Hatsu 2021 Day 5 Highlights

At the close of Act One, some of our storylines have already reached their conclusion. There will be no rope for Takakeisho. Shodai and Asanoyama appear strong enough to shed their kadoban. Hakuho is safe, healthy, and has recovered from the Corona virus. Our list of kyujo remains unchanged from Day One.

In their place, we find some fun new threads. Will Akiseyama be the next low-ranker to make a push for the yusho? Where did this giant-killing Daieisho come from? Ichinojo is showing signs that he’s back! Might we see other sanyaku rikishi making moves for Ozeki?

Bout Highlights

Sadanoumi (3-2) defeated Yutakayama (3-2) Yutakayama sure let Sadanoumi have it with both barrels. Sadanoumi sure earned my respect with the way he weathered the storm of thrusts from Yutakayama and escaped whenever it appeared Yutakayama had him dead to rights. Finally, Yutakayama appeared to tire and Sadanoumi wrapped him up with the left and pressed forward, sending the pair off the dohyo and into Isegahama-oyakata. Both fighters spent, it took them a while to muster the resources to get to their feet and climb back to the playing surface to conclude the bout. yorikiri

Hidenoumi defeated Midorifuji (3-2) Hidenoumi, our Juryo visitor, prevented any attempt at an early throw by keeping Midorifuji at arm’s length from the outset. Hidenoumi shook off Midorifuji’s tsuppari from their brief oshi-battle. Once he worked the smaller Midorifuji to the edge, he pounced, seeking out a belt grip. Midorifuji retreated by skirting the edge of the ring but Hidenoumi gave chase, cut off all exit and ushered him out. yorikiri

Akiseyama (5-0) defeated Hoshoryu (0-5) Hoshoryu had the advantage early and backed Akiseyama to the tawara but Akiseyama composed himself and brought the action back to the center. Hoshoryu lashed out with a trip…but Akiseyama wasn’t moving forward. Instead Akiseyama bided his time to reach in underneath. As he pushed forward from below, Hoshoryu had nowhere to run. yorikiri

Kotonowaka (4-1) defeated Terutsuyoshi (2-3) The two tussled for advantage out of the tachiai, with Terutsuyoshi seeking position from below, while Kotonowaka was left with the high ground. Kotonowaka may have not really known what to do because Terutsuyoshi took the initiative and drove forward into the Sadogatake youngster. As they neared the bales, Kotonowaka pivoted on his left and swung Terutsuyoshi out with his right-hand belt-grip. uwatenage

Kotoeko (2-3) defeated Akua (1-4) Kotoeko met Akua’s tachiai with a shoulder blast. As Akua primed Kotoeko’s head placement for some vigorous slapping, Kotoeko launched his top-knot into Akua’s face. The lavender lothario then wrapped up his quarry for a cuddle and started in with some rather asynchronous gaburi-yori hip action to drive Akua back and out over the tawara. yoritaoshi

Ichinojo (4-1) defeated Shimanoumi (2-3) Shimanoumi’s had some good runs lately but when Ichinojo is focused, there’s not a lot one can do. Ichinojo got in a nodowa just after the tachiai and with all that mass behind a nodowa, Shimanoumi just knew he needed to search for a soft place to land. oshidashi

Aoiyama defeated Myogiryu: At the tachiai, Myogiryu pushed Aoiyama, holding him at arm’s length. As Bruce mentioned in his preview, we were expecting a brawl. Just when I thought Aoiyama would start pounding with some tsuppari, he pulled and tried to force Myogiryu down. But Myogiryu maintained his balance. As Myogiryu advanced, Aoiyama circled behind and wrapped up Myogiryu’s arms, looking for a kimedashi. Myogiryu resisted, briefly at the edge and when Aoiyama adjusted his grip, Myogiryu tried to dance on the tawara but Aoiyama pushed him out. yorikiri

Kiribayama defeated Tobizaru: Kiribayama met Tobizaru head-on at the tachiai but as Tobizaru tried to sneak under for a belt grip, Kiribayama shifted to his left and came over Tobizaru to secure a left-handed belt grip back near the knot. Tobizaru’s own right-hand inside grip seemed a bit ineffective as his right arm was more extended – like he was just trying to hang on – while Kiribayama controlled the action and spun around. Tobizaru then let go with the right and tried to wrap up Kiribayama in a head-lock. Kiribayama continued with the spin and wrangled Tobizaru down to the ground. shitatenage

