As we close out the middle weekend, many fans are reflecting on how Hatsu has had a different feel to it than many of the basho from the past two years. With neither Hakuho or Harumafuji competing, the competition between the lower ranks as been more intense, and frankly more enjoyable. Don’t be mistaken, Kakuryu is still undefeated, but he does not have the same threatening effect that a match against Hakuho does on the San’yaku and joi.
In addition, Ozeki Takayasu has proven to be less of a threat this basho than one would expect from an Ozeki, and his sumo continues to be increasingly chaotic. Thankfully Goeido seems to be holding his own well enough, but its clear to rikishi like Mitakeumi that the promotion lanes are wide open.
My pick for match of the day is likely Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo. Mitakeumi has a lot riding on another win, and Ichinojo is not the push over he was 6 months ago.
Hatsu Leader Board
Leaders – Kakuryu, Mitakeumi
Chasers – Tochinoshin, Shohozan, Daieisho, Asanoyama
Hunt Grop – Goeido, Endo, Tochiozan, Chiyomaru
8 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Abi vs Daiamami – Abi is pushing hard to ensure he can land a solid position in Makuuchi. It’s a credit to both how balanced this group of rikishi in the Maegashira 13-17 range is, and the skill of the scheduling team that many of them are now 4-3 or 3-4. This will make securing an enduring spot in the top division a real struggle, and will ensure fierce competition all the way to day 15.
Asanoyama vs Kagayaki – After losing his perfect record in his bout with Daieisho, Asanoyama drives to stay one behind in his day 8 match with the fading Kagayaki. Kagayaki started strong but has lost 3 straight. He did, however, take their only prior match.
Kotoyuki vs Ryuden – Slapmaster Kotoyuki has been taking a good number of flying lessons the past few matches. It makes for dramatic sumo on TV, but he risks injury. Most rikishi have figured out you can get him to chase you around and then send him airborne. Ryuden looks to improve to 5-3, and has a good shot to get it.
Takarafuji vs Shohozan – A more senior member of the street brawling team, Shohozan has only a single loss so far in this basho. He holds a commanding 9-1 career advantage over Takarafuji, who is the only surviving Makuuchi wrestle for the one proud Isegahama stable.
Tochiozan vs Endo – Simply put, Tochiozan has Endo’s number. Should Endo manage to win this match, it is likely a sign post that he has overcome whatever weakness made him vulnerable to Tochiozan’s attacks, and that Endo is headed to higher levels of performance.
Yoshikaze vs Tochinoshin – Yoshikaze’s string of thrilling successes came to a crashing end on day 7, and his day 8 pairing with Tochinoshin does not leave much room for hope. It’s not completely one sided, with the big Georgian holding a 14-9 career advantage. Yoshikaze seems to be lacking some of his energy this tournament.
Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Mitakeumi seeks to defend his perfect record, and clinch a kachi-koshi today. But he’s up against the Mongolain Menhir. In the recent past, Ichinojo was not too tough to dispatch, but he seems to have embraced his sumo, and has leveraged his enormous size and silica based strata to overpower several prior opponents.
Goeido vs Chiyotairyu – For all reasonable scenarios, Goeido is out of the yusho race. But he is likely to pick up a win against hapless Chiyotairyu on day 8 to keep himself in respectable Ozeki territory.
Takakeisho vs Takayasu – Takayasu’s sumo has gotten increasingly chaotic this basho, degrading from about day 3 onward. I don’t know if the thigh injury is still haunting him, but his day 7 loss to Ichinojo was not Ozeki sumo. In fact at 4-3 to finish out week one, he’s seriously at risk of being kadoban once more. Takakeisho is getting a traditional Komusubi class beating, and it’s par for the course. But I don’t think he is going to ease up on Takayasu in any way.
Kakuryu vs Shodai – This should be a routine pack and toss match for Big K, as Shodai has not shown us any sumo this tournament that would challenge a Yokozuna. If Kakuryu can stay healthy for the next week, it’s going to be tough to take the yusho from him.