Haru Day 8 Preview – Nakabi!

Welcome to the middle day of the Osaka Haru basho. So far it’s been a bit of an odd little tournament, and we find ourselves half way between shonichi and the awarding of the Emperor’s Cup with no Yokozuna, one Ozeki facing almost certain demotion, and a leaderboard populated with names that will soon be out of the running.

If you are the kind to be awake in the middle of the night (at least US time) you can catch live streaming of the last hour (or so) of the today’s action on NHK World Japan, starting at around 4 AM Eastern US time, 1 AM Pacific. Before I had a young child in my life, I would typically make a point to watch at least a couple of days live, and Nakabi is a fine choice for that.

But with day 8 upon us, it’s time for Tachiai’s leaderboard

Haru Leaderboard

In my mind, the yusho race will not really get started until someone manages to put dirt on Takayasu. Be aware, I am a fan of his, but I think the chances of him going 15-0 are quite slim, and I am quite sure that if we get to act three, and he is 10-0, he will face some fierce opponents. The one to watch right now is Mitakeumi, he sometimes struggles into week 2, but if he can stay strong, he is my favorite to pick up a second consecutive Emperor’s cup. Before anyone starts talking about a rope run, the answer is “not yet”.

Leader: Takayasu
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Wakatakakage, Kotonowaka
Chasers: Takakeisho, Abi, Kiribayama, Endo, Wakamotoharu, Nishikigi

8 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Azumaryu vs Kotokuzan – With the torikumi out of balance, we are back to having visitors from Juryo. Today its Azumaryu, who stands a fair chance of kachi-koshi with at 5-2 recored to start day 8. A winning record will at least start the notion that he could return to the top division for May, provided enough promotion slots open up in Makuuchi.

Tochinoshin vs Yutakayama – The one thing to know about this match? Yutakayama: 4 consecutive losses. I am not a huge fan of Tochinoshin’s new street-fighter sumo, but I have to admit, it has left his opponents cautions and bit more pliable then normal. Should he hit his 8 this time out, it would be a welcome change of pace for the former Ozeki.

Chiyomaru vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki reverted to his vague and less powerful form on day 7, and I have to hope he can rally for today’s fight against the bulbous Chiyomaru. Both of these guys are riding the make/kachi-koshi line, and are ripe to be fed into Darwin’s funnel, should the schedulers decide to run one. They share an 8=8 career record, perfect for day 8. Man, these scheduler guys are having far too much fun with numbers.

Kotoeko vs Nishikigi – Kotoeko should take this one, giving Nishikigi his 3rd loss. Kotoeko holds a 4-0 career advantage over Nishikigi, so I think that Kotoeko’s size, strength and speed are a potent combination against Nishikigi’s deliberate, sturdy sumo.

Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyotairyu – Oh, great sumo cat, I beseech thee. Let Chiyotairyu unleash his thunder-god sumo again today. I would dearly love to see Ichiyamamoto receive a right proper crumpling in the lap of Dr. Takasu. Amen.

Myogiryu vs Akua – I am guessing Akua is hurt again, because he’s fighting like crap. That’s why we don’t have Akua every tournament, he struggles to maintain consistency. Myogiryu holds a 2-0 career advantage over him, and I am going to guess he may rack up so many losses, that he is named captain of the Juryo barge.

Kotoshoho vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi fusensho over the kyujo Chiyonokuni means he got a day of rest, nearly in the middle of the tournament. I hope it energized him, as I think this match was designed to be an even battle. Both are 4-3, they have a 2-2 career record, and I think we will see some nice sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – Chiyoshoma is having a tough tournament. I don’t know if its injury, loss of stamina, or he just can’t manage sumo at this rank right now. He has a 5-3 career advantage over “Big Dan” Aoiyama. Aoiyama, at 3-4, is also a prime funnel candidate, should the choose to run one this March.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – This is the point where some may choose to go relieve themselves, or grab an additional beer. I have enjoyed Sadanoumi’s sumo when he has been fighting well in prior tournaments, and I just have to hope that maybe he can get something organized here starting today. Yea, I am an optimist.

