Fan favorite Ura, who is recovering from major knee surgery, has been spotted training in a black mawashi. Posted by Inagawa Oyakata on twitter, it is clear that the space-time defying wizard has started the long slow grind to return to the dohyo.
Hopefully he is in no rush to return, as the surgery he underwent following a series of painful injuries in September 2017 are more or less a “one chance” affair. As former Kaiju Terunofuji learned painfully, rushing your return will end your career.
But it’s clear from the photos that some time, possibly by Kyushu, we will see this amazing force of sumo begin his effort to climb the ranks once more. By then he will be well down in the lowest divisions, and will be a most unfortunate draw for some poor new rikishi. Good luck Ura! We can’t wait to see you back!
For fans eager to hear news of Ura, we have some updates. News comes from a pair of tweets that report that on December 17th, Ura was discharged from the hospital where he underwent surgery to rebuild his damaged knee. The surgery reportedly took place on or around November 30th, and from the photo shown, it appears that quite a bit of work was done.
There is no word yet on how he is doing, or the condition of the knee. Fans should keep in mind that Ura will not be able to even begin sumo practice for a few months, if ever. Everyone who delighted in his twisty-turny, physics defying sumo hope that he takes the time needed to get healthy, regardless of any possible return to sumo.
Using US sports medicine guidelines, Ura should not even consider training until the 4th month after surgery, and return to competition no sooner than 6 months. Given the rigors of sumo and the risks of re-injury unless his lower body is strong and solid, we may not see Ura return to the dohyo until late in 2018.
With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.
Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.
So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.
Kyujo and Absences
There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.
On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.
With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.
Reports from Japan this morning that Ura has elected to undergo surgery to repair knee damage, specifically the “right anterior cruciate ligament”. His recovery is expected to last at least three months, but the article sports optimism that he will return to sumo at a more rapid pace.
Frankly, I would much rather see Ura fully recovered and strong a few months later. But all of his fans (myself included) wish him good fortune in surgery, and a solid recovery.
Now appearing on the NSK web site, the official banzuke for the Kyushu basho, starting two weeks from today. Some notable elements include Terunofuji as Sekiwake 2E (“Ozekiwake”), Mitakeumi holds fast at Sekiwake 1E, Kotoshogiku returns to San’yaku in the Komusubi 1E slot, Onosho has his first try at San’yaku, and Takakeisho is at Maegashira 1.
Further down the banzuke, we have Aminishiki (aka Uncle Sumo) back in Makuuchi, Asanoyama levitating to Maegashira 11, and Ura still listed at Maegashira 16, even though I would be surprised if he shows up.
The story in Juryo is pretty interesting, Egyptian Osunaarashi somehow manages to hang onto a Juryo slot and is posted to Juryo 13, followed by Takagenji and Yao. Meanwhile Ishiura is ejected from Makuuchi, and appears as Juryo 1.
Meanwhile, as predicted, the Texas sumotori Wakaichiro is confirmed as promoted to Sandanme 85, and will fight at his highest rank ever.
Again, our forecast expert scored many direct hits in his banzuke forecast, and fans should feel free to compare them side by side. Hats off to lksumo!
The crew will likely have our banzuke podcast up before long, be ready!
As of this morning, there are 5 days left before the Kyushu banzuke is posted, and then it’s a mad dash to the start of what may be the highlight basho of the year. Given the events during the jungyo, I am starting to be cautiously optimistic that we may in fact see a full card of Yokozuna, as well as many favorites in fairly good fighting form for November.
As we wait for Sunday’s (US time) banzuke announcement, here are some of the stories leading up to Kyushu we are trying to research:
Takayasu – He was injured at Aki, and has not been part of the PR tour. He will enter Kyushu as a kadoban Ozeki for his first time, and we really don’t know how healed his thigh injury is.
Terunofuji – Demoted to Ozekiwake, he has to score 10 wins to regain his rank. There have been encouraging signs from jungyo, so fans of the big kaiju are hoping for success.
Ura – News sources have been very quiet about the condition of the man in pink. Everyone wants to see him back and healthy, but how damaged was that knee?
