Tomorrow marks the end of the first half of the 2018 Hatsu Basho, and what a first half it has been! While the top of the banzuke is exciting as always, the most pleasant surprise this January has been the fantastic sumo coming out of the undercard. The Makuuchi Division has been infused with some great young talent, and they are delivering many of the best matches this tournament. Here are just a few undercard matches to watch as we enter the second week of Hatsu!
Abi vs. Daiamami
The second week kicks off with shiko master Abi facing itchy nose Daiamami. Abi has done a great job salvaging his Basho and comes into Day 8 with a respectable 4-3 record and some major style points for the beautiful throw he used to beat Nishikigi today. His Day 8 opponent Daiamami, on the other hand, remains streaky and has yet to pick up back to back wins. Daiamami probably would have been better off returning to Jury to regroup after Kyushu, but was spared demotion due to the retirement of Harumafuji. Abi emerged victorious in his only previous match with Daiamami.
Takekaze vs. Yutakayama
January has not been kind to Grandpa Bullfrog. At 1-6, Takekaze continues to be manhandled by his opponents and is on a course to set one of his worst ever career records. But there is a ray of hope, as he faces the perennial disappointment Yutakayama on Day 8. Yutakayama’s third shot at Makuuchi is going just as well as his last two, and he could find himself in Juryo come March. Despite his youth and size advantage, Yutakayama’s sloppy, inconsistent sumo could cost him his match with Grandpa Bullfrog.
Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki
Asanoyama’s Day 7 outing against Daieisho was a textbook example of how important a good tachiai is for success on the dohyo. The smiling rikishi started too high, and that was all Daieisho needed to get him up and over the tawara. Asanoyama will have to refocus and get back into win column tomorrow to stay in the Yusho race, as another slip up could take him right out of it. On Sunday he meets Kagayaki, who looked strong during the opening days of Hatsu but has picked up three straight losses. These two have met once before at the 2017 Kyusho Basho in a match won by Kagayaki.
Daieisho vs. Chiyomaru
Daieisho continues to impress this January and looked very sharp in his Day 7 victory over Asanoyama. With a 6-1 record, he is still very much in the Yusho race. However, Daieisho has a history of fading during the second week, and he’ll need to buck this trend if he wants to be a contender. His first test comes in the rotund form of Chiyomaru, who at 5-2 sits just outside the chase group alongside Goeido, Tochiozan, and Endo. Chiyomaru holds a 4-3 edge in this evenly matched rivalry.
Takarafuji vs. Shohozan
While Asanoyama and Tochinoshin have been making waves in the Maegashira rank, Shohozan has been something of a dark horse this Basho, quietly putting together a 6-1 record. Since losing on Day 1, he has been perfect and finds himself in the Jun-Yusho picture coming into the midway point. On Day 8 Shohozan faces Takarafuji, who is the last standing rikishi from the once mighty Isegahama Beya (let that sink in). Takarafuji’s basho has been going well, but he will have to step up his game against Shohozan. Their rivalry currently sits at 9-1 in Shohozan’s favor, who dominated their first eight matches.
Hatsu is getting better by the day, and I can’t wait to see what the stars of the undercard have in store for us in the second half!