Day 10 action in Tokyo – during the Makushita division matches in the early afternoon, Ura faced off against rising star Hoshoryu in a match that had sumo fans buzzing around the globe. Hoshoryu dominated the match from the opening moments, with Ura reverting to his evasive, high agility defensive sumo. Hoshoryu was able to grab Ura and throw him. In the throw, Ura planted his right leg and fought the throw, and it seems to strain on his knee was more than it could take.
Following the match, Ura could put no weight on that knee, and had to be helped from the dohyo, and once again we saw the horrific sight of Ura being wheeled away in the rikishi-sized wheel chair.
Word has come that he was taken to the hospital for x-rays and scans at once. His opponent Hoshoryu stayed behind after his match, apologizing to Ura repeatedly. For a 19 year old rikishi, it’s a tough burden to think you may have had a part in ending a legend’s career.
We wish Ura a speedy recovery, but we wonder if maybe he should exit the sumo world and preserve whatever knee function remains.
The “Ones to Watch” have a light roster for day 10, but what we lack in bulk we make up in intensity. That’s right, the much hoped for Ura vs Hoshoryu is on the torikumi for day 10.
Shoji vs Kototaiki – Both rikishi have 3-1 records, so this match is for kachi-koshi. Kototaiki had to re-set his sumo career in 2015 when he took an extended leave to treat an injury, and re-entered via maezumo. Now a Sandanme mainstay, he’s fighting at close to his highest career rank.
Naya vs Mitotsukasa – A 2-2 bracket match, Naya (Makushita) is taking on a Sandanme rikishi for his day 10 match. Irumagawa heya’s Mitotsukasa is a former university rikishi, who is working to return to Makushita. Should be a solid match.
Wakatakamoto vs Okinofuji – Another 2-2 bracket match, the lowest rank of the Waka* brothers takes on Makushita mainstay Okinofuji. Okinofuji has spent most of the last 2 years in mid Makushita, and will be a tough competitor.
Ura vs Hoshoryu – Maybe the biggest hype around a Makushita match this basho. We have Ura, who has hit the point of his recovery where he actually is having to work for a win, and we have young dynamo Hoshoryu who has reached a rank where his overwhelming natural ability is no longer enough. I am going to guess this match will only last a blink of an eye, but everyone will be watching.
Ichiyamamoto vs Mugendai – A 3-1 bracket match, with kachi-koshi on the line. Mugendai is a solid fighter who was formerly in Musashigawa heya, whose highest ever rank was Makushita 5.
Akua vs Kaisho – The top Makushita match of day 10, Akua’s bid to return to Juryo for Osaka needs him to win out, and to get there he needs to take down Tomozuna heya’s Kaisho, who is fighting well at his highest ever rank.
Day 2 was a non-stop feast of some bright young stars of sumo. We got to see Ura blast someone off the dohyo, we saw Hoshoryu struggle, and we saw Akua stuff Chiyonoo into dumpster. Onward to day 3, it’s another great night of lower division action, with may of the rikishi we are tracking back on the dohyo for more battles.
Wakamotoharu vs Takanofuji – All three Waka* brothers will fight on day 3, with Wakamotoharu just withing reach of joining his brother as a Sekitori. Takanofuji’s only trip to Juryo was interrupted with an injury that pushed him back down the pile. He’s hungry.
Akua vs Seiro – It’s steak, and lobster with both Akua and Wakamotoharu in action. It will be worth staying up just to see this match. Seiro is a former lower Maegashira, a Mongolian from Shikoroyama heya. He dropped out of Juryo in September following an injury, and like most of the “Wall” crew, he is ready to tear his opponent’s head off to return to Sekitori status.
Ura vs Chiyosakae – Ura submarined and ejected Takakento like a JMSDF torpedo, and on day 3 he draws Chiyosakae, a Makushita veteran from Kokonoe heya. He has been ranked as high as MS7 last year, but has been struggling to produce much above a 4 win kachi-koshi.
Wakatakamoto vs Hokutokawa – Another Waka* brother on the dohyo! this time he faces off against Hakkaku heya’s Hokutokawa. Hokutokawa as been unable to rank above mid-Makushita, and will provide a fairly solid opponent.
Naya vs Dairaido – Former Juryo Sekitori Dairaido will be quite a test for young Naya. This opponent will be no easy push over, in spite of the fact that he sufferd a significant injury in 2016 that saw him drop back down to Jonidan.
Shoji vs Okinoiwa – Okinoiwa is a mid-Sandanme mainstay, and I will be interested to see of Shoji can bounce back from his first match loss.
Torakio vs Kotonoumi – Torakio takes on a young rikishi from Sadogatake heya, who has never ranked above Sandandme.
Wakaichiro vs Miyakogawa – Wakaichiro looked strong and confident in his day 1 win, and we are all hoping that he has overcome the mechanical injuries he had been nursing at Kyushu. Day 3 he’s against Miyakogawa, from Isenoumi heya. Another newcommer, Miyakogawa has yet to break out of Jonidan, and had a fairly rough time of it in Kyushu.
Day 2 seems to be when all of the big names get their first match in the divisions below Juryo, and it’s going to be a great night / day of sumo for the fans. Where day 1 only had a handful, day 2 features many eagerly anticipated matches, including fan favorite Ura. Let’s see who is up!