Wakaichiro – First time in Sandanme, the competition is going to be tough, will the man from Texas prevail?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The knee is essentially a hinged joint that is held together by the medial collateral (MCL), lateral collateral (LCL), anterior cruciate (ACL) and posterior cruciate (PCL) ligaments. The ACL runs diagonally in the middle of the knee, preventing the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur, as well as providing rotational stability to the knee.
Suffice to say, Ura will be out of sumo for a while, and his road back will likely be long and hard, similar to what Tochinoshin faced in 2014, where he dropped to Makushita and had to fight his way back.
As we suspected, the damage to Ura’s knee seems to be extensive, and he has withdrawn from the Aki basho. His injury was sustained during the Nagoya basho, and was severe enough that he was regulated to light duty during the summer jungyo.
Ura is a great asset to the sport, with his free-lance, un conventional approach to sumo really has helped boost sumo’s popularity. We fear he may now require orthopedic surgery, and his road to recovery will be long and painful. We hope and pray he has the best possible outcome.
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.
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.
The Tachiai team has been somewhat apprehensive about the Aki basho this year, and we have made no secret about our concern. The confluence of an aging Makuuchi mainstay population, a series of injuries that never quite healed, and the relentless cadence of the current sumo calendar have combined to have a number of rikishi out from day one, or competing injured. There are / were a handful of Sekitori who should have probably sat out the basho, but eager to not be demoted out of the top division, took their chances.
As of the end of day 2, there are a several new developments (that will be apparent to anyone who watches summaries of footage from the basho). So we are going to break format a bit, and issue an update to our Genki Report.
Rikishi: Takayasu Genki: ✭ Notes: In his day 2 bout with Tamawashi, sumo’s newest Ozeki took a tough fall, and was clearly unable to walk afterwards. He was unable to walk back to the dressing room, and so they brought out their wheel chair and took him directly to the infirmary. As is typical with sumo, the real extent of his injury is not being reported, and is somewhere between a thigh muscle strain and a rupture of the thigh. He was able to walk under his own power some time later to a car waiting to take him back to Tagonoura stable. On his way out, he put on a brave face, but it’s certain his condition will be assessed in the morning. Forecast: Kyujo day 3 or 4 due to injury to thigh muscle
Rikishi: Tamawashi Genki: ✭ Notes: In the same bout as Takayasu taking a fall and injuring his thigh, former Sekiwake Tamawashi twisted his ankle at the moment he forced Takayasu form the dohyo. Likewise he could barely walk following the match, but he did make it up the Hanamichi under his own power. But it was clear that he was having problems walking. In the dressing room, he did ask how Takayasu was. Forecast: Kyujo day 3 or 4 due to sprained ankle, with a possible return later in the basho.
Rikishi: Ura Genki: ✭- Notes: Matches between Ura and Takakeisho are always grand battles of force vs maneuverability. We knew going into Aki that Ura’s knee was in delicate shape, and we suggested it was probably too damaged to support competition. During an attempt to execute a slippery move at the tawara, Ura’s knee collapsed. Immediately following the match, he was unable to walk and as with Takayasu had to be wheeled from the venue to the infirmary. As with Takayasu, he was later able to move about on his damaged leg, and displayed a brave face, and remarked that he would make every effort to appear day 3. The fact of the matter is that his damaged knee is now further damaged, and may now require surgery. Forecast: Kyujo day 3 due to to damage to the ACL
Prior to the start of Aki, it was clear that this basho was going to be a jumbled and surprising event. With a number of mainstays out on medical leave, and a vigorous corps of new talent blasting their way up the ranks, it was clear that we were going to see many familiar names getting losses. But we can excuse fans in thinking that all of the injuries were accounted for up front. Sadly day 2 seems have have had a swarm of rikishi suffering lower body injuries, and one has to wonder if the yusho will simply be the last man standing.
We can start in the Ozeki, who are still suffering. Today both Terunofuji (his second) and Takayasu (his first) hit the clay. This is especially alarming for Terunofuji who has to pick up 8 wins to remove his kadoban tag. Prior to the start of Aki, I had assumed that he would be able to produce 8 wins without too much challenge. But clearly he is still recovering from surgery and not quite up to full Kaiju power yet.
