Teach English in Japan. Japan jobs. Study Japanese.
Meet Japanese girls.
2012 Nagoya Basho
Post-basho Report | Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
One method I use to break down
bouts of sumo is to create a baseline for rikishi, and then I take that baseline
into account as I consider the rikishi's position on the banzuke, keiko reports,
health issues, etc. For example, the baseline for Takanoyama has become quite
clear. He's not good enough to kachi-koshi in the Makuuchi division, but he is
good enough to win double-digits consistently in Juryo, and so he just rotates
between the two divisions basho in and basho out. Furthermore, each time he gets
promoted to Makuuchi he attempts to turn over a new leaf and try to win his
bouts straight up. After about five days of getting his ass handed to him moving
straightforward, he then resorts to games of tag and catch me if you can sumo in
order to make his record respectable.
On the contrary, a guy like Chiyotairyu will fight his first five bouts or so
straight up and have tons of confidence, but he just can't trust himself to move
forward the full 15 days, and so towards the end of week 1, he has pull sumo on
his mind, which results in a slow finish after a fast start. You can see such
patterns in nearly all of the rikishi (guys like Yoshikaze or Tokitenku are
exceptions), and what gets exciting is when a guy actually breaks out of his
pattern and takes things to the next level.
The most important bout of the Nagoya basho to me was the day 13 matchup between
Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Baruto because it gave everyone a glimpse of Hakuho's
true baseline when he wants to win at all costs. That same determination the
Yokozuna showed against Baruto was completely absent on senshuraku against
Harumafuji where Hakuho literally turned his right hip into Harumafuji giving
him the left outer and then refused to dig in after that allowing the Ozeki to
score the yori-kiri win under five seconds that was so easy, Hakuho ended up in
the first few rows of fans demonstrating exactly why they say letting up in the
ring invites injury. None of Hakuho's "tactics" in that final bout made any
sense as Clancy has previously pointed out, and the only conclusion is that he
let Harumafuji win (it's not debatable...don't even try).
So over the last two weeks or so I've been thinking to myself why would Hakuho
let Harumafuji win...how does it benefit anyone? Some would say that it benefits
Harumafuji because now he has a chance to be promoted to Yokozuna pending his
performance in September, but he would still have that chance even if he had
lost and finished 14-1. A zensho yusho is also meaningless in the grand scheme
of things, and I don't think you risk yaocho in the final bout of senshuraku
when two 14-0 dudes are fighting for the yusho for something as insignificant as
giving a guy a zensho yusho or helping his chances at promotion to Yokozuna.
Personally, I don't even think the Sumo Association cares if they promote
another Yokozuna, even if he's Mongolian, so there had to be something else.
I've been saying for about two years now that Hakuho has been making himself
vulnerable in order to give the Japanese rikishi a chance...a chance to earn
promotion to Ozeki and a chance to ultimately yusho, but now after watching the
Nagoya basho play out, I believe there is another reason why Hakuho is passing
out yusho like mini packs of tissue paper in front of a train station. Has
anyone stopped to consider that Hakuho has only won three of the last seven
basho? That is an absolutely preposterous number because Hakuho is likely the
best rikishi ever to have graced the dohyo, he is still in his prime, he is NOT
injured, and the Ozeki surrounding him are average at best. There is not a
rikishi on the banzuke capable of stealing the yusho away from Hakuho if the
Yokozuna is trying to win it, and that's not even speculation...that's a fact.
So why let four of the last seven yusho slip away?
Hakuho has been a very gracious Yokozuna, and I'm not just talking about in the
ring. I'm referring to his relationship with the media as well. When Asashoryu
was kicking ass, he would frequently bypass the yusho interviews the morning
after due to his disdain for the media. Now, I don't fault the former Yokozuna
for that decision, but Hakuho is always there and has never mis-stepped.
Inevitably prior to each basho, the media will sit Hakuho down and ask him his
goal, which is of course the yusho, and Hakuho will always add how much respect
he has for the former Yokozuna he is about to surpass in career yusho. But one
question that I have never heard them ask him...and one question that I have
never heard anyone ever speculate inside the Japanese media or the Sumo
Association is this: can you reach 33 career yusho?
