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2013 Haru Post-basho Report   |   Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
Let's begin our review of the Haru basho with a discussion of the sansho, the three special prizes the Sumo Association can award at a tournament known as the Kantosho (fighting spirit), the Shukunsho (outstanding performance), and the Ginosho (technical merit). The Kantosho is usually awarded to the rikishi with the best record outside of the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks. A rookie who posts double-digit wins in his debut basho is also a likely Kantosho candidate. The Shukunsho is awarded to a rikishi or multiple rikishi who defeat a Yokozuna at a hon-basho and/or multiple Ozeki. For example, if a rikishi ranked at M2 defeats an Ozeki, it's called a shukun victory, and it goes without saying that a win over a Yokozuna puts a dude on the fast track to a Shukunsho regardless of how he fares against the Ozeki. The Ginosho is awarded to a rikishi who has a solid basho while displaying excellent technique. For example, if a rank and filer henka'd is way to five victories and then picked up seven more victories with various techniques, he'd likely win a Kantosho but not a Ginosho. Conversely, it's not rare to see a Ginosho given to a rikishi with just nine wins if some of those wins were achieved with noteworthy technique. Finally, a rikishi must kachi-koshi (win eight bouts or more) in order to win a prize, and the Yokozuna and Ozeki are not eligible to receive these prizes since the expectation is that they live up to all three of these standards every basho.

Now, after having made that last statement, I could go in various directions with this report, but the point I want to make here is that for the first time in sumo's modern history, there was a decent chance that a hon-basho would end with no rikishi receiving a special prize. The Sumo Association announces these special prizes the morning of senshuraku; however, about half of the time the stipulation is given that the rikishi must win his senshuraku bout in order to receive the prize. In Osaka, two rikishi were listed as possible sansho candidates, but both had the stipulation of needing to win their senshuraku bouts in order make it official. Toyonoshima was a perfect Shukunsho candidate after having defeated Harumafuji and two Ozeki, but he was stuck on seven wins heading into the final day, so he needed to best Tochiohzan in order to make the prize official. The other candidate was Okinoumi who kept the yusho race alive at least until day 13 but didn't look that impressive in doing so. Coming into the final day at 10 wins, they stipulated that he needed to beat Myogiryu in order to garner a Kantosho.

So as I heard this news at the beginning of the senshuraku broadcast, I actually put the odds in favor of both candidates losing because they had stiff competition on the final day. Okinoumi ended up defeating Myogiryu and earning the Kantosho, but the very fact that we could have ended Osaka with no sansho awarded encapsulates perfectly the type of basho we had this spring. The Osaka basho is often called Areru Haru Basho, or the turbulent Haru basho because you never know what's going to happen, and Hakuho said it best in his yusho interview when he joked about himself in the third person, "everyone was areru except for Hakuho." I mean, you had a Yokozuna finish 9-6; the top Ozeki only won 10; and the two other Ozeki who actually finished the basho both ended at 8-7. Couple that with the four bout difference between the yusho rikishi and jun-yusho rikishi, and on paper, it was really a disastrous basho.

But the strange thing is it didn't necessarily feel like a disaster, at least until late in week two, so credit the Sumo Association for excellent marketing and enticing the fans to fill the Body Maker Coliseum to capacity, especially in the second week. And no, despite what my wife thinks, the Body Maker Coliseum is not a reference to that new guy writing for us; it really is the name of the arena where they hold the tournament. In the end, Hakuho's zensho yusho provided for a storyline that could be used by the media to trump up Hakuho's greatness while overshadowing the fact that everyone else sucked, but in the end, the reality still exists that you have the greatest rikishi who ever stepped atop the dohyo in my opinion; a borderline Ozeki in a different decade; and then a whole lotta parity among the other 40 guys, which will continue to force the Association to continue to...how shall I put it...be creative in their marketing.