Meisei defeated Tokushoryu: Tokushoryu won the advantage at the tachiai and looked to usher Meisei out but Meisei had a solid left-hand grip and used that leverage to attempt his own throw near the edge. Tokushoryu pivoted and as they jostled to re-engage, Meisei moved forward, forcing Tokushoryu out. yorikiri

Okinoumi defeated Ryuden Like a pair of old mountain goats, Okinoumi and Ryuden locked horns at the tachiai. As they circled, Okinoumi snuck his right hand up behind Ryuden’s head and pushed down, forcing Ryuden to the clay. Evolution may favor the goat who thinks to wrap that front leg up over his opponent. katasukashi

Kagayaki defeated Endo: Kagayaki pushed forward with a strong tachiai, not giving Endo a chance to set his feet or even think of a belt grip. By the time Endo could compose his thoughts, he was already out. oshidashi

Tamawashi defeated Onosho by near decapitation. As Onosho drove forward with his tachiai, Tamawashi grabbed his head like a beachball and shoved back, hard. Onosho’s lower half still drove forward so Tamawashi shifted left and threw Onosho’s head down, to lay on the clay with the rest of his body. Ouch. tsukiotoshi

Daieisho defeated Takayasu. This was a spirited oshi-zumo bout, Izutsu oyakata’s pick for his favorite bout of the day. Takayasu played ball but Daieisho was in control, advancing on Takayasu from the start, eventually tossing the former ozeki out of the ring. oshidashi

Takanosho defeated Mitakeumi: Mitakeumi showed spirit and strength as he forced Takanosho back to the bales with a dominant tachiai. As Takanosho resisted, Mitakeumi appeared to try to shift his right arm. Takanosho used this moment to attack and drove Mitakeumi back across the ring, through the gyoji and over the tawara. yorikiri

Terunofuji defeated Hokutofuji: Hokutofuji certainly brought it to Terunofuji and angered the kaiju with a strong nodowa. He even appeared to catch Terunofuji off-balance early but Big T recovered and wrapped him up in the middle of the ring. Terunofuji rendered Hokutofuji’s left arm virtually useless, flailing in the air with his right arm in Fuji’s armpit, while he sought out a belt grip with the left. Even in this state, Hokutofuji’s continued pressure forced an uneasy stalemate for some time there in the center. Terunofuji’s one good right leg would have to drive forward alone. The left appears to be there for only balance at this point. Hokutofuji started to back Terunofuji up but Terunofuji summoned enough power from his genki-reserves to drive Hokutofuji back again. As Hokutofuji tried to disengage and escape to the side, Terunoufuji pushed him over the bales. oshidashi

Takakeisho defeated Kotoshoho: Takakeisho gets his shonichi at the close of Act 1. Solid tachiai. Takakeisho attempted a nodowa off the bat, rather than moving straight into wave action. Kotoshoho resisted strongly…perhaps too strongly. The nodowa had forced him to stand straight up as he tried to bull his way through. Takakeisho caught him with his weight too far forward, released, and thrust Kotoshoho down as his momentum carried him forward. tsukiotoshi

Asanoyama defeated Tochinoshin: Asanoyama caught out Tochinoshin’s half-hearted henka. Tochinoshin slapped Asanoyama and shifted left, seeking a belt grab but Asanoyama recovered, drove straight into the up-right Tochinoshin, and forced the Georgian out quickly. yorikiri

Shodai defeated Takarafuji: Shodai rose to meet Takarafuji and absorb his tachiai but Takarafuji was not moving forward at a lightning pace, so the tachiai here was rather weak. Shodai reached under Takarafuji’s right arm with his left to try to get a belt grip. When Takarafuji clamped down with his right arm, Shodai pulled backward, pivoting on his right foot, trying to fling Takarafuji toward the tawara. Takarafuji arrested his momentum short of the tachiai but Shodai pivoted again on his right foot, and forced Takarafuji over the bales. Shodai did not seem happy with his sumo after the bout, but the win is a win. Yorikiri

A Yokozuna’s Discontent

After witnessing the night’s action, Asashoryu lamented this weak crop of wrestlers over on Twitter. While this is not a literal translation, he expressed dismay, “They’re all weak. Sorry, folks.” He lays the blame squarely on practice, saying they’re spoiled with this state of easy practice.

