The midway point has come and gone, and we are now beginning to get a better sense of where the chips will fall in Fukuoka. As the journey to Senshuraku begins, here are five matches to keep an eye on for day 9.
Homarefuji vs. Daiamami
Juryo mainstay Homarefuji will be making his second appearance on the NHK broadcast tomorrow when he takes on old rival Daiamami. His first bit of screen time came on day 1 in a loss to Myogiryu, and he will be looking for a better result when he takes to the Dohyo tomorrow. With only two wins, Daiamami is at serious risk of rejoining Homarefuji in Juryo by the New Year Tournament, which may not be a bad thing as he is not yet ready for the top division. Their series sits at 2-1 in favour of Homarefuji.
Okinoumi vs. Kotoyuki
Okinoumi has been one of this basho’s biggest surprises, and currently shares second place in the yusho race with Ichinojo and Arawashi. As Bruce has mentioned before, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic injury that affects his sumo when it flares up. Based on his recent success, it appears he is pain-free and fighting at full capacity and shouldn’t have much trouble dealing with Kotoyuki on day 9. Okinoumi leads thier personal series 8-1. Although I’d like to see Okinoumi put these helth issues behind him, as he has a lot of potential for greatness, I’m not getting my hopes up anytime soon.
Asanoyama vs. Nishikigi
Day 8 marked the return of the Asanoyama whose big smile stole our hearts in September. Will this same Asanoyama show up tomorrow, is another question. Mr. Happy got a commanding victory over Takekaze today, but he will have to give it his all on day 9 when he faces the far more desperate Nishikigi, who still needs three more wins to stay in Makuuchi. While many are wondering what has happened to Asanoyama, I don’t exactly view this string of losses as a bad thing. After all, to learn how to win you have to learn how to lose.
Ichinojo vs. Daishomaru
Wait, that’s no boulder! That’s a Kaiju egg, and it’s starting to hatch!! Ichinojo continues to decimate his competition this basho, and picked up his fourth career kinboshi in an impressive victory over Yokozuna Kisenosato today. Tomorrow the competition level drops significantly for the big man when he takes on the struggling Daishomaru. Like Asanoyama, Daishomaru has not lived up to his Aki performance and has managed to scrape together just two wins. One has to wonder if Daishomaru has what it takes to move the massive Ichinojo over the tawara when they meet on day 9. These two have met three times before, with Ichinojo taking their last two bouts. Ichinojo is really growing on me this basho, and I’m eagerly awaiting his matches with the rest of the joi.
Onosho vs. Takakaisho
This is one matchup many of us have been looking forward to this basho. Onosho versus Takakaisho: best friend versus best friend! Despite this anticipation, both men could not be trending in more opposite directions since their joint interview on the NHK preview. While Takakeisho has conquered two yokozuna and has a 6-2 record, Onosho is just two losses away from his first top division make-koshi. Will Takakaisho push his brother-in-arms one step closer to a losing record, or will facing his best friend re-ignite Onosho’s fighting spirit? Either way, this has potential to be the match of the day.