Enough of this nonsense, however. Let's discuss the individual rikishi of note starting with Hakuho who picked up his 24th career yusho by posting a record-breaking 15-0 performance otherwise known as a zensho yusho. The most positive aspect of this feat was that the Sumo Association and media were able to dwell on that instead of just how dismal everyone else was. NHK strengthened that notion on their Sunday Night Sports show where they created a graphic showing how Hakuho had surpassed three of the greatest rikishi of all time. First, they pointed out that Hakuho's nine zensho yusho put him past Taiho's previous record of eight. Next up was the fact that Hakuho has won in double-digits for 37 basho in a row, a mark that surpassed Kitanoumi's record of 36. And lastly, they showed the statistic of Hakuho securing kachi-koshi by day eight for his 26th basho, an achievement that puts him past Chiyonofuji for that record. Hakuho has yet to surpass Kitanoumi and Chiyonofuji in the career yusho category, but it was a genuine tribute to a great rikishi, who has done so much for the sport, especially behind the scenes. They also dedicated some time to illustrate the former Taiho's affinity with Hakuho showing pictures of the two in various scenes and displaying quotes from Taiho regarding Hakuho before the legend passed away in January. Even at Monday's yusho press conference, Hakuho fingered a koshi-himo rope fastened to his kimono worn by Taiho and explained how it was a gift from Taiho's widow, who said it was one of her husband's favorites. Up until about five years ago, I would look at Taiho's dominating record of 32 career yusho and wonder what it must have been like to watch such a dominant rikishi perform atop the dohyo. Well, now I have my answer.

As for Hakuho's sumo in Osaka, it wasn't perfect but then again it didn't have to be. He was a in a bit of danger on day 1 against Aminishiki, and he was in real danger against Kotoshogiku in week 2 although the Ozeki failed to take any sort of advantage, but other than that, Hakuho was a rikishi exercising the sumo basics to perfection as he mowed through the field picking up the yusho by day 13. His performance gave everyone something positive to dwell on after the basho and can be likened to a golden crown covering a rotten tooth. Hakuho will rightly reassume the East Yokozuna slot in May putting the sumo gods at ease once again.

Across the aisle is Yokozuna Harumafuji, who had an okay basho. It was clear to me prior to the basho that the Yokozuna would not be 100%, and no it wasn't because it really was too cold in Osaka, and no it wasn't because Harumafuji's foot really was bothering him. Those were just two excuses used to forecast Harumafuji's upcoming losses, which is something I covered in my pre-basho report and then throughout the first week of the tourney. Even after the basho, the YDC went easy on the guy. I read where the chairman of that useless committee said, "Harumafuji did his best despite his foot injuries." Remember after Kyushu when Harumafuji posted the same 9-6 record? The YDC came down on him hard, so his answer was a 15-0 run in January. Looks like everyone learned their lesson from that, so Harumafuji gets a pass this basho as he gears up for May. I stick to my guns in calling him a borderline Ozeki in a different decade, but you have to give him props for establishing himself as the clear number two guy in this decade.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato checks in at 10-5, and that actually includes a yudan loss to Goeido on day 8, so I view his performance as an 11-win basho. And when you think about it, look what he can do when all of the pressure is off of him. The Japanese yusho will come when the Association doesn't make it so obvious. Just let these guys do their thang, and the two Yokozuna are smart enough to back off if needed in the end. Regarding Kisenosato's sumo, he's just got to ensure that he gets at least one arm to the inside at the tachi-ai as losses to guys like Myogiryu and Tochiohzan occur when he's bested at the initial charge...something that should never happen to an Ozeki. Still, I was encouraged by the Kid and enjoyed his sumo in Osaka.

