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2014 Hatsu Pre-basho Report (Page 2)

Ozeki Kotoshogiku is kadoban meaning he must win eight wins or be demoted from the Ozeki rank. Dude's broken down physically, but I don't see how he doesn't win eight bouts in Hatsu. Give him nine for good measure since Harumafuji's out.

I don't have anything new to say about Sekiwake Goeido. His run at the Sekiwake rank has been a huge farce, so what's going to occur at Hatsu to make anything different? Across the aisle is Sekiwake Kotooshu, and speaking of broken down bodies. Harumafuji's withdrawal will help a bit, but I think if the rikishi have a choice of whom to give a win, it ain't gonna be Kotooshu, so I expect him to take everyone's best shot. I think he can win 8-9, but I doubt he gets 10 unless Hakuho is in a giving mood.

In the Komusubi ranks, I really like Myogiryu at this level because he's a threat to beat anyone above him 'cept Hakuho. I think he wins eight in January. His date to the West is Tochiohzan, a disappointing rikishi because he's got a good body and pretty decent sumo skills, but he's just too nonchalant in his approach. Still, with Harumafuji gone and Kotoshogiku hobbled, I think this is a basho where both Komusubi could actually kachi-koshi. I'll say 16 wins between the two of 'em.

In the Maegashira ranks, I like both M1's. Toyonoshima always fights hard and can beat anyone if he gets dual inners while Okinoumi actually showed effort at the Kyushu basho leading him to fall just short of kachi-koshi at 7-8. With his size, if Okinoumi actually tries hard, he's a legitimate threat to rejoin the sanyaku ranks. Neither of the M1's are slouches.

And if the M1's are decent this basho, the M2's are far better. Chiyotairyu leads the way in the East, and he's got to come out with both guns blazing and nothing but forward moving sumo on his mind. I think the Hatsu basho will be a free for all with Hakuho willing to step aside, and so this is a tournament where Chiyotairyu can make his mark. Straight forward, bruising sumo will equal 9 - 10 wins, but as soon as he starts evading and pulling, he'll suffer a losing streak. As for his companion, Ikioi, I would say he was the most improved rikishi of 2013. Like Okinoumi, he's a tall dude, but the difference is that Ikioi is just more genki and works harder, and I think he could actually win eight from this level. Good basho from the M2's will be important to keeping this basho interesting.

The M3 rank is our first drop-off in potential with Aoiyama in the East and Toyohibiki in the West. I think from M2 all the way up to Sekiwake it's going to be a bloodbath with the majority of rikishi finishing between 7-9 wins, but Aoiyama and Toyohibiki don't have the talent to compete with that. 5-6 wins for both of 'em.

With Harumafuji out of the race, that means the jo'i drops down to both M4 ranks. I would normally look forward to Aminishiki who sits in the East, but his wheels are just about to fall off, so look for him to get worked. The problem is it doesn't get better with Takekaze in the West, so the M4's only responsibility this basho will be to feed everyone else much-needed wins.

Shohozan steps into the M5 slot, and just outside of the jo'i, he really has to make a statement this basho. He will likely face Kotooshu and Kotoshogiku, but I'm not so sure that isn't worse than facing anyone else around him. Counterpart Kyokutenho has no business being in the jo'i as he showed last basho, but he's safe here at M5. A kachi-koshi is not out of the cards.

I normally slobber over the M6 rank, but with Tamawashi and Kaisei there, I expect a lot of cotton mouth in January.

M7 Takarafuji really needs to prove himself here if he ever dreams of the sanyaku while counterpart Homasho is still probably too high for his own good.

After a disastrous Kyushu basho, Takayasu checks in at M9, and like Takarafuji, he's really got to show us something here or he he will become another no-name among the rank and file.

Endoh fills out the M10 West slot, and I don't expect him to have a breakout basho. I know he's been doing keiko against other sekitori, but I don't think the injury he suffered at the Aki basho is sufficiently healed. My guess is he's about 85%, but I'm not going to expect greatness out of him until the Haru basho. Considering the cast of characters around him, I think he's a shoe-in for kachi-koshi, but I don't think he gets more than 10.

Our first rookie is M14 Kagamioh, and honestly, I just haven't seen enough of him to make any comment. Of all the foreigners to reach the Makuuchi division, I think he was something like fifth slowest, but he's still in his mid-twenties and a Mongolian, so let's see what he can do. His dance partner to the West is Masunoyama, who has clearly become the fan favorite after Takamisakari's retirement. Spalding is coming off of an injury that forced him to withdraw from Kyushu, and with the problems he has inside of his body with his lungs, heart, etc., the last thing he needs is a nagging injury. Masunoyama needs to kachi-koshi for the same reasons that Takamisakari needed to do it.

My man, M15 Takanoiwa, has finally entered the building. I know this dude extremely well because he was ranked at J1 or J2 for like 9 straight basho and was constantly brought up to fight in the Makuuchi division. Dude's probably fought 12 or so times in Makuuchi, and I can only remember one loss. He is such a polished belt fighter, he's Mongolian, and he doesn't rush his sumo, and so I expect great things from Takanoiwa. As I've said previously, the reason it took him so long to get over that last hurdle is because he was such a sound fighter competing in an unorthodox division (Juryo). I like Takanoiwa to threaten for a Kantosho I think he's that good.

Osunaarashi finds himself in the M16 East slot after an unimpressive debut in Kyushu. The only headline I've read regarding the Ejyptian (not a misspelling) prior to the basho was that five kensho banners have already been paid for prior to his day 1 bout. Once again, we have a rikishi who is gaining popularity for all of the wrong reasons, but that's good ole Japan for you. Osunaarashi struggled in Kyushu because of his ineffective tachi-ai, so I'll be interested to see if it's gotten any better over the last two months. I see the dude winning eight but not impressing. To the West is Satoyama, a guy whose making his first appearance in the division in something like six years. He wasn't any good back then, so I'm not expecting anything this time around either.

And finally, M17 Kotoyuki rounds out the division falling this low after an injury forced his withdrawal early on in Kyushu. As most of you know, I'm really high on this guy and hope he's 100% again. Straight forward oshi-zumo guys is becoming a thing of the past, so I really enjoy Kotoyuki when he's firing on all cylinders.

My predictions for the basho are as follows:

Yusho: Hakuho (13-2)
Shukunsho: Chiyotairyu
Ginosho: Endoh
Kantosho: Takanoiwa

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