Day 1 has come to a close, and what a day of sumo it was! While the first few days of any basho tend to be plagued by rusty rikishi and sloppy sumo, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of competition today! With Leonid doing such a great job bringing readers coverage of the top matches to keep an eye on for each day, I thought I’d focus on the opposite end of the Makuuchi Banzuke and highlight a few bouts that may not make it on to the NHK highlights, but should still be quite good! So here are some undercard matches to keep an eye on for Day 2.
Ryuden vs. Daiamami
Jerking the curtain on Day 2 will be Makuuchi newcomer Ryuden and big Daiamami. Fan favorite Ryuden looked good in his first match against Nishikigi and showed no signs of top division jitters. Hoepfully he carries this confidence into his bout with foe Daiamami, who at Maegashira 17 sits all alone at the bottom of the banzuke. These two have had quite the rivalry, with Daiamami holding a 5-2 edge over Ryuden.
Asanoyama vs. Nishikigi
Are my eyes mistaken or did anyone else think Mr. Happy Asanoyama looked… angry today? Fresh off his first make koshi and finally sporting his oicho-mage topknot, Asanoyama took control right from the tachiai and finished Daiamami off with a nice overarm throw. On Day 2 he will take on Nishikigi, and we will see if this attitude adjustment is permanent. If I’m Nishikigi, I’m hoping to see Mr. Happy on the dohyo tomorrow, because a focused, angry Asanoyama could be a fearsome opponent. These two have met three times prior, with Asanoyama leading their series 2-1.
Abi vs. Ishiura
After delighting fans with his superb shiko and nearly bending Daieisho in half on Day 1, Makuuchi newcomer Abi will try and secure his first win when he meets Ishiura on Monday. With his stocky torso and long limbs, Abi reminds me of a young Takanohana. If he can learn to use his proportions as effectively as the former Yokozuna, he has a very bright future ahead of him. However, he first needs to work on not over-committing to his thrusts, as doing so was the primary cause of his Day 1 loss. Should he overcommit tomorrow, the crafty Ishiura will make him pay for it. Ishiura holds a 4-3 lead over Abi.
Sokokurai vs. Takekaze
Sokokurai received a hearty welcome back to Makuuchi from the Tadpole committee courtesy of Daishomaru today. On Day 2 he will meet a fellow member of the old guard, Takekaze, who is also looking for his first win following a quick loss to Kagayaki. After a terrible 2017 where he recorded only two kachi koshi, one has to wonder just how much longer the 38-year-old Takekaze will go on before calling it a career. Hatsu very well could be his final Basho.
Kagayaki vs. Daishomaru
Despite a poor start, Kagayaki finished strong and looked calm and in control as he escorted Takekaze off the Dohyo. He meets fellow young gun and old foe Daishomaru on Day 2. While both of these men are talented pusher thrusters, the much larger Kagayaki has a big reach advantage, which he has used to take a 5-2 lead in their series
Terunofuji vs. Kotoyuki
Oh Terunofuji, it makes me sad to see you like this. The once mighty Ozeki, crippled by knee issues, was unable to do much against the bulky Chiyomaru. Things don’t get much easier for the Kaiju on Day 2 when he takes on Kotoyuki, who picked up his first win over Fuji’s stablemate Aminishiki Sunday. Expect Kotoyuki to go right for the jugular with his thrusting flippers, and if he can get Terunofuji to the bales his chances of winning are pretty good.
Sumo is off to a good start this year, in what may prove to be an awesome Basho!