It has never been a topic of conversation with Hakuho nor was it ever a topic of
conversation with Asashoryu. We foreigners loved to calculate the possibility
for both dudes, but it's something that I've never seen raised in the Japanese
media. And I think the reason is because the Sumo Association won't allow it to
happen. Japan is taking it hard to the face as it is with the current foreign
domination that has continued for nearly a decade, but I am now speculating that
Hakuho's downfall the past two years has as much to do with keeping him from the
most hallowed of records as it does in his allowing the Japanese rikishi to take
The Nagoya basho was a perfect example of how the Japanese rikishi were shut out
by day 12, and there was no real drama prior to the final day, so why let
Harumafuji win in such a manner? Why not take him on straight up? The more I
have thought about it, the more I am quite convinced that Hakuho doesn't have a
snowball's chance in hell of reaching 33 yusho, not because of his physical
limitations but because of constraints put on him by the Sumo Association. I
would even go as far to suggest that he won't be allowed to tie Chiyonofuji's
record of 31, and so with Hakuho still in his prime and no one there to take him
down, he's got to let these yusho slip between his fingers, just as he did in
Nagoya. Just like Asashoryu, Hakuho reached 20 career yusho without really
breaking a sweat, and now just like Asashoryu, every yusho after number 20 has
been difficult to come by. I don't think it's coincidence.
Regarding Hakuho's sumo at the Nagoya basho, he left himself vulnerable in
multiple matches and also toyed around with pull sumo for a stretch, but we saw
his true ability against Baruto on day 13. There's really no use breaking this
guy down further because he wasn't going at it all out the full two weeks. And
regarding Hakuho and an injury, someone kindly send me a link to a news article
that details Hakuho having suffered an injury. I realize he was wearing a
supporter on his left elbow for his senshuraku bout, but that had as much
meaning as me wearing a bra. Hakuho is a perfect rikishi, so it's a bit
frustrating for me to watch him not be able to display his full prowess most of
As for the yusho rikishi, it doesn't matter that Hakuho let him win on
senshuraku because he won his first 14 bouts by himself, all with forward moving
sumo. In my pre-basho report, I stressed multiple times that the sanyaku was
weak and the jo'i even weaker, so credit Harumafuji for running circles around
all those guys and then holding serve against the mediocre Ozeki. Do I think
Harumafuji is Yokozuna material? Material, yes. A Yokozuna, no. But guys like
Wakanohana have achieved the rank in the past, so I'm fine if Harumafuji can
secure promotion in September. Dude uses his speed perfectly to compensate for
his smaller stature.
The two Japanese Ozeki were bland in Nagoya each finishing 10-5, and that
includes what I thought was a gift apiece from Baruto. Each managed to lose to
an upper Maegashira rikishi, and neither could really set themselves apart from
their fellow Ozeki and the Yokozuna, so the end result is: this is the best
Japan has got. It's kind of sad, and when the Association gift wrapped a basho
for one of them, we saw what happened in May. Question is now when will the Sumo
Association orchestrate such a basho again?
Ozeki Baruto was a total team player in Nagoya finishing 9-6 that included
losses to four of his Ozeki comrades, that loss to Hakuho, and then a loss to
Myogiryu. The reason why Harumafuji and Baruto have been able to capture yusho
the last year is because Harumafuji can use his superior speed and technique to
overcome everyone else, and Baruto can rely on his sheer strength to create
separation from the other guys. The best rikishi in sumo is clearly Hakuho, and
then Baruto and Harumafuji are tied for second despite Baruto's record in
I have no real comment on Ozeki Kotooshu who finished 9-6, a record that is
indicative of his ability in sumo these days. Kakuryu finished with the same
mark, and I get the feeling that he's scaling things back after his run in
March, which was not a fluke.