Regarding Ozeki Kakuryu, I think Kane said it best on day 6 when he suggested that it was time for Kakuryu to release the hounds. It's funny how after time when you blog on a sport, you really do lose all rooting interests since it's more important to get the call right than it is to defend and justify one's favorite rikishi. Having said that, if you asked me today who my favorite rikishi in sumo was, I'd say Kakuryu. When this Ozeki does release the hounds in a bout, it's a thing of beauty, and the best barometer to measure this guy are his bouts against Baruto. He is so precise and tactical against the Estonian that I just shake my head and wonder what could have been if he didn't play his role and let up a against many of his Japanese opponents. In Osaka Kakuryu went 3-6 against full-blooded Japanese rikishi and 5-1 against the furries. Not a coincidence. Thing is...Hakuho, Kakuryu and even Harumafuji get it. You have two choices: live in Mongolia or live off the fat of the land in Japan. Easy choice, and it's an easy call for all three of 'em.

That brings us to Ozeki Kotoshogiku who finished once again (sigh) 8-7 after giving it his all. Kotoshogiku's record in January? 8-7. Last November? 8-7. Last July? 2-13. When an Ozeki magically finishes 8-7 on a consistent basis and is given wins during the fortnight, he's done 7-2 starts be damned. Thanks to a very weak banzuke, Kotoshogiku will be able to survive in this climate for a year or two more, but he's not capable of being a player in a future basho. So let it be written, so let it be done.

I have no new revelations regarding Sekiwake Goeido beyond what I've already stated in my pre-basho report and daily comments. Like Kisenosato, I think we'll start seeing quality sumo from Goeido just as soon as the Association starts pimping someone else. As for Baruto, he's become the new barometer in the division. In other words, if you're not good enough to beat the Estonian, you're not fighting at a level to yusho. And I'd take it a step further and say if you can beat Baruto in a straight-up bout then you've got game. As for his sumo this basho, he's been slowed down enough by injuries to the point where the upper echelon guys can take advantage of his tachi-ai. I don't consider Takayasu an elite rikishi yet, but even he caught the Sekiwake napping on day 7, which goes to show why it's highly unlikely that the Estonian will ever regain his Ozeki rank. Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku managed to set the bar pretty low and this talk of Goeido's candidacy has lowered it even more, but even then, Baruto's got too much mileage on him any more to regain the rank.

Komusubi Tochiohzan has improved to the point where I'd say he's even surpassed Baruto. I realize that the Estonian got him this basho, but Tochiohzan's tachi-ai is much improved, and it's what has been helping him stay in the sanyaku for three basho straight now. Doesn't look as if Goeido or Baruto will drop from the Sekiwake rank soon, but Tochiohzan has out-fought both of them the last few tournaments. The question is...can Oh take that next step? Perhaps it's time for the Association to refocus their sites on Tochiohzan and throw Goeido back to the wolves. Tochiohzan didn't suffer a single bad loss in Osaka, and how many guys can win 10 from the Komusubi rank? I'm convinced that Komusubi Aminishiki is doing yudan sumo as a way for the Isegahama-beya to give back to the sport in exchange for Harumafuji's promotion to Yokozuna. And I'm not saying that bouts were thrown that allowed Harumafuji to earn that rank; I'm saying that the current elders in the Association are looking at Harumafuji and thinking, "that's not what a Yokozuna looked like in our day." As a result of Harumafuji's success due to such a crappy banzuke, Isegahama-oyakata is giving back using Aminishiki as his pawn. I would put Shneaky right up there with Kakuryu: one of my favorite guys to watch but someone who isn't allowed to always release the hounds on his opponent. Dude coulda gone 9-6 in Osaka if he'da wanted to in my opinion.

M1 Takayasu was not good this basho. It's one thing to get beat up by the sanyaku and above, but you at least have to show well against the guys below you if you want to ever grace the sanyaku. Takayasu went just 2-4. Dude's got the size, but I swear the same guy is coaching him at the tachi-ai that's coaching Kisenosato. Counterpart Tochinoshin was a loss at the hands of Ikioi away from returning to the sanyaku finishing 7-8. Contrasting him with Takayasu, NoShine when 4-1 against guys ranked below him, and that's why he'll be fighting from the jo'i again next basho while Takayasu will slide out of the elite ranks.

