As I (and everyone) usually say before each basho, we have the makings for some exciting sumo. There is another potential Yokozuna run, a possible Ozeki run, some new blood in the sanyaku, not quite as many over-ranked rikishi as we have seen in the past few basho, a few under-ranked fellows who should do well, an exciting newcomer joining the makuuchi division, juryo looks exciting this time out, and we have some exciting new recruits to the sumo world. We’ll start off with some keiko and injury reports, then dive right into the meat of this report, so you, my dear readers, have a decent idea of what to expect coming into this basho. So pour the whisky, light up a fine cigar, or pack yourself a full pipe, and lets get started.
Starting off with Russian Amuru. He had a crackerjack basho back in hatsu and was sitting pretty, high up on the Juryo banzuke, but ligament damage in his arm is going to sit him out for March, and possibly May, and beyond.
Sakumayama suffered a fractured sternum in keiko. He returned to keiko, but might not have all cylinders firing for Haru.
Kokonoe beya had the worst run of things here… Chiyonokuni suffered a dislocated shoulder back in hatsu, and has been taking it slow during keiko, but will enter on the first day of Haru. Could be a big deal, could be nothing. But keep a look out.
Chiyoarashi missed last basho for an ankle injury, but will be in and ready to go for day 1.
The worst news comes from Chiyozakura who apparently broke a knee and possibly his neck. Some say it may be a career ending injury, but I haven’t found any solid sources, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Lastly Kakuryu has been having trouble with his shoulder as well. No confirmed serious injury, just not functioning well, and causing him pain. May have an adverse effect on his 3rd basho in a row with a technical chance at ozeki.
What can I say about Hakuho that hasn’t already been said about my crotch? The very least we’ve come to expect is an amazing performance. He’s still, of course, favored to win the yusho. But in the past few basho we’ve seen a few chinks (not sure whether pun intended or not) in his armor. So I’d go from 99% assured to about 80%.
Baruto is under the microscope this basho. With the kyokai saying a 12-3 and maybe even a junyusho will be considered, there’ll be a lot of pressure this time around. Bart has also been experimenting with different tachi-ai’s and techniques. It seems he may want to add more than a Frankenstein-style-lurch-n-grab pouch on his sumo utility belt. Keiko reports say his haridashi was looking pretty damn good.
I do have some concerns about his tsuna run. It seems to me that the kyokai is desperate to make another yokozuna. Perhaps they think a yokozuna showdown on senshuraku will lasso in more viewers and sell more tickets, and perhaps it will. Maybe the kyokai wants to appeal to more international viewers. Let me be clear, I am not saying that Baruto’s sumo is sub-par. He is certainly the best ozeki on the dohyo, and i like his stuff. He’s a good contrast to Hakuho in style and personality, and a good match in the strength department.
However, I think its a bit premature to be throwing out a sideways rope to Bart. Bart hasn’t posted anything over 11 wins since he made ozeki back in 2010. I would like to see how he does this basho. If he gets 12 or more, then give him the rope if he snags a junyusho or yusho in natsu. That being said, as usual, i make a call that seems to me to make perfect sense, and the kyokai will inevitably do either the exact opposite, or come up with a bizarre solution that is completely tangential. In any event, look for Bart to post over 11 and I give him a 19% chance at a yusho.
Harumafuji is predicatble in being hard to predict, but I have a good feeling about him this basho, and i’m gonna go with it. 11 for Harry with some interesting bouts.
Kisenosato is still one of the kyokai’s golden boys. He’ll do ok. Most likely a forgettable 10, maybe 9.
Kotooshu did too well last basho. Methinks a melt down is nigh. Oshu should listen to the seers, and beware the ides of March…
The Geek kind of cooled off last basho. My gut tells me that he’ll ramp his way back up slowly. Give him 10.
Kakuryu is not going to be at 100%. He can be kind of streaky, and little things can really throw his game off. I would think he’ll finish 9-6 after a rocky start.
Aminishiki is too old for game of this caliber. He won’t make his 8, but he’ll take a few sanyaku colleagues down along the way. 6-9 or 5-10.
I see Gagamaru and Tochiozan going in opposite directions. Gaga is gonna collapse in the meat grinder. So is Ozan. But one of the two is gonna bring things back and get his 8. Big O gets my vote for that. Gaga is gonna end up back in mid-high maegashira.
M1 looks good with Myogiryu and Tochinowaka. I think both guys will hover around 8-7 or 7-8, but will both give it everything and look pretty darn good in the process.
M2 is the opposite. Yoshikaze has never KKed this high up on the banzuke. Tokitenku has a few times but it has been a few years since that happened. Both of these guys will be headed back down. But I always enjoy seeing Yoshi move, and Tenku viciously kick people in the shins.
M3&4 will be interesting. Kyokutenho is old, but is a tough opponent, and can always do pretty well. Aran, Tochinoshin, and Toyonoshima can all do really well if they are on their game, although some are more consistent than others. All 4 of these guys will be fun to watch this basho. I’d give a KK to 2 out of these 4.
M5&6 – Look for Homasho to rally this basho. He should be able to kill it from M5. I would think special prize, maybe a ginosho in the works. M5 is where Wakakoyu should be right now. He needs a bit more work before he faces a harder schedule. Some would argue that Goeido is under ranked at M4, and maybe he is, but I don’t care because I just don’t like him. Shohozan, however, I do like, and this will be a really telling basho for him. I want to see him do well, but things could get really sticky for him really fast. Again I am not sure I see more than 50% of these 4 picking up their 8.
After M5 things always kind of turn into a circus. So I’ll just throw out some predictions here. Takayasu is under-ranked, 10 with a kantosho. Okinoumi is also under0-ranked, 9 wins and a close call, nearly misses kantosho. I will hate watching Miyabiyama’s sumo. Kitataiki starts of strong and somehow screws it up. 3rd time in makuuchi is not a charm for Takarafuji. Takanoyama is interesting to watch, but scrapes out his 8 with a few disappointing close calls. Wakanosato watches Matlock and thinks about drinking a V8. Tamawashi and Shotenro show up to the office, and I’m guessing only one of them will really do any work.
Now onto Ikoi. I REALLY want him to do well. I REALLY want to see double digits, but I just think he’ll have a bit of a tough time adjusting. I’ll give him 8, but not much more. His sumo is solid, I like his stuff, and he can improvise pretty well when under pressure.
Down in Juryo there is one shikona on everyone’s lips: Chiyotairyu. I see no reason why he won’t pick up this yusho, with very few problems. Other guys I like to do well in juryo: Tosayutaka, Sotairyu, Kaisei, Masunoyama, and Hokutokuni.
As for new recruits two top the list. College yokozuna Yamaguchi, who was personally selected by Hakuho to come to Miyagino-beya. Yamaguchi is the first college freshman to get the title in 24 years. He is eligible fro tsukedashi, meaning he’ll start right at makushita 15.
The other is Osunaarashi (Abdelrahman Alaa Eldin Mohamed Ahmed Sharan, called Boody for short). He was on the banzuke last time, but had not passed his Japanese exams, which he has now passed. He should be in Maezumo this basho, ready to tear up the banzuke .
There is also former juryo Tsugaruumi’s Grandson Uno Masanobu. He’s 15 and wants to surpass his grandfather and make it to makuuchi.