Osaka Day 2 Preview

The Gates To Osaka’s Edion Area Are Shut

As this basho continues, I am sure that myself and the rest of the sumo fans will become accustomed to the unique environment that is the “Silent Basho” of Osaka 2020. I think maybe one of the biggest changes was the Yumitori-Shiki, or the bow twirling ceremony at the end of the day’s matches. Typically when this happens, half of the crowd is rushing to exit and catch a train, and the rest of watching with rapt attention. There are shouts that accompany the ritual, and they are, at least to me, integral to the ceremony. But as the NHK Grand Sumo Live stream showed, it happened in dead silence.

In sumo action, it was an interesting and pleasant surprise to see Shodai focused and dare I say effective. I know I have been hard on the man from Uto-shi, but I stand ready to cheer him on the moment he turns the corner, and unleashes the potential that many (myself included) knew he always had. So this actually happen (and it may be happening this March), I would give huge credit to Yokozuna Kakuryu. Kakuryu has shown himself to be a very capable mentor and instructor, and if he can impart a variation of his reactive sumo onto Shodai, I think everyone would enjoy the results. Here’s to hoping that Shodai in on an upward path.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Meisei vs Kotonowaka – This first time match will give Meisei a chance to bounce back from his fairly weak opening day match against Shimanoumi. But Kotonowaka brings advantages in size, weight and strength, along with a suspicion that he will enjoy the typical first basho in the top division hot-streak.

Daiamami vs Shimanoumi – These two seem to have a match about once a year, so if its March, its time for them to fight. I would not call out either as having a clear advantage, other than to say that Shimanoumi seems to have come into Osaka ready to compete.

Tsurugisho vs Azumaryu – Tsurugisho has a 11-4 career advantage over Azumaryu. Simply put he has a solid formula for winning. To my eye, it comes down to Tsurugisho’s superior speed and normally low, wide stance.

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – This match will feature Nishikigi attempting to take Chiyomaru to his chest, and Chiyomaru in tsuppari mode. With an 8-2 career advantage, Nishikigi usually can grab a piece of that giant green mawashi and get into offense mode.

Kotoshogiku vs Kaisei – Kotoshogiku holds an 11-2 career record over Kaisei. I think Kaisei is susceptable to Kotoshogiku’s chest to chest attack strategies, but it will come down to how stable Kotoshogiku’s damaged knees are.

Aoiyama vs Ikioi – Another match of the grizzled veterans, we get Big Dan Aoiyama looking to stay mobile and stay hitting while Ikioi will work better close in where he can grab a piece of rubbery white flesh and move the man-mountain about. Not for the faint of heart.

Sadanoumi vs Ishiura – Ishiura tends to bring his evasive sumo form to his matches with Sadanoumi, and Sadanoumi does tend to fall for it most times. This has left Ishiura with a 7-3 career advantage, and a strong favorite in today’s fight.

Terutsuyoshi vs Tochiozan – Both rikishi lost their day 1 matches, and both want to put something into the win column. We did not get to see any high-efficiency sumo from Tochiozan, and really no pixie magic from Terutsuyoshi. Let’s hope that day 2 brings them back to form.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Although Tochinoshin holds an 8-2 career advantage, those numbers were racked up when the former-Ozeki’s body was in fighting form. I suspect this match will take a much different form, as Tochinoshin’s undercarriage may not even provide enough support to allow him to resist Chiyotairyu’s opening attack.

Shohozan vs Takanosho – Shohozan does tend to get “fired up” in his sumo, and I wonder if whatever face / head wound he picked up day 1 might have him eager to go out and resolve some of his frustrations against Takanosho. Shohozan will try to stay mobile, and keep hitting. Takanosho will try to close in and thrust his way to a win.

Kiribayama vs Tamawashi – Another first-time match, but I think there will be more Tamawashi “power thrust” on day 2. Kiribayama is smaller, lighter and may get a rough run from his Mongolian countryman who will out-class him in almost every factor.

Myogiryu vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s normal policy of “Defend and Extend” does not work very well against the improvisational combo-attack style of Myogiryu, who puts a lot of effort into disrupting his opponent’s balance. This shows in his 13-6 career lead over Takarafuji.

