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With perennial next-Ozeki Mitakeumi now off the market, there is no clear next rikishi-in-waiting so it might be fun to speculate. 

My power ranking:

1. Hoshoryu

Near can't miss barring injury. Has the skill, the desire, and the pedigree. His willingness to faceplant himself on the tawara against Shodai is just one example of how much he wants to win and hates to lose. Needs a few more kilos and a bit more experience. 

2. Abi

Always had the ability but lacked the pounds, the discipline, and the maturity. Recent results indicate he's found the missing ingredients and is ready to fulfill his potential. 

3. Takanosho

Perrenial joi/sanyaku mainstay. Has the size, strength, and skill, but lacking that one extra something to push him over the top. Maybe just experience. Feels a bit like the next Mitakeumi, but may end up  topping out as a Tochiozan or Myogiryu. 

4. Kotonowaka

Has the pedigree, size, and skill. Has had early injury concerns and needs a more experience, but is still very young and has produced excellent results when healthy. Likely not THE next Ozeki but has all the elements to be a future one. Maybe a Kisenosato-like trajectory moving forward. 

Special Mention:

Meisei, Daieisho, Wakatakakage, Kiribayama, Hokutofuji.

Your thoughts?

Edited by Kaninoyama
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The way I see it, Hoshoryu and Abi are definitely the best bets for next ozeki. They are more talented than the rest of the pack and have what it takes to make a run now or at least very shortly. I believe Hoshoryu has a higher ceiling than Abi.

At a lower level I'd put guys who I see as solid lower sanyaku/high maegashira types, but not as gifted and hence less likely to put in the consecutive results needed for promotion. For me Takanosho (whose success seems to go under the radar a bit) would be the leader of this pack, followed by guys like Wakatakage, Meisei, Onosho and Kiribayama. These guys might be able to put in a double digit result or some 9-6s in the joi when they are on, but a 3-basho run of excellence is something I find much more difficult to see.

Then there are the guys who are the regular upsetters who can spoil the day for the big names, but are in my view clearly not cut out for ozekihood themselves. Hokutofuji is a good representative of this type of rikishi. I think Tamawashi and Ichinojo. as well, though formerly they would've been stronger prospects. This group is similar to the one above, but a difference for me is that these guys are older and more solidified in their position, being less likely to improve.

Kotonowaka is a good prospect for higher ranks, but needs more time to develop. Also remember how well Kotoshoho did when he started out in makuuchi - I think his potential is still very good and he'll be the youngest in makuuchi next basho, with plenty of time to get better.

Edited by Katooshu
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For the purposes of this, are we including Asanoyama as a potential next Ozeki or not since it would a be a former making a return?

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Just now, Katooshu said:

When does he return to action again?

July 2022

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4 minutes ago, Onibushou said:

For the purposes of this, are we including Asanoyama as a potential next Ozeki or not since it would a be a former making a return?

It's going to be at least a year before Asanoyama is even back in Makuuchi, and another year before he has a chance to make Ozeki again.  If he's the next one, that's a decently long time without a new one, especially given how few there are now.  (There have been 61 hard promotions to Ozeki since 1961, or 1 per year.)

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16 minutes ago, Onibushou said:

For the purposes of this, are we including Asanoyama as a potential next Ozeki or not since it would a be a former making a return?

Up to you, but I'm more interested in those rikishi who haven't yet ascended. 

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I liked Daieisho but he seems to have gone off the boil since his yusho, often struggling even to KK lately. I fear he may stay in that category of Akinoshima types along with Hokutofuji: a sanyaku regular and known giant-killer who is never consistent enough to step up.

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1 hour ago, Eikokurai said:

I liked Daieisho but he seems to have gone off the boil since his yusho, often struggling even to KK lately. I fear he may stay in that category of Akinoshima types along with Hokutofuji: a sanyaku regular and known giant-killer who is never consistent enough to step up.

Agree with you on these two. Capable of beating anyone at any time, but just don't see the consistency manifesting.

