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2015 Nagoya Pre-basho Report

Just go down the banzuke and tell me whose favored over Terunofuji:

Harumafuji - Won't fight him
Kakuryu - Could maybe finagle a win if he was healthy
JPN Ozeki - All at Fuji's mercy
Tochiohzan - Has never solved him
Ichinojo - Been schooled the last two basho now
Takarafuji - Won't fight him
Myogiryu - Lost with moro-zashi last basho
Tochinoshin - The best candidate to upset him besides Hakuho
Sadanoumi - Lightening won't strike twice

After that, you're getting down into the dregs. Unless Terunofuji seriously lets up, he's going to waltz to 12 wins again and maybe more. If no one else is making a serious yusho run and Terunofuji is right there, he may pick up his second in a row. I don't expect that in Nagoya, but it's either Hakuho or Terunofuji.

For the second basho in a row, we have a solid sanyaku led by Tochiohzan and Ichinojo in the Sekiwake slots. It gets hard to predict wins for these guys because they'll fight all three Ozeki, and I never know when they're going to let up and when they'll go all out. I do see both of them getting kachi-koshi this basho, and Ichinojo has gotten a bit of a run because he's so fat. Like Konishiki, it is possible to get to a point where you're too fat to really be effective, and as young as he is, Ichinojo is a slug who is too heavy for his own good. Give both Sekiwake eight.

Not having to fight a Yokozuna, a real Ozeki, and Aminishiki makes it so Komusubi Takarafuji has to really screw up not to kachi-koshi. I was actually watching a news program where he was featured, and they actually focused on his butt. I guess Takarafuji does exercises to strengthen his butt muscles, and then they actually showed him flexing his can back and forth. As a Westerner, I watch that and go, "What is going on with this report?", but the Japanese will watch it and glom on to this brand new story: Takarafuji has a strong butt!! Actually, Takarafuji is a strong guy and belongs to a fantastic stable, and he could be an Ozeki in three basho if he got the same favoritism that's shown to the three bozos in that Mini Cooper.

Myogiryu rounds out the Komusubi rank, and it's really good to see him back up in the sanyaku. In Tochiohzan, Takarafuji, and Myogiryu, you probably have your three best Japanese rikishi with M1 Sadanoumi perhaps standing equal alongside Myogiryu. The best thing about Myogiryu is that he keeps you honest, and I know he's not going to just roll over and pout due to his difficult schedule. He probably falls short this basho with not enough wins to go around, but I still like him to win six and maybe seven.

M1 Tochinoshin is an absolute wild card, and I just loved contrasting his sumo last basho with that of the three Ozeki. If you still think that all of the Ozeki bouts are legit, tell me why none of the three can fight like Tochinoshin. With the private, you have a guy who can create his own yotsu sumo bout and then muscle his opponent back across the straw. You never see such sumo from the Japanese Ozeki, so this basho, focus on Tochinoshin's sumo and then contrast that with Kisenosato, Goeido, and Kotoshogiku. In all reality, if the banzuke truly did measure the top rikishi, you'd probably have Terunofuji and Tochinoshin as your Ozeki with Ichinojo knocking on the door. I just love Tochinoshin of late, but it's hard to predict a number of wins because I think he trades in a lot of 'em for cash. He has the ability to win 11 from this rank, but I see him coming away with eight or so and then a pile of cash on the side.

I already touched briefly on M1 Sadanoumi to the West. He's just about the best that Japan's got going for it right now, but Sadanoumi's best is an 8-7 record from the jo'i.

The M2 rank is solid with Takayasu to the East and Aoiyama to the West. I just want these two to fight their hardest and keep the dudes above them honest. I don't think there are enough scraps left over for Takayasu to win eight, but he shouldn't be a pushover. As for Aoiyama, I like him to kachi-koshi simply because he's one of the best rikishi below the Ozeki rank.

From this point, the banzuke gets extremely shaky, and the next guy worth mentioning is M8 Osunaarashi. You'll remember that he was reborn a bit after his newfound moro-te-zuki tachi-ai (who nees the kachi-age?), but a leg injury caused him to withdraw from the Natsu basho after a good 4-2 start. Reports say that Osunaarashi is not 100%, which is a shame, but he should participate in the tournament. Considering his competition among the mid-Maegashira ranks, I think he can at least win eight.

M11 Kyokutenho is fighting in his 100th Makuuchi basho, and I think he's just the second dude in history to accomplish the feat. It's a meaningless statistic but one that we'll help drive attention to the Nagoya basho for the sheep fans.

Endoh checks in at M12 and early on, his keiko reports had him looking good, but he reinjured his knee during keiko and has been gimpy since. I see a similar pattern that played out last basho. Namely, Endoh has no business being out there and will get out to a horrific start only to be given some serious love the second week. There's no point predicting number of wins. If all of sumo was legitimate, he might win one.

Well lookey what we have here...a rookie in the division who is actually Japanese!! Hidenoumi finds himself slotted in the M13 rank, and I've never seen him fight, so I really can't comment on him. Dude is 26 years old which is up there for a bit in terms of a rookie whose going to come in and make a big splash. The truly great rikishi are ranked among the sanyaku when they're in their early twenties, and with the banzuke getting worse, I don't think there's much to write home about in regards to a newbie whose 26. I'll save my analysis of his sumo (he's reportedly a yotsu guy) for the first few days of the tournament.

Joining Hidenoumi as a second rookie for the tournament is M15 Seiro, another yotsu guy who is also...drum roll please...26 years old! It's the same story for Seiro...you're probably a mediocre rikishi if it takes you this long to reach the big dance. Seiro actually did make a few appearances last basho from the Juryo ranks, and he looks to be an okay guy. Considering how watered down the lower levels of Makuuchi are, he's got as good'a chance to kachi-koshi as anyone else.

Finally, it's worth mentioning Satoyama who makes his return to the division for the first time in about eight basho. You may remember him as that vertically challenged dude who resembles a sato imo (hair on your chest will do that!). He's never won eight in the division, and during his debut basho, he jumped out to a 7-5 start and was garnering considerable hype due to his short stature and unorthodox sumo, but he ended up blowing his kachi-koshi and the likely Ginosho with an 0-3 finish. I can still picture the look on his face after falling on senshuraku, and I'm actually..er..uh..rooting for him to get his eight.

On that rim shot, here are my basho predictions:

Yusho: Hakuho (13-2)
Ginosho: none
Shukunsho: none
Kantosho: Kyokutenho

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