For context, I’ve linked below to a video of Asashoryu’s brand of practice. Alan Iverson may have paid more attention under this regime. Here is Asashoryu, beating the crap out of a rising 19-year-old maegashira named Hakuho during a degeiko trip to Miyagino stable. Hakuho appears to win a practice bout, then catches hell in some brutal-looking kawaigari.

We’ll probably flinch at that slap…but an Asashoryu slap in the ring would have been a bit harder than what was dished out here. At the 2-minute mark of the video, Hakuho, with mud still coating his back, thanks Asashoryu for the privilege of having had his butt kicked. He gives him a drink from his water bottle, this time, instead of splashing chikaramizu in his face. But we know how this story ended. After the dragon was banished, our Phoenix then rose from those fires to lay waste to all who opposed him on the dohyo as he reigned supreme for more than 10 years. Now, as the flames of age and injury lap at his back and begin to consume him, we ponder, “Who will rise from the ashes?”

As we recall, an overly-intense practice session between Hakuho’s stablemate, Ishiura, and a lower-ranker blew up as scandal when the fists started flying, nevermind the ladles of power water. Without such a fierce up-bringing, will the Blue Phoenix, who flew in from the North, be as resilient? I cannot imagine many parents signing off on the rough and tumble style of Asashoryu’s tutelage.

Those days are over. And let’s face it, the metal poles and wooden bats mentioned in this article have no place on a dohyo, or in a keikoba. Oyakata are tasked with raising wrestlers, not beating them and certainly not killing them. But with no degeiko at all, not even our 21st Century sanitized version, the quality of sumo and condition of the wrestlers may be subpar.

Still, hopefully, the sumo we see and discuss here will take our minds off the pandemic and problems that our world faces outside the heya’s walls. I’m eager to see who wins this tournament and what challenges that winner will face when all those well-rested Covid-kyujo wrestlers come back in March. The next ten days will be very fun to watch unfold.

Hatsu Day 5 Preview

Welcome to the end of act 1 of the 2021 Hatsu basho! At Tachiai, we segment a basho into three 5 day periods we call “acts”. Act 1 is where we remove ring rust, see who is hot and who is not. This is the perfect time to see how things are turning out.

The Hot List (4-0)

  • Daieisho – Solid upper Maegashira rikishi who has turned into a giant-killer with 3 Ozeki wins in 4 days.
  • Meisei – Has always struggled at any rank over Maegashira 7, he finds himself looking strong and winning
  • Akiseyama – Blubbery and ripped at the same time, this guy is all power and coming to put you on the clay

The Not List (0-4)

  • Takakeisho – He looks hurt, and I worry he is just going to make it worse by continuing. Rope run to kadoban in a handful of days.
  • Kotoshoho – Looks like someone gave him two left feet. Maybe it’s just a cold start, or maybe he’s injured.
  • Hoshoryu – Known to have lower back problems, he served as a mattress for 200kg worth of Ichinojo on day 2, and that may be all it took.

With the ranks in the top division starting thin due to COVID and injuries, I am sure that some rikishi feel a sense of responsibility to give the fans quality sumo every day to enjoy. But stop kidding yourself, gents. Nobody wants to see you guys flounder and fail. If you are hurt, take your lumps and go kyujo. The March banzuke is already going to be a mess due to the forced heya-wide kyujo for some of the big stables, just chalk it up to poor timing.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Yutakayama vs Sadanoumi – A match that I have been waiting for since I figured out that Yutakayama was reasonably healthy. This will be a great contest between speed (Sadanoumi) and size (Yutakayama). They have split their 10 prior matches, so I am looking for some big effort from both, and a close contest. Great start to what could be a potent day.

Hidenoumi vs Midorifuji – Juryo visitor Hidenoumi draws Midorifuji for day 5, both coming in with 3-1 records. I think Midorifuji will be favored, in spite of a 2-1 career advantage for Hidenoumi. It will likely come down to if Hidenoumi can prevent Midorifuji from setting up a throw within the first few moments of the match.

Hoshoryu vs Akiseyama – Oh my, the scheduling team pick one from the hot list, and one from the not list. Too easy you say? Well, in their prior 3 matches, Akiseyama has no wins against Hoshoryu. This should be a fairly definitive test of just how hurt Hoshoryu’s back is.