Takayasu vs Wakamotoharu – I look at this match and kind of wonder why. Sure Wakamotoharu has been fighting well, and has some great sumo this March. But this is a first time match against yusho early leader Takayasu. I would bet a donut that Wakamotoharu is going to go chest to chest, Takayasu will accept, and he will just stand there and wear him to a frazzle. Well, it has been a while since we have seen Takayasu just grind someone down for 3 minutes or so until they are begging for him to finish the match.

Hokutofuji vs Tobizaru – Hokutofuji has little time for the simian antics of Tobizaru. I predict handshake tachiai, nodowa to keep him from hopping about, and a rapid removal from the field of play. He has a 4-0 career advantage over Tobizaru, and this is normally how it goes.

Takarafuji vs Okinoumi – A match of great sadness. Both wonderful rikishi, both with crummy 1-6 records. At least we know one of them will be 2-6 after today. They have 27 matches over their career, but Takarafuji’s 16-11 advantage matters little when both of them are probably injured, and fighting this poorly.

Kotonowaka vs Endo – You know, I had no idea how much I wanted to see this match until I read the torikumi for day 8. What a delight. Endo has a chance to go 4-0 against Kotonowaka, and Kotonowaka has a chance to show the world just how much his sumo has improved since the last time they fought in May of 2021.

Meisei vs Tamawashi – Right now, Meisei can’t buy a win. I don’t think he will last more than a few second against Tamawashi, who is not at his career best, but good enough to rough up a likely injured, smaller rikishi.

Takanosho vs Ichinojo – I would like to think that Takanosho can soften his fall down the banzuke by picking up more wins, but then I see he’s fighting Ichinojo today, and I have to think again. Ichinojo, while not quite in his best form, is good enough that he’s causing all kinds of damage in the joi-jin. He beat both kadoban Ozeki, and even trashed Endo pretty effectively.

Wakatakakage vs Ura – Speaking of Ura…. At 1-6 he’s going to take a trip south on the banzuke way come May. But I think he can still cook up a couple of nice surprise wins. But he had better start soon, his only victory was against the covid depleted husk of Shodai. Will Wakatakakage try another flying genital attack? No, dear readers, those spectacular moment come once every 15 years or so.

Daieisho vs Abi – Still waiting to see if Daieisho shows up with massive taping over his crotch from that throw by Wakatakakage on day 7. Even if his man-bits survived intact, his pride may have taken significant damage. He will now live with the fact that he may be immortalized on preview “B-roll” footage for sumo shows for years to come. He has a 6-6 record against Abi, who will be hard pressed to overcome Daieisho’s more powerful, more focused oshi-zumo style.

Shodai vs Kiribayama – (sigh), ah.. Shodai. 2-5, you should go home and prep for Ozeki-wake. Its looking more certain each day. Not your fault sir, but there is still time to recover.

Hoshoryu vs Mitakeumi – Back to the fun side of sumo, it’s time for Mitakeumi to either crank up the power or start his week 2 fade. Frankly, I want him and Takayasu bashing it out in act 3 for sole leader position with just a day or two to go before senshuraku. Hoshoryu has not beaten Mitakeumi in 2 attempts, so this will be a tough match for him.

Onosho vs Takakeisho – Another fine tadpole battle, this time the junior tadpole against the grand tadpole. Onosho has actually won 3 times out of the 12 matches he has had against Takakeisho, so it won’t be completely one sided. However, I think that Takakeisho is done with the unexplainable sumo experiments, and is just going for double arm wave action tsuppari from here on out.

Natsu Day 2 Preview

I am trying to not think about the creepy silence during this basho, but instead look forward to the new camera angles that give me new ways to appreciate the mechanics of sumo. I talked about getting a new view of how some of the better rikishi of the day conduct their matches in the day 1 highlights, and to me its a big deal. I am sure for sumo fans in Japan and specifically in Tokyo, watching practice at the heya would provide some of the same insights. But for a yank watching from afar, it’s really quite engaging.