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Hoshyoryu has the most going for him than any others I see.  

  • He has been improving each year since his debut 4 years ago.   I have to assume he will continually improve.
  • He is just 22 years old.   His physical strength has not reached its peak yet. 
  • He has a versatile style (the antithesis of Takakeisho), more technical skill than other prospects.

Abi - He was an average Sanyuku before his demotions to the bottom.   He looked better in his return.  And at age 27, he is probably near or at his physical peak.  In this weakened field era, I think he has a good chance to be an Ozeki in the next two years. 

Kotonowaka - His double-digit wins have been all from lower M rank.   Let's see what he does from the JOI rank.  He has shown nothing special yet.  

All the others (Takanosho, Meisei, Daieisho, Waka, ...) look like your typical Sanyuku <--> JOI traveler.  I don't see any of them suddenly putting together 32+ wins in 3 basho as a Sanyuku member.  

 

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Right now I still don't buy Abi as anything more than the same 8-7 to 9-6 sanyaku regular he had worked up to be before everything went off the rails. (Of course, that alone might well make him the 5th-best rikishi in sumo at this point in time.) Perhaps there's ozeki potential in there with even further development, but an immediate breakout would majorly surprise me. So, Hoshoryu for now clearly, and maaaybe Kiribayama and Meisei if they can actually expand their occasional moments of brilliance into something steady.

I'm reasonably confident that every other upper makuuchi regular besides those four can be discounted as ozeki altogether, not just "next". Daieisho doesn't look like he'll ever come close to the required consistency, Hokutofuji has amassed enough evidence that he definitely won't, and while Takanosho and Wakatakakage have been doing an excellent job by joi standards of late, I just don't see what else they can add to their existing make-up to turn themselves into 11-win rikishi.

Kotonowaka...I can't quite put my finger on what kind of trajectory I expect for him, but it's not Kisenosato. He doesn't have Kise's calm, composed approach to sumo at all, and I don't really see him develop something like that. I'm not even sure that I would support the notion that there's ozeki caliber talent there. I'm kind of getting Kokkai/Tamawashi vibes instead, somebody who will be able to hang with the joi (eventually) but who will have to do it with a bit of a brawler style that will always be at risk of getting outwrestled by more technically adept opponents. And I don't really feel that Kotonowaka will be developing an imposing enough physique that could take that kind of style to ozeki.

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Just because he hasn't been mentioned yet: Oho

The kid has potential and is young enough to develop.

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14 minutes ago, Jakusotsu said:

Just because he hasn't been mentioned yet: Oho

The kid has potential and is young enough to develop.

But the next? It’s at least a year before Oho can make Ozeki since next basho he’ll be back in Juryo, then if he’s promoted it’s at least one basho in the bottom third of Makuuchi, probably another in the middle unless he gets a big leap to joi, then three for an Ozeki run at the top.

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My honest answer to the question is: I've no way of knowing.

I had Mitakeumi down as the next ozeki 5 years ago. Then I watched Takayasu (who had a track record of never stringing KK together), Tochinoshin (whose knees were too knackered), Takakeisho (who was too small and a one-trick pony), Asanoyama (who was another middling hiramaku until he wasn't), NTNO Shodai and no-knees Terunofuji all sail past and leave him behind...

But it's fun looking back at these threads to see how wrong we all were, so just for the hell of it I'll suggest Onosho. 

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My two cent on Takanosho - a good blend of skills and experience.

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Wakatakakage has been very solid and at 27, he is the right age to make his move. His poor result on his previous sanyaku appearance is a minor worry, but I wouldn't be surprised if he made it in the next year or so.

I will also be very interested to see what Kotoshoho does in March. It's taken him longer to get back after his injury, but he is only 22 and looked like a potential future ozeki in late 2020.

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Wakatakakage is probably too small, I think. I can see him as a respectable Sekiwake, but not putting Ozeki numbers together.

