In the run up to this basho, I am conflicted in my predictions. I find myself in a pessimistic mood, both about the rikishi (I predict less than stellar performances) and about my predictions (I predict that my predictions will be less than stellar… come to think of it, I guess by predicting that I am guaranteed at least one stellar prediction no matter how things go). I am excited to see which rikishi surprises me. To that end, I am committing my predictions going into this basho into published writing. You can see some of my commitments here as well as some great thoughts, analyses, and predictions from others in the comments section.
Hakuho – Hakuho is lonely these days. He is no longer chasing any records (says the man tentatively… does Daddy have me?) and he has no one who can seriously challenge him. That said, it takes willpower and sacrifice to keep those wins coming in at 15-0. I wonder if Hakuho is lowing his willpower to win them all. Where Hakuho of 2010 (with the exception of Hatsu Basho) was able to put forth that will power to win them all, Hakuho of 2011 is slipping. If we could pit Hakuho 2010 against Hakuho 2011, would Hakuho 2011 hold his own against Hakuho 2010? If Hakuho gets a koshi of 14-1 or better this tournament, I would say yes. If he gets a koshi of less, then the days of the daiyokuzuna will be at an end in my mind.
Harumafuji – Lets look at Harumafuji’s record here: 8-7; 10-5; 14-1; 9-6 What’s that 9-6 doing there? Those are Harumafuji’s koshi for Hatsu Basho 2009, Haru Basho 2009, Natsu Basho 2009, and Nagoya Basho 2009. Of course, history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but confidence is a major part of Haruma’s game and Haruma under pressure has tended to be Haruma under confident. (note for context: Haruma’s record for the last 3 basho is 8-7; 10-5; 14-1)
Kotoshogiku – needs to win 12 bouts to be considered for promotion to Ozeki. Kotoshogiku has never managed better than 11-4 since entering the top division (though admittedly, those 11-4s are both recent and while he was ranked as Sekiwake).
Kakuryu – needs to win 11 bouts to be considered for promotion to Ozeki. Kakuryu managed 12 wins as Komosubi, and then 10 wins after being promoted to Sekiwake. Also, though at lower ranks, Kakuryu has managed to finish 11-4 3 times since entering makuuchi (I take this to show that he can maintain himself under pressure). Of course the era of yaocho is over, but Kakuryu is a member of Team Mongolia. I am looking forward to seeing whether Kakuryu can defeat Kotoshogiku this tournament.
I think I am going to be pessimistic on all but Kakuryu this basho. But at the same time, I am going to hope I am wrong.
We want to hear from you:
Our poll about Harumafuji shows a split opinion about whether or not he will yusho and our poll about whether Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku or Kisenosato will become Ozeki also shows some mixed opinions. Care to share your thoughts about why you weighed in as you did?
What rikishi are you watching this basho, how do you think they will do and why?
Which matches are you looking forward to (hoping for) most?
If Butterbean and Bob Sapp were rikishi, which would be the stronger rikishi?
Maybe that is why the Japanese are so afraid of Sumo being infiltrated by foreigners….