Kagayaki vs Onosho – I am keen to see these two square off. They have 5 wins each over their career, and it’s going to be a great clash of relentless fundamentals (Kagayaki) vs explosive speed and brutal forward power (Onosho).

Enho vs Ryuden – Enho took their only prior match, and after getting shut down and put away without his supper on day 1, Enho needs to bounce back. Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) has been very much hit or miss over the past 6 months, but he looked much more calm and focused day 1 than I have seen him in some time. Let’s hope that is a start of a trend.

Abi vs Mitakeumi – A lot of fans want Abi to bounce back and return to the san’yaku. His wild, frantic sumo may have become predictable, and that will force him to adapt. Mitakeumi holds a 5-2 career advantage, and I am interested to see if Mitakeumi is over his various injuries that have hobbled his sumo this winter.

Yutakayama vs Endo – Endo suffered a critical body position / balance mistake day 1 against Yokozuna Hakuho, and I think he will be primed to take down Yutakayama on day 2. The two have a 3-3 career record, but Endo will probably look to get that left hand shallow grip at the tachiai. If he can land it, he should control the match.

Asanoyama vs Tokushoryu – I am really glad that Tokushoryu seems to be such an easy going, good natured person, as I think he is going to be eating a lot of Osaka clay this March. But be aware, Tokushoryu won their only prior match at Aki 2017.

Takayasu vs Shodai – This is the sort of match where we typically see Shodai’s cartoon sumo come out in full force. It will be all about defending against Takayasu’s lethal left. If he can repeat Takakeisho’s shut down of the former Ozeki’s primary weapon, he may start 2-0.

Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – Not taking anything away from Okinoumi, who is a consummate professional, and always does his best, but he is 6-1 against the lone surviving Ozeki. In fact the only time that he has beaten Takakeisho was day 2 of Natsu 2018 when Takakeisho was just a wee tadpole at Maegashira 10.

Hakuho vs Daieisho – My suspicions about his left foot aside, Hakuho seems to be brutally dialed into his sumo. So I am going to look for Daieisho to lose in the first 10 seconds.

Hokutofuji vs Kakuryu – A great match to end the day. Hokutofuji struggled to get his sumo on rhythm on day 1, and that is just the kind of malfunction that Kakuryu really enjoys. If Hokutofuji is not tack-sharp, we may see him on the receiving end of thrust down or throw.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview

Hey, Shin-Ikioi… Get Ready

We are only up to day 4, and we already have some very interesting developments in the basho. Ryuden is up today vs The Boss, and while I don’t expect him to beat Hakuho, I am curious to see how much of a challenge he presents. His sumo has taken on some great techniques that I think are going to cause all kinds of havoc in his lower ranking week 2 matches.

We also seem to have a switch in Takayasu’s sumo to a more deliberate, powerful style. I suspect this was forged in endless practice sessions with Araiso Oyakata, and it seems to still be settling in. We might see some very nice results in September, and better still in November if he can stick with it, and make it work.

Tomokaze is showing fantastic sumo, and I think he has a lot of potential. As we have been communicating at Tachiai, we are in an evolving transitional period in sumo, and it’s starting to become clear who some of the stars of the next era of sumo are likely to be, and I think Tomokaze could be a star.

Last but certainly not least, even though he comes to the dohyo heavily bandaged each day, Enho is a force in sumo at this rank. The question remains open as to what happens to him once he is placed higher up the banzuke. He is so amazingly fast, and never ever gives up. The crowd loves him, and so does Team Tachiai.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Toyonoshima vs Kaisei – Kaisei is finally done with those pesky short guys and their hyper-speed sumo. That right arm looks like it is a constant bother, so we know he is competing at less than genki levels. Toyonoshima needs a win in a bad way, and he holds a 6-2 career advantage over Kaisei, though their last head to head match was 2016!

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie fight! This should be a giant pile of ultra awesome early in the top division day. I expect a lot of action, a lot of changes in who is dictating the match, and possible a few “did you see that” moves.

Chiyomaru vs Yago – While I have confidence that Chiyomaru can get his sumo in gear by the middle weekend and still end up with 7 or 8 wins, it seems something has broken lose in Yago-land, and his sumo is suffering. The guy has all of the tools needed to dominate this low in the banzuke, so I am going to assume its mostly some undisclosed injury.

