new fans. This is another step down the path of transition that we have been pointing out for the past several tournaments, and it’s not going to reverse.

If you are wondering, many of the Angry Tadpoles are still undefeated at the end of day 3. These guys are a real driving force for the near-term future of sumo.

Rather than call it highlights, for today I am going to call it…

Things That Happened Today

Asanoyama defeats Yutakayama – I have decided I like Asanoyama. He just seems to be having a great time on the dohyo, even when he loses. It’s as if each time he steps up on the clay, he says to himself, “Can you believe they are paying me to have this much fun? Holy crap, what a life!”

Aminishiki defeats Tokushoryu – Yeah, thats right! Uncle Sumo came to Makuuchi for a day and won! His fans in the Kokugikan are legion, and he frequently gets a bigger reaction than 80% of Maegashira. There was a false start, but the second attempt was actually some really good sumo. Tokushoryu was trying to apply overwhelming bulldozery, but Uncle Sumo decided he was fine with that. He offered some token resistance to get Tokushoryu well cranked up, then pulled him down.

Endo defeats Kaisei – Ok, I am starting to allow myself to get optimistic about Endo’s recovery. Sure he is fighting the bottom end of Makuuchi, but I would say his ankle is at best 75% of good. He even had the presence of mind to break Kaisei’s fall. I think with the bloodbath thus far, everyone is worried someone else is going to catch a career impacting injury.

Daieisho defeats Nishikigi – Daieisho is not getting a lot of coverage because he is down at Maegashira 11, but he is looking in solid form right now. Granted Nishikigi is not the strongest opponent, but Daieisho’s sumo was spot on today.

Arawashi defeats Takarafuji – Really nice effort by both Rikishi, Arawashi had a much better tachiai and was able to set up the throw.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Everyone sing along… Shodai blew another tachiai. Easy to do when you are tall and looking rather lethargic this basho, and your opponent is an amped-up bowling ball with legs who has chrome side pipes and the low-rider package. I counted 2 tsuppari from Takakeisho for every 1 from Shodai. Frankly Shodai looked surprised that this tadpole was kicking his butt. Takakeisho remains undefeated.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – Chiyotairyu continues to deliver above expectations, and is really knocking down some of the better rikishi that are not in the hospital.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – I am still thinking that Tamawashi did more to his ankle than he cares to admit. Onosho was once again at 11+ on a 1-10 scale, and Tamawashi seems to be lacking his prior ability to transmit power to ground.

Mitakeumi defeats Shohozan – Mitakeumi hopefully is shaking off the cobwebs and the jinx of going on NHK to talk about his sumo. Big Guns Shohozan is sporting some Yoshikaze-style face damage now, so that may be effecting his sumo. Mitakeumi won by a fairly quick slap-down for a convincing victory.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Goeido unleashes a dirty henka, but Yoshikaze bought it. Goeido really needs to clear his kadoban status, so I am sure nobody really is too sore about his deciding not to take the Berserker on head-to-head.

Terunofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Thank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan. The knee-less wonder won in fairly convincing fashion over Tochinoshin, and maybe there is hope that he’s still got some health left. Tochinoshin gave it his all, and put up a great fight. Terunofuji was relieved, the fans are relieved, and even my cat liked it.

Kotoshogiku “something-something” Harumafuji – I could call it a win, it was recorded as a win, but what the hell was it? It was, in fact, Kotoshogiku’s first kinboshi, but should it have been? Clearly we had a matta, but for whatever reason the gyoji did not call it back. Again, after yesterday’s injury fest, I am sure people like Harumafuji are being extra careful. Should he have ignored the matta and just given The Kyushu Bulldozer (Kotoshogiku) a death spin and a ride in the wheelchair? Either way, it’s in the record books now and Harumafuji has his first loss of the basho. Kotoshogiku… Undefeated?

Aki Day 3 Preview


Harumafuji-Dohyo-Iri

We have yet to start day 3, and it’s already fair to say this will be unlike any other basho for the last few years. We face the possibility of losing 2 more from the top ranks and a crowd favorite Maegashira. If all 3 who were injured on day 2 drop out of Aki, that means that both Tagonoura sekitori (Kisenosato and Takayasu) will be out, and the primary Kensho magnet (Takayasu) will be gone.

I know some readers here (and we dearly love our readers!) were uncomfortable with my prediction that Sumo’s injury problems were in the process of boiling over. But as we say in Texas, “Hold my beer”.