In terms of generating interest among the Japanese fans, the Sekiwake ranks
looked appealing with Goeido and Tochiohzan heading into the basho, but once we
actually got into the meat of the tournament, my feeling was "is this all
they've got?". Goeido was okay knocking off a few Ozeki and generally beating
the guys ranked below him before withdrawing on senshuraku resulting in an
average 7-8, but Tochiohzan was absolutely abysmal. You cannot have the two
rikishi in the playoff for the yusho the previous basho finish a combined 6-24
the next tournament regardless of where they're ranked. It's so bad for the
sport that it makes me wonder if the Association will dare try it again. We'll
know soon enough. As for Tochiohzan's sumo, he looked scared at the Sekiwake
rank and unwilling to even try and execute good sumo, so it goes without saying
that his absence of a lower body just added to his misery.
Komusubi Myogiryu was the lone bright spot in the sanyaku finishing 8-7 thanks
to a senshuraku win against Takekaze, but the one thing that is keeping me from
getting really excited about him is his stable, the Sakaigawa-beya. I think that
some oyakata know what they're doing and others don't have a clue how to make
adjustments and get the best out of their rikishi. Sakaigawa-beya boasts five
Makuuchi rikishi if you count Hochiyama, but I don't think Sakaigawa-oyakata is
a good stable master. Getting back to Myogiryu, he showed a few bright spots
beating Kakuryu and Baruto, but he also had that ugly tsuki-te against
Kotoshogiku and looked lost against Kotooshu. He's a sanyaku mainstay for the
very reason that there's no one else who can maintain the position, but I want
to see him go hard the full 15 days. After a great week 1, I thought he hit the
wall in week 2.
Toyonoshima rounds out the sanyaku, and his 1-7 start made him inconsequential
the rest of the way. The dude can pull off the occasional upset (if you consider
beating these Ozeki an upset), but it seems as if he's aging in dog years the
last little while.
In the Maegashira ranks, M1 Kyokutenho was absolutely pathetic needing the
Association to pair him with Sadanofuji on day 14 just so he could pick up a
single win. Okay, he did end the basho on a winning streak busting a cap into
Hochiyama on senshuraku, but that 0-13 start for the yusho rikishi last basho
was an utter disaster. There's no point breaking down his sumo, and the fact
that this guy was allowed to yusho last basho is proof that the elite rikishi
all took two steps back. What's worse than that was a Japanese rikishi still
couldn't take the yusho! At the start of the day 1 broadcast, the announcers
were reviewing last basho while waiting for the bouts to begin, and Kitanofuji
stated that an Ozeki just can't afford to let the yusho get away from him when
it's there for the taking as it was in May. And he's right because in order to
set up a yusho again, we'd have to go through the same mess we saw in May and
then with Tochiohzan and Kyokutenho in July. We'll see how quickly the
Association pulls the trigger again.
M1 Aminishiki's 6-9 didn't break my heart because a kachi-koshi would have meant
that he'd be Sekiwake in September. Instead, M2 Aoiyama will assume that title
as he scrapped his way to an 8-7 finish thanks to a solid week 2 where he went
7-1, something you must do among the jo'i if you want to kachi-koshi. Aoiyama
expectedly had trouble trying to solve the Yokozuna and Ozeki (although he did
get Kotoshogiku), but you have to credit him for pounding the Maegashira rikishi
he faced and then upsetting Myogiryu to earn a sanyaku berth for September. I'm
excited to see what he can do now that he's seen the elite rikishi once. It's
like in baseball when the pitcher fools the other team's lineup the first time
through, but they'll usually catch up to him in the middle innings. I like
Aoiyama there in the Sekiwake rank, but part of me still says, "is that the best
we have?". Fraid so.
M3 Shohozan has an outside shot to join Aoiyama in the sanyaku after somehow
pulling out a 7-1 finish of his own. I'm not as excited about this guy because
of his sneak attack tachi-ai where he's trying to gain the upper hand by
surprising his opponents. My thinking is if you don't practice it in the keiko
ring, there's no place for it in a hon-basho, so let's hope that Shohozan can
fix his tachi-ai. It totally overshadowed his sumo because I can't recall a
single bout of his sumo while I can readily picture him rolling those wrists and
then suddenly charging. It's weak dude.