Kotoyuki vs Sadanoumi – Kotoyuki went back to the shitaku-beya following his match, feeling like something was missing. Yes, he was unable to great the fine people who had made it to the venue to watch sumo. He had not been able to land his large, sweaty form in the middle of well connected ladies and high ranking corporate executives, and this left him feeling down. Today will be the day, Kotoyuki let your dreams take flight!

Kagayaki vs Nishikigi – I am sorry, but this match has me really interested. Nishikigi has been strong but slow since May, and Kagayaki was a dumpster fire for all of Natsu. Now Kagayaki seems to gotten most of his sumo back, and is ready to fight with limited gusto. I am sure Nishikigi will hug the nearest blurry object, and pin their arms to his body, then walk forward. I want to see Kagayaki do something unexpected here.

Tochiozan vs Takagenji – As Tochiozan ages out, his “hot” streaks are fewer and further between. Takagenji seems to be on a hot streak of his own right now. and his sumo looks better than I have recalled seeing it in over a year.

Shohozan vs Kotoeko – A’slappin and a’poundin and a’smackin and a’shovin. This match has all of the goodies one hopes to see on a day at “The Sumo”. Shohozan is eventually going to get it in gear. Maybe today is the day.

Daishoho vs Okinoumi – Also in the “aging out” group we find Okinoumi. This is his first ever match against the winless Daishoho. I would expect that the man who put Shimane-ken in the sumo lexicon will dominate over the hapless Mongolian.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – Career favors Onosho 3-1, but Onosho can’t keep his weight centered since his knee injury. Unless he gets his balance down, its going to be face plant after face plant. Oh, and bring back that red mawashi. Whatever kami was in that thing was a real fighter.

Tomokaze vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi has yet to take one from Tomokaze, who I am thinking will be a force for the future. Hell, Shimanoumi might be too, but he needs a bit of seasoning.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyotairyu – Oh goodie, this one is lopsided for the Kyushu Bulldozer, as Kotoshogiku leads the career series 13-1. Not that Chiyotairyu lacks any power or fighting spirit, but Kotoshogiku seems very dialed in right now.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – Bruce want monster-Ichinojo to pick up puny Takarafuji and take him home to meet the pony. (11-2 carer favors Ichinojo)

Aoiyama vs Meisei – I was not expecting Meisei to open Nagoya 0-3 (I am sure neither was he). Save for the one match with Goeido, Aoiyama has looked in form and powerful. I don’t expect Meisei to correct the slide today.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Readers of Tachiai know how I feel about Shodai. He’s nearly as annoying as Endo in the breaks he gets, but without the good looks or technical sumo chops. But he does tend to blow Mitakeumi up. I am sure this really annoys Mitakeumi, too.

Endo vs Tamawashi – I think this is the match where Tamawashi overcomes his extensive, explosive and crippling ring-rust. 0-3? Come on! Go smack Endo the Golden around, I am sure he does not want another interview this basho, so help him get a make-koshi, if you would.

Daieisho vs Tochinoshin – A sumo fan using the wonderful sumodb might assume that the schedulers had given Tochinoshin a lovely cupcake with his match today against Daieisho. But I am going to assume that Tochinoshin’s injuries are performance limiting enough that this is more or less a bit of a “decider”. If you can’t overcome Daieisho, maybe you need to go kyujo. Let’s see if Tochinoshin can rally.

Asanoyama vs Takayasu – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, than you for blessing your humble sumo fans with this match. We hope that it involves two burly men grabbing each other bodily and trying to toss the other one around. Grant us our pleas that we might see yet another Takayasu rematch, and an endless shimpan parade.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – Both of these men like to blast off the line with the subtlety of a bowling ball to the crotch. What he hell happens at a quantum level where these two guys slam into each other? I do expect that yet again, Hokutofuji will fight brilliantly, but lose. This seems to be the stage he is in right now with his sumo career.

Kakuryu vs Abi – Kakuryu is looking really good right now, and I am eager to see him play with Abi before he puts him into the clay. But you have to love Abi, the guy really gets pumped when it’s time for his match, and it’s really clear that he has a lot of fun with the sport.

Ryuden vs Hakuho – Oh good heavens! This has the potential to be quite the battle. Hakuho seems to only be about 80% genki, and that may be degraded enough that Ryuden can put him in that pain-pose that he has been using for the last dozen or so matches. Of course we have all seen Hakuho use it in the past, so I am hoping he has some special magical moves to counter it with a flourish and a thud.