But it can and should rightly be pointed out that we are looking at a sekitori population that has multiple kanban rikishi at or above the average age of retirement, and that given the current sumo schedule, there are few windows for medical treatment and recovery without rather stiff demotions. Sumo is a very Darwin environment – the strong advance and the injured or lesser skilled fall away.

But even if there are no other rikishi that go kyujo this tournament, we are now up to possibly as many as 8 from Makuuchi, and half of those maybe from the Yokozuna/Ozeki ranks. Sumo as a brand stakes a lot of their draw and publicity on these top two ranks, and their decimation at Aki may take some time to recover.

Please note that some of the below matches will possibly have fusen wins if one of the rikishi announced they are withdrawing from the tournament

What We Are Watching Day 3

Tokushoryu vs Aminishiki – The REAL Ojisan, Uncle Sumo Aminishiki, comes to Makuuchi to give battle to the bulbous Tokushoryu. With NHK show it on their highlight reel? We can dare to hope.

Endo vs Kaisei – Ends has not come out strong, in spite of only having to face the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Now he goes against the Kaisei, who has not been showing much in terms of speed. Their career series is nearly tied, but it will be interesting to see if Endo can muster his sumo to overpower the large Brazilian.

Daishomaru vs Okinoumi – I am very happy that Okinoumi has started 2-0, and I hope that he has his injuries under control, at least for this basho. He has beaten Daishomaru in their only prior meeting, which was at Nagoya, and one of his 5 wins for that basho.

Takanoiwa vs Ishiura – Takanoiwa has started strong, and he may be well positioned to have a “good basho” provided that he can stick to mid and lower Maegashira for the remaining bouts. Ishiura is still hit or miss, and we have to wonder if he has some chronic injury that is sapping him of his strength.

Chiyonokuni vs Ikioi – A pair of dedicated oshi-zumo practitioners, I would give a slight edge to Ikioi, who has two straight wins and leads the career total 5-2. Ikioi also bests Chiyonokuni in total mass.

Shodai vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is eagerly throwing himself into his offense so far. He explodes off the tachiai and delivers a relentless torrent tsuppari from the start. Shodai on the other hand is looking slow and comes in high at the tachiai. Takakeisho has never won against Shodai, but I think day 3 changes that.

Ichinojo vs Ura – I expect Ura to be kyujo before this bout. If he insists on competing, I expect Ura will be kyujo after this bout. Ichinojo is looking especially unpolished this basho, but all he has to do is push Ura hard and he might break him at this point.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochiozan – Someone activated Chiyotairyu’s “Beast Mode” and he has been coming off the line strong, and overwhelming his opponents. Tochiozan, by comparison, is looking vague and overwhelmed in each of his matches. It’s hard to tell if some injury is slowing down Tochiozan, but I am going to give an edge to Chiyotairyu this match.

Tamawashi vs Onosho – Tamawashi may be able to gamberize and make it to his day 3 match. But he faces Onosho, who is delighted to have a big target like Tamawashi for his match. Onosho is the real deal right now, strong, fast and completely sure his sumo will win each time. A healthy Tamawashi could delivery a brutal lesson to the young contender, but given day 2’s wrenched ankle, Tamawashi is not likely to be at full power.

Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Mitakeumi received a lot of elevated expectations going into the basho, but now finds himself with a cold 0-2 start. I doubt that Mitakeumi picked up any injury, so I am going to assume it’s all in his mind right now. Day 3 he faces Shohozan, who has brought his big guns to each match and unleashed hell upon his opponents. Will this be the match where Mitakeumi turns it around?

Yoshikaze vs Goeido – Yoshikaze is also suffering a cold start. And on day 3 he faces Goeido, who is likewise struggling. These two are actually a very good match, with Yoshikaze leading their career total 12-9. I would expect for Yoshikaze to try to disrupt Goeido’s attempt to overwhelm Yoshikaze at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – If Takayasu is not too injured to compete, he is going to get a strong workout from Hokutofuji. They have only met once before (in Nagoya), and Hokutofuji was the winner. But my money is on Hokutofuji getting a fusen win.

Terunofuji vs Tochinoshin – Our favorite kaiju is really struggling now, he as no wins in his first 2 days, and we can assume he is not yet even close to 100% healthy. Tochinoshin is likewise winless, but I think he has a real chance to take one from Terunofuji day 3, even though Terunofuji dominates their career totals at 8-2.

Kotoshogiku vs Harumafuji – These two veterans have met 62 times in their careers. But it is Kotoshogiku who holds a slight edge at 34-30 over Harumafuji. If Kotoshogiku can take a win against the lone surviving Yokozuna today, it would in fact be Kotoshogiku’s first kinboshi.