M4 Tochinoshin finished 9-6 which means the Sumo Association has a choice to
make regarding that final Komusubi slot: do they promote Shohozan with his 8-7
from M3 or Tochinoshin with his 9-6 from M4? In other words, what's more
important...true ability or race? Regardless, your sanyaku for next basho will
look something like this:
Sekiwake: Myogiryu + Aoiyama
Komusubi: Goeido + Shohozan/Tochinoshin
Hmm...I've certainly kissed cuter girls than that, but with a weak sanyaku and
an even worse upper Maegashira in September, expect a repeat of this basho if
the Mongolians and Baruto aren't' reined in.
After that horrendous 0-8 start, M5 Takayasu made it look respectable finishing
6-9, but those first eight losses were all to Maegashira rikishi, which doesn't
bode well for this dude in the future.
M6 Homasho finished 9-6, which will thrust him back into the jo'i with the likes
of M5 Aran who also finished 9-6, but those guy don't equal new blood that makes
the banzuke for Aki compelling. M7 Gagamaru who may rise as high as M1 finished
10-5, and he's a different story because he's still young, and he's actually big
enough that if he can focus on an attack using de-ashi, he can become a sanyaku
mainstay alongside Myogiryu.
M8 Kaisei looked great finishing 11-4, and going back to my intro, here's
another guys that's hard to pin down. After a superb couple of basho last year
when he debuted in May, the Brasilian just fell off the map, and we didn't
really hear that he was injured, so let's continue to monitor his progress.
Since nobody else did this well against the same competition, that's gotta mean
Let's jump all the way down to the M13 rank where Daido finished 10-5 while
Masunoyama one-upped the Dough finishing 11-4. I'm really impressed with Daido
the last few basho who has learned to use his weight to his advantage grounding
that attack with very god de-ashi. Daido was adept at yotsu-zumo as well as
oshi-zumo, and if Wakakoyu can reach the sanyaku, this guy certainly can as
well. Counterpart Masunoyama posted 11 wins while LOSING to Hochiyama and
Takarafuji. I think Masunoyama is one of the four best Japanese rikishi on the
banzuke, and if you're really new to sumo, you missed his debut basho last year
where he suffered a terrible ankle injury forcing him to withdraw and then
languish in Juryo for multiple basho. His only flaw is his weight, and yeah, I
know all these guys are fat, but Masunoyama is too fat for his own good. If he
can keep himself from ballooning any bigger and shape himself up, he'd be more
potent than the two Japanese Ozeki.
And finally, M14 Tochinowaka is a total mystery, and throughout the basho the
Japanese broadcasters were constantly speculating as to what his problem is.
It's gotta be an injury, and we can only hope he rehabs properly in Juryo and
comes back at full strength. I don't let my mancrushes die so easily.
The Aki festivities begin September 9th, so will start the engine back up two
weeks before then.
2012 Nagoya Basho
Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
In the modern era of sumo, a
rikishi fighting from the Maegashira ranks has taken the yusho 19 times with
Kotonishiki actually accomplishing the feat twice. In the previous 18 instances,
only once has the hiramaku yusho rikishi not been promoted to the sanyaku for
the next basho. That exception was Sadanoyama who managed to take the cup with a
12-3 performance from the M13 rank in just his third basho in the division 51
years ago. After a 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut, Sadanoyama suffered an
injury that caused him to miss the next basho entirely, but he made sure the
return for his third go-around was triumphant managing to hoist the Emperor's
Cup by basho's end. On the banzuke following that improbable yusho, the
youngster was bumped up to the M2 rank largely because he was still untested in
Sadanoyama would subsequently prove that yusho was no fluke by securing his
second career championship less than a year later on his way to a storied career
that saw him promoted to Yokozuna, but he remained the lone Maegashira rikishi
to yusho in one basho and not be promoted to the sanyaku for the next basho.
That is until Kyokutenho backed his way into the yusho last basho. Despite
fighting from the M7 rank, Kyokutenho was only bumped up to M1 for the Nagoya
basho, which tells you the Sumo Association thought his yusho was as
illegitimate as we thought it was.
The May tournament could not have ended up worse for the Association who is
desperate to see a Japanese rikishi yusho, but unfortunately, I don't believe
they can afford a repeat of the Natsu basho, so expect a bit more normalcy in
Nagoya as Hakuho creeps up the all-time list with his 23rd yusho.