Nagoya Day 2 Highlights

Some truly fantastic sumo today in Nagoya. We got to see Ryuden take on Takayasu in an endurance contests (always a questionable move), and we had the highlight bout between Hakuho and Natsu yusho winner Asanoyama.

I would not that Aminishiki, whom we fondly refer to as Uncle Sumo, may have finally damaged his fragile knee in a bout with Ryuko. He was clearly in pain following his match, and was wheeled away in that enormous wheelchair, which is sometimes a sign of big trouble. While this is terrible news for everyone, Aminishiki does own a Kabu, or sumo elder status, and when he finally decides to hang up the knee brace, he will continue to be a part of sumo for many years to come.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Yago – True to form, Kotoyuki leaps from the dohyo, but can’t quite find the momentum to get into the crowd. Yago allowed Kotoyuki to get inside at the tachiai, and really failed to generate any real offense.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima got the better of the tachiai, but after Terutsuyoshi stopped Toyonoshima’s advance, Toyonoshima tried to pull, and Terutsuyoshi made him pay. After shin-maku jitters last basho, is Terutsuyoshi back in form now? That would be wonderful.

Enho defeats Kaisei – As Kaisei discovered, the sumo mechanics are difference when you have someone small, fast and compact as Enho. Kaisei found himself a right hand reaching all the way over Enho’s back and grabbing his mawashi knot. In many cases this would have been a commandingly dominant position, but all it did was ensure that Enho had ample room to swing around and get behind Kaisei. Even banged up, Enho is quite an amazing rikishi.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – This one was all attributable to Tochiozan’s depth of experience, his ability to remain in control of his body, and wait for Chiyomaru to lose his balance. With that enormous pot-belly in front of him, it is in fact only a matter of time before Chiyomaru naturally leans forward.

Sadanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Solid sumo from both, and Kagayaki had control of the match. But as Kagayaki backed Sadanoumi to the tawara, his shoulders and hips were not square to Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi deftly used this to deliver a seldom seen kimarite, an amiuchi (fishermans throw), with Kagayaki as the catch of the day.

Kotoeko defeats Nishikigi – Simple nodowa to stand Nishikigi up at the tachiai, and a pivot to the rear for a push out. Where has the mega-genki Nishikigi of earlier this year gone?

Takagenji defeats Daishoho – The two go chest to chest at the tachiai, and this seems to play well for Takagenji. Daishoho puts up a good fight, but Takagenji has better position, better foot placement and all around better sumo.

Onosho defeats Shohozan – Greatly improved balance from Onosho today, but it was also true that Shohozan gave him a stable platform to push against. We did not see Onosho favoring his damaged right knee today, which is a hopeful sign.

Tomokaze defeats Okinoumi – To me it looks like whatever plan Okinoumi had going into the match got blown at the tachiai, and he was more or less along for the ride. Okinoumi’s attempt to throw down Tomokaze at the bales was too late, as Okinoumi’s heel was out. Tomokaze continues to execute well, and if he has the stamina to stay strong into week 2, this could be a break out basho for him.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – Chiyotairyu’s canon ball tachiai finds its mark today, and Myogiryu gets an express trip out of the west side of the dohyo. Chiyotairyu looks genki right now, and his sumo works well at this rank, but seems to falter much higher up the banzuke.

Takarafuji defeats Shimanoumi – Takarafuji’s sumo is skilled, patient and effective. Today Shimanoumi found his attacks blunted, stalemated and ultimately defeated. True to form, he waited Shimanoumi out, and when Shimanoumi charged forward, Takarafuji converted his energy into the power for a match winning uwatenage.

Kotoshogiku defeats Meisei – Meisei did masterful work to keep Kotoshogiku from squaring his hips and applying his lethal hug-n-chug attack. In fact Kotoshogiku fought most of the match one one foot, but still managed to keep a solid grip on Meisei’s mawasshi. This payed off as Meisei over-extended, which Kotoshogiku read instinctively and triggered the match winning throw.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – Today, rather than shutting down and giving up, Ichinojo rallied when Daieisho put him under pressure. Dare we hope that day 1 was just a slow start?