Kotonowaka vs Terutsuyoshi – We have seen some solid sumo from Terutsuyoshi in act 1, but we have not seen any of his “crazy tiny power rikishi” routines, and I hope day 5 is when he unpacks them from the akeni and cranks it up to the next level.

Akua vs Kotoeko – Matching 1-3 records going into day 5 mean both of these men are more or less on a make-koshi path unless they rally. Their career record is 2-3 in favor of Kotoeko, but I think this will be a straight up brawl. Both of them are solid fighters, but having a really tough time getting started.

Shimanoumi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo is on a roll, and when a boulder is rolling, all you can do is get out of it’s way. Word to Shimanoumi – be careful.

Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – In spite of the size difference between these two, Myogiryu holds a slight (11-10) career advantage. The both come into today’s match at 2-2, so it’s going to be a good brawl. It may come down to Aoiyama keeping Myogiryu at optimum bludgeoning range.

Kiribayama vs Tobizaru – Well, Tobizaru seems to have almost nothing in his sumo bucket right now. So I am guessing even an injured (knee) Kiribayama and cut through his monkey shines and put him on the clay. Sure there will be plenty of Tobizaru motion and action, but it seems to lack much forward thrust this January.

Meisei vs Tokushoryu – Meisei needs to approach this match with a measure of caution. Tokushoryu only has a 2-2 record (with Meisei at 4-0), but for an enormous round fellow, he can be remarkably agile and slippery. I would love to see Meisei continue to shine at Hatsu, so keep your eye on last year’s Hatsu yusho winner.

Ryuden vs Okinoumi – I was happy to see Ryuden get a bit closer to being dialed into his sumo on day 4. But he’s going to go up against a fairly genki Okinoumi, who while not in his best form, seems to be fighting well. They have split all 8 prior matches.

Endo vs Kagayaki – This has a lot of potential, both of them are focused on solid sumo mechanics, and both of them seem to be quite specific about their match plans. I give a slight advantage to Endo, who seems to be fighting a bit better than Goth Mode Kagayaki this January.

Tamawashi vs Onosho – Onosho took his first loss on day 4, but I would like to see him resume his strong showing at Hatsu. Tamawashi is fighting well enough right now, and has shown some flashes of inspired sumo. Onosho has a 5-2 career lead.

Takayasu vs Daieisho – The 7-2 career advantage that Takayasu holds over Daieisho may not matter much, as Daieisho seem to be super genki right now. I am hoping that we can see him bring some really high quality oshi-zumo to the second half, and exit act 1 with a 5-0.

Mitakeumi vs Takanosho – Takanosho has been putting everything into each day’s match this Hatsu, where Mitakeumi seems to really only be engaged in his Ozeki matches. Is Takanosho at Sekiwake close enough?

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Terunofuji had a strong start, but has dropped a match to Takayasu and Onosho. Like any rikishi, he is aiming for 8, and hes on a good course for that. But Terunofuji is really pushing for 10 or more, and to stoke his goal of returning to Ozeki. Hokutofuji needs to regroup after his day 3 face smash in his win over Takakeisho, which may have knocked him down a notch.

Takakeisho vs Kotoshoho – Both of these dismal wrecks are 0-4. Would a Takakeisho loss on day 5 convince the Grand Tadpole to go kyujo? If not, I am not sure what will.

Asanoyama vs Tochinoshin – Asanoyama can still recover and reach the safety of 8 wins, but his next opponent has shown surprising resiliency this basho. Will they both go for the belt, and will Tochinoshin have the knee power to shut down Asanoyama’s preferred attack?

Takarafuji vs Shodai – Mr. Defend and extend is going to take on Shodai, and out of their 14 prior matches, he’s only taken 11. When Takarafuji shuts down Shodai’s offense, its when things tend to get a little weird. I have not had a solid dose of cartoon sumo in a good long time, so maybe we can get that lovely gift in the last match of the day.

Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

At the end of day 4, an impressive number of rikishi have managed to start the tournament with 2-2 records. This is not really atypical, but it shows how even the field is yet again in this tournament, and we may see another January with a first time emperor’s cup winner. On that subject, it’s worth noting that Daieisho, Meisei, and Akiseyama are all 4-0, with a pack of 7 rikishi 1 loss behind.

