Hatsu 2021 Day Four
Match of the Day
Maegashira 16 West Akiseyama versus Maegashira 14 West Midorifuji
The obvious tactical approach going into this one was Akiseyama would try and bottle up Midorifuji, while Midorifuji would try a little bit of everything to disrupt Akiseyama's fundamentals. Both men got their gameplans off, somehow. Akiseyama got a firm but not convincing grip at the start. Midorifuji worked and worked and worked to get out of a hold. Akiseyama kept his feet, but got battered. He managed to hold on until Midorifuji wore himself down and was seen to the edge.
Daieisho over Mitakeumi
Takayasu over Terunofuji
Takarafuji over Takakeisho
(NOTE: These are based on rank. I wouldn't quibble with saying there were no real upsets on Day Four the way this basho is going.)
The only somewhat unusual Kimarite on the day was Yutakayama's sotogake, the outside leg trip. But really, it just looked like Azumaryu's feet betrayed him at the rice bales and Yutakayama fell on him.
Perhaps the basic fact of Hatsu 2021 is that it is bending to its own reality. Based on the identity and rank of who lost, there were surprises. Based on performance over the last three days, the only possible one was Terunofuji losing to Takayasu. While Terunofuji has had his moments of overwhelming power, he also looks wild.
Asanoyama's win over the previously undefeated Onosho felt a bit like a return to normal. At least, the good Asanoyama has definitely arrived. Likely, Daieisho, Meisei, and Akiseyama will lose this basho and relatively soon. That's the nature of sumo. They are still looking relatively strong, especially Daieisho. The Oitekaze man seems to have had Takakeisho's missing power placed in him.
How the top rikishi reassert their bonafides, if they can, and how the bottom of the banzuke shakes out, if it does, is the immediate story to watch. Shodai was back on form, as was Takanosho. They will likely battle with Daieisho and Onosho to see who in the top half of the rankings becomes the yusho leader. Akiseyama beat Midorifuji by grabbing hold and just weathering everything Midorifuji could throw at him. It isn't difficult seeing someone else beat that. Ichinojo, Midorifuji, Yutakayama, and Kotonowaka are all on three wins and could be the lower-ranker to beat still.
Always remember this during this tournament, however. Just 19 matchups can be had in any day with one rikishi popping up from juryo, and that's as long as no one else goes Kyujo. Scheduling will get weird. Someone gets injured, and now finding 18 matches to schedule around stablemates and previous encounters could be difficult. There have been few basho where the lower ranked sekitori seem more likely to face much higher ranked opponents.
With little of the basho going as pre-tournament predictions had it already, this could make for more intrigue. Or it could lead to Shodai, Asanoyama, Terunofuji, Takanosho, and Daieisho feasting on lower ranked wrestlers in the middle part of the basho. That would set up an epic clash between the top men at the end. Only if everyone fights like their supposed to, and that is not what's happening right now.