Sekiwake? 0-2, both of them. Both of them are very capable rikishi. Both of them have gone down like Juryo punks in the first two days (this coming from a Yoshikaze fan). The frustration on Mitakeumi’s face was evident as Chiyotairyu put him away handily. Tochiozan shares the 0-2 start at Komusubi, and has looked a half step slower than the ranging sumo machine that went 10-5 in Nagoya. Yes, the first 3 days frequently feature favorites shaking off the cobwebs, but with the big bad Yokozuna sidelined, you would think the San’yaku would attack with a sense of purpose. The lone surviving Yokozuna, Harumafuji, is holding up fine for the first 2 days, but it’s clear to see that he’s competing in spite of the pain.
Finally it’s worth noting that Ura may have further degraded his injured knee today in his bout with Takakeisho, who was out for a clear victory, and achieved it. Ura needs to take care, and he should study the calamities that visited Endo when he was a rising star and fan favorite.
Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – Due to the late breaking kyujo wave, there is an imbalance in the banzuke, so upper members of Juryo have been visiting Makuuchi daily to fill in the match list. Today Myogiryu, tomorrow we get “Uncle Sumo” Aminishiki.
Endo defeats Asanoyama – Endo has his hurt ankle taped, and he still looks a bit slow, but he managed to deliver a defeat to Asanoyama via a somewhat lucky slap-down. In general there seems to be traction problems with the dohyo already this basho. This after the Kyokai made a statement that they would use the same clay for every dohyo from here on out. Note – Asanoyama strikes me as one of these rikishi who is just happy to show up and get to do sumo today.
Okinoumi defeats Tokushoryu – The nature of Okinoumi’s chronic injury means his ability is more or less a day-by-day surprise package. At Maegashira 14, he has a fairly easy schedule for his “healthy mode”, which he currently seems to be in. The rather massive Tokushoryu gave him a very good contest today, but Okinoumi took his time and worked him to done.
Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Solid effort from Nishikigi in his second match. He overpowered Chiyomaru and kept moving forward. Many bouts, it’s as simple as finding a way to do that.
Arawashi defeats Takekaze – Takekaze’s henka did not fool Arawashi for a moment, and it left Takekaze off balance and easy to thrust out. Who faces Takekaze and is not looking for a henka?
Ikioi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki needs to find a way to move beyond the “good effort” category he falls into in far too many bouts. Ikioi is quite strong, but he is a benchmark for Kagayaki – he needs to find a way to systemically defeat a rikishi like Ikioi if he wants to reach his goals of higher ranks.
Shodai defeats Ichinojo – Two large, hulking guys, wearing the same color mawashi. Moving kind of slow, seem to be kind of phoning it in. No wonder there was a Monoii. From the replay it was really hard to tell who touched out / down first. But the Shimpan did the right thing and called for a Torinaohi (re-match) and ran it again. Second run was all Shodai.
Takakeisho defeats Ura – Takakeisho blasted out of the tachiai and had Ura back and off balance. But being Ura, he attempted to distort space-time at the tawara, but his injured knee gave out as he went to evade Takakeisho’s finishing thrust. After the match it was evident that that damaged knee is now a much more damaged knee. They ended up taking him out via a wheelchair. I will be surprised if Ura sees Aki day 15, and frankly should be focusing on recuperating.
Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – This bout was all Chiyotairyu. A forearm blast out of the tachiai got Mitakeumi off balance and Chiyotairyu finished him moments later with a firm slap-down. Many fans have hopes for Mitakeumi, but at the moment he is looking really disorganized.
Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze put up a good fight, but man, can Onosho really pour it on! If Onosho can stay healthy, he has a lot of great sumo to offer for years to come. Yoshikaze’s dismount looked really ragged, and I am willing to guess that he, too, lost his footing.
Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – This whole bout was all Tamawashi. I don’t know if Takayasu’s mawashi was on too tight or if he had too much sake Sunday night, but he looked surprised and unable to respond to Tamawashi’s explosive tachiai. Blasting your opponent off the dohyo at the tachiai is usually Takayasu’s forte. Worryingly, Tamawashi and Tamawashi both seem to have wrenched their ankles. Both limped off the dohyo, but moments later Takayasu rode a wheelchair back to the dressing room.
Kotoshogiku defeats Terunofuji – The Kyushu Bulldozer was able to lock up the big Kaiju and hip-pump him across the bales. It was a classic Kotoshogiku attack strategy, and it underscores that Terunofuji may not yet be ready to compete at full strength.
Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – This is more like the Goeido we wanted to see day 1. Strong, confident and committed to his attack strategy. Hokutofuji put up some firm resistance, but was not match for Goeido booted up in 2.0 mode. Watch the slow motion replay for some great upper body work by Goeido to disrupt Hokutofuji’s effective opening gambit.
Harumafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Another solid day of sumo from the surviving Yokozuna. The big Georgian went down in a quick mawashi battle that Harumafuji made look easy. When he’s on, he’s a joy to watch.
Closing note – How many more kyujo before the end of week 1?
Day 1 was not a kind in San’yaku land. Not only was there a clear losing streak among the named ranks, but many of the men who really needed to shine looked value and ill-prepared. Many of the up-and-coming rank and file rikishi seem to sense that there is a magic opportunity now, and pounced on the opening day. Some random comments before we preview day 2.
Harumafuji looked a bit stiff, but got the job done. I am very thankful he is going to try to tough it out. He is the man to beat this basho. Takayasu finally decided to wear the black mawashi, and he took the fight to Tochinoshin with gusto. Tochinoshin has a really bad left knee, and he is only one bad fall away from retirement, so it was worrisome to see him sail off the dohyo day 1.
Goeido should have known better, so should have Terunofuji. Hopefully they got that initial choke behind them and they can get down to business. Mitakeumi, sorry bloke! Onosho wanted it more. So up your sumo and let your day 1 loss motivate you for the next 14 days. Yoshikaze got smoked at the tachiai and could never recover. Chiyotairyu really was in outstanding form, and never gave the Berserker any opening to even start any offense.
Poor Shodai, his tachiai is still high and clumsy. Ura read him like some cheap manga and put him away just as Shodai overcommitted to a kimarite. Endo looks like he has a long road to full health. I get that he is competing to try and avoid demotion to Juryo or lower, but he may have a tough time of it.
I am going to be very interested to see if the day 1 problems in the San’yaku are just cobwebs being cleared away, or a further sign that the next generation are coming into their own.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Endo vs Asanoyama – Endo looked vague and fairly disoriented in his day 1 match, where Asanoyama seemed to have a plan and executed it well. it’s an open question on just how well recovered Endo is from his surgery in August. This is their first contest.
Daishomaru vs Kaisei – Kaisei looked strong but lethargic against Nishikigi. He has also never beaten Daishomaru in their prior two matches. Daishomaru, on the other hand, was fast, precise and in control day 1.
Chiyonokuni vs Takarafuji – Chiyonokuni has been struggling to regain his fighting spirit after a brutal outcome from the May tournament. He looked solid day one, but he faces the neckless wonder of Takarafuji, who leads their career series 4-2.
Ikioi vs Kagayaki – Ikioi’s day 1 match was also lack-luster, though he won, he did so in what seemed to be a sloppy and clumsy kimarite. Kagayaki is also one who is struggling for consistency, and has flashes of brilliance. Kagayaki has yet to win a match with Ikioi.
Shodai vs Ichinojo – I cite this because it has the potential to be a real yawner. Ichinojo is once again looking slow and lethargic, and I think he has gained a good amount of mass in the last few months. Shodai is stuck in a bit of a rut, and looked poor in his day 1 match with Ura.
Takakeisho vs Ura – Ura is fighting injured, but it was fun to see him improvise a win over Shodai on day 1. Takakeisho, on the other hand, is the epitome of the Angry Tadpole crew. He was blazingly fast and give his match everything, and came away a winner. Takakeisho leads their series 6-1. My hope is that Ura just comes away without further injury.
Shohozan vs Tochiozan – This has a lot of potential for an excellent bout. They are closely matched, and have similar styles of sumo. I give a slight edge to Tochiozan for this bout, in spite of the fact that Shohozan leads 11-7 over their career.
Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi was caught half way to his first step on day 1’s tachiai. This is quite unusual for him, and he was dead weight for Onosho to remove from the dohyo. Chiyotairyu’s outing against Yoshikaze was fast, effective and brutal. If Mitakeumi is serious about his Sekiwake rank, it’s time to bring his top-shelf sumo.
Onosho vs Yoshikaze – It’s tough to get the drop on Yoshikaze, but it happened day 1. Onosho has a chance to do it again, as hie is fast, strong and low to the ground. I expect Yoshikaze to be far more aggressive off the line today.
Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Takayasu is finally wearing his black mawashi, and it seems to suite him quite well. Tamawashi’s day 1 loss was more about balance problems than anything, and I am confident his day 2 sumo will be much improved. This could be a really good battle.
Terunofuji vs Kotoshogiku – I am really worried about Terunofuji. I know he is not in good shape, and he gets into a negative mood, and his mood really drives his sumo. When he is down, it seems as if he cannot win no matter what. Kotoshogiku’s day 1 mini henka was executed well, but he needs to use it sparingly.
Hokutofuji vs Goeido – Hokutofuji has something to prove, and it’s something rather spectacular. Goeido really can’t afford to lose bouts to rank-and-file rikishi, as he need to clear his kadoban flag early. Goeido won their only prior match.
Tochinoshin vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji is clearly in a lot of pain, but his sumo on day 1 was excellent. i expect him to not let Tochinoshin get anywhere near his belt, and to attempt his famous nodowa to keep the big Georgain under control.
After a long summer break, it’s time once again for sumo. Fans, keep in mind that for the first few days, all of the rikishi may appear a bit rusty. This seems to be common until about day 3, so don’t let yourself be alarmed. As everyone knows, there is a huge lack of Yokozuna this basho, and this has a lot of really fun implications for the tournament. Let’s take a look at a few.
Harumafuji is the sole survivor, and he’s in poor shape. The guy has the heart of a lion, but there is no way to deny that he has problems with both knees and both elbows. He competes by sheer force of will alone some days, and his will is indomitable. But I will point out that he tends to lose matches. I call him the “Kinboshi Machine” at times, because he seems to drop bouts to rank-and-file rikishi with some regularity. This means that we can expect him to be a yusho contender, but we can also expect him to drop several bouts. Will he actually finish the tournament? I hate to be gloomy, but I would not put it at higher than a 50/50 chance.
This is fantastic news for the Ozeki. Two of them are kadoban, and they no longer have to worry about winning matches against Yokozuna to make their 8 wins. They just have to defeat the lower San’yaku and the Maegashira for the most part. Terunofuji does not even have to face Harumafuji at all – double bonus! As a result I am going to say it is VERY likely that both Ozeki drop their kadoban status well before day 15. This is also a great opportunity for Takayasu. He is, for the most part, unhurt. With this mix of opponents, he is capable of winning the yusho. But for Takayasu, it’s all in his head. If he can stay focused and stay positive, he can make it happen.
For the lower ranks, it’s open season. They have more freedom to excel than in any basho in the last 2 years. In fact, I expect we are going to see an intensity unlike anything we have enjoyed for some time. It’s much easier to get double-digit wins when you are not going to face Hakuho, Kisenosato or Kakuryu.
So if you are wondering about the viability of the Aki basho – keep in mind you are likely more hard-core than 95% of the Japanese public, or you would not be reading Tachiai. Most of our readers love sumo, from the Jonokuchi up to the Yokozuna, and the start of a basho means it’s time for action. So buckle up, and let’s enjoy what might be a most unusual tournament.
One last note – with fewer daily Makuuchi matches, we overseas viewers get a greater percentage of the total bouts on our NHK highlight reel!
What We Are Watching Day 1
Honestly, I am watching all of it. But let’s discuss some of the big ones
Endo vs Okinoumi – These two are far down the banzuke at Maegashira 14. Both have been major rikishi in the past. Endo is coming off of surgery this past month, and Okinoumi has a chronic injury that cannot be repaired without ending his career. This will be a good exam on how far along in his recovery Endo is.
Ishiura vs Arawashi – Ishiura has been struggling to find a way to advance his sumo since his amazing initial basho in Kyushu last year. Arawashi is just plain strugging and is likely getting towards the end of his career. Arawashi holds a 4-3 edge in their career match-ups.
Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho took a brutal beating in Nagoya. A rikishi’s first time in the joi is often marked by double digit losses, but Takakeisho had to also endure one of the stranger bouts in recent years at the hands of Hakuho. He can start his road back to upper layers of the banzuke with a win over struggling giant Ichinojo.
