We enter the final days of Nagoya, there are still a number of questions on how things will turn out. Thus far it’s clear that the young crop of new rikishi have performed surprisingly well this basho, and with any luck they will be a stable element of many tournaments to come.
From the day 12 and 11 bouts, it’s clear that Ura has sustained an injury to his right ankle and or foot. He has difficulty putting power to ground now, and is most likely competing in “survival mode” for the rest of the basho. I know he has a large and enthusiastic following, but a make-koshi is looking more possible, and should not be viewed as entirely a rebuke of this novel young rikishi’s sumo. Due to injury in the upper ranks, he was pushed to compete at a level that he was probably not ready to endure just yet. It’s true he was able to surprise Harumafuji and put up a stiff fight for Hakuho, but he made a complete tour through the surviving Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Ideally he would have eased into that, but that’s how upper Maegashira has gone the past year.
Away from the excitement of the basho, a commentator on sankei.com news suggests that Kisenosato may be out of action for up to a year to get his torn muscles repaired and to regain strength. If that is the case, it underscores the dilemma facing not just Kisenosato and the Tagonoura heya, but the sumo association as a whole.
Nagoya Leader board
Hakuho has a clear hold of the yusho now, with only Aoiyama within reach should Hakuho lose another match. The Yokozuna faces a series of high ranking rikishi over the next few days, any of which could upset his path to victory. There is still a small but non-zero chance that Harumafuji could stage a come from behind yusho if there are a series of upsets in the remaining days.
Leader – Hakuho
Chaser – Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Tochiozan, Onosho
3 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Chiyonokuni vs Sadanoumi – Both rikishi are still pressing for a shot at a winning record, with Sadanoumi able to lock that down today with a victory. These two are evenly matched with Sadanoumi leading their career record 3-2.
Nishikigi vs Okinoumi – I had to double check, but this does appear to be the first match between Okinoumi and Nishikigi in history. Okinoumi now make-koshi, but Nishikigi still has a shot at holding on to Makuuchi, if only just barely.
Chiyomaru vs Daieisho – Chiyomaru can pick up kachi-koshi today if he can overcome Daieisho’s tendency to win their matches (3-1). At Maegashira 15, Chiyomaru needs to have a winning record to remain in the top division.
Shohozan vs Onosho – Shohozan has had a good basho, and is looking to end with a winning record. Onosho is getting close to having his name in contention for a special prize, and double digit wins would be a compelling factor. If Onosho can take the bout from Shohozan, it would be the first win over him in his career.
Aoiyama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is inconsistant in his sumo, so it is unclear what kind of battle he will bring to the dohyo as he faces Aoiyama day 13. An Aoiyama loss would clarify the yusho race greatly, but Kagayaki is already make-koshi, and may be out of gas. Kagayaki has yet to beat Aoiyama in their 3 prior matches.
Ura vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku teeters on the edge of demotion out of san’yaku, but Ura is now clearly hurt and may not have what is needed to overcome the Kyushu Bulldozer. Kotoshogiku will look to lock up Ura at the tachiai and drive him backwards. I worry if we might see one of Ura’s reverse tachiai’s today, as it would allow him space to maneuver out of Kotoshogiku’s way and possible open an attack route that has a chance of being effective. This is the first match.
Yoshikaze vs Ikioi – Evenly matched at 6-6, these two tend to have powerful pushing and slapping bouts. Yoshikaze has successfully defended his Komusubi rank, and Ikioi is already make-koshi, so this one is for fun.
Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has successfully defended his Sekiwake rank, but if he wants to open a bid for Ozeki in 2018, he will need double digit wins. Tochinoshin is one win away from kachi-koshi. He is hungry, strong and looking healthy this basho. So this will possibly be a highlight match of the day.
Tamawashi vs Hokutofuji – First match between these two, who are both pushing hard to close out with a winning record. Both need to win 2 of their last 3 matches. Hokutofuji’s performance against the upper ranks indicate he is advancing well, but not quite ready to for san’yaku yet. Tamawashi, however, is at real risk of losing his Sekiwake rank.
Goeido vs Harumafuji – Day 13 kicks off the cycle of Yokozuna and Ozeki bouts that always close out a basho. Though Harumafuji leads the career total 30-11, the outcome is far from certain as Goeido has been running in 2.0 mode this basho. When he is dialed in, Goeido can nearly match Harumafuji in speed, but his key is that he fights with reckless abandon. His blistering attack straight out of the tachiai leaves him no recourse for defense or second moves, but they frequently overwhelm his opponent. For Harumafuji, this is the perfect time for a mini-henka.
Hakuho vs Takayasu – As a Takayasu fan, I am very happy he locked in his kachi-koshi already, as he faces a difficult 3 days. With any luck, he will be focused after dropping that bout to Tochiozan, and he will give Hakuho a good contest. Their career record is 15-2 in favor of The Boss.