It was almost a clean sweep for the named ranks on day 1, with Daieisho being the only one of the clan to hit the clay. But even he looked sharp, and nearly gave the lead Ozeki a loss on opening day. At least one of the named ranks will take a loss again today, as Takakeisho faces off against the original tadpole himself, Mitakeumi. Expectations are low on Mitakeumi this tournament, so I think the pressure is off and we may see some really solid sumo from him. At least during week 1.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura can struggle with much larger opponents – with his day 1 loss to Kaisei being a great example. He does have a solid formula for winning against the bulbous Chiyomaru, with a near even 8-9 career record. A word of caution, he has not beaten the spheroid man in the last 5 attempts.

Akua vs Chiyotairyu – Oddly enough, these two veterans have never had a match before. Let’s fix that at once! Akua has a bit of a rusty start day 1, but he will break into fighting form within the first act. Chiyotairyu’s day 1 fight with Daiamami was near perfect form for him, and I doubt that we will see Akua give him the same opportunity.

Kaisei vs Daiamami – This really comes down to what kind of condition Kaisei’s body is in this May. If he’s reasonably healthy, I can see him using his enormity and power, this far down the banzuke, to dominate most of his matches. There are actually several high-skill vets clogging up the bottom ranks, and it will start to get brutal, I predict, some time in week 2.

Kotoeko vs Akiseyama – Akiseyama’s sheer bulk tends to be a foil for Kotoeko speed and compact strength. Kotoeko has taken both prior matches this year, for an overall 4-5 record. I Akiseyama, to my eye, did look a bit rusty day 1 in his loss to Okinoumi.

Kotonowaka vs Okinoumi – Speaking of high-skill veterans, Okinoumi might possibly be able to pretzel Kotonowaka within the first 5 seconds of a match, provided that the surprisingly low ranked Sadogatake heyagashira continues to look like he did day 1 against Terutsuyoshi. I don’t think Okinoumi will use the same level of maneuver and evasion, so maybe this match may be more to Kotonowaka’s liking.

Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Two fast, nimble rikishi who are willing to pull slippery moves out of the bag and deploy them from the tachiai? Why, yes please! They have a 3-3 career record, and this match offers a slim chance of the elusive double-henka.

Shimanoumi vs Tamawashi – Shimanoumi has not lost to Tamawashi, ever. He holds a 2-0 advantage, but looked really shabby day 1 against Endo. By contrast, Tamawashi seems to have shown up dialed in and ready to dominate. This could be the day their career record flips to 2-1.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Long time readers know I do enjoy Kagayaki’s sumo when he’s fighting well. Which as not been since January of 2020. How he has managed to end up as Maegashira 9 after going 5-10, 6-9 and 6-9 from M3e, I will never know. But today he’s going to get spanked by Endo, I think.

Tochinoshin vs Tsurugisho – First time match between to big, big guys. Both of them lost day 1, and both of them are certainly focused on turning that around. It’s kind of early to pair up the zero loss crowd, but hey – why not.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – This is always a fun match, because Takarafuji usually tries to wear Ichinojo out. Which only happens once in a while. So instead you get Ichinojo accepting the defend and extend match format, and going all boulder against the man with no neck. Suddenly forced to cope with nearly half a ton of Mongolian granite, even the mighty Takarafuji will begin to question is choices. Then, Ichinojo wakes up and the match ends. He holds a 12-3 advantage over Takarafuji.

Hoshoryu vs Hidenoumi – This one has some nice potential, though I think due to the banzuke train wreck coming out of March, both men are a bit over ranked. They have matched twice before, and split the two. Hidenoumi took the match last tournament, and may have a slight edge on day 2.

Onosho vs Myogiryu – For Myogiryu to come out of this match the winner, he needs to not let Onosho bracket him, or allow him to lean in. We all know that Onosho has basically one fight plan, and by golly he is going to run it no matter what. When it works, is hard to stop him, but the trick is to make sure he never gets that far. Onosho holds a 6-3 career lead.

Kiribayama vs Daieisho – I kind of think that Daieisho should have put the doom on Asanoyama day 1, so I am looking for him to make it up against Kiribayama on day 2. Kiribayama has taken their last 2 matches to hold a 3-1 career record against the Hatsu yusho winner. II expect that Daieisho will open strong as is his custom, so Kiribayama will need to steady his balance at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Chiyonokuni – I would guess Takayasu is healthy enough he is back to his wild-man sumo. This is a perfect match for Chiyonokuni’s brand of sumo. The career record reads 5-1, but these two have not fought since 2018, and a lot has happened since then. I look forward to seeing what Chiyonokuni can do today.

