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Top 10 Makuuchi Rikishi to watch in Natsu 2021

10 - (M13) Akiseyama (1030 ELO, 4562 PR)

This oddly-shaped gentleman may have been labouring in Makushita and Juryo for the last 5 years, but since his return to Makuuchi he's been on a tear. 43 wins in the past 5 bashos is nothing to sneeze at, and coming into Natsu at Maegashira 13, I believe Akiseyama can perform excellently against what I predict will be a fairly weak lower-half Makuuchi field.

9 - (M1) Wakatakakage (1180 ELO, 5291 PR)

Four of Wakatakakage's last six bashos have been 10+ win runs for the Toyo University man. Of the two he failed to snag 10, one he didn't participate in due to Coronavirus, and the other was at Maegashira 1. Now he returns to the 'meat-grinder' rank, but I think he is better prepared this time around. His previous showing in March - in which Wakatakakage went 10-5 at Maegashira 2 - was particuarly impressive.

8 - (M1) Hokutofuji (1128 ELO, 5344 PR)

Hokutofuji has been hanging around the Joi since 2018. I'm not sure if he'll be able to handle the Sanyaku wrestlers better than he has done at Maegashira 1 in the past, but I do think he stands to pick up most of his wins outside of the Sanyaku ranks. I was very impressed by Hokutofuji in March - he seemed more focused than I'd seen him before.

7 - (K) Mitakeumi (1135 ELO, 5539 PR)

Mitakeumi hasn't dropped below Maegashira 3 since late 2016. I think it's safe to assume he can pick up 8 or 9 wins in May. As a Sekiwake mainstay, he should be able to perform quite well at Komusubi despite a strong Ozeki lineup.

6 - (S) Takanosho (1137 ELO, 5559 PR)

Quietly climbing the ranks since November 2019, Takanosho can no longer be ignored. 43 wins in the last 5 bashos, and a 59% winrate since January 2020 belie a wrestler who may have found his rank at Sekiwake.

5 - (O) Takakeisho (1173 ELO, 6192 PR)

Takakeisho has had some ups and downs recently, but hopefully with the pressure of a potential Yokozuna run now far from his mind, he can do very well. The wrecking ball always has a shot against any opponent, and will be strongly favoured against anyone outside of the Sanyaku ranks.

4 - (O) Shodai (1186 ELO, 6330 PR)

Entering Natsu as Kadoban, Shodai will need to put in 15 days of hard graft to maintain his rank. I don't know if he can to be honest, but with 45 wins in the last 5 bashos and a 69% winrate since 2020, I may not be giving him the credit he deserves. Although I feel he is somewhat outmatched by his Ozeki colleagues, I'm interested to see if he can pick up enough wins from the other members of the Joi this time around.

3 - (O) Asanoyama (1226 ELO, 6614 PR)

In tournaments he's fought until the end, Asanoyama hasn't posted a Basho result under 10 wins since September 2019. Although the young wrestler lacks the confidence to become a true Yokozuna contender, he's skilled enough to beat anyone on the day, and I always enjoy watching him fight.

2 - (K) Daieisho (1193 ELO, 6689 PR)

Despite a disappointing performance in March, Daieisho's incredibly dominate Yusho in January shows his true potential. Previously a consistent wrestler, Daieisho has seen a massive uptick in wins recently, culminating in 47 wins over the past 5 bashos. I believe he can win the vast majority of his fights against Maegashira Rikishi, and he can't be discounted against any of the Sanyaku fighters either.

1 - (O) Terunofuji (1282 ELO, 6907 PR)

57 Wins in the past 5 Bashos. A 77% winrate since January 2020. The newly re-promoted Terunofuji is surely the man to watch in Natsu. With Hakuho out of the picture, Terunofuji will look toward starting a Yokozuna run in May, and is almost undeniably the favourite to win. I'm thinking 13-15 wins for Terunofuji as he aims to put a stamp of authority on his promotion run.

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