- Fantasy Basho
Nagoya 2022 Day Two
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Henka. Ura unleashed a textbook one to avoid Abi's two-handed thrusts. He took a beat to invite Abi forward, and even took a glancing blow as he was jumping to the side. But that sent Abi past him, which made the match all Ura.
Match of the Day
Yokozuna East Terunofuji versus Maegashira #1 East Kiribayama
The two Mongolians both had matches that should warn future opponents. After losing to Abi by not having any lateral movement and coming up limping, Terunofuji held in against Kiribayama. The Misty Horse Mountain gave the Yokozuna everything. This was a lengthy mawashi battle, but even the stalemate was chaotic. They both went for front of mawashi grips, blocked each other, then both got it. That landed to a bizarre shoulder-to-shoulder stall with both mawashi coming apart. Terunofuji was never moved backwards to any serious degree, but Kiribayama made him work. The simple yorikiri masks how good this match was.
The Ozeki are still in trouble, but the Yokozuna won against a strong foe. That may mean that the basho is settling into an order after a messy first day. Takakeisho even looked genuinely impressive by throwing Hoshoryu, a statement that is baffling and shows Hoshoryu has some development left before challenging the very best. Perhaps the youngest Ozeki will begin showing his yusho-winning sumo for the next thirteen days.
The continuing story of Nagoya, which will almost certainly keep up for two weeks, is that the upper Maegashira are nearly even with the Sanyaku. That is not how sumo is supposed to work. Usually, the Yokozuna and Ozeki demolish the Maegashira #1 through #4 ranks, and even the Komusubi, The current version of the Ozeki are not really up to demolishing anyone, with each already having a loss and Shodai at 0-2. They may all be dealing with minor, not kyujo-worthy, injuries. Certainly, none are performing at their best.
And the upper Maegashira are extremely strong right now. This is not really a Nagoya basho trend, but a 2022 trend. In fact, Kiribayama, Takanosho, and Kotonowaka performed in May at a Sanyaku level, but there was no room to elevate them. They are all very strong still, especially Kotonowaka. At 24, he could also be improving. Kiribayama and Takanosho are essentially in their prime, but they can beat anyone on their day, it seems. Add in a rested Ichinojo and a still game Tamawashi, who will be a difficult matchup at 50 at this rate, and you have a clutch of non-Sanyaku men who could win pretty much any day.
Sumo is currently unsettled. Looking back in ten years, 2022 will stand out as the year things change. An Ozeki run or a key retirement will make the banzuke look completely different. We are waiting to see when those will happen. For Nagoya, we are seeing the long-term effects day by day. A rikishi might pull out after one match if an injury becomes obvious and impossible to fight through. Overall, it will be an accumulation of results that determine who gets promoted, demoted, and forced to retire.
Going into Day Three, that means the Sanyaku matches all seem like anyone can win. Can Abi beat Mitakeumi? Can Kotonowaka beat Takakeisho? Can Kiribayama beat Shodai? Can Takanosho beat Terunofuji? The answer for all those is yes, because they have in the past. Yet the higher-ranked man is probably also still the favorite, except for maybe Shodai if he is still looking hapless. Confidently predicting Shodai matches has also been a fool's errand in 2022. It's probably a fool's errand to predict any individual match. Watch closely for the next thirteen days.