Tobizaru vs Takanosho – It’s flying monkey vs onigiri-kun. Takanosho looked brutally focused day 1 against Chiyonokuni, and Tobizaru may get run down and tossed away without ceremony. Takanosho holds a 5-2 career advantage.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama did look a bit rusty as Daieisho nearly took him out on day 1. Hopefully he has dialed up his intensity quite a bit, and is ready for what Meisei is going to unleash on him day 2. True, Meisei has only taken 1 of their prior 6 matches, but if Asanoyama wants to remain the top Ozeki, he needs to dominate these week 1 fights.

Hokutofuji vs Terunofuji – It’s early to say it, but each tournament I look for signs that Hokutofuji is hot on the trail of achieving “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo”, which seems to be his forte. Today we get to see what he can do against a kaiju with no knees. All joking aside, Terunofuji did look a bit creaky on day 1, and I am just looking for him to get his 8.

Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is good enough, and fast enough that he can help Shodai taste-test this tournament’s dohyo. He just needs to remove any chances that Shodai can reach into his Acme bag of cartoon sumo and deploy the unexpected or the unlikely counter-move to a well crafted attack. Shodai needs 7 more to remove kadoban and retain Ozeki.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – This first big tadpole fight of the tournament, pits two rotund examples of the amphibian sumo in the final match of the day. They come in with a 9-10 career record, but I am going to give a slight edge to Takakeisho today. He has clearly lost a good amount of flab since last year, and I think it’s been at least that long since he has been able to show as much power as he did day 1 when he sent Wakatakakage down to visit the shimpan in a heap.

Haru Day 2 Preview

It’s great to have sumo back. I am a bit surprised at how many of the COVID Kyujo rikishi showed up with a thick, scaly layer or ring rust. I think the most oxidized of all is none other than Yokozuna Hakuho, who may wish to take a quick trip to Yokosuka and use the barncile blaster to remove some of the accumulation. I was a bit surprised that Terunofuji looked a bit rusty as well. By all accounts, he have been a training machine, grinding away in the world famous Isegahama sweat lodge dohyo. I can’t help but wonder if the goal that lays just before him provides more distraction now at the final step than motivation. Please know, mighty Kaiju, most of the sumo world wants to see you succeed. Who do you think has the biggest layer or ring rust? Leave your vote in the comments below.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Kaisei vs Akua – Their only prior match was in November, and it went to Akua. After a 5-10 record at Hatsu, I am sure Akua would like to kachi-koshi his way back to the top division, while Kaisei has a thick layer of COVID-kyujo ring rust to remove.

Daiamami vs Hidenoumi – These two have a 13 match history that is at 7-6, so they are evenly matched with no clear advantages. In all of their prior fights, it has ended via yori-kiri. So chest to chest at the start, and may the man with the best footwork win.

Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama’s bulk is a challenge for Kotoeko, who wants to work with strength and speed. Yutakayama will need to focus on “his brand” of sumo. Namely keeping his mobility focused, his steps small and his balance precise in order to present the fewest opportunities to Kotoeko.

Tsurugisho vs Chiyoshoma – Tsurugisho took and odd fall at the end of his day 1 match with Yutakayama, so I am going to be looking to see if that bad knee is bothering him once more. I think that Chiyoshoma may deliver something more henka like today.

Akiseyama vs Terutsuyoshi – I would think that Terutsuyoshi would have a lot of advantages to exploit. He is smaller and more agile by a good measure. With so much of Akiseyama front-loaded, all Terutsuyoshi needs to do is get to the side to create an opening. Their career record of 3-3 gives us yet another evenly balanced match for day 2.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho suffered a brutal 2-13 in January, dropping him from Maegashira 3 to 11. I had hoped he would show up at Haru looking better, and with some semblance of good sumo. If day 1 was any indication, this is going to be another tough tournament for him. He has beaten Aoiyama once before, in November.