I was sorry to see M2 Chiyotairyu injured that first week after a 3-3 start. I see so much potential in this guy, and I know he has the physical tools to reach Ozeki. Whether he can do that mentally remains to be seen, but he's got the best shot of anyone at picking up Japan's first yusho in over 7 years now. As long as Chiyotairyu sticks to forward moving sumo, he will soar. Counterpart Myogiryu will likely inch back up into Aminishiki's Komusubi slot, but after his curious run to Sekiwake last year, he hasn't shown that he's better than guys like Tochiohzan and Aminishiki.

No comment on the M3's other than to say I don't think it's a coincidence that Ikioi showed well against the Yokozuna the first weekend and then won his final two bouts on the second weekend. Makes for good TV ya know.

How would you like to be M4 Toyonoshima standing at 7-3 with a win over a Yokozuna only to end your campaign 0-5. Granted, just outside of the jo'i, he started off with much easier opponents, but once you make a run from this range, you'll get the harder rikishi down the stretch, especially when an Ozeki withdraws as Kotooshu did and they need a replacement. You can't fault Toyonoshima for losing to Kisenosato, Goeido, Baruto, and Tochiohzan those last five days, but when all that stands between you and the Shukunsho prize money is Takekaze? That stings. Counterpart Shohozan's fifteen minutes of fame apparently expired last year. When you've got to stall and monkey around at the tachi-ai, it's a sign that you know you don't have any game. Thing is...I think Shohozan does have a bit of game, but he's mentally taken himself out of things.

Have you noticed that M6 Gagamaru has stopped driving with his legs at the tachi-ai? The result is far more of his opponents who are able to pull him down or get to the side quickly and then just drag him down by the belt. At 5-10 this basho, dude's got to figure out how potent his de-ashi are and then stick to them. Counterpart Kitataiki shone in Osaka finishing 10-5, but when you're a vet like him, you've got to do this three or four notches up before anyone will be impressed. Dude's never been ranked higher than M3...until next basho when he should be M1.

There's not a whole lot to slobber about regarding M7 Okinoumi. On day 9 when both he and Kotoshogiku were 7-2, I wasn't impressed with either one of them. Then when it was apparent that Okinoumi was the likely jun-yusho rikishi because Kotoshogiku still had a rough schedule ahead, they gave Okinoumi Masunoyama, Aran, and Chiyonokuni to start off the second week. What, was Sotairyu not available? The Sumo Association knew exactly what they had with Okinoumi this basho, and so they eased him into that 11-4 finish that resulted in the yusho being officially determined on day 13 when it should have been determined like on day 11. I didn't think Okinoumi was great, but I have to admit, I was kind of jealous of Wakanosato when Kane posted that picture of Wakanosato and Okinoumi in the bath together. We'll find out what Okinoumi's made of next basho from the jo'i and possibly the sanyaku.

M8 Aoiyama picked up his first kachi-koshi in three basho, which shows you how tough it is to come back from an injury when you're carrying all of that weight. I think counterpart Kyokutenho took one for the team on senshuraku against Ikioi resulting in his 7-8 finish. Getting back to my point about Isegahama using Aminishiki as a way to give back to the Association, Kyokutenho was handed a yusho less than a year ago, so his losing to Ikioi on a Sunday was the least he could do even if it did result in his make-koshi.

The best rikishi in my opinion from the rank and file was M10 Takarafuji who just bullied his foes around for an 11-4 finish that didn't include a single crap win in terms of kimari-te. Takarafuji used crushing tachi-ai and pure de-ashi to post his record, and unfortunately, a few losses in week 1 meant that Okinoumi would be used as the faux runner up instead of Takarafuji. I'm actually optimistic regarding this guy next basho from the M5 rank or thereabouts.

M11 Jokoryu had his best Makuuchi basho, and I realize that he's largely facing crap rikishi down there, but like Takarafuji, you could just see a confidence in him that made him want to take it to his opponents instead of take it from his opponents. I enjoyed Jokoryu and his 9-6 finish.