While we are talking scores, Takakeisho at 0-4 is a grave concern. There is no way this is anything short of injury, and he owes himself, his fans and the sumo world the time to heal up. Sure, he is the lead Ozeki for this basho, and he may think he should stay in for the good of the tournament. But we need the grand tadpole back in fighting form, rather than his current underpowered form.

Elsewhere in the sumo universe, it seems NHK has decided to assert their copyrights on sumo youtube channels, and we are seeing everyone take a hit. It’s a shame, as people like Jason are great to listen to discuss the match and the rikishi prior to the match, but maybe NHK can find some accommodation for out favorite youtube channels.

Highlight Matches

Yutakayama defeats Azumaryu – Azumaryu gave him a solid fight, albeit low velocity fight. The kimarite (sotogake )was a bit improvised, as Azumaryu and Yutakayama attempted multiple leg trips, Yutakayama finally pushing Azumaryu back over his left ankle. Yutakayama improves to 3-1.

Sadanoumi defeats Hoshoryu – When a rikishi as capable as Hoshoryu goes 0-4, I start looking for evidence of what kind of injury they are trying to muddle through. He is still moving well, but everyone is overpowering him. Typically that indicates an undercarriage problem, so maybe back or knees or ankles. He had a great throwing setup, but Sadanoumi’s overwhelming strength and speed shut him down before he could apply any power. Sadanoumi improves to 2-2.

Akiseyama defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji put a lot into this match, and you can see him trying just about anything that he can come up with. But Akiseyama’s bulky frame presents quite the load for even the most motivated rikishi. I say pushing, I saw thrusting, I saw an ankle attack in there too. But Akiseyama remained locked onto Midorifuji, and shut it all down. Deadlocked and chest to chest in the center of the dohyo, Akiseyama drained Midorifuji’s stamina, and waited. With Midorifuji tiring, Akiseyama made his move, and improved to 4-0. I give a lot of credit to Midorifuji’s left side ottsuke, which he maintained for almost the entire match, and never let Akiseyama get his right hand in.

Kotonowaka defeats Akua – Akua got a bit off balance at the tachiai, his body too far forward, and Kotonowaka took immediate control of the match. Realizing he was on the fast track to a loss, Akua attempted to rotate into a throw, but did not have his feet set, and collapsed under Kotonowaka’s advance. Kotonowaka improves to 3-1.

Ichinojo defeats Kotoeko – When Ichinojo is healthy, this is what you get. Kotoeko does not have the mass to really do much to the boulder, and although he makes a valiant first step, he is out massed almost 2:1, and scampers for the exit (and not even really under his own power). Ichinojo improves to 3-1.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Aoiyama – Terutsuyoshi attempts a thrusting battle, but Big Dan fires up the V-Twin, and Terutsuyoshi really only has once place to go. He drives forward and buries his face between Asanoyama’s man-boobs and motorboats his way to victory. The expression on Terutsuyoshi’s face following the match underscores his resolve to win. Both end the day 2-2.

Meisei defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi has a very powerful start to Hatsu, but now he’s 2-2 after his day 4 loss to Meisei. Shimanoumi’s plan A and B fell apart, and before he could get plan C started, Meisei chucked him over the bales. Meisei improves to 4-0.

Myogiryu defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru once again applies frenzied intensity to his match. But as with previous days, he attempts a pull and in this gamble fails. Myogiryu presses forward, Tobizaru has no forward pressure, and is out in a blink of an eye. Myogiryu improves to 2-2 by staying calm and staying focused on his opponent’s balance.

Ryuden defeats Kiribayama – I am happy to report that Ryuden won his first match of January on day 4. He got a deep left hand grip at the tachiai, and immediately had Kiribayama reacting to his sumo. Kiribayama’s response was to pivot into a throwing position at least 3 times, but each time he could not rotate and complete the move. Each attempt cost him distance to the tawara, and on the final once, Ryuden pushed him out to improve to 1-3.

Tokushoryu defeats Kagayaki – This is the kind of move an opponent must always guard against when facing Tokushoryu. He does it so well you know he executes it at least daily in practice. Kagayaki takes his eyes off of his appointment, and finds himself slapped down. Both end the day 2-2.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – We did not see Endo’s battle crouch today. Instead he reaches for a handful of mawashi and attempts to out muscle Tochinoshin. Bold move, but plausible given the former Ozeki’s bum knee. He backs Tochinoshin up to the tawara, and drives to win. But then Tochinoshin remembers that he has the strength of a bear, who has the strength of two bears. With a surge of ursine energy, it’s time for Endo to go, and we see a somewhat painful sky-crane move as Endo can do little to stop anything.

