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.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview

With day 1 providing a delightfully solid start to this odd Hatsu basho, sumo fans are eager to see what act 1 will be. At Tachiai, we divide the 15 days of the basho into 3 5 day acts, each of which seems to have its own goals and drivers. For act 1, its remove ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. With just one day in the record books, the only thing we can say is that the ring rust seems to be pretty minimal given the reduction of normal pre-basho join training.

The only non-kadoban Ozeki, Takakeisho, has a rare opportunity to bid for promotion to Yokozuna, should he manage to win this tournament in a commanding fashion. But sadly he let Mitakeumi dictate the terms of the match after he had a fairly strong opening. Several fans have noted that he does not look quite right, and I agree. His already massive body seems to have become even larger in the last 2 months, and I think he’s not really up to full power sumo at this size.

Meanwhile, the kadoban twins Asanoyama and Shodai had a mixed start. Asanoyama was unable to establish an offense or a defense, and got completely disrupted and defeated by Daieisho. Shodai on the other hand, as Tachai’s own Herouth put it, was “playing Sokoban“. For those of you who may not know, Sokoban is a kind of video game where you play a warehouse worker, doing much the same as Shodai did to Hokutofuji.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Shohozan vs Akiseyama – Welcome back Shohozan! “Big Guns” returns to visit the top division to help balance out the banzuke. This is a rematch of their November day 5 match, which went to Akiseyama. Truth be told, as Shohozan “ages out” of the competitive ranks, he is less able to overwhelm his opponents. But it’s great to see the old guard in action. Shohozan has a slim 3-2 career edge, going back to 2009!

Sadanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka came up 10% short on day 1, and he is going to be looking to bounce back against Sadanoumi today. Sadanoumi looked really sharp on the shonichi opening match, and he is due for a strong performance after falling to the final slot on the banzuke.

Yutakayama vs Midorifuji – First time match for these two, and it’s Shodai’s sparring partner (Yutakayama) vs yet another Isegahama pocket battleship. Both of them won their opening day matches, but I note that Midorifuji had the brass to try a flying henka in his first match ranked in Makuuchi. Had it not be called a matta, he might have made it pay off, too!

Ichinojo vs Hoshoryu – At least 80 kg different between these two, and if Ichinojo continues the form he showed day 1, it’s going to be ice cream time at Minato heya. While I love watching Hoshoryu fight, I think he has maxed out for what is current sumo can support. We are all hoping that he can evolve and reach higher levels of sumo intensity, but we know it’s going to be a challenge.

Akua vs Terutsuyoshi – The other Isegahama pocket monster has a track record of taking Akua’s booze money (6-1 favoring Terutsuyoshi). Both of them lost day 1, so maybe we can get some solid alternate-reality stuff like an Akua flying henka for a win here.

Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – Shimanoumi went 11-4 in November, and on day one he looked like he had not slowed down at all. He will have to overcome a 9-1 career deficit to Kotoeko, who also took his day 1 match in decisive fashion.

Tokushoryu vs Aoiyama – Time to tell if Aoiyama simply got the timing of his tachiai completely wrong on day 1, or if he is hurt. I personally hope he is on the upper side of genki, as I would love to see him bludgeon his way though the middle of makkuchi this January. He holds a slight 6-5 career advantage over Tokushoryu.

Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – If Kiribayama actually did injure his knee in the pre-basho workup, this is going to be a rough 15 days for him. At Maegashira 8, he’s probably not going to risk demotion if he has a bad tournament. But for a bright young start, it’s terrible to see them take a set back that could require 2-3 tournaments to resolve. This is his first ever match with Myogiryu.

Ryuden vs Tobizaru – Both of these guys started a bit goofy, and lost day 1. I expect Tobizaru to focus in quickly and get a big push underway to return to joi-jin for March, where I think Ryuden is at a pretty comfortable rank right now. Tobizaru has a 2-1 career advantage, but that may not count for much on day 2.

Meisei vs Kagayaki – “I see a gumbai and I want it painted black…”

Tochinoshin vs Okinoumi – A healthy 16 career matches between these two, with Okinoumi taking 2 of the last 3. Both won their day 1 matches, and I am eager to see if Tochinoshin really has picked up enhanced skills in tsuki-oshi style sumo.

Endo vs Tamawashi – Another long running rivalry, with 23 career matches favoring Tamawashi 13-10, But Endo has taken 3 of the last 4 as Tamawashi ages out of high stakes sumo. I love watching him work, but he is slowly losing power and maneuverability as the injuries accumulate to his body.

Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is probably feeling very energized after the gyoji handed him a diorama of Mt. Fuji made with kensho envelopes at the end of that day 1 pasting of Yokozuna hopeful Takakeisho. He has a strong track record of overwhelming Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo by taking his tadpole power toe to toe against Isegahama’s neckless wonder. Could be a really tasty match in the second half.

Terunofuji vs Onosho – I love Onosho sumo, but your spheroid shape will only serve your undoing, dear tadpole. Did you know that Terunofuji, being a kaiju, bowls overhand? The legends say there is a secret special prize if he can get Onosho into the upper deck of the Kokugikan and take out at least 4 members of the sumo press.

Kotoshoho vs Takanosho – Now I fear Andy’s prediction, and I am very interested to see Kotoshoho put Takanosho in the clay. He won their only prior match, and that’s good enough for me.

Go! Go! Koto-sho-ho!
Do it fast, or do it slow!
Beat that rice ball

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Dear Grand Tadpole. We know it’s really cool to think you might win PowerBall or a Yokozuna promotion. But put that stuff aside and start knocking some heads. Today if possible. Wave action at level 3, if you would please. I want to see Daieisho’s molars stay behind as he rockets into the stands.

Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – Ol’Stompy might make Asanoyama question his own worthiness as a sumotori if he can get that handshake tachiai into the Ozeki’s throat. I really like Asanoyama, so he’s going to have to gamberize like mad and just overcome whatever brutal, high speed sumo Hokutofuji deploys today.

Takayasu vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 10-8 career advantage, and I am going to say that if Takayasu comes out with his big grunt and slam tachiai, he’s done for. The 2017 Takayasu is in there, still. The guy with nearly endless endurance who would grab an opponent and just slowly crush them into jelly. That, in my opinion, would be most effective against Shodai indeed.