You know the instant the life was taken out of this basho? On day 8 when M14 Sagatsukasa withdrew.

Let's move along to our two rookies who both entered the division after very lengthy stays in both Juryo and the under-divisions. When you're promoted to the Makuuchi division and news articles contain the katakana word for "slow" referencing the length of time it took to make the climb, you're not going to amount to anything in the division. I know there are some people out there who will say, "well, you never know." Yes, I do know. Sotairyu's 4-11 was a perfect example. Oiwato was slightly better and actually created a three bout win streak days 2 - 4 when he figured out you could actually side step guys at the tachi-ai, but his opponents figggered it out quick resulting in his 2-9 finish. There's just nothing to break down regarding either of the two rookies.

And that's a wrap on the 2013 Haru basho. Big ups to Kane for laying down his axe for two weeks and joining us here at the hotel in Osaka for the festivities. I really enjoyed his writing and look forward to more of his licks (not those kinds of licks sicko...I'm using cool 80's terms from the hair band era) next basho, but if I did learn anything from him, it was how to create sweet daydreams. So as I head into my four week hibernation, I will now summon a dream to tide myself over until next time.

Okay...I'm a caveman...no, even better...I'm a transgender caveman...and I've been invited to a meeting of the Foreign Press Club in Tokyo...and I'm giving the keynote address...and Hakuho's there sitting at the table with me...and he's giving me that look. Oh yeah, that's the stuff dreams are made of!

2013 Haru Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
You can imagine my excitement when the first news articles popping up after the sumo caravan entered Osaka referred to Takanohana making the rounds on local television stations and declaring Goeido the number one candidate for Ozeki promotion. Call it a case of uneasy déjà vu, but I couldn't help reflect on Takanohana's same declarations two years ago when he proclaimed Kisenosato and Goeido as prime candidates for Ozeki even though they weren't worthy. The Haru basho was ultimately cancelled that year due to the yaocho scandal (wait...there's yaocho in sumo?), but since Takanohana is the PR guy for the Haru basho, he was pimping the promotion of Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato the instant the Hatsu basho ended. What transpired in 2011 is largely forgettable, but we're seeing the pattern repeat itself prior to Osaka. There's no way that they can promote Goeido to Ozeki after this basho due to his awful 8-7 in January, but don't be surprised if he makes the rank before the year is over. And in order for him to do that, many of the top rikishi are really going to have to hold back similar to the way they did last year in Natsu to try and get a Japanese rikishi to hoist the Emperor's Cup.

Another subject that makes me extremely uncomfortable is the ease with which Harumafuji has been racking up zensho yusho. As I pointed out in January, only two rikishi have ever won three zensho yusho in the span of four basho: Hakuho and Harumafuji. When you start listing the greatest rikishi in the modern era (post WWII), Harumafuji would probably check in around #40; yet, he's been able to achieve feats on the dohyo that surpass even the great ones, and so it's very difficult for someone like me to digest what has happened over the last six months. And if it's making me uneasy, you know that it's making the Sumo Association uncomfortable because not only is Harumafuji not a legitimate 3-zensho-yusho-in-4-basho guy, but he's also Mongolian, and we can't have foreigners holding any major records in sumo.

If you look at the list of rikishi with 20 yusho or more, here's how it breaks down in terms of zensho yusho:

Taiho 8
Chiyonofuji 7
Kitanoumi 7
Hakuho 7
Asashoryu 5
Takanohana 4

Then, once you start listing rikishi who have at least three zensho yusho in your career, you're dealing with names like Wajima and Kitanofuji. Coming from an unbiased foreigner, it's insulting that Harumafuji even be mentioned in that company, and I get the feeling that the Sumo Association is about to put a stop to it. And if you're wondering what I'm talking about, just refer to the list above and consider how Hakuho's run of zensho yusho magically stopped at 7.

