Closing Out The Second Act.
Hard to believe, but we are about to complete the middle ⅓ of Natsu. Hakuho and Harumafuji are the leaders, with no one really able to even give either of them a decent fight so far. There is a lot of interest in Takayasu vs Hakuho, which is the final match of the day. Frankly I don’t think it will be much of a contest, and I say this as a hard core Takayasu fan. Right now Hakuho is back to his old amazing ways, and the only people who could possibly challenge him are Harumafuji, or a healthy Kisenosato. Sadly no chance for a healthy Kisenosato.
Harumafuji appears to have at least mildly injured his right knee in his dive off the dohyo defeating Tamawashi. If this is something the trainers can work, or another performance limiting injury, we should be able to tell tomorrow when Harumafuji faces a surprisingly resurgent Tochiozan. Tochiozan made very easy work of Kisenosato on day 9, and it brings up a really tricky question.
If Kisenosato, is having a sub-par (for him) basho, everyone knows it’s because he is more or less a one armed Yokozuna. Everyone gets it, and frankly we are all amazed that he is still competitive in this condition. But given that the press and the YDC are very critical of Yokozuna with sub-par performance, are they going to make a point of admonishing him? Are they just going to keep quiet because he is the Japanese golden boy? This is very ugly territory. Don’t be surprised if at some point this week, Kisenosato goes Kyujo. No one in their right mind would blame him. In my opinion he should be recovering from surgery right now, but he is too dedicated to sumo, and the dignity of his Yokozuna rank.
Natsu Leader board
Leaders – Harumafuji, Hakuho
Hunt Group – Takayasu
Chasers – Terunofuji, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura
6 Matches Remain
Apologies, but the match previews will be brief, jet-lag is crushing me today.
Matches We Like
Tochinoshin vs Daishomaru – Both of these rikishi are exceeding their baseline for the last 3 basho. Daishomaru is coming in with 6-3, and Tochinoshin has an outstanding 7-2, and if he wins would clinch his kachi-koshi. In their 3 prior bouts, Tochinoshin won them all.
Kaisei vs Ura – The fans love a big vs little bout. It will be really interesting to see if Ura’s gymnastics work against the meat mountain that is Kaisei. This is their first match ever.
Okinoumi vs Daieisho – both of these men are 1-8. This is the saddest match in sumo. Both are already make-koshi. Both are facing significant demotion.
Terunofuji vs Yoshikaze – While I love me some Yoshikaze, Terunofuji is clearly Kaiju positive right now, and if he gets frustrated using his technique to defeat you, he just picks you up and carries you to the curb like this week’s non-burnable trash. I am going to be curious to see what if anything Yoshikaze does to try and counter this. Career record of 6-5 in favor of Terunofuji, so they are, at times, evenly matched.
Harumafuji vs Tochiozan – Previewed above, the prior 32 matches have been mostly won by Harumafuji (24-8), but Harumafuji may have hurt himself day 9, and Tochiozan is looking surprisingly good, especially coming off of his kinboshi against Kisenosato day 9.
Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – This should be a Kisenosato win. I expect that Kisenosato will go kyujo as soon as he secures his kachi-koshi, which could come day 11. But interestingly enough, Kotoshogiku holds a slight 33-31 career edge over Kisenosato. Both of them are operating at a fraction of their typical capabilities, so who knows where this one is going.
Takayasu vs Hakuho – This one has everyone excited, but I am calling my bet for Hakuho. Their career record is 14-2 in favor of the Michael Jordan of sumo. Takayasu is a man on a mission, and is looking good, but Hakuho is more or less his old self right now, and that means beating him requires speed, strength and a large amount of luck.