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Grand Sumo January 2022 Basho Preview

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Grand Sumo action will make its return in January 2022 at the Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. This tournament will not only be the first of the year, but also the first tournament following Terunofuji’s zensho yusho in November. How might the top division look entering 2022? Here is what to expect in the January 2022 basho.

Grand Sumo January 2022 Basho Preview

Big Tournaments for the Ozekis

Despite putting together a winning record of 9-6 in the November basho, Ozeki Shodai has not looked up to par with his past championship-caliber competition. Throughout 2021, Shodai has recorded five kachi-koshi (more wins than losses) tournaments and placed second in the January tournament. Among these tournaments, the 30-year-old Ozeki has only recorded one 10+ win tournament—that tournament being the January basho. This January tournament could prove to be a major clue as to where Shodai’s career could be heading.

As for Takakieshō, Shodai’s Ozeki counterpart, the 25-year-old young gun looks to be revving up. Placing second in two tournaments this year and recording three 10+ win tournaments Takaieshō’s sumo has looked rather dominant. If Takakieshō can keep up his impressive form of sumo, the East Ozeki could find himself amongst title contention.

Do Not Be Surprised to See a Breakout Tournament from Abi

Despite the controversy surrounding Abi earlier this year regarding his breaking of Covid-19 protocols, the 27-year-old Maegashira ranked rikishi ended 2021 competition in a big way. The Japanese-born sumo wrestler finished the November tournament with an impressive record of 12-3, earning second place alongside Ozeki Takakieshō. For his efforts, Abi was awarded the Fighting Spirit Prize and was promoted to Maegashira #6 in the Western Division, moving up nine spots from his previous Maegashira #15 rank. Prior to the November basho, Abi put together a championship earning a record of 13-2 in the Jūryō division.

Known as a Tsuki/Oshi (pusher-thruster), Abi could make a huge statement with another 10+ win tournament and could perhaps earn his way to Sanyaku status.

Key Rikishi at the Bottom Ranks

As always, there is a lot on the line for the rikishi who sit amongst the bottom of the Maegashira rank. Kaisei, the first Brazilian-born sumo wrestler to ever reach Sanyaku status, has not had a winning record since the May 2021 tournament and currently sits as the West Maegashira #17. Kotoeko, who reached his highest ever rank at Maegashira #4 in July, put together just three wins at the November basho and will enter the January 2022 tournament as the East Maegashira #17. Other sumo like Tochinoshin, Aioyama, and Tsurugisho all need to put together kachi-koshi tournaments in order to avoid demotion and possible loss of Makuuchi Division rank.

Expect Terunofuji’s Dominance to Continue

The lone Yokozuna in the Makuuchi Division has had the greatest comeback story in the history of sumo. Terunofuji, who was demoted to the jūryō division in 2018, has risen back through the ranks and has won five of the last nine top division tournaments—the Mongolian rikishi placed second in three of the remaining four tournaments.

After falling short in Day 15 competition against the 69th Yokozuna Hakuho in the July 2021 tournament, Terunofuji was promoted to the rank of Yokozuna for his in-ring competition in September. Terunofuji was dominant throughout the September tournament, putting together a record of 13-2 and securing the Emperor’s Cup by Day 14. In November, Terunofuji earned his first-ever zensho (perfect record) winning tournament. This tournament victory marked Terunofuji’s fourth in the calendar year—only something Hakuho had ever done before.

Seemingly having the answer to each of the 41 other top division rikishi, one can only expect the dominance of the East Division Yokozuna to continue.

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