Bruce’s Commentary – Kyushu Day 8 and Beyond

Bruce-Kokugikan

Thanks to Andy and Josh who managed the live blog while I succumbed to some nasty chest cold. Thought I am still far from genki, it’s worth the time to comment on the state of sumo in the middle of this highly transformative tournament in Kyushu. I say transformative because if we blur our eyes just a bit, we can see the future from here. The Yokozuna we love are not in the picture, and there is a crop of fiery young talent spanking the veteran headliners. The field is very flat, and there is a large scrum that can still possibly lay claim to the yusho by the middle of the tournament.

As fans, we have gotten conditioned by a handful of hyper-dominant rikishi winning the cup every single time. If it was not Hakuho, it was Harumafuji. Maybe once in a great while it would be Kakuryu, but everyone else scrapped for enough wins to piece together a kachi-koshi, and maybe a special prize here and there, and everyone got by. But, like all dynasties throughout history, as the central powers start to fade, things change rapidly as the strong and the prepared grab for leadership.

Prior to day 9, one lone rikishi holds a one-loss record. There are six (6!) rikishi who follow at two losses, and seven (7!) who follow them at three losses. As of today, any of them could lift the cup on day 15. I frequently joke about a no-holds barred barnyard brawl to finish a basho, but there is a chance we could get there this time.  While it seems to lower the level of broad interest in sumo (our site metrics bear this out), the No-kozuna tournaments are hell on wheels for flat out competition. For hard core fans, you come in to each day wondering which mighty hero is going to eat clay today.

Though Takakeisho holds the lead, it is very tough for young rikishi to stay dominant into week 2. Endurance and mental toughness are the key here. Takakeisho is untested in mental toughness, and the worries about “not blowing it” eat a bit more of your fighting spirit each day. This is where the Ozeki just one win behind him come into their own. They have had to endure the tough three-tournament process to get to their rank, and that required both endurance and mental focus that is not necessarily part of the make-up of the lower ranks. As predicted, the scheduling team saw that Takakeisho was on a hot streak, and held some of his Ozeki matches for week 2. The job of the schedulers is to have someone, anyone, put dirt on Takakeisho by day 12, setting up a battle royale on the final weekend for the hardware.

The picture is becoming more cloudy for the surviving Yokozuna. We know Hakuho intends to nurse himself along until late 2020, and we think he will get there unless the YDC and the NSK say otherwise. Kakuryu has been plagued with a miserable set of injuries since shortly after his elevation to Yokozuna. He has manfully been able to steel himself against the pain and limitations to continue to rack yushos, and his sumo is quite interesting and unique. We have documented the daylights out of Kisenosato, but with 9 kyujo out of the last 10 tournaments, I think his time to bow out is soon. Yes, in spite of the scandal that saw him leave sumo, I think from a competition standpoint we all miss Harumafuji. Like some epic World War 1 battleship, he would take damage again and again, and still be ready to fight and win.

But keep in mind, once these epic rikishi were young men, fighting their way up the ranks, looking to make a name for themselves. Looking through who is on the leaderboard going into day 9, there are a host of young faces, any of which could emerge on day 15 as the victor. Thought some top names are benched this tournament, the action is intense, the young stars are shining bright, and the future of sumo looks really fun.

Kyushu Day 5 Commentary

Kisenosato-down

This post supersedes our normal preview, as lksumo has already knocked the upper matches out of the park. Instead, a few words on the state of sumo at the end of Kyushu’s first act. Act 1 is all about scrubbing the ring-rust from the contestants, and finding out who is hot, and who is not.

First and foremost the cloud hanging over Kyushu now is the depth of trouble that perpetually injured Yokozuna Kisenosato has placed himself. He lost his first 4 matches, all of which were supposed to be more or less warm ups for the main action in week 2. Instead Kisenosato found himself unable to maintain balance, or generate forward offensive pressure. Frankly he was embarrassing himself, and the same foolish pride that kept him from seeking surgery on his pectoral muscle may have drove him to mount the dohyo each day believing “this time it will be different”.

Kisenosato has devoted his entire life to sumo, it’s his entire world. The shame of 8 straight kyujo’s must have hardened his resolve to “gamberize” and tough it out. But now he has had to withdraw in 9 of the past 10 tournaments.