One of the methods I use to forecast a basho of late is the spin that I see
portrayed in the headlines prior to the tournament, and even if an obvious
storyline or angle isn't being spun, you can still tell which rikishi the Sumo
Association wants highlighted simply by who the media focuses on pre-basho. As
expected, the focus has been on three rikishi: Hakuho, who is being portrayed as
just going through the motions; Kisenosato, who is being portrayed as the next
demon on the dohyo referencing former Yokozuna, Wakanohana I; and then
Kyokutenho, who is receiving the obligatory coverage after his yusho even though
he's going to get his ass kicked in Nagoya. Honorable mention--and deservedly
so--goes to Myogiryu who was promoted to the sanyaku for the first time. As the
festivities unfold, don't be surprised if the afourmentioned (sic) rikishi
remain in the spotlight for better (Hakuho, Kisenosato, Myogiryu) or worse
Trying to legitimately forecast how the rikishi will perform has been tricky
dicky of late simply because the sumo itself has not been straight up, but
assuming there are no shenanigans in Nagoya, this is how the basho should play
Despite what it says in the record books the last year, Yokozuna Hakuho not only
lacks a rival in the sport, but I'm guessing the gap between his ability and the
number two guy on the banzuke (still has to be Baruto) is wider than the sport
has ever seen since the end of World War II. Hakuho is that superior to everyone
else, and while his record the last year doesn't show it, the sumo atop the
dohyo certainly does when the Yokozuna intends on winning his bout. I know many
readers get frustrated because it seems we never call a Hakuho loss legitimate,
but trust me in that this guy is capable of winning 88 bouts per year. As for
Hakuho's pre-basho keiko, he paid the obligatory visit to Kyokutenho roughing up
his fellow countryman, and then he has visited the Sakaigawa-beya multiple times
sparring with Goeido and Myogiryu, two Japanese rikishi in the sanyaku who have
made noise of late. Not once have a read a reference to a nagging Hakuho injury
because there simply isn't one, so I expect the Yokozuna to make a cakewalk of
this basho finishing 13-2. Normally I'd say he goes 15-0, but you just know he's
going to lose a couple along the way.
Number two on the banzuke is Kisenosato, whom the media has made sure to point
out occupies the prestigious East slot in just his fourth basho ranked as an
Ozeki. Kisenosato is not the second best rikishi in the division, and that point
was made when Harumafuji paid a visit on the Kid's 26th birthday earlier in the
week pummeling him 9 straight times before easing up and allowing the final
results to stand at 8-18. Still, with the media focus squarely on Kisenosato's
back, expect things to somehow go the Ozeki's way as he posts 11 or 12 wins.
Up next is Kotoshogiku who is the third best rikishi on the banzuke if I occupy
Kim Kardashian's dreams. The only keiko report I've read regarding Kotoshogiku
had him taking it easy with stable mate Kotooshu as the Bulgarian tried to work
his way back into hon-basho shape. Sadogatake-oyakata halted the keiko session
after just nine bouts out of fear that Kotooshu would reinjure himself, so
that's all we know about Kotoshogiku. Last basho, the Geeku benefited from the
foreign rikishi easing up, but I don't see that happening again this basho--at
least to the extreme we say in May, so give Kotoshogiku 8-9 wins.
Baruto is your true number two guy, but we'll just have to wait and see if he's
allowed to go all out. If he is, I expect him to flirt with 12 wins and stay in
the yusho race until the end.
Harumafuji and Kakuryu round out the top four in the sport along with Hakuho and
Baruto above them, and with a very weak sanyaku this time around, I expect
Harumafuji to skate to an early kachi-koshi and sail to double-digit wins. Same
for Kakuryu, who could be fighting second best of anyone after Hakuho. If all of
the rikishi fight straight up, there's no doubt that the yusho rikishi comes
from the top four. It would make for a compelling fortnight of sumo, but
something tells me it's not in the cards.
Our final Ozeki is Kotooshu who from various reports hasn't recovered fully from
that day 14 clash against Kyokutenho last basho. Kotooshu was the weakest Ozeki
on the board before that bout, and his gimpy right leg isn't going to help
matters. Even with a very weak jo'i beneath him, I expect Kotooshu to barely eke
out his eight wins...if he's lucky.
