You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain
Book of Five Rings
The Kyushu basho has been a mixed bag, much more so than the other sumo tournaments this year. With day 11, the head has been turned to boil, and 5 rikishi all have solid chances of contending for the championship. Strangest among them is newcomer Ishiura, who has an impressive 10-1 record heading into day 12. His matches are likely to get progressively tougher for the final 4 days of Kyushu, as the Sumo Kyokai test his skill and resilience. At the bottom of Makuuchi, he faced some decent opponents, but he will be tested against upper level wrestlers. It’s quite important they not promote him too quickly, and risk injury, when much of Japan is going Ishiura crazy.
That leaves us with 4 – All 3 Yokozuna and the real wildcard this basho, Kisenosato. I have no idea how much more amazing sumo Kisenosato can produce this tournament. Frankly he has already exceeded expectations. Everything from here on out is just gravy.
Hakuho is still very good, but I continue to think he is nursing his injuries, and we won’t see him at full strength until January in Tokyo. But he is one of the most inventive, wily sumotori in recent history. If given the opportunity, he will find a way to win.
Kakuryu is about to face the real test of his fitness to win the yusho – the other Yokozuna. He has been largely defensive this basho, even against much lower ranked opponents. But up until yesterday, it has worked for him.
Which brings us to Harumafuji. He only has 1 loss, and frankly I think he has been the best of the three Yokozuna this basho, and I like his chances of once again walking away the Emperor’s Cup.
While the yusho race is the headline grabber, most of the rikishi are pushing to try and secure a winning record and stave off demotion. Right now its all about kachi-koshi further down the banzuke.
Chiyoshoma vs Gagamaru – Chiyoshoma could pick up his kachi-koshi today. Gagamaru is really hit or miss, and slightly more miss than hit. These two have only met twice, with Chiyoshoma winning both times.
Sokokurai vs Arawashi – Sokokurai also striving to overcome the blazing offense of Arawashi to reach his kachi-koshi. Sokokurai has been doing very well this basho, and if he does not overcome Arawashi, I have great confidence that Sokokurai will get this done. On top of that, Sokokurai has won their prior matches 7-4
Ishiura vs Ikioi – First of the headline matches of the day. After day 11, I am sure he is ready for another match. This time its against the new start of sumo, Ishiura. Ishiura has been employing a mini-henka at the tachiai. I am hoping that Ikioi recognizes this is coming, stands his ground and delivers him a solid match. This is the first time these two rikishi have met.
Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – I am looking for the big Georgian to send the giant sumo robot (Ichinojo) into reboot mode. His next win will put him in positive territory with a kachi-koshi. His record against Inchinojo is 7-2, so Tochinoshin has the leading edge in their series.
Takayasu vs Yoshikaze – Both of these sumotori are really struggling this basho. Both of them are among my favorites. I have tegata from both men on my wall. Takayasu took a nasty header into the tawara on day 10, and I wonder if he was seriously hurt. Yoshikaze’s sumo is all about move and strike, as we saw against Endo. Takayasu is all about strength and power, which he was not able to deploy against Hakuho. Takayasu leads their career match ups 8-6
Goeido vs Endo – This should be an easy pick up for Goeido. The past two days he has reverted back to his “good” mode and has been a real joy to watch. Endo is in danger of going make-koshi if he is not careful, but he won’t likely pick up a win today.
Kotoshogiku vs Kakuryu – Kotoshogiku is already back to kadoban status, and I doubt he will do much to Kakuryu, as Kotoshogiku has been injured the entire tournament. I would really rather that Kotoshogiku just declare himself kyujo, and start recovering now. But I think the Ozeki’s pride won’t allow that, and he will face a formidable Kakuryu.
Harumafuji vs Kisenosato – Most likely the match of the day. Kisenosato has been 2 Yokozuna in the past two days, and he faces Harumafuji on day 12. While I have confidence that Kisenosato is really in fine form this tournament, Harumafuji tends to win their match ups. Harumafuji deployed minimal effort in the first week, but has shown his fantastic Yokozuna chops in the past few days. I expect that it will be a short bout with Harumafuji the winner.
Hakuho vs Terunofuji – Terunofuji needs one more win for kachi-koshi, and to clear his kadoban status. I don’t think he will get it from Hakuho, who while not at full capability, is probably more than enough to defeat Terunofuji. Terunofuji has been fighting well in spite of ongoing knee problems.