For the NSK, they have a large and unfortunate problem, as Kisenosato had been given firm guidance not to enter a basho just to withdraw before the end. In doing so again he has to some extent embarrassed the sumo association leadership. What do they do with the only Japanese Yokozuna? His retirement would diminish the stature of the sport for a short time in the eyes of the Japanese public, some of whom bristle at the dominance of foreign athletes at what they see as Japanese cultural property.

Tachiai has been covering the Kisenosato problem for the last two years, and there is a good chance the entire situation is now drawing towards its inevitable conclusion – which is a dignified transition for Kisenosato into life as a member in good standing of the sumo association, and his withdrawal from any further competition.

Matches Worth A Look on Day 5

Meisei vs Endo – Meisei is hell on wheels right now, and he seems to be fighting above his banzuke rank. Endo, on the other hand, continues to be day-by-day, though his day 4 match was solid sumo. They split their two prior matches, so I think it comes down to who gets inside at the tachiai, and today I think that’s going to be Meisei.

Onosho vs Okinoumi – Both come in with a 3-1 record, both seem to be dialed into their sumo early. If the match lasts longer than 12 seconds, it favors Okinoumi, who seems to take a more strategic approach to his matches. Onosho tends to open strong and try to blaze his opponents into defeat. Plus, I think Onosho is still only 80%.

Ikioi vs Sadanoumi – Ikioi has been fighting hurt since Osaka, and going against a rikishi who is on a hot streak, as Sadanoumi is, can only spell an uphill fight. Ikioi does not give up, and I know he will give battle with everything he can muster.

Abi vs Kotoshogiku – Great contrast of styles in this match. Abi will want to keep distance and attack with his superior reach, and Kotoshogiku will do anything he can to close the gap and go chest to chest. Double amazing points if Abi decides to unleash some mawashi techniques and beats the Kyushu Bulldozer at his own sumo.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – If Chiyotairyu can dictate the match mechanics straight from the tachiai, he has more than enough sumo to dispatch Kagayaki, mastery of fundamentals or not. Kagayaki will need to stay mobile, keep his balance under control, and wait for the burly Chiyotairyu to expend his initial burst of energy.

Takanoiwa vs Yoshikaze – Takanoiwa is still injured, and won’t be doing his normal offense heavy sumo. Yoshikaze will try to get inside and apply maximum pressure up and forward within the first step. Both men can fight with frantic energy, so this may devolve into a slapping battle like two tabbies jacked up on weapons grade catnip.

Shodai vs Asanoyama – This could be a great great match, as both are fairly evenly matched in size, speed and technique. In addition this is their first ever match, so each may surprise the other.

Kyushu Day 3 Preview

Kyushu Day 3 Banner

The top story in our minds is the evident weakness in Kisenosato. His day 1 loss was regrettable, but to some extent plausible as Takakeisho is a hard-charging young man who is primed for higher ranks. His day 2 loss and resulting kinboshi is rightfully cause for concerns among fans. Kisenosato has frequently suffered from performance problems in high stakes / high stress situations, and has jokingly been called a “Chokozuna” more than once. Given his age, his injury, and his record setting string if kyujo, the “Great Pumpkin” might be getting into a spot where he is left with few options save a trip to the barber.

Kaisei has returned from kyujo, and with all rikishi injuries, the reporting around what was wrong with him, and what state he is in, is awfully thin. We know the pressure is on for him to produce at least a few wins to help stave off a deep make-koshi and a heavy demotion. Balancing between injury recovery and rank is one of the brutal truths surrounding sumo: it is a zero-sum game where only the winners can retain rank.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Arawashi vs Chiyomaru – Both rikishi are eager for their first wins, and both are clearly struggling this basho. Both of them are staring at a return to Juryo approaching like a Shinkansen. For all of the glories of being a sumo fan, it’s always tough to see two capable rikishi get in this much trouble so early in a basho.

Onosho vs Takanosho – Onosho has opened Kyushu strong, and I do think that he may have put on some additional mass as well. A healthy and genki Onosho is under-ranked at Maegashira 13, and I think if he finishes week 1 in good shape he will be in the rotation to face off against higher ranks.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Everyone hopes that this basho, Endo will get his body, his sumo and his mind together. Endo is always hoped to be a great rikishi “real soon now”, but always comes up short for a parade of reasons. Aoiyama is winless thus far, and seems to be continuing the struggles he faced at Aki. Both are capable when they are on their sumo, which may not be day 3.