Tamawashi defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi: “Yotsu match!”, Tamawashi: “Oshi match!”, Okinoumi: “I said yotsu match!”, Tamawashi: “Get your grubby hands away from my belt, this is an oshi match!” Thus it went in this match, with Okinoumi crashing into Tamawashi as he rotated and both fell into a sweaty heap, with Okinoumi out first. Both end the day 2-2.

Daieisho defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is up for his Ozeki matches, but then Daieisho comes and spanks him. Granted Daieisho has beaten these same Ozeki, but Mitakeumi really had nothing for offense today, and Daieisho got inside at the tachiai and took his thrusting sumo up to “win” power. Daieisho improves to 4-0, and looks like he could be the man to beat.

Takayasu defeats Terunofuji – I was curious if the old advantage Takayasu has had for years over Terunofuji would still hold. Yes, it seems it’s still Takayasu who owns this series. Terunofuji seems to get impatient and try a bit of a pull, and that was the start of Takayasu’s dominance of this match, and Terunofuji never got back in control. Both end the day at 2-2.

Takanosho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji initial hit left him off balance, and Takanosho immediately slapped him down. Maybe Hokutofuji is not 100% after his broken nose on day 3. Takanosho improves to 3-1.

Asanoyama defeats Onosho – Onosho could not get enough space to set up his legs for his big forward push, and Asanoyama found his preferred grip and stance at the tachiai. Suddenly the strong, genki Asanoyama reappeared, and he shut down any further offense, marching Onosho out for a much needed second win.

Shodai defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho gets a workable grip at the tachiai, but as we saw on day 2, Shodai just shuts down his opponent and advances with unstoppable power. It’s a quite trip to the edge and a dive into the shimpan’s lap for Kotoshoho, who starts January 0-4 while Shodai improves to 3-1.

Takarafuji defeats Takakeisho – We saw Takakeisho attempt his double hand attack, but again the primary weapon, his left, had no power. Takarafuji expertly stays just at the wrong distance for Takakeisho’s thrust to have optimum effect, and focuses on staying upright, on balance and in the match. This pays off when Takakeisho ends up turned away from Takarafuji, and Takarafuji’s left hand finds Takakeisho’s mawashi. Takakeisho is down and ends the day 0-4, and is probably hurt, in my opinion.

Hatsu Day 4 Preview

Day 4 already! Good lordy lord! Well, can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Meanwhile, it’s snowing in Japan. A lot!

What We Are Watching Day 4

Yutakayama vs Azumaryu – With all of the former top division rikishi now in Juryo, each match this week seems like some kind of 2019 / 2020 reunion. Today its Azumaryu back for a visit. He will have his hands full with Yutakayama, who holds a 4-2 career advantage, and is fighting well enough to be likely to hit kachi-koshi if he does not pick up an injury.

Hoshoryu vs Sadanoumi – At some point, Hoshoryu will pick up his first win. Today may be that day, as he has never lost to Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi has an advantage in mass, but Sadanoumi’s normally excellent speed will hold no advantage over Hoshoryu. With Hoshoryu eager to put a win on the board, this can be quite the battle.

Akiseyama vs Midorifuji – Midorifuji seems to employ some really entertaining sumo, bordering on gymnastic at time. He will have his hands full today against Akiseyama, who holds a 3-1 career advantage. Both men are 3-0, so only one undefeated will remain.

Akua vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka seems to have a solid recipe for beating Akua, as in their 3 prior matches Akua has won zero. Sure, he puts up a good fight, but always seems to have just not quite enough power to overcome Kotonowaka’s offense. Akua’s only chance is to stay mobile, which at his size is a tall order.

Ichinojo vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko, who is no fly-weight fellow, is about half of an Ichinojo. In fact, Ichinojo has not lost to Kotoeko (noticing a theme here…), and with the Mongolian behemoth fighting well this January, I see no reason for that to change.