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Day 1 Mitakeumi looked terrible. His normal high energy, high impact sumo was not even attempted. It seems he resolved to put that behind him, and he come out strong against Endo. Mitakeumi got inside early, and never gave up the advantage.

Aoiyama defeats Tamawashi – Look out, it seems Aoiyama is genki this July. Knowing that Tamawashi is going for maximum forward pressure, Aoiyama resists, and resists until he expertly times a step to the side, sending the Sekiwake to the clay.

Goeido defeats Abi – Abi always rushes powerfully into the tachiai, and if his opponent does not meet him with full pressure to catch his opening attack, this is the result. Compliments to Goeido for this useful demonstration.

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is an absolute mess right now. We all hope that he gets his sumo together and starts dominating some of these “warm up” week 1 matches.

Ryuden defeats Takayasu – I am starting to appreciate Ryuden now. He took on a man with nearly unlimited stamina and made it work. The first match ended with both rikishi touching out at the same time, and a torinaoshi was called. Ryuden took the rematch, and picked up a fantastic win. Go get ’em Shin-Ikioi!

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – Textbook reactive sumo from Kakuryu. Hokutofuji attacks strongly from the tachiai, with a predictable focus on landing a nodowa. Kakuryu is a master at giving ground on the dohyo to his advantage, and collapses Hokutofuji’s opening gambit with skill.

Hakuho defeats Asanoyama – This match did live up to the hype, as the Natsu yushso winner gave The Boss a solid fight. But the Yokozuna’s immense experience allowed him to wear down Asanoyama, and wait for his opening. It came when Asanoyama repeatedly tried to lift Hakuho, and as a result raised himself up, giving Hakuho the correct position to unleash his much favored uwatenage. Solid effort from Asanoyama, and I think he did as well as anyone might do with their first match against the most dominant rikishi in recorded history.

Nagoya Day 2 Preview

Day Two Brings A Reckoning….

Day 2 we get Asanoyama vs Hakuho. Fans are eager for this, and with good cause. The two have never fought in a tournament, and Hakuho roughed up Asanoyama a bit in a pre-basho practice session, after Asanoyama surprised the Yokozuna by dominating their first training match.

Elsewhere, we have a lot of ring-rust to scrape off of a few Makuuchi rikishi, and a few that need to tune up their sumo. I am hoping that day 2 has less slop, and hopefully less slip, than day 1.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Yago vs Kotoyuki – Yago had a surprising amount of trouble with Kaisei on day 1, and now he’s against Mr 5 x 5, Kotoyuki. We can all be fairly sure that Kotoyuki will end up somewhere in the first 2 rows of zabutons, but how he gets there is the open question. For those of you wondering, yes, many times when he wins, he also ends up in the crowd. It’s his calling.

Toyonoshima vs Terutsuyoshi – Former Sekiwake might think he has landed in Oz, facing two Pixies back to back. But unlike his history with Enho, Terutsuyoshi has never taken a match from Toyonoshima.

Kaisei vs Enho – An injured Enho vs over 400 pounds of hairy Brazilian. I know the fans love this sort of thing, but I just want Enho to emerge in one piece. Truth be told, big men like Kaisei are especially susceptible to Enho’s speed and maneuver based attacks. Kaisei is literally twice Enho’s size. -lksumo

Tochiozan vs Chiyomaru – I am sure that Tochiozan is very disappointed in his day 1 display or ring rust, but he can make up for it with a strong showing against the bulbous Chiyomaru on day 2. ‘Maru has only beaten him once: Hatsu 2018. Chiyomaru will probably go for a pull down, and as long as Tochiozan can keep his feet, he should prevail.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Sadanoumi also looked especially rusty day 1, while Kagayaki surprised me with his reactions, his confidence and his ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. After a lackluster Natsu performance, I am hoping that Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals is back in session.

Kotoeko vs Nishikigi – First ever match between these two, and I think we are going to see Kotoeko try to exploit the fact that Nishikigi’s eyesight is terrible. With Kotoeko’s maneuverability, I would guess we will see him try to stay way from Nishikigi’s front quarter.

Takagenji vs Daishoho – These two have a long running rivalry in the lower ranks, favoring Takagenji. Takagenji managed to secure a very plum rank for his first placement in the top division. Even if he should manage a mild losing record, his chances of being returned to Juryo are quite slim. But today we are going to see these two fight it out, and they typically go at it at close range.