Chiyonokuni vs Okinoumi – An evenly balanced match between Chiyonokuni’s raw, frantic battle style and Okinoumi’s more measured and balanced approach. As fans of Chiyonokuni are aware, his frantic sumo tends to include a lot of mistakes and missteps, and any skilled opponent need only wait for him to execute something in a sloppy or careless manner to find their opening for a winning move.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama is suffering a cold start to Kyushu, which seems to be an extension of his struggles at Aki. It is not uncommon for a rikishi to suffer for several basho following a brutal ride through the top end of the Maegashira ranks, and this may be the case with Yutakayama. Sadanoumi, one the other hand, has started strong and seems to be on his sumo.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Hometown boy Kotoshogiku really does much better at Kyushu. He seems to become energized by the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the crowd. He has never lost to Daieisho, and I don’t expect he will start today.

Abi vs Shohozan – Oh fun – the street brawler “Big Guns” Shohozan will have to puzzle through Abi’s crazy long reach to remain unbeaten. Fans around the world are waiting for Abi to decide that the double arm shoulder thrusting approach needs a rest, and to try something more.

Takanoiwa vs Kagayaki – Takanoiwa is probably eager to pick up his first win, but fans should keep in mind he sat out jungyo with injuries, and is unlikely to be 100%. Add to that the stress of the Harmafuji lawsuit debacle, the retirement of his Oyakata, changing stables and all of the stress that came with that, and you have a recipe for a solid rikishi underperforming. He holds a 7-5 career advantage over Kagayaki, but Mr Fundamentals may hold the edge on day 3.

Chiyotairyu vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama took white stars from both Takanoiwa and Kagayaki, but now faces a bigger, rounder challenge. Chiyotairyu’s sumo is fairly one dimensional, and Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will work hard from the tachiai to keep Shodai reacting. If he gives the man in blue a chance to set up any offense, it could get tough for the Berserker in a hurry. So for Shodai, he needs to use his excellent balance and stability to endure Yoshikaze’s opening gambit, and rally to have a chance to win.

Takakeisho vs Ryuden – I am going to guess with a win over the Yokozuna and the top ranked Ozeki, the schedulers are going to save Takakeisho’s remaining Ozeki bouts for later in the basho. The young man could be on a hot streak, and he may be useful in creating drama for act 3 if he keeps winning. Today his opponent is Ryuden, who continues to be inconsistent, but could plausibly win against Takakeisho.

Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo, what is it going to take? So much potential, but something in your mind seems to impede your sumo. You have a lot of fans who are behind you, but worry when we see you struggle with the easy stuff. Today is a fairly even match against his countryman Tamawashi. Fast and brutal, Tamawashi may struggle with Ichinojo’s scale busting mass, but I anticipate that Tamawashi will attack with force, and likely prevail.

Mitakeumi vs Nishikigi – Ever have a business trip to some place you always wanted to see, like maybe Thailand. But the flight breaks down, your luggage gets lost and sold on the black market, and the food gives you horrific digestive problems. But you get to see amazing sights and meet truly wonderful and unique people in a whirlwind adventure you will never forget, and probably never attempt again. This is Nishikigi’s magical holiday in the joi-jin.

Kaisei vs Takayasu – Welcome back Kaisei! Leg still hurt? Good, we would like you to work out with Mr Takayasu-zeki today. Both of you are big, hairy beasts so we decided it would be good for you to share hobby time together.

Goeido vs Tochiozan – Now Tochiozan has taken both Sekiwake scalps, the schedulers try him against the top-ranked Ozeki. Goeido’s day 2 match saw him fall prey to the same offensive strategy that Takakeisho used against Kisenosato, so one has to wonder if Goeido has lost the plot.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – A surprisingly interesting and balanced match. Tochinoshin does not yet look to be on his sumo, and that day 1 loss seems to be occupying his mind. Myogiryu is coming off of a Kisenosato supplied kinboshi, and probably feels like he can overcome the “lift and shift” of Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin holds a 11-7 lead in a surprisingly even career record.

Kisenosato vs Hokutofuji – Kisenosato seems to be on a path to turn each of his matches into a high-drama nail biter. Day 3 is no better as he faces Hokutofuji, who has no wins (same as the Yokozuna), but has been fighting well. Does Kisenosato take one step closer to the barber in the final match of the day?

Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

Kyushu Day 1
Let’s Get Started! – Photo From The Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Welcome to our Kyushu highlights, dear readers! Team Tachiai look at any basho as a series of three acts, each with its own character and goals. Act 1 – get started, remove the ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. Act 2 – Narrow the field and find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and start sorting the survivors from the damned. Act 3 – Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we hand someone the Emperor’s Cup.

Day 1 featured heaps of ring-rust, and it seems a lot of rikishi arrived at Kyushu in somewhat worn condition after the fall jungyo tour. In addition, many are still nursing injuries large and small from the fight-club that was Aki 2018. While day 1 is frequently rusty and a bit off the typical basho pace, there was some excellent sumo on display in the small and rather loud Kyushu arena.

Highlight Matches

Yago defeats Chiyomaru – As predicted, a lot of huffing and puffing, and it was clear that Chiyomaru lost stamina early. Getting that much mass in motion takes an enormous amount of energy, and it was clearly draining him. But a lot of credit goes to Yago who stood up to that much oshi and carried the match. Solid technique from an up and coming young man we are likely to see more of in 2019.

Onosho defeats Endo – They made a good fight out of it, and Endo put a lot of pressure into his attacks, but Onosho’s low center of gravity and impressive balance were the deciding factors. I would guess that at least for now, Onosho’s knees are good enough for some first class sumo. I will be interested to see how long into the basho his health carries him.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – When the match evolved into a mawashi fight, it was clear that Aoiyama was in trouble. Okinoumi took charge and waltzed him over the tawara without too much drama. Aoiyama is still working to recover from injuries earlier in the year, and did not look ready to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – A brutal tachiai that stood both men up, and Yutakayama quickly moved to get an inside position. Chiyonokuni’s lighting reflexes saved the match for him, as he took advantage of Yutakayama’s hold of his right arm and used Yutakayama’s grip to move him back. Yutakayama’s giant head was too tempting a target, and Chiyonokuni grabbed hold, hooked his right hand into his opponents mawashi, turning and pushing Yutakayama out. Excellent work from Chiyonokuni.

Sadanoumi defeats Daieisho – Notable in that the kimarite listed is the seldom seen okurihikiotoshi, but to my eyes it was more of a slippiotoshi.

Shohozan defeats Ikioi – After a Shohozan matta, the real fight was over in a moment, as Ikioi has his balance too far forward and Shohozan lets Ikioi’s inertia finish the job.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – The double-arm thrust at the tachiai was defeated through the master of low drama fundamentals. Kagayaki focuses on getting his hands on Abi’s elbows, and breaks the thrusting attack. Of course when this happens, Abi is quite far forward and not too difficult to route towards the nearest shimpan.

Asanoyama defeats Takanoiwa – A fine yotzu / mawashi battle from these two, and Asanoyama seems to be in the drivers seat. Asanoyama’s performance in this match is an example of why I think he has the potential for higher rank. He’s fast, decisive and controls the much more experienced Takanoiwa.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – Yoshikaze absorbed the cannon-ball tachiai and got inside of Chiyotairyu, who soon found himself on the receiving end of Yoshikaze’s blistering attacks. Chiyotairyu spent the rest of the match trying to get on an offensive footing, but always a half step behind local man Yoshikaze. A solid win against a heavier and more powerful opponent.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Ryuden succeeds in exploiting Shodai’s weak tachiai, but gives up the morozashi (double inside grip) in the process. Shodai then calls the tune and forces Ryuden to dance. Shodai keeps his hips low, and his shoulders below Ryuden’s – really showing excellent form. Ryuden managed to rally, but it only served to put him off balance and set up Shodai’s win. Points to Ryuden for his tenacious grip on Shodai’s belt as he was receiving the shitatenage. Another local favorite racks up a win.

