There Can Be Only One
These are the days that sumo fans dream of. The Aki basho (September tournament) started off strange, The Boss (Hakuho) was benched with a busted toe, most of the favorites had a cold start, and the first weekend was chaos on the leaderboard. From that emerged two great story lines. First, a pair of undefeated rikishi, one a rank and file Maegashira (Okinoumi) who had fought well, but was not overly remarkable. The second a kadoban Ozeki who looked to be ready for demotion. The second story line – the “always a bridesmaid” Ozeki who dreams of his Tsuna, but never has the mojo to pull it off.
Now at the middle weekend, we see both stories in full display. On Saturday, the 7th day of the tournament, we will see the two unlikely leaders of this basho face off. Two undefeated underdogs, each of which is poised to make sumo history. In the week following, bridesmaid Kisenosato will face his toughest opponents, with only wildly unlikely scenarios able to take him to victory, and his long desired elevation to Yokozuna.
Notable Matches, Day 7
Endo v Kyokushuho – Both men at 5-1, this is the battle for supremacy at the lower echelons of Makuuchi, both have been fighting well, this could be a moment for some great power sumo.
Amakaze v Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki looked strong on day 6, even though he lost Mitakeumi. Meanwhile Amakaze surprised everyone, most especially his opponent Shohozan. I look forward to this match, and the chance that we see more Amakaze maneuvering.
Gagamaru v Ikioi – Well, it had to happen. Planet Gagamaru faces off against the Elvis of sumo, Ikioi. Ikioi looks to possibly have hurt himself at the end of his day 6 match, and he will need to be fast and heavy to contend with The Planet. I predict Planet Gagamaru puts the doom on Ikioi, who I hope is not further injured.
Tamawashi v Shodai – Look, Shodai, they are throwing you an easy match. Please win one, just grab Tamawashi and push him out. Everyone in sumo is feeling kind of bad for you, and we want you to at least save face.
Tochinoshin v Chiyonokuni – You would think this would be an easy victory for the big Georgian. But with Tochinoshin flagging and Chiyonokuni looking very sharp, I would have to give the edge to the smaller, faster Chiyonokuni.
Kaisei v Tochiozan – In the Kokugikan’s scratch and dent bin, we find these two capable Komusubi who are having just a terrible tournament. Komusubi is the worst rank in sumo, and I swear it is a rough translation of some ancient tongue for “punching bag”. Slight advantage to Tochiozan, whose one win was against Kakuryu…
Kisenosato v Takarafuji – We start the tougher part of Kisenosato’s schedule. First up the only Sekiwake he will face (Takayasu is from the same stable). Takarafuji has been fighting better than his 3-3 record would describe, and I expect that the Great Pumpkin will finish him off, but not before a whole lot of man-hugs and pushing.
Yoshikaze v Kotoshogiku – Ouch, ouch, ouch. This could be a brutal slap fest. If Kotoshogiku can tie up the Berserker, it will be over quickly, if not there is likely to be a lot of pain and bruises before one of them hits the clay. While I am a huge Yoshikaze fan, I give an edge to Kotoshogiku, who seems to be in his groove. Yoshikaze seems to be taking additional damage to his face, which I am sure is bad.
Goeido v Okinoumi – The other matches will provide a fair chance of some good sumo. This match, even if it’s over in 5 seconds, will be historic sumo. Only one of these undefeated men will carry the day, and emerge as the clear leader. If Okinoumi prevails, he may well be unstoppable. He will have faced and defeated all Yokozuna, and all Ozeki. The remainder of his schedule are other Maegashira and San’yaku ranks. From this match forward, Okinoumi has the easier path to the end of the basho. Goeido will face the other Ozeki and both Yokozuna in week two, making the likelihood of him remaining undefeated should he win much lower.
Takayasu v Kakuryu – If it were not for the high stakes of the prior match of the undefeated, this would be the one to watch. Takayasu is looking very good thus far, and is clearly warmed up and in his element. He now has a chance to square off against Yokozuna Kakuryu, who also seems to have regained his rhythm. A great technician, he will face a much heavier and more powerful Takayasu. Advantage Kakuryu.
Harumafuji v Myogiryu – Easy bout for the Horse, try not to hurt him, champ!