- Fantasy Basho
Kyushu 2021 Day Five
Tottari. After a matta, Chiyoshoma seemed to have Ura in an awkward position, almost leaning too far forward. Actually, Ura was able to grab Chiyoshoma's arm and move backward for a glorious arm bar throw.
Match of the Day
Maegashira #9 East Aoiyama versus Maegashira #11 West Terutsuyoshi
These two went after each other after a hesitant tachiai, and then they kept going at each other. It was hard to say which rikishi got the advantage, as Aoiyama was constantly pushing on Terutsuyoshi, but Terutsuyoshi was staying inside the bigger man. The match was a long one, but also never really had a stalemate. There was notable, audible grunting in the entire back and forth. Finally, Terutsuyoshi won by throwing over the exhausted Bulgarian.
It is Day Five and it just might be time to talk about Abi. Abi is one of just three rikishi to be undefeated after five matches. Three wrestlers got their first loss on Day Five, but Abi managed to survive the thinning out. The other two who managed it are Yokozuna Terunofuji and Ozeki Takakeisho. Abi is hanging out at Maegashira #15, and is officially the surprise Maegashira after a third of the basho.
There is a world where Abi would be at the top of the Banzuke with Terunofuji and Takakeisho now. It is a world where Abi had not visited hostess clubs against COVID regulations during the July 2020 basho. He was a Komusubi for four basho in 2019 and 2020, and his three basho suspension for violating the JSA's rules sent him back to Makushita. Abi could be a Sekiwake threatening Ozeki status right now, but he needed to blast through the lower divisions instead.
Except that the way he is fighting now is different than he was in 2020. Abi has a very specific style. That style involves throwing both hands directly at the opponents' throat and pushing him back. He is big, long, and athletic enough to make like wildly uncomfortable with this opening. Previously, he was middling at times because any move can be beat if it's predictable. Abi also would fluctuate where he hit and with how much power, making him stand up and then move back sometimes. He has enough skill around the tawara to slip out of danger, but that isn't a great plan to rely on consistently.
Through five days, Abi has been focused on hitting each opponent high on the chest and keeping up the attack. This is the Abi that is tough to beat. Few rikishi can make their way around Abi's long arms, plus he is fast enough to keep up a solid attack. When he doesn't give room in his sumo, any opponent has to solve a specific problem. The focus, drive, and technique are a hallmark of Abi now that was not there pre-suspension.
Abi still has a tough path ahead. Terunofuji and Takakeisho are looming if he makes it deep into the second week undefeated. And to get there Abi will have to keep his focus of the first five matches and probably bail himself out once or twice. Then he will get a few smaller tests before the big ones appear on his match card. 10 plus wins would be a remarkable return. Yet after five days, Abi has a chance to do more and go even further than he has before.