Midorifuji vs Chiyotairyu – First time match, and I am looking for Midorifuji to put the man with the cannon-ball tachiai on the clay by the 3rd step. Chiyotairyu has not yet been on the receiving end of a Midorifuji katasukashi, but he has to know that it’s coming.

Ryuden vs Hoshoryu – Part of me really wants to see Ryuden deliver a henka today, and put Hoshoryu well and truly in the dog-house with his uncle. This is a first time match between the two, and I hope that Hoshoryu will be a bit more cautious today.

Kotonowaka vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni, in spite of his day 1 win against Tobizaru, did not seem satisfied. Sure, he got some solid thrusts and hits in, but for a rikishi like Chiyonokuni, he shows up every day looking for a big, energetic brawl. Will Kotonowaka join Chiyonokuni in a good-natured mosh?

Tobizaru vs Kagayaki – Tobizaru was completely out or sorts on day 1, and I hope he can collect his sumo and come back strong on day 2 against Kagayaki. Kagayaki’s dark mawashi still has me a bit unsettled, but even if he is in goth mode, hopefully he retains good sumo fundamentals. He has a 2-0 advantage over Tobizaru.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – 34 match history, with Tochinoshin holding a 22-12 advantage. If Tochinoshin’s knees can handle the strain, he may be able to give Tamawashi an 0-2 start. I think it will all come down to Tochinoshin’s left hand outside grip.

Ichinojo vs Okinoumi – Big, heavy Ichinojo is a challenge for Okinoumi, who is at a 2-4 career disadvantage. If he can shut down Ichinojo’s throwing attempts, he can probably contain the big Mongolian, and will have a chance to score his second win for March.

Kiribayama vs Endo – Endo has a bad first day, and I expect he is going to be a lot more focused, a lot more conservative and he is going to stick to powerful straight ahead sumo today. He won the only prior match against Kiribayama, and has a huge edge in skill and experience.

Myogiryu vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is a late bloomer, who at 31 is finally looking sharp. If he can take his second career win today against Myogiryu, I will start to hope that he may have a good basho.

Meisei vs Mitakeumi – Meisei may have a tough time today, as the mass-reduced Mitakeumi seems to be a real contender. His match against Shodai was quite sloppy, but Mitakeumi showed a lot of power, and a lot of flexibility. Meisei has almost matched his highest rank ever, and is at the point in his sumo career where we may see a step change up in capability. Here’s to hoping.

Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Kaiju vs lead Onami brother as we get into the big end of day 2. The only time Wakatakakage has won against Terunofuji was a year ago on day 6 during the “silent basho”. We have come a long way since then, as has Terunofuji. I think that Wakatakakage may have some work to do to shake off the ring rust after being forced to sit January out.

Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – I know I kid the Hokutofuji fans a lot about this man delivering “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”, and I think Hokutofuji is due for a good basho. If this March is the time for him to advance, he may show that to us today against Takanosho, who has taken up a durable role in the San’yaku.

Shodai vs Onosho – If Onosho wants to see his first win, he will need to overcome Shodai’s defensive style. But he must keep his balance well behind his toes, or face an abrupt and surprising turn of fortune should Shodai unleash some of his brand of sumo (aka Cartoon Sumo). Shodai, as long as he is not secretly hurt, is going to have some great matches this tournament, I expect. I hope he saves them for week 2.

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – On his way to the yusho, Daieisho slapped down Takakeisho on day 2. Shall we have a re-run and see if anything has changed? I predict that Daieisho may have some mental challenges this March, but his sumo looks as strong as ever.

Takayasu vs Asanoyama – Every sumo fan I know is looking for a step change in Asanoyama. Some indication that he may be evolving toward the next higher level of sumo. It’s a difficult step to make, and most Ozeki do not. He has an even 1-1 score against Takayasu head to head, so I am looking for a big, burly battle today.

Hakuho vs Takarafuji – A fantastic opportunity for The Boss to knock off some ring rust over Takarafuji. While Takarafuji will try to deflect, defend and extend, Hakuho has a knack (15-2) for grabbing this guy and inducting him into the Space Force with a sub orbital flight.