I understand why the Sumo Association needs to set the table for Japanese rikishi to the extent possible basho in and basho out, and I'm actually okay with it since it's critical to sumo's survival as a relevant sport, but even the Sumo Association has its limits in terms of what they'll allow foreign rikishi to achieve. The reason I'm even talking about this is I sense we are due for another major pullback from the foreign rikishi similarly to what happened last year at the Natsu basho. My preference is that all rikishi would be allowed to fight straight up every day, and I understand why it can't be that way, but the end result will be some very ugly basho this year, and I don't know that sumo has any other choice in Osaka but to give us more ugly. I hope I'm wrong here, but the combination of this nonsense hyping Goeido and the need to put a lid on Harumafuji's zensho yusho will likely result in a watered down tournament.

Watered down or not, it's still time to dance, so let's focus on the rikishi prior to the tournament starting with Hakuho, whose looking to make it four in a row in Osaka. Pre-basho keiko reports have been run of the mill for the Yokozuna, but there has been one particular aspect of his keiko that caught my attention. Several days ago, he made it a point to visit the Tokitsukaze-beya when he knew the Sakaigawa-beya guys would be there, so he could rough Myogiryu up. If you've only watched sumo the last few years, you've probably never heard of the tradition where if a Yokozuna gets beat at a hon-basho, he will single that guy out during keiko prior to the next basho and just kick his ass. Well, Hakuho did that to Myogiryu in Osaka, and it made me think, "oh yeah, Yokozuna are supposed to do that after they lose." Why we haven't seen that done lately, however, is because Hakuho gives away 95% of his losses.

When Tochiohzan beat Hakuho last year at the Aki basho, did Hakuho seek him out prior to Kyushu and rough him up? No. Did Hakuho do that to Aminishiki, Toyonoshima, Goeido, or Toyohibiki after the Natsu basho. No, no, no, and no. Did Hakuho seek out Kisenosato, Kotooshu, or Kakuryu after those Ozeki felled the Yokozuna last year? Nope. And the reason Hakuho hasn't roughed anyone up in keiko for such a long time is because no one has beaten him legitimately until Myogiryu did it last basho. I guess you could call that a second indicator as to whether or not a Hakuho loss is legitimate with the first indicator of course being that we told you so on Sumotalk. As for the Haru basho, Hakuho isn't desperate to win it, but I don't believe the Association will allow Harumafuji to win it, and so Kublai should back into the yusho with a 13-2 record.

Yokozuna Harumafuji has been complaining a bit about the cold weather in Osaka, and then I read in a few other news articles where he said he's experiencing pain in his feet. Both of those are just excuses to provide a storyline when Harumafuji doesn't fulfill his 15-0 potential in Osaka. I would be shocked if Harumafuji took the yusho in Osaka this year...not because he can't do it, but I really think he needs to cool down a bit if yaknowwhuddahmean. I see him finishing with 11-12 wins this basho and assuming the role of a spoiler down the stretch (i.e. if Hakuho needs that final loss on senshuraku to give someone else a chance, HowDo will step up).

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato should maintain the top seat with cooperation from others including his fellow foreign Ozeki. Look for Kisenosato to hover again right around that 11-12 win total, which is the best he can do. Kotooshu and Kakuryu will both flirt with double-digit wins, but I don't see a breakout from either of these two guys. As for Kotoshogiku, dude's D-O-N-E. Oh, he'll last another year or two in the same vein as prior lame duck Ozeki, but when you can't legitimately win eight with this sorry banzuke, you're the second coming of Kaio.