Onosho vs Shohozan – The more times I re-watch Onosho’s day 1 match, the more sloppy it looks to me. Going against Shohozan, Onosho’s defensive footwork will be crucial to him staying competitive in this match.

Okinoumi vs Tomokaze – An odd fact that may be a bit unsettling to long-time sumo fans, but Tomokaze is now Oguruma’s top ranked rikishi. He is drawing Okinoumi early in the basho, while the older veteran rikishi still has some stamina, so this could be a fairly good match. This is their first ever bout.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu knows this match is all about him keeping his feet when Chiyotairyu’s canon ball tachiai comes roaring through. Myogiryu has won the last 2 of their bouts, so he should be able to absorb the blast if he’s on his sumo.

Shimanoumi vs Takarafuji – Day 1, Shimanoumi completely fell apart at the moment of tachiai. While the result was rather weak, Takarafuji’s technical sumo will require Shimanoumi to execute strongly and with confidence if he hopes to get his first win.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – Meisei showed a lot of ring rust day 1, but his lot is no easier day 2, where he faces the veteran Kotoshogiku, who is not yet worn down by daily matches. It will be Kotoshogiku going for the mawashi early, and engaging the hug-n-chug.

Ichinojo vs Daieisho – Ichinojo’s day 1 match was a clear cut disappointment. Is he back to being injured, or did he just go soft when he realized he did not have his body in position to attack? Daieisho will be going for center-mass at the tachiai, but Ichinojo presents quite a lot of mass to effect.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – Leading the day 1 “Derp Sumo” roster would be Mitakeumi, who looked completely distracted in his first loss. Endo will once again have a plan, and it will be really good. Mitakeumi, if he’s in form, can power through most of Endo’s sumo. I am eager to see if Mitakeumi’s day 1 flop has motivated him to come out strong. The two have split their previous 8 bouts. -lksumo

Aoiyama vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi lost traction day 1 on his way to an opening loss. Some of the more energetic footwork may need to be moderated on the slick Nagoya dohyo. I think Aoiyama won’t suffer that problem much, as his sumo usually relies on being enormous, immobile and delivering brutal round-house blows. This pair has met 11 times dating back to 2011, with Aoiyama holding a narrow 6-5 edge, including a victory in May that broke a string of 4 defeats. -lksumo

Goeido vs Abi – As a Komusubi, Abi is going to have a rough first week. Some experts believe that the ancient Jomon people first dug latrines at the edge of their villages, and bestowed the title “Komusubi” on the men tasked to clean them out. In spite of his day 1 loss, Goeido looked fairly good.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin needs to keep Shodai immobilized. Once that guy starts moving around the dohyo, all manner of chaotic things tend to happen to his opponents. I am sure Shodai took a good look at the Ozeki’s day 1 loss, and will possibly try some variation of Endo’s insightful opening mae-mitsu gambit. Like Endo, Shodai has been a tough matchup for the Ozeki, winning half of their dozen previous bouts, including 4 of the last 5. -lksumo

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Long time fans of Takayasu, myself included, are waiting for a sign that his sumo is headed to the next level. It may never come, but if it does, I think it will take the form of him going 7-0 in the first week. Ryuden comes in with a 2-1 career advantage, and some of his best sumo to date. Fun fact: the first of their 3 career meetings took place exactly 10 years ago, at Nagoya 2009, in low Makushita. -lksumo

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji specializes in making his opponents back up. Kakuryu specializes in making his opponents over-commit. What the hell is going to happen here? I think whatever it is, it will be quick. The Yokozuna needs to resist the temptation to pull if he does not want to open Nagoya 1-1. Hokutofuji does have one kinboshi to show for their 4 prior meetings. -lksumo

Asanoyama vs Hakuho – Asanoyama showed day 1 that he is not intimidated to have a big match. But now it’s time to see if Hakuho did more to his head than just give Asanoyama a concussion. The real risk here is injury to Hakuho, as his ego is likely to demand that he not just beat Asanoyama, but possibly toss in some light humiliation. While such sumo accessories may have been easy to execute in his younger days, Hakuho may not appreciate Asanoyama’s stability and strength, as this is their first actual honbasho match.