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2014 Aki Pre-basho Report (Page 2)

If there is one Japanese rikishi who can shore up the banzuke, it's Komusubi Chiyotairyu who checks into the West slot. Chiyotairyu knew his promotion to the sanyaku was a fluke and he used those exact words during his press conference. Once again, when you can't even find legit dudes to fill sanyaku slots, that means something. Everyone knows I had a huge mancrush on Chiyotairyu until he started going for pull techniques in over fiddy percent of his bouts. He did show some flash at the end of the Nagoya basho, and if he can just force himself to go straight forward, he could actually become a legitimate Ozeki. I don't think he has it in himself mentally to do it, but physically he's got the tools.

I also read a keiko report where he actually fared well against Hakuho, and it makes sense. No one is going to fare well against the Yokozuna at the belt, but Chiyotairyu actually has enough power to move Hakuho around with his thrusting attack. The last time I think Hakuho was legitimately beaten came at the hands of Myogiryu well over a year ago. Myogiryu won the bout by timing a perfect, dual thrust into the Yokozuna's mid section standing him upright and throwing him off balance just enough to where Myogiryu scored the upset. Then, if you go way back to when Kisenosato stopped Hakuho's run at 63, it was similar sumo. Kisenosato connected on some upward motion thrusts into Hakuho's torso getting him off balance enough to where Kisenosato was able to shove him outta the ring altogether. I'm not saying that's going to happen this basho; what I am saying is Chiyotairyu is the lone guy on this banzuke who can beat Hakuho without moving laterally and without fighting at the belt. I wouldn't be surprised if Chiyotairyu wins eight. I wouldn't bet on it because I think he'll fold mentally like a house of cards built with a cheap deck, but if he decided to do forward moving sumo consistently, he can easily win eight. My prediction is that he finishes with just five wins.

In the East is Jokoryu, another first time Komusubi, and while I like this dude, he's going to get his ass handed to him from day 1. Jokoryu is a belt fighter, but the problem is that he doesn't have the experience or the power to best these guys from the mawashi. He may be lucky to win four this tournament.

Terunofuji is the top Maegashira rikishi in rank and in ability. This guy is a total blob, and it's so hard to move him in any direction. How many bouts have we seen where he's given up moro-zashi and still easily won? You just can't move him. The Yokozuna should have fun with him and easily dispatch him although Harumafuji and Kakuryu prolly won't try doing it chest to chest, but the other guys on the banzuke are going to have their hands full with Terunofuji. He's already better than the four sanyaku rikishi, and he can crush the three Ozeki as well. The question now is will he be given the green light in all of his bouts? I suspect not. His stable master, the former Yokozuna Asahifuji, understands the politics involved in sumo right now, so I expect Terunofuji to be reined in a bit, but don't be surprised if he gets his eight.

I've already talked at length about Endoh to the West in the M1 slot, but one more topic before we move on...why wasn't he chosen as a Komusubi over Chiyotairyu? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when that was discussed, but I think it came down to a few points. 1) Chiyotairyu has actually shown success fighting among the jo'i including wins over Yokozuna legit or not. 2) He has the body to fight this high on the banzuke whereas Endoh does not. 3) Endoh has zero signature wins in the division that he earned on his own. It's one thig to create the headlines that Endoh is a new Komusubi, but it's quite another to back that up in the ring with as few deferred bouts as possible. With the new Ozeki in Goeido and Hakuho's quest for 31, there are enough headlines where they didn't need to force Endoh into an unnecessary spotlight. Smart move too.

M2 Takayasu's run last basho will be put into better perspective this basho among the jo'i. Six wins is actually a good basho for him at this level. Counterpart Toyonoshima has the skills to beat the three Ozeki and most of the sanyaku, but that's about it. I don't think he goes full bore though against everyone, so look for him to flounder around with just 4 - 5 wins in the end.

M3 Aoiyama has been one of the better rank and file rikishi the last few basho, but his power and potential is hampered by bad knees. Look for Aoiyama to be a presence among the jo'i, and he can easily win eight from this spot and shoot back into the sanyaku. Counterpart Yoshikaze is the 16th man on the banzuke meaning he's the jo'i caboose, so look for a serious train wreck in terms of wins for him this basho.

M4 Takarafuji is kinda outta harms way, but he's still a non-factor. His sidekick to the West, Osunaarashi, is primed to have a huge basho. He's just out of reach from a tough schedule, and he's easily the best rikishi compared to anyone ranked below him. With the majority of his opponents coming from the ranks beneath him, I see Osunaarashi winning double digit bouts and getting a sniff of the leaderboard in week 2.

I really don't see a compelling rikishi until you get all the way down to M8 where former Sekiwake Tochiohzan lands after withdrawing from the Nagoya basho. If Tochiohzan is completely healthy, he just may threaten for the yusho from the hiramaku, but I haven't read any reports on his health. I'm on record having said quite recently that I think Tochiohzan is the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke, and when healthy, I still think that holds true. We will find out early on in what condition he's in. If he's 100%, I see him winning 12. I'm really interested to see what counterpart Arawashi does. Arawashi was one of my favorite rikishi to watch last basho, and it looked as if he discovered a finesse style of belt sumo that really worked for him. Think Sadanoumi only instead of always going for the soto-gake, he's using his speed to get the inside position with his legs in order to set up the throw or quick force-out. I think he sees some success again here in Aki, and I'll go out on a limb and predict eight wins.

Our lone rookie is M10 Ichinojo, who is the real thing. Like Terunofuji, this guy is a total blob and immovable on the dohyo. Oh, and like Terunofuji, he's yet another Mongolian (sigh). We posted a keiko report that had Hakuho and Kakuryu visiting Ichinojo for de-geiko and roughing him up to an 0-20 record. After the keiko session, Hakuho said, "Keiko isn't like the hon-basho." I totally agree because at the hon-basho, the Yokozuna have shown that they're perfectly willing to let up and give the other guy the win. Because Ichinojo's a foreigner, he won't quite get the gifts that the Japanese rikishi receive, but this guy dunt need 'em. I see him winning at least ten and taking home the Kantosho.

I really don't have any other comments on the rest of the banzuke, so let's conclude here. As I've implied, I don't think it's going to be a great basho for the Japanese rikishi, and after gifting Goeido the Ozeki rank, it's worth taking a basho off and just letting things play out according to ability. I think the yusho and special prizes will be dominated by the foreign rikishi with Tochiohzan providing the only hope for Japan to stay in the yusho race and possibly take home a special prize. Here are my predictions:

Yusho: Hakuho (13-2)
Shukunsho: Chiyotairyu
Kantosho: Ichinojo, Osunaarashi
Ginosho: Tochiohzan

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