Terunofuji v Aoiyama rematch on Day 1

I’m ready to get this thing started.

Isegahama beya now has 3 wrestlers in the sanyaku ranks. Terunofuji will be making his ozeki debut against Aoiyama. This will be their second bout in a row, a rematch of the Day 15 bout that sealed Terunofuji’s yusho and ozeki promotion. The shin-ozeki has dominated Aoiyama, winning all four of their previous meetings, three by straightforward yorikiri force out.

Harumafuji will need to be at the top of his game coming off surgery. He’ll be facing Myogiryu, against whom he’s had difficulty in the past, including a very disappointing, upset loss in May on Day 12 which effectively put any yusho hopes to bed. I know, there was still a chance on Day 15 but let’s face it, the odds on that massive playoff everyone wanted were minuscule and his chances of prevailing from that even smaller. Overall, Harumafuji has a slim lead in their rivalry 8-5 and has given up a gold star.

Takarafuji making his komusubi debut against Hakuho on Day 1. I’ll be praying for his survival. Hakuho is not only undefeated against Takarafuji, the connection to Harumafuji and Terunofuji will probably quite the motivating factor for Hakuho’s revenge.

I hope Kakuryu is healthy. He’ll have a tough match in his return from injury against Ichinojo. He’s been able to beat his junior compatriot twice since yielding a gold star in that epic debut last year. That makes for five Mongolians among the six wrestlers in the three premier matchups. It’s also very likely that at least one yokozuna will fall on Day 1 – if not two.

Now, for the ozeki who haven’t won yusho yet, Kisenosato will have his hands full against Tochinoshin. The big Georgian has won their last two and leads 2-1 since his return from injury. Goeido actually trails in his rivalry with Takayasu. Takayasu is always dangerous and has actually won 8 of their 13 meetings (excl. fusen win in May). Goeido has won the previous two in a row but it will certainly be a challenge to win on Day 1. Kadoban Kotoshogiku probably has the easiest day ahead against Sadanoumi. The maegashira has had nothing to really challenge Kotoshogiku in their two previous meetings. Kotoshogiku should certainly win this one if he is to remain ozeki. A loss here will be a surprise and could be a clear sign of an ozeki on his way out.

In the final sanyaku matchup, Tochiozan (my man from Kochi) will face Ikioi (my man from Osaka). I like both of these wrestlers and this will likely be a fairly even match with a skill/technique edge to Tochiozan. A surprise win here for Ikioi will give him confidence in his top bouts since he hasn’t had much success when ranked this high.

Hatsubasho 2015: Day 1 Preview

The Day 1 matchups are out and popular powerhouses Ichinojo and Endo are scheduled to face off in what will be their first meeting and surely a highlight showdown, whatever the outcome. Endo started off poorly but finished strongly in the last tournament, garnering 10 wins and moving up to Maegashira 3. He’ll be facing much stiffer competition this week. Essentially, the Phenom from 2013 starts off 2015 with this match against the Phenom from 2014.

The other sekiwake/M3 matchup features Sekiwake Aoiyama battling Aminishiki. These two have a fairly even rivalry, with Aoiyama having the slight edge of 5 wins to 4 for the elder statesman. Aoiyama has won the last two matches and is my favorite for this bout. He’s been on a roll lately and you can watch him aggressively dominate Aminishiki in their last meeting in November. Sometimes Aminishiki seems to take bouts off like this one. We’ll see which Aminishiki shows up Sunday.

Goeido has owned Ikioi with 6 wins and 1 loss since their first bout in 2013. Goeido faces the pressure of demotion and cannot afford to lose against rank-and-filers. But, Ikioi always seems to give it his all so this will be the upset I’m watching for.

Terunofuji has faced Kotoshogiku twice in his career and won both. Like Goeido, Kotoshogiku is facing demotion and this bout could set the tone for his tournament. He seems to go all in when his ozeki-ship is on the line so I do think he’ll get his first win over Terunofuji.

Kisenosato is the one solid ozeki. He’s usually a lock for a winning record and often tallies double-digit wins as he did last tournament. He’s often in the running early for the tournament. He also leads in the head-to-head against Takarafuji and I see him doing very well again this month.

The trio of yokozuna will likely all win. I’m really looking forward to Harumafuji vs Tochinoshin as I generally root for both. But Harumafuji has been dominant in their head-to-head, having won the last 10 meetings dating back to Hatsubasho 2011, and 13 wins in 17 bouts overall. Kakuryu has been similarly dominant against Takayasu. Takayasu won two gold stars last tournament…but it was Kakuryu preventing the sweep. He’s beaten the fresh Komusubi in each of their last five and seven of their nine total meetings. Lastly, Tochiozan has been no challenge for Hakuho as the yokozuna dominates with 25 wins in 26 meetings. I can imagine Hakuho’s hungry for #33 so I don’t see Tochiozan having much of a chance.

The M4-M16 bouts were pretty well known already as each East rikishi is matched up with their West rival. Of note, Tokitenku faces a stiff challenge on his first bout returning to makuuchi, in the form of Oosunaarashi. Tokitenku had been demoted to Juryo for the November tournament but has returned quickly, courtesy of winning the division with a strong 12-3 record. The Egyptian seemed to be favoring his knees for much of the last tournament so I really hope he has gotten a good rest.

Big thanks to Dosukoi.fr for news and SumoDB for the stats!