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13 hours ago, Kaninoyama said:

lacking that one extra something to push him over the top. Maybe just experience.

Well, he's been at it for 12 years, 5 as sekitori.  He'd better hurry.

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12 hours ago, Katooshu said:

And how could I forget Shodai and his 10 wins in May (Clappingwildly...)

He's right.  Shodai is the next Ozeki ... again.

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If we are talking purely about this year, then other than the ones mentioned in OP the only other realistic candidate is Kotoshoho and only if he has the year of his life. But considering between Kotoshogiku, Goeido, and Takayasu there were three years between promotions, that opens up the choices to those who are in juryo or just promoted, and will take a while to make it to makuuchi in late 2023/2024 to put together a run ending in 2025.

That said, it's also difficult to predict the future trajectory of good toriteki, but if I had to bet, Mukainakano (will be in makushita next basho with a decent chance of storming through in 3 basho) and Atamifuji (who will be in juryo next basho) are the most likely prospects beyond existing sekitori. 

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Hoshoryu is the obvious choice, but I maintain that he needs to gain some weight first or will need to execute almost flawlessly to make up for it.

Abi is my next guess, and I think I might actually predict him as the frontrunner for it the way he's looked of late. However, his one-dimensionality is likely to give him trouble keeping the rank. Something as simple as an arm injury would force him to either adapt his sumo style or lose a bunch, and I'd bank on the latter.

Kotoshoho would be my third place guess as he seems to have a lot of potential and hasn't yet had the time to demonstrate where exactly his ceiling is.

Kotonowaka is tied for third for the exact same reasons as Kotoshoho.

Those who I don't see being next who others might:

Takanosho. In a stronger field of competition he hangs out around M1-M8. In this current era he can go 8-7, 9-6 at K/S for a while. Unless the stars align I don't see him putting together 33 wins over 3 basho.

Hokutofuji. Come on, people, let the guy get two consecutive winning records before we talk about Ozeki.

Meisei, Daieisho, Onosho. Just too inconsistent. Maybe some day, but someone else gets there first.

Wakatakakage. Too small, doesn't have Hoshoryu's technical ability to overcome it. I like the guy though and he'll do fine for himself, just not an Ozeki.

Asanoyama. Someone will beat him to it (assuming he even regains the rank at all).

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Why is everybody insisting on Hoshoryu having to gain weight? No, he does NOT have to gain a single gram. If a dude called Byambadorj is able to acquire the rope (during the Hak-reign) with 133kg distributed over 185cm, then why has Hoshoryu (almost same size and weight) to fatten up? Fat is not everything in sumo, elso Orora would be the GOAT, not Hakuho. Damnit.

 

EDIT: typo

Edited by Benihana
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Hoshoryu needs consistency, not weight. I have a niggling suspicion part of his problem in makuuchi is getting used to the potential of his current body, since he was considerably slimmer when he first debuted, and he probably has enough heft and momentum to pull off power oshi moves when the situation calls for it. Someone pointed out somewhere else that he just needs to get into the "win at all costs" mentality than the "win in a fancy way" mentality, since he gets disrupted too often trying to set up flashy looking stuff.

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Agree on consistency. Hosh can be the type to look great in beating an ozeki, and then take a mediocre loss to a struggling maegashira his next 2 bouts - the better his opposition gets, the more I trust him to do as well as he can, whereas it's probably more often the reverse case.

It might be an issue of being able to fire himself up more easily for better opposition, or perhaps he's overconfident vs lower level opposition? Either way, I think he has top-tier abilities already, and that breaking through to ozeki for him is mainly about applying those each bout. 

I think a bit more aggression could help too, and he did show that this basho. He wasn't pushed back as much while searching for his technique, which is something he's had an issue with, especially against aggressive opponents (I remember Kizakiumi repeatedly bulldozing him in juryo because of this). Some more weight might also help in adding extra resistance, though as mentioned he's not a super lightweight anymore, and I don't think major weight gain is necessary. 

Edited by Katooshu
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