Ichinojo defeats Nishikigi – You have to admire Nishikigi, promoted higher and faster than he should be, he brings as much sumo power as he can muster against one of the largest men in sumo. Ichinojo lets Nishikigi push him around until his heels touch the bales, and rather than give up and go limp, Ichinojo defies his normal style and rallies. Impressively Nishikigi is able to halt Ichinojo’s advance for a time, but Ichinojo takes his time and overpowers his opponent for the win.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – The man who hopes to be Ozeki had his sumo thoroughly dismantled by the 31 year old veteran Tochiozan. Followers of Tochiozan have seen him absorb a nodowa neck attack well before, and he simply shrugs off Mitakeumi’s attempt to raise him up. Mitakeumi’s fans had hoped he would have re-grouped following Aki, but today’s match did not give them hope.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin knew he had made a mistake in the first second, as Tamawashi’s speed was too much for the Ozeki to overcome. Always looking to land his left hand on the mawashi, Tochinoshin’s plan was an invitation for Tamawashi to launch hard inside and apply his considerable pushing force center-mass against the Ozeki. The look of frustration on Tochinoshin’s face told the story as he absorbs a day 1 loss. Note to rikishi who want to follow the oshi-style: this match in slow motion is a fabulous example of the rewards of driving inside at all costs, and focusing on center-mass (rather than head or neck). There was no way to stop Tamawashi.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had no means to stop Takayasu’s powerful, straight ahead sumo today. Myogiryu did manage to get inside at the tachiai, but by then they were chest to chest, and Takayasu’s considerable mass was pressing forward without resistance.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji clearly knew that Goeido was going to be fast, too fast off the line, and his tightly wound anticipation made him jump early for a matta, and likely blew his mental prep for this match. Credit to Hokutofuji, he gave the Ozeki a solid fight. If I had to guess, Goeido was not quite sure what to do with the guy after the matta, and he may have suspected that Hokutofuji was likely to try a henka. The oshi match was always going to favor Goeido, but Hokutofuji showed some solid technique, and won approval from the fans for his fighting spirit. This is an opponent Hokutofuji must learn to overcome if he aims for higher ranks.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – One thing I love about Takakeisho, he is not intimidated by any opponent. He exudes an almost Hakuho level of confidence, and seems ready to take the fight to everyone. Kisenosato’s big mistake in this match was letting Takakeisho dictate the style of the match, and letting him set up the “Wave Action” attack. At that point, the Yokozuna was in trouble and he knew it. Stumped for what to do, Kisenosato tried to overcome Takakeisho’s attack on Takakeisho’s terms. A few waves later, the Yokozuna is too far forward and is slapped to the clay. Not a good match for Kisenosato, but textbook Takakeisho sumo.

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakeisho

Hello dear readers, and welcome to the final basho of 2018 (also the final Kyushu basho of the Heisei era)! Where the Aki basho was a brutal pounding applied by the Yokozuna and Ozeki, this basho features two Yokozuna sidelined prior to day 1. Where the upper Maegashira bore the brunt of that pounding during Aki, Kyushu may be a bit more survivable for rikishi who have been ranked in the upper slots.

I must also apologize for the absence of news and commentary in the run up to the opening day. My personal and professional life kept me from writing, and as a result there were many interesting topics left undiscussed. With luck they will get raised on their own during the basho, and will make fine fodder for our excellent readership.

At the head of that list is the re-assignment of several top division rikishi from the now closed Takonohana-beya to Chiganoura. The chaos and distraction of this move may impact Takakeisho, Takanoiwa and other former Takanohana rikishi down the banzuke. Takakeisho turned in a solid 9-6 performance at Aki, and is back at his highest ever Komusubi 1e rank. Takanoiwa was kyujo for the fall jungyo tour, and may be in difficult shape.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Yago vs Chiyomaru – Due to Kaisei’s kyujo, the banzuke is unbalanced from day 1. As a result, Yago gets his chance to visit Makuuchi. With any luck NHK will show this match, as Yago is an impressive young man with a likely debut in Makuuchi in 2019. Chiyomaru managed to stay in Makuuchi through some excellent banzuke luck and ranking chaos as a result of the bloodbath that was Aki. This is only Yago’s tenth basho, seven of which he has been ranked in Juryo. He’s no small fellow, but with the enormous Chiyomaru, I am looking for a great deal of huffing and puffing before it’s all done.

Meisei vs Daishomaru – The first ever match between these two. With Meisei freshly back from his one basho return to Juryo, he’s probably the favourite, as he was looking quite genki during Aki while Daishomaru is looking to recover from an ugly 5-10 Aki basho record.

Chiyoshoma vs Takanosho – Both rikishi came away from Aki with 8-7 kachi-koshi, but it was clear that Chiyoshoma was still nursing injuries on the final day. He has beaten Takanosho twice in their three-match history, but I would give Takanosho the edge on day 1.

Onosho vs Endo – What are these two doing down here? Never mind, both are solid rikishi who have had problems this year. Onosho with a knee injury followed by surgery, and Endo undergoing more extensive repair on his undercarriage. Onosho has yet to beat Endo, and I would guess most of that is mental. Both are looking to bounce back from make-koshi in September.