It will be interesting to see how Baruto's failed attempt to regain the Ozeki rank in January will affect him. Make no mistake, he's the leading candidate to become the sport's next Ozeki in terms of ability, but I don't think the Estonian has the drive to do it again. I'm not exactly sure what the pay difference is between Ozeki and Sekiwake, but I'm sure as hell that a Sekiwake salary would put him well into the top 1% of wage earners in Estonia, so look for Baruto to continue to milk the system and collect that caish on his way to 9 or 10 wins. As for Goeido, I don't think he can handle the pressure that the Sumo Association is heaping upon him. I kinda feel sorry for the guy in the same way that we saw Kisenosato struggle mentally when he was touted as the next. Part of it has to be that these guys don't want to be frauds; yet, when Kakuryu mysteriously charges high with his hands of the back of Goeido's head every basho giving him the easy win, you've got to take what's given. With all of the external factors pointing in Goeido's favor, I see the dude winning about 10, but it won't feel like a double-digit performance from the sanyaku, sorta how Harumafuji's last three yusho over four basho doesn't feel like greatness.

Komusubi Tochiohzan and Aminishiki are about as good as we've got to fill out that rank, and both of them should flirt with kachi-koshi.

In the Maegashira ranks, I'm geeked to see Takayasu at M1 and Chiyotairyu at M2. Takayasu's rise this high hasn't been artificial, and I've really enjoyed watching him try and figure out the Maegashira ranks. He's young enough and strong enough to win eight at the this level, but the key will be his mental state. If he goes out and looks to dictate the pace in his bouts, he will be just fine; but, if he goes out and looks intimidated, he'll get his ass kicked. Same goes for Chiyotairyu who is definitely weaker mentally than Takayasu. In Osaka, Hakuho actually paid Chiyotairyu a visit for keiko, and that's a sign that the Yokozuna's got his eye on the guy. Did Hakuho visit Shohozan? Did he even visit Takayasu? No. But he did take the time to single out Chiyotairyu. Hopefully Kokonoe-oyakata uses that to instill confidence in the kid because of all the Japanese rikishi in the division, Chiyotairyu has the most potential. He ended up going 14-3 against the Yokozuna, and in those three wins, he blasted Hakuho back from the tachi-ai and pushed him out in short order. I don't know of any other rikishi on the banzuke that can do that, so let's hope that Chiyotairyu unleashes the beating stick in Osaka. I see Takayasu finishing with 7-8 wins while Chiyotairyu won't quite be ready mentally for the jo'i heat struggling to win about six.

Myogiryu also checks in at M2, and remember when he was a Sekiwake mainstay last year? Dude either bought that run or he's suffered some kind of injury, but I haven't read any place that he's been dinged up. Such a curious figure in the sport right now, but we all know his potential. He's got the best chance of anyone to regain a sanyaku berth.

Speaking of buying sanyaku runs, what say ye about M5 Shohozan? Talk about a guy who has fallen off the jo'i map with a glorious thud. I do like Kaisei a notch below in the M5 rank. He's been so close fighting among the jo'i, so now that he's safely outside of the top 16, I think he's posed for a good basho.

I don't have any comments for other Maegashira rikishi until we get clear down to Masunoyama at M12. Dude better be careful at this level because when you're one of the first two Heisei-born Makuuchi rikishi (Takayasu is the other), you don't want to get caught in the flotsam and jetsam that is the lower Makuuchi and upper Juryo ranks. The kid's gotta prove his worth this basho.

M13 Tochinowaka sure fizzled out fast after a decent start in January. Something tells me we've seen his best shot already.

It's good to see M14 Chiyonokuni back in the division after a hot Makuuchi start a year ago. An injury sent him back down to Juryo, and while he did pop his head back up whack-a-mole style in Kyushu, he was whacked right back down to Juryo. The potential is there with this kid, but someone with such a small stature can't afford injuries.

It's always nice to see newcomers to the division, but we've got a coupla duds in M15 Sotairyu and M16 Oiwato. When you read guys' profiles and they include marks for being one of the slowest to reach the division, it excites me about as much as getting blood drawn.

I hope that I am pleasantly surprised in Osaka and that we are treated to well-fought, straight-up sumo, but I think the Sumo Association is ready to attempt another shift in power towards the domestic rikishi. Here are my basho predictions:

Yusho: Hakuho (13-2)
Shukunsho: None
Ginosho: Goeido
Kantosho: Kaisei






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