Akua vs Chiyonoo – Oh yeah! Akua wants back in Juryo to light up our screens with that day-glow mawashi, and he’s got to get through Chiyonoo to have any chance. When I talk about the Makushita “wall”, you can think of Chiyonoo as a big, sturdy brick. Himself a de-throned Juryo man, he wants back in the paid ranks. Battles like this are why the top 10 ranks of Makushita may be the most brutal in all of sumo.
Hoshoryu vs Kizakiumi – Taking to the dohyo just after Ura’s match the crowd won’t quiet down in the least. Hoshoryu is climbing steadily up to the Makushita “wall” to test his mettle. His opponent, Kizakiumi, has had a meteoric rise after entering professional sumo from the college ranks, and has already bounced off the wall during Aki.
Ura vs Takakento – Are you ready to hear the Kokugikan go nuts for a Makushita match? Ura is just a bit short of “the wall” group, but the competition is going to be brutal. A former Takanohan deshi, Takakento made the move with Takakeisho and Takagengi to Chiganoura. He has been in Makushita for the past 10 tournaments.
Musashikuni vs Kototsubasa – The Musashigawa scion takes his first match of the new year against Sadogatake’s Kototsubasa. Both men are near their top ever rank, both are on an upward trend. Both need wins to advance into the elite group just a bit father up the banzuke.
Wakatakamoto vs Ryuseio – Another of the Waka* brothers, his posting at Makushita 40 keeps him in thick competition of rikishi battling to challenge for the top 10 ranks. He faces 32 year old veteran and Sandanme veteran Ryuseio for his first bout.
Shoji vs Hikarugenji – Only in his 9th tournament, Musashigawa’s Shoji is battling his way through Sandanme in a bid to return to Makushita, and faces division mainstay Hikarugenji. Shoji is looking to reverse a series of make-koshi tournaments, including a disastrous 1-6 in Kyushu.
Kenho vs Sumanoumi – Big, friendly Kenho went 6-1 at Kyushu, one of his best tournaments in a while. Now he finds himself in lower Sandanme, and frankly we hope this gentle giant knocks a few competitors into next Sunday. His opponent, Sumanoumi, is a long serving Sandanme veteran.
With this many rising stars out on the same day in Makushita, it’s going to be one of the better days of lower division sumo in a while!
Tachiai fan favorite Ura finds himself in the thick of a very competitive Makushita division to start 2019, and it will be his biggest challenge in more than a year. Out of all of the stories that will be woven through Hatsu 2019, Ura’s battle to return to the top division continues to attract an increasing number of followers, as the master of “What the hell was that?” Sumo continues to fight his way though the ranks.
Ura attracted a great deal of attention from the start. A youth sumo competitor, he began his professional sumo career in May of 2015, and made quick work of the lower divisions. His promotion to Makushita in November of 2015 (his 4th basho) did not seem to slow him down at all, and he dispatched nearly every opponent. His arrival in Juryo in May of 2016 came just 1 year after his Jonikuchi debut. The man is a fierce competitor, and is the bane of any rikishi who faces off against him across the shikir-sen. He gained a well deserved following for his dynamic, acrobatic and sometimes unbelievable sumo.
But a tragic injury during Aki 2017 damaged his right knee, and he assumed at the time that his sumo career had ended. He opted for reconstructive surgery, and sat out healing tournament after tournament while his rank plunged down the banzuke, falling to the bottom of Sandanme before he was strong enough to return to competition a year after his injury. Since his return, it’s clear that his months spent healing his lower body allowed him to focus on his upper body, and he returned to the dohyo with a rather impressive gain in strength. He tore through his first two tournaments, scoring only a single loss.
After taking the Sandanme yusho in November, he has been ranked Makushita 23 for the Hatsu basho. The top quartile of Makushita is some of the most brutal, tough and flat out rank in sumo. This area is populated with rikishi who have fallen from the lofty ranks of Sekitori, and up and coming youngsters who are so close to the glory, money and privileges of the top two divisions. In some way it’s more rough and tumble than any other sumo group. Ura will be in this grinder, slugging it out for rank.
Some of Ura’s fans have asked if he should score a 7-0 yusho (possible but not likely) would he would be returned to Juryo. Truth be told, the climb through the top of Makushita into Juryo is sometimes referred to as “the wall”, and we can expect even a 7-0 finish to probably not be enough to do more than move him into the top 10 of Makushita for March. In order to reach Juryo, a rikishi must have both a strong winning score at the top of the division, and a slot must open up in Juryo by make-koshi, injury or retirement.
How tough will the competition be? Let’s look at some possible opponents:
Hoshoryu – Yes, that guy; Asashoryu’s nephew. He’s fast, strong and like Ura, has his eye set on a Sekitori rank.
Kizakiumi – A former college rikishi, he is another tough competitor who so far has not had to deal with injuries.
Chiyootori – Yes, the former Komusubi currently fighting it out to return to the top divisions, but mired in the Makushita mosh pit. This would be a tough, and exciting match.
It should be noted, that bout scheduling in Makushita works differently than the upper divisions. The first match will be someone close to the rikishi’s rank, then rikishi with the same score (ie, 2-0) will face each other in each successive match, with the schedule trying to keep huge rank mismatches from taking place.
Team Tachiai will be glued to our screens for each of Ura’s matches, as he has finally reached the rank where his recovery will be put to the test.