Terutsuyoshi vs Aoiyama – We finally got to see Big Dan fire up the V-Twin, and now I hope he’s warmed up and ready to bludgeon his way through the lower ranks. Terutsuyoshi’s primary hope – some manner of henka. You know it, I know it, and hopefully Aoiyama knows in. In fact it’s the only way that Terutsuyoshi has found to rack up a win thus far against Big Dan is just that.

Meisei vs Shimanoumi – Meisei has a tidy 3-0 start to Hatsu, and he will have a tough fight against Shimanoumi to make it 4. Although Shimanoumi took his first loss on day 3, he still seems to be in good form and fighting well. They have split their 6 prior matches.

Myogiryu vs Tobizaru – Its time for Tobizaru to unleash his inner primate, we need a mad monkey man match, and Myogiryu makes a perfect mark. Hit and shift, attack and dodge. I want to see some crazy stuff that makes elderly sumo fans uncomfortable. I want to see the Abema commentators at a loss for words. Give us Tobizaru-zumo!

Ryuden vs Kiribayama – Ryuden and his perpetual motion posterior have yet to score a win. Maybe if he were not moving his hinder around, he could focus his energy on a forward attack. Sure he won the only prior match he had with Kiribayama, but right now Ryuden has a goose egg for his first number, and nothing but black stars.

Tokushoryu vs Kagayaki – I would like to speak to the odd person in Japan who stole Terasawa’s mawashi. You know, the one with the remains of his dear, deceased pet bunny rabbit tucked in the bands of cotton. Look, I have a case of Yebisu and and a dozen coupons to Popeye Beer Club and Yoshinoya if you can pull a daring caper at Takadagawa heya. Here’s the plan. Kagayaki goes to get his gear together for day 4 at the Kokugikan, and wouldn’t you know it, his black, goth mode mawashi is nowhere to be found. You don’t even have to keep it, just dump it in the Sumida river and we call it good.

Tochinoshin vs Endo – I want to see if Endo can do that power-crouch again today. I am sure that it would put his nose about groin level against the likes of Tochinoshin. Certianly a view I would never intentionally set up for myself. But Endo has shown for years he is dedicated to his craft, and willing to do what is needed to advance the cause of Endo, Oitekaze heya, and the glory of sumo. Double points of Tochinoshin grabs him and holds him in a perpetual tea-bag stance for as long as he can manage.

Okinoumi vs Tamawashi – I don’t think we will get a repeat of Tamawashi’s boisterous heave-ho today against Okinoumi. More likely a nice grapple, struggle and push sort of watch with a fairly short duration. But who knows, maybe Tamawashi is still fired up from day 3.

Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Yes, brilliant match set up here. Let’s take the guys who have been spanking the Ozeki and make them fight. I am sort of curious to see just how genki Daieisho is this January, and if he can overcome his 5-8 career deficit against Mitakeumi.

Terunofuji vs Takayasu – Well, Takayasu does have a 10-7 advantage, but I am going to not pay that too much heed, as today’s Takayasu is a chaotic mess, and today’s Terunofuji is a steely-eye sumo monster with designs on returning to Ozeki. Both of these guys have the skill to dominate everyone in the tournament this January, but their bodies have been heavily degraded by years of accumulated injuries. Good luck guys, try not to hurt each other.

Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – I want to see if Hokutofuji’s nose has swollen to the size of a casaba melon after his day 3 win, I hope it’s not too bad, because it was bleeding like crazy following the match. He’s up against Onigiri-zeki, who in spite of taking his first lost should be considered quite formidable this tournament.

Asanoyama vs Onosho – Grim tidings: Onosho is on one of his hot streaks, and Asanoyama is looking like he has damage to his rack-and-pinion system. With just a single win, Asanoyama is getting into a tight spot if he wants to try and win his 8 and clear kadoban. That being said, I hope Onosho gives him a rough, tadpole fight.

Kotoshoho vs Shodai – Interestingly enough, first ever match for these two. Shodai tends to dominate this kind of situation, where he can deploy whatever cartoon sumo he comes up with. Frankly, it’s been too long since I had a WTF moment watching Shodai fight, so I hope today we see some kind of improvised kimarite.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – What are we going to do with you Takakeisho? It looks to me as if you cannot summon the wave action attack, and now all of the joi-jin knows you are fighting at ⅓ tadpole power. Don’t let Takarafuji grab you today, or it’s 0-4 for you.