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SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2017 (Day 5)

Day 5 of the Nagoya Basho dawns with a bit of bad news—M3 Endo has gone kyujo [withdrawn from the tournament due to injury] because of an ankle injury that it’s said will take at least two months to heal. Adding to yokozuna Kakuryu’s withdrawal yesterday, we’re seeing yet another thing that makes this basho different than most others . . .  and early rash of injuries.

Of course, the BIG difference is way most of the top-rankers have suffered multiple losses in the early days of Week 1, leaving the yusho [tournament championship] race wide open for a dark horse to seize control of. Well, except of course for yokozuna Hakuho, who continues the dominance he displayed in his zensho [perfect record] yusho in May. Yesterdays bizarre stand off against Takakeisho is the kind of thing that only happens when a rikishi is brimming with strength and confidence.

M16 Gagamaru (1–3) vs J1 Kaisei (3–1)—The Georgian rikishi Gagamaru only just fought his way back up to the top division after half a year in Juryo. But the way he’s been performing so far, it seems likely that he’s headed right back down unless he can stave off make-koshi [majority of losses]. Today he faces Brazilian rikisi Kaisei who just dropped to Juryo this tournament and is trying to win his way right back to the top division, and is making a good show of it so far. This match may well predict which of these rikishi we’ll see competing in the Maegashira ranks come September’s Aki Basho. (0:10)

M2 Tochinoshin (2–2) vs. M4 Ura (3–1)—A great match that pits completely opposite rikishi against each other. On the one side is the Georgian bear of a rikishi, Tochinoshin, who is all about raw power and overwhelming his opponents. On the other side is small, fast, and clever Ura who relies on speed and trickery to overcome opponents who generally are significantly bigger than he is. (8:40)

Sekiwake Tamawashi (3–1) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (2–2)—The two sekiwake, both of whom are looking very strong so far this tournament, go head-to-head today. I must admit, I’ve been lulled by Tamawashi’s quiet, unflashy style over the past few tournaments and probably haven’t given him the attention he’d deserved. After all, this is his third basho in a row as a sekiwake, and his fourth in a row in sanyaku. He very quietly has been putting up solid winning performances in the sport’s most difficult ranks. On the other side, Mitakeumi came up through the ranks like lightning and does have a flashy way about him. He’s had a more seesaw record than Tamawashi over the past year, but he’s also put up many more marquee wins and shown up in the interview room far more often. Here’s a chance for them to PROVE which sekiwake really is better. (9:20)

M1 Shodai (1–3) vs. ozeki Goeido (2–2)—Neither one of these rikishi has looked particularly sharp this basho. Well, that’s not really fair. On half the days, Goeido has looked VERY sharp . . . like he deserves his ozeki rank and can challenge just about anyone on a given day. It’s the other half of the days that I have a problem with. On those days he just looks lost, like he forgot why he’s here and he has no interest in figuring it out. Now, for most rikishi that’d be fine. Their fate on the banzuke would be to bounce up anddown depending on their overall tournament records. As an ozeki, though, Goeido has been thoroughly shielded from suffering the consequences of his unpredictability. Honestly, I would LOVE it if Goeido would perform up to his potential most of the time and become a worthy ozeki. But if he can’t do that, I want him to fail out of the position and go mix it up with the rest of the “elevator rikishi.” (11:00)

Yokozuna Hakuho (4–0) vs. komusubi Yoshikaze (4–0)—The only two remaining undefeated sanyaku rikishi go head-to-head in today’s final match. Both are looking strong, though the nod as always has to go to Hakuho. But it’s hard to count Yoshikaze out, especially since he’s already beaten two yokozuna, an ozeki, and a sekiwake this tournament. (13:25)

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