Chiyonokuni vs Yutakayama – In today’s demolition derby, two powerful rikishi who could not buy a win at Aki. Yutakayama was kyujo for a few days, and Chiyonokuni seemed unable to finish most of his opponents. They are more or less equal (1-2) in their career matches, but I would give the edge to Yutakayama. I am assuming he has healed up, and needs to get back on his sumo. For Chiyonokuni, the inability to finish his opponents is all about how is mind is working.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Veteran battle ahoy! As part of the Aki Takarafuji cheer squad over on the West side, I say the guy needs to turn his sumo around. Ex-Ozeki Kotoshogiku continues his slow fade into the sunset, but it’s still nice to see him come out on the dohyo and play bulldozer for a few seconds of high-intensity hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku leads the career series 13-8.

Ikioi vs Shohozan – Another pair of fierce competitors who took a beating in September. Ikioi rocketed up the banzuke for Aki based on a well-executed over-performance in Nagoya, and is returning to the middle reaches with equal velocity. Shohozan found his street-brawler technique underperforming against the San’yaku, and is back to battling with the rest of the scrappers. Both men are fast, strong and at times brutal. This is likely a match that will feature some fierce pushing and slapping.

Abi vs Kagayaki – Probably the highlight match of the first half, sadly it will likely happen before the NHK live stream picks up. Rumor has it that Abi-zumo has picked up a few new moves, and we are eager to see them on display. Kagayaki never fights with flair, but rather uses fundamentals to win in fairly unsurprising matches. Can you say stylistic clash?

Takanoiwa vs Asanoyama – Time to see if Takanoiwa actually is hurt, as he faces off against perpetual optimist and steadily improving Maegashira Asanoyama. A healthy Takanoiwa should prevail, but there is that injury question again. This is their first ever match.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai against Yoshikaze’s face and subsequent frantic sumo attacks. Chiyotairyu has about two seconds to get Yoshikaze contained or off balance before The Berserker unleashes doom.

Shodai vs Ryuden – I want to see Shodai employ that improved tachiai he showed us a couple of times in September. Ryuden has continued to improve, but many fans will be looking for some manner of “ugly matta” from this guy who seems prone to them. Shodai has an uncanny knack to survive these kinds of matches, at times looking out of control but always losing last.

Nishikigi vs Ichinojo – Welcome to the joi-jin, Nishikigi! Here, we have a nice boulder for you to play with. For Nishikigi’s sake, I hope Ichinojo is in some kind of Mongolian hibernation mode. [Seems likely. –PinkMawashi]

Mitakeumi vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan has gotten some hype this year that the 31 year old veteran might make one last push for higher rank. He clearly has solid technique, but has a difficult time consistantly putting together a string of winning tournaments. Mitakeumi needs to rebuild his Ozeki bid, and will be looking to expand his 6-1 career lead over Tochiozan day 1.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – I am hoping Tochinoshin is healthy and ready to go. If he is back on top of his sumo, we should see him make short work of Tamawashi. Tamawashi, meanwhile, will try to stay mobile and keep the Ozeki away from a mawashi grip.

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Some fans are in favor of a Takayasu yusho bid for Kyushu. He starts against veteran Myogiryu, who has an 11-4 career advantage over the Ozeki. It’s been some time since the two have squared off, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Myogiryu can pick up an early win against the Ozeki. They last fought in September of 2016 when Takayasu was Sekiwake 1e.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – With two of the Yokozuna in dry-dock, Goeido has an excellent shot at his second yusho. Upstart Hokutofuji seems to have gotten his body healed, his sumo together and is pushing for higher rank. Hokutofuji is quite a bit slower than Goeido, who tends to have you defeated before you even know the match has started. This will likely be a good test for Hokutofuji, but I predict Goeido will expand his 3-1 career lead.

Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – The final match of the day is a replay of Aki day 2, when Takakeisho threw the kitchen sink at Kisenosato, and kept the Yokozuna quite busy. In the end Kisenosato was able to restrain, contain and eliminate the bowling ball with legs, after Takakeisho make the mistake of focusing his attacks primarily against Kisenosato’s injured left chest. Hopefully today he will focus his powerful thrusts center-mass, and unleash his “wave action tsuppari” with maximum effect.