Let's move down to the sanyaku, which is terribly inflated due to Goeido
receiving some big wins the last two basho and what ended up to be a yusho run
for Tochiohzan last tournament. On one hand, I want to say that those two
deserve the Sekiwake rank like I deserve a place in next year's Miss Universe
pageant, but on the other hand, who else is there after Kakuryu's promotion to
the Ozeki rank? It's awkward having six Ozeki on the banzuke, but even worse
than that is the fact that there are no rikishi below the Ozeki who bring any
real excitement to sumo. Myogiryu is probably the best candidate, but he's one
of those guys who is just too stubby to really rise up and reach Ozeki. Dude's
awesome for sure, and he has as good'a chance as anyone to become the next
Japanese rikishi to yusho, but who is it that puts an extra fanny in the seats
outside of the Ozeki ranks?
Before I get off (cool) on too big of a tangent, let's comment on the two
Sekiwake, Goeido and Tochiohzan. Goeido has had plenty of practice with the
Yokozuna prior to the basho, and the key for him will be to fight during the
hon-basho the same way he did in the keiko ring against Hakuho. Goeido was
worked for sure, but I'm guessing in his keiko with the Yokozuna, he wasn't
delivering any henka or backing up and resorting to trick sumo. If Goeido can
focus on fighting on the inside instead of the quick retreat and pull attack, he
can kachi-koshi legitimately. We'll just have to wait and see. As for
Tochiohzan, the only reason he won 12 bouts last basho was because he didn't
fight anyone. That changes in Nagoya, so expect five wins or so as Tochiohzan
demonstrates how big of a fluke the Natsu basho was.
Myogiryu moves into the Komusubi ranks for the first time in his career, and
there's nothing but upside with him. He brings a fighting spirit stronger than
anyone else ranked below him, and there's no reason why he can't terrorize the
Ozeki for a second basho in a row. I actually expect Myogiryu to kachi-koshi
because the jo'i below him is so awful. One of the key bouts this entire basho
will be the Hakuho - Myogiryu bout. Not because Myogiryu has a chance in hell of
besting the Yokozuna, but if he somehow "wins" the bout, it will be another
frustrating basho. Joining Myogiryu is Toyonoshima who seems to have lost a half
step the last year or so. We just haven't seen that big upset from Tugboat, and
whereas a year ago I think he goes at least 3-3 against the Ozeki, I'd be
surprised if he took two bouts from them. I see Toyonoshima getting off to a
very slow start and falling just short in the end.
As mentioned previously, leading the way for the Maegashira rikishi is M1
Kyokutenho. I can't remember the last time I even commented on Kyokutenho in a
pre-basho report, and there's no reason to do it now. If last basho was really
legit, then it only stands to reason that Kyokutenho and Tochiohzan will do well
again in Nagoya. They won't. Aminishiki has a great shot at reassuming the
Sekiwake rank for September because the current sanyaku is weak, and he knows
how to win at this level as well as anyone. I really expect strong records from
all the Ozeki at the expense of the rest of the jo'i, but if anyone can break
out from the jo'i, it's Aminishiki. 7-8 wins.
M2 Aoiyama is extremely compelling at this rank. First, I think he can beat half
of the Ozeki, and second, the rikishi above him a few notches and below him a
few notches are the same guys he's been fighting his entire Makuuchi career.
Normally a guy just folds his first basho among the jo'i, but I think Aoiyama
can make some noise here. If he's mentally as weak as most of the other Eastern
Europeans have proven to be, ignore this entire paragraph, but if he can somehow
ignore the fact that this is his jo'i debut, I see a sleeper in Aoiyama.
Counterpart Okinoumi has already had his fifteen minutes of fame, so I don't
expect anything beyond six wins from him.
If M3 Wakakoyu was just one more notch down the ranks, he'd be a legitimate
threat to return to the sanyaku, but there's no way he's going to sneak up on
the Ozeki and Yokozuna here. I still think a kachi-koshi is conceivable for him,
but I expect him to fall short. Shohozan fills out the M3 slot, and like
Aoiyama, he just needs to forget how high he is on the charts. If dude can
realize that his tsuppari attack is actually good enough to beat some of the
Ozeki, he can have a decent basho. I think the nerves will get to him leading to
a horrible start, but he should make a basho of it in the end with 6 or 7 wins.