Tokyo July Basho Day 3 Preview

Your humble editor did in fact miss posting a day 2 preview. Some of you may say, “Bruce, what gives?”. Much as I love sumo, I admit that I have gotten myself tangled with a high priority software development project which, at least for the first half of the basho, is consuming most of my waking hours. It’s not my first startup. I love a good bootstrap effort, and this one may help a lot of people if we can get everything to work. If my writing seems like its coming from a point of bleary eyed exhaustion, give yourself +100 genki points. I do manage to sacrifice some sleep to watch the top division, and I give my undying thanks to Kintamayama and Natto Sumo for serving it up via YouTube for me to consume in bits when I can throughout the day.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Meisei vs Kotoyuki – Meisei returns from Juryo for the day to fill the torikumi gap left by Kakuryu’s absence. Kotoyuki is off to a slow start at 0-2, and seems to have put on a bit of weight during the quarantine period. There is some logic to top division rikishi striving to carry as much mass as their sumo can handle, I suspect that Kotoyuki may have over-shot by about 10kg.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – I was fairly sure that Terunofuji’s day 2 match was headed for disaster. Kotoeko kept a high energy tug-and-shift routine going, trying to apply maximum torque to the relics of Terunofuji’s knees. We don’t get to know how much pain he is in following a match, and today he has to find a way to shift around the epic bulk of Chiyomaru. He has fought him 6 times before, taking 4. Terunofuji is certainly strong enough to muscle Chiyomaru around somewhat, but those knees…

Kotoshoho vs Nishikigi – After being a complete limp fish day 1, Nishikigi came back with some vigor on day 2. But it’s anyone’s guess which version shows up today against Kotoshoho. On the topic of Kotoshoho, he young rookie to the top division has opened strong with two straight wins, and may be in for a traditional first basho 10 win run.

Kotoeko vs Wakatakakage – Speaking of first basho streaks – Wakatakakage, why are you winless? Get it in gear sir! In their 3 prior matches, Kotoeko has not lost one, so there is a solid chance that the fellow that makes Raja Pradhan sound like a typewriter (Wakatakakage) may start July 0-3. Cue the worried sumo ladies in 3..2..1

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh how I loved Takayasu’s day 2 match. A sight not seen in a few years. Shohozan was being his traditional self, and flagrantly attacking Takayasu’s injured left elbow. Takayasu eventually just grabbed Shohozan and held him still for a while. A long while. This was traditional Takayasu sumo, with enough stamina to keep 30 normal people turning cartwheels for an hour. I swear he took a nap in there too. No rush… You tired yet Shohozan? No? Zzzz. Zzzz ZZ. How about now? Going to be a different contest today as Kotoshogiku is going to get close fast and press ahead hard. They have 27(!) career matches, with a slight 15-12 Takayasu edge.

Kotonowaka vs Shohozan – I have my concerns that Kotonowaka will join the elite group that includes Aoiyama and Kagayaki. The guy has some solid sumo moves, and that should carry the day against a fading but surly Shohozan. As this is their first ever match, I am sure that “Big Guns” Shohozan is going to give him the full street brawl routine.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – Much like in the mock basho, these two seem to be stuck in an indeterminate sumo state, perhaps by observing them we can collapse their wave function into something genki? All I know is that the bulkier Shimanoumi seems to be susceptible to Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai.

Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – 25 career matches and the score is 12-13! I am delighted that Tochinoshin is appearing at least somewhat genki, and has none of the “roadkill” aura that he has carried the last two tournaments. I am not sure his knee is up for any sky-crane action, but fans can hope.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – I really liked both of these veteran stalwart’s wins on day 2. Tamawashi gave Chiyotairyu a near tea-bagging, and Kaisei out-bruted Tochinoshin. Maybe Kaisei’s wedding recently has motivated him to higher levels of performance. Sumo fans, there is a whole lot of Kaisei, and if he gets motivated, they may need to have the dohyo repair crew on standby.