Shodai vs Ura – Ura was hurt pretty severely in Nagoya. In fact he was on mandatory “light duty” during the summer jungyo, and it was not certain he would start Aki. But it seems that Mr Cherry Blossom is going to give it a go. He faces a man with the worst tachiai in Makuuchi. This will be a good early view in how well Ura’s knee has healed up.
Tamawashi vs Shohozan – Tamawashi was perhaps a bit too comfortable at Sekiwake, and his make-koshi in Nagoya relegated him down to Komusubi. So I look for him to battle back strongly. He faced “Big Guns” Shohozan, who holds a massive 11-1 series lead.
Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Another possibly really fun match. While many rikishi come in rusty and a bit slow to their first step, Yoshikaze is always dialed up to 11 in the first few days. In addition, he has delivered some really nice kimarite in his early matches over the past few basho, so I have hopes for day 1 against Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu though always gives Yoshikaze a good battle, but he is behind 3-5 in their career meetings.
Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Battle of the Tadpoles! We get to see the really wonderful Mitakeumi face off against hard charging newcomer Onosho. Onosho has yet to take a match form Mitakeumi, but Onosho is a man driven to win. I am hoping we can see some expansion to Onosho’s sumo this tournament. No better time than day 1.
Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Is Terunofuji healthy enough to compete? His pre-basho practice matches would seem to say yes. If we have a healthy Terunofuji, he can be counted on to deliver a lot of losses to his opponents. Even though Hokutofuji is not Kaio, he is a fierce competitor, and he knows that his own advancement relies on his being able to defeat top rikishi like Ozeki Terunofuji. interestingly enough, Hokutofuji won their only prior match.
Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – We will get to see if Goeido 2.0 is on line and available at last. Although Ojisan Kotoshogiku is a pale ghost of the Ozeki he once was, he can still put up a good fight if he can lock Goeido up and use his hip-pumping attack.
Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Battle of the strong! Both of these men like to use their amazing strength to overpower their opponents, so it’s going to be great to watch them crank up the sumo in the second to last match of the day.
Tochiozan vs Harumafuji – Tochiozan is a bit of a sleeper, he has had a couple of amazing tournaments this year, and he finds himself at Komusubi, and draws Harumafuji for day 1. He has only defeated Harumafuji 8 times out of their 33 prior matches, so the upper hand goes to the lone surviving Yokozuna.
Some fans may be wondering why Yokozuna Kisenosato and Kakuryu announced they were going kyujo Thursday morning Japan time. The fact of the matter is the NSK is building the torikumi (order of battle) for the start of Aki, and it was time for the walking wounded to decide if they wanted to give it a try, or sit out from the start.
Much to my surprise, Hakuho has not declared one way or the other yet. Just to be clear, I do not expect him to be present on day 1 of Aki, but I think that he may be struggling with that decision. He did in fact declare to his fans at Natsu “I am back!”.
I believe the Torikumi for days 1 and 2 are being published in the next 8 hours or so. Some of the matches we can expect in the first two days (my guess)
Hakuho vs. Tamawashi – If Hakuho starts Aki, we can see how banged up the dai-Yokozuna is early.
Tochiozan vs. Harumafuji – You might be tempted to assume that Harumafuji will fold and spindle Tochiozan, but Tochiozan has made some useful adjustments to his sumo.
Takayasu vs. Tochinoshin – Big and strong vs strong and big. This could be a sumo battle for the ages as these two love to use brute strength.
Goeido vs. Kotoshogiku – Goeido has been looking dailed-in back to his 2.0 setting, and a likely match against Kotoshogiku will be speed vs strength.
Terunofuji vs. Aoiyama – Terunofuji is a far cry from the light schedule Aoiyama enjoyed in Nagoya. This match will sort reality from fiction in about 5 seconds.
Mitakeumi vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyo who you say? Believe it! I expect Mitakeumi to pick up where he left off in Nagoya.
Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – Big guns vs the Berserker. Yoshikaze has been opening very strong in recent basho, before he gets banged up by the end of the first week. We might see some exotic kimarite.
Shodai vs. Ura – I am going to assume that Ura is in rough shape, and I am just going to hope that Shodai fixed has tachiai.
Ichinojo vs. Takakeisho – Ok Takakeisho fans, his road back can start with the huge Mongolian.
Please feel free to add your day 1 / 2 torikumi guesses in the comments.