What a way to begin the second half of the 2018 Hatsu Basho! The undercard continues to deliver competitive matches, and you really get the sense that these rikishi are pushing hard to make their mark in the division. Day 9 has some excellent undercard matches so be sure not to miss them.
Abi vs. Asanoyama
With back to back losses, Asanoyama is now on the outside looking in on the Yusho race. While nothing is written in stone, Asanoyama will have to take care of his business if he wants to remain relevant. Mr. Happy didn’t fare too well against pusher-thruster Kagayaki today, who surprised him with a well-placed overarm throw. Tomorrow Asanoyama faces another competent oshi-zumo fighter in Abi, but he’ll have to be even more cautious, as Abi’s throws are far more deadly than Kagayaki’s. Abi will be looking to extend his winning streak to three, and even his series with Asanoyama 1-1.
Ishiura vs. Daieisho
After a straightforward win over Chiyomaru today, Daieisho kept his spot in the chase group and can clinch his kachi koshi on Day 9. Daieisho has impressed me this Basho but Is still worry he will continue his pattern of fading in the second week. Tomorrow he’ll face off with mini muscleman Ishiura. The momentum Ishiura brought with him from Juryo seems to have evaporated, and he’s now lost three of his last four matches and now has a record of 4-4. As a result, Ishiura has arrived at a crossroad between his kachi koshi and a make koshi. It can go either way from here so the next few days will be crucial for the man from Miyagino Beya.
Sokokurai vs. Ryuden
Sokokurai got away with one today, as his knee touched the clay a split second before Ishiura’s did. However there was no Mono-ii, and as a result, veteran Sokokurai enters Day 9 with a 3-5 record. Ryuden, on the other hand, won his Sunday bout with gusto, surviving Kotoyuki’s flipper attacks and forcing him over the tawara. With four consecutive wins, Ryuden is putting together a great case that he belongs in Makuuchi. Sokokurai and Ryuden have faced off twice, with the younger rikishi emerging victorious.
Daiamami vs. Chiyomaru
Having paid close attention to Daiamami’s nose pulling after Herouth brought it to everyone’s attention a few days ago, I’m beginning to think this little prematch ritual is doing Daiamami more harm than good. His last nose tug is becoming something of a tell, letting his opponent know he’s just about to charge and giving them more time to react. This could be the reason why he’s been henka’d twice this basho, as his tachiai is far too predictable. Tomorrow he meets fellow behemoth Chiyomaru on the dohyo, so expect a real slugfest.
Shohozan vs. Kagayaki
Another man to fall out of the chase group today was Shohozan, who despite a great effort couldn’t overpower Takarafuji. With his six-match winning streak over, Shohozan will be looking to rebound on Day 9. His opponent is Kagayaki, who took his sumo to whole new level against Asanoyama. Kagayagi surprised everyone with an uncharacteristic overarm throw to Mr. Happy, and if he starts integrating yotsu-zumo into his repertoire, he could become a major threat in the Makuuchi division. Kagayaki holds a 4-2 edge over Shohozan in their series.
The first half of Hatsu is over, the second half has just begun, and the quality of this Basho keeps getting better. The undercard is on fire, and we still have so many great matches coming up. Day 9 will be a bit of an abbreviated post as I tutor tomorrow night, but I will be back on Tuesday to give you the rundown of Act Two.