M4 Tochinoshin finds himself back at this level simply by default. He's been
average at best the last year even when fighting from a lot lower in the ranks,
and he's one of those rikishi whose just in it now for the paycheck. Normally,
he'd be a wild card on the border of the jo'i, but it will be (yawn) business as
usual for Shin on his way to eight wins. No comment on Takekaze who can pick up
maybe two wins per basho with straight forward sumo.
M5 Aran falls into the same category as Tochinoshin. If he really exerted
himself, he could make some noise here, but I just don't see it happening. Look
for five or six pull wins to earn the Russian a kachi-koshi. Counterpart
Takayasu needs to make statement this basho. He's out of harm's way from the
jo'i rikishi, and there's nothing but dross all around him, so if he's serious
about a sanyaku berth, he's gotta come out with his guns blazing. I do expect
him to get his eight.
M6 Homasho looks tired to me. This is exactly the kind of banzuke where Homasho
could thrive, but that's been the case for several basho now, and he's done
nothing. Expect nothing new in Nagoya. Counterpart Shotenro hasn't been at this
level in awhile so we'll see how effective his push attack is these days.
M7 Gagamaru is one of the few rikishi who can really shake things up outside of
the jo'i. I haven't mentioned an exciting rikishi in this report since Myogiryu,
but that changes with Gagamaru. Dude's had several basho fighting among the big
boys, and Lord Gaga has enough experience and confidence now that I expect him
to not only win in double-digits but to vie for a special prize. There's no one
here that can stop him.
Let's skip down to M8 Kaisei only because he looked awful just a few basho ago
when fighting at the bottom of the division. I guess that stint in Juryo sorta
lit a fire under the Brazilian's arse because suddenly he's in the upper half of
Things remain boring on the banzuke until down at M12 where Takanoyama makes yet
another return to the division. I think this guy has sort of become a barometer
of the future talent in sumo. He always gets thrown around like a rag doll in
this division; yet, he always does well enough in Juryo to shoot right back up
here in just one basho. So, if Takanoyama is any measurement of the talent we
have down in the Juryo ranks, we're still in for a long haul in terms of getting
some exciting rikishi into the Makuuchi division.
I have to comment on M13 Masunoyama as he looked to be an extremely promising
talent when he first entered the division. The problem is he's carrying too much
for his own good, and it makes him susceptible to injury. In fact, he couldn't
even make it through his Makuuchi debut suffering a serious ankle injury that
has kept him in the Juryo ranks for a year or so. If he is 100%, I expect a
double-digit basho, but we'll just have to wait and see how good his footwork
is. He's definitely a guy to keep your eye on in the lower bracket.
M14 Tochinowaka is also one to keep your eye on. Remember about six months ago
when he was manhandling the Ozeki? Since then he's either suffered an injury or
completely lost his confidence or both. I know last basho he had one of his arms
taped up mid-basho, but a lot of times that just a call for sympathy when a guy
just doesn't have it together. I had so much hope for this guy less than a year
ago, so I'll be watching him close this basho.
And finally, let's conclude with M15 Chiyotairyu who is a beast if there ever
was one. Like Masunoyama, this guy shot out of the gate in his Makuuchi debut,
but he suffered an injury mid-basho that forced his withdrawal. In Masunoyama's
case it was because he was too fat. In Chiyotairyu's case it was because his
sumo is so unstable. Chiyotairyu could already be the best guy on the banzuke
not ranked Yokozuna or Ozeki, but he's addicted to pull sumo, and it could
eventually become his downfall. He has a great tachi-ai, powerful de-ashi, and
perhaps the best oshi attack in sumo, but for some reason, he just has to shift
gears mid-bout and go for the pull. Let's see how he performs here in Nagoya
remembering that he is coming off of an injury last basho. Still, along with
Gagamaru in the mid ranks, I expect Chiyotairyu to have one of the best basho
from the hiramaku.
Here are my basho predictions:
Yusho: Hakuho (13-2...loses to Myogiryu and Kisenosato)