The Kyūshū basho is here already!? Not that I am complaining, but it seems like the Aki basho just ended! I think it seems that the two bashos are so close together because we’ve had so much North American sumo action between them, such as the Georgia Sumo Open and the Texas Sumo Classic. Nevertheless, I am still extremely excited to see the professional sumo action.
Unfortunately, not everyone is healthy for the Kyūshū basho 2018. Hakuho is sitting this one out due to a knee injury, meaning that the field is open for someone to grab the yusho. Will Kisenosato prove that he is still a yokozuna worth fearing? Has Tochinoshin recovered fully from his injuries? Or maybe someone unexpected will have a breakout performance? If I was a betting person, I’d put money on Takayasu. He has looked extremely strong in four of the past five bashos. While he had somewhat ugly finishes to the past two bashos, I think it is safe to say that he can bounce back.
In the lower divisions, Enho is still the show to watch in the jūryō division. He had a stellar showing in the last basho, and I hope that he continues his superb efforts. The golden olden one, Aminishiki, also had a good performance last basho, going 7-8. He would have been promoted to makuuchi if he didn’t get henka’ed in his final two matches. Let’s see if he can perform well enough to get promoted. Gagamaru got demoted to the makushita division, which will be his first time competing so low in almost a decade! I am really, really looking forward to seeing how he competes with the lower-tier rikishi. Lastly, there are tons of other rikishi to watch – much too many to name. There is simply so much good sumo action to watch at the moment.
Most of all, I am excited to see how well Musashikuni Mamu and Wakaichirō Ken perform. Both rikishi had disappointing showings in the Aki basho. Musashikuni went 3-4, only dropping a few spots. Wakaichirō, however, went 2-5 and dropped back down to the jonidan division. Both rikishi will be fighting to counteract their current downward momentum. Below is a chart of the career rankings of each rikishi (along with Brodi Henderson), which demonstrates their current momentum. Click here to open a new tab with a full-size version of the chart. I use this chart below (and other media) to predict Musashikuni and Wakaichirō’s performance in the Aki Basho 2018.
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[HASTY AUTHOR EDIT: Apparently Musashikuni is injured and not competing in this basho. I completely missed this, and was notified by a reader on Reddit. Thanks for catching this!]
[HASTY AUTHOR EDIT #2: Musashikuni only missed the first match of the basho, so these analyses are still relevant.]
Musashikuni Mamu and the Kyūshū Basho 2018
Musashikuni had a period of seven bashos where he steadily climbed up the ranks of sandanme and makushita, reaching the rank of makushia 33 in July. In the last two bashos, however, he has begun to slip a little bit. He has gotten two consecutive make-koshis (more losses than wins), so this basho will be very important for Musashikuni to get back on track. A good performance could result his forward progress; a great performance could put him right back to where he was. Of course, I am hoping for the latter, and I would love to see Musashikuni back in the middle of the makushita division.
For this to happen, Musashikuni needs to find balance in his double-edged sword. Musashikuni performs best when he is on the offensive. He is extremely difficult to defeat when his feet are moving forward, his arms are pushing, and his hands are slapping. For instance, the gif below is his second match of the Aki Basho 2018.
Even in the makushita division, few can defend against Musashikuni’s offense when it is at its best.
At the same time, Musashikuni’s forward offensive attack often leaves him off balanced. Or, at least, off balanced enough that a well-timed push, shove, or throw can send him flying off the dohyo. For instance, below is Musashikuni’s fourth match of the Aki Basho 2018.
Musashikuni had some good offensive looks, but his opponent was able to slap down his push attempt for the win.
For Musashikuni to climb back up the makushita division, he must find a better balance between his forward offensive style and a steady defensive base. As I mentioned before, Musashikuni wins from his aggression slightly more than he loses from his aggression; however, some rikishi seem to be catching onto Musashikuni’s weaknesses, and he needs to counteract the expected approaches of his opponents.
In the Kyūshū Basho 2018, I expect Musashikuni to have a 4-3 performance. I believe his skillset is currently somewhere around the middle of the makushita division – good enough to beat those at the bottom of the division, but not quite good enough to dominate them. Nevertheless, I will be secretly hoping for a 7-0 or a 6-1 performance, no matter how unlikely!
Wakaichirō Ken and the Kyūshū Basho 2018
Wakaichirō has been wavering between the top of the jonidan division and the bottom of the sandanme division for a year now. In fact, the Kyūshū Basho 2017 was Wakaichirō’s first basho in the sandanme division. I’m sure that Wakaichirō will show a fierce desire to get back to where he was during this basho. A kachi-koshi (more wins than losses) will guarentee that Wakaichirō will return to the sandanme division, whereas as make-koshi would certainly be more heartbreak for Wakaichirō.
For Wakaichirō to pull out a good performance, he needs to focus on the basics. Wakaichirō is a wonderful sumo wrestler, but he still has some apparent flaws in his approaches. Notably, he has a tendency for over-movements. Instead of focusing on a solid base and steady offensive maneuvers, Wakaichirō sometimes places himself in bad positions by doing too much. The gif below is his first match in the Aki Basho 2018, and it demonstrates this concern of Wakaichirō.
Instead of focusing on low hips, stable movements, and safe offensive maneuvers, Wakaichirō instead tried several spin moves to get into better positioning. While he is the professional sumo wrestler and I am not, I can’t help but think that the spin moves are almost never the correct choice of action.
At the same time, Wakaichirō still wins sometimes when performing the spin move. The gif below is his fifth match from the Aki Basho 2018.
I don’t think Wakaichirō won this match because of the spin move, however. Wakaichirō focused more on keeping a low, stable base, and he executed more deliberate offensive maneuvers. His final winning move was a cleaver step-aside when he felt his opponent pushing the pressure too much. For Wakaichirō to return to sandanme and climb the ranks, he needs to continue to develop and perfect these basic approaches to sumo.
In the Kyūshū Basho 2018, I expect Wakaichirō to have a 5-2 record. I know that this is a bold prediction for someone that just had a 2-5 record, but I think that Wakaichirō is much more skilled than anyone in the jonidan division. I don’t think he is dominant enough to go 7-0 or 6-1 in the jonidan division, as his youthfulness still places him in bad positions during his matches. At the same time, I really don’t see him having a make-koshi. I don’t want to jinx it, though! So, if you are reading this, Wakaichirō, please pretend that I didn’t say anything!