Ikioi vs Chiyotairyu – I think that both of them are a bit rusty at this stage, and are looking to keep fairly close to even by the end of the first act. Chiyotairyu has a slight 9-6 career lead, mostly due to his high energy cannonball tachiai, and his propensity to stand his opponent up and immediately knock them down at the start of the match. A gambit that works fairly well against the straight ahead Ikioi.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Battle of the pixies, round 1. This time Terutsuyoshi is having a solid start, and Ishiura seems to be struggling. If you are asking yourself, “What happened to Ishiura?”, your judgement may be colored by the mock basho in May, where Ishiura was, at one point, the sole leader in the yusho race. I am sure real Ishiura would like to tap into fake Ishiura’s genki power right about now.

Tokushoryu vs Ryuden – Hatsu yusho winner and all around everyman Tokushoryu has started 0-2, possibly another victim of ring rust brought on by lack of joint training. Ryuden seems a bit under his normal performance level as well, but has managed to put his first white star on the board. I think that gives a slight edge to Ryuden today, but I am still looking for Tokushoryu to maintain a kachi-koshi pace.

Abi vs Enho – Straight up, Abi seems to also be a bit too massive for his sumo. Coupled with everyone getting a good hang of the ins and outs of “Abi-zumo”, his extra bulk have increased his ability to hold ground at the expense of attack speed. And frankly attack speed was the key to his sumo. The more he evolves closer to some kind of inflatable beach toy form, the easier it will be to overcome his offense. I give the nod to Enho if he can put down the beer for 10 minutes…

Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – Hokutofuji also is looking quite rough. I know he is inherently streaky, and so once his sumo locks on, he should at least get to 7. But boy is it an uneven start for him. Big Dan has a matching 1-1 record, but looked more consistent in his first two matches. His day 2 match against Abi – brutal.

Kagayaki vs Kiribayama – For some reason, Kiribayama can’t yet get to a win. He’s up against Mr Fundamentals, who normally suffers a lot of ring rust. Not this July! He is focused and his sumo is sharp. While I would like to think that the young rising star, Kiribayama, can pull out a win here, I am going to favor Kagayaki keeping the streak alive.

Daieisho vs Takarafuji – So far we have yet to see Takarafuji deploy his defend and extend strategy. Everyone has just bundled him up and rushed him out with great effect. Daieisho is a good opponent to get back in stride, even though Takarafuji has a 4-6 career record against him. But Daieisho’s is prone to the stalemate tactics that Takarafuji prefers.

Onosho vs Mitakeumi – As an Onosho fan, his 0-2 start is disappointing, and it’s not going to get any better today when he steps off against an incredibly focused and genki Mitakeumi. During the mock basho, we had Mitakeumi likewise focused, strong and dominating nearly every match. I think it would be surprising and a bit spooky if he can replicate the Not-so-Basho result as well.

Shodai vs Takanosho – In the “What happened here” category – Shodai? He seems really hard, sharp and focused. Where his sumo and the past has been less than aggressive, so far this July he has come out strong and effective. I would guess Takanosho is smarting after two consecutive losses, and I would like to see him give Shodai a tough match.

Yutakayama vs Asanoyama – These two were once rivals when they first broke into the top division, and Yutakayama reached the top of the rank and file first, before injury forced him to regroup. Now its Asanoyama who is looking like a rock-solid Ozeki, and Yutakayama is struggling with an 0-2 start to July. They are tied 3-3 for their career, and both know how to disrupt and defeat the other. If Asanoyama can get his grip early, and shut down Yutakayama’s mobility, it’s going to be an 3-0 start for the shin-Ozeki.

Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – I think the 4 month stretch of relative isolation did Takakeisho quite a bit of good. He thus far seems to be strong, confident and back in control of his his body and his sumo. That day 1 shove against Yutakayama? BOOM! Okinoumi also seems to have benefited from the extended recovery period, and while he was no match for Hakuho, Kiribayama got a satisfying ejection from the ring. I favor Takakeisho in this one (6-2 career), especially because the Grand Tadpole seems to be back in the groove.

Hakuho vs Endo – A juicy, ripe morsel to finish the day. These two have had a bit of a blood feud going on for several tournaments, and both have shown a willingness to pound the other into a bloody mess. Hakuho looked rather tentative day 1, but gave Yutakayama a fast roll in the clay on day 2. We know the boss has been less than thrilled with the lack of test bouts leading up to the basho, and I suspect that the population of Oitekaze beya probably gave Endo somewhat better prep. Will there be blood?