While a lot can change in the final 5-day act of the basho, some things are becoming clear. Here’s where we stand with the first two-thirds in the books.
The Yusho Race
Barring a really unexpected turn of events, this is down to 10-0 Yokozuna Kakuryu and 9-1 M3 Tochinoshin, with 8-2 M13 Daieisho hanging around.
The Ozeki corps is doing okay but not great. Goeido is 6-4 and needs two more wins to avoid going kadoban. Takayasu is 7-3, and needs one more win.
Despite 3 straight losses, Sekiwake Mitakeumi is 7-3 and needs only one more win to defend his rank (but 3 three wins to reach the elusive double digits). He faces a resurgent Shodai tomorrow, and possibly Okinoumi on Day 12, before having to run the Ozeki-Yokozuna gauntlet.
After Mitakeumi, the sanyaku is in shambles. The other Sekiwake, Tamawashi, is 3-7 and needs to go 5-0 to stay at Sekiwake (and 4-1 to stay in sanyaku with a drop to Komusubi). This will be challenging as he gets the Yokozuna tomorrow, and has also yet to face Tochinoshin. Komusubi Takakeisho is also 3-7 and in need of a perfect record in the remaining days to maintain his rank, although his toughest bouts are behind him. And of course, the other Komusubi, Onosho, has had to pull out.
In all likelihood, all this means that three sanyaku slots will be open for the Haru basho. Who gets them? Right now, you’re looking at Sekiwake Tochinoshin, who’s been ranked that high once before, in July 2016, Komusubi Ichinojo, and (surprise) Komusubi Takarafuji, who’s quietly put together a 7-3 record at M6 while much of the rest of the upper maegashira ranks have struggled, although M5 Endo (6-4) is not far behind. Others still with a shot at the second Komusubi slot include Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Shodai, and Arawashi.
Staying in Makuuchi
After 10 days, most rikishi have done enough to ensure a place in the top division for Haru. Of course, among the lower maegashira, things will come down to the wire for many, and even a few of the higher-rankers are still in danger of demotion, largely due to absence and/or injury. The highest-ranked of these is M6 Ikioi, who at 2-8 likely needs one more win to be safe. As has been discussed at length, both of the M10s are unwisely returning to competition after kyujo stints. Terunofuji (0-3-7) would likely have to win all of his 5 matches to avoid Juryo, while Aminishiki (1-6-3) would need to go 4-1. Both seem…unlikely.
Need 1 more win to stay in Makuuchi: Abi, Yutakayama.
Need 2 more wins to stay in Makuuchi: Sokokurai, Ryuden, Asanoyama, Ishiura, Nishikigi (the last two would be safer with 3 wins, depending on how many strong promotion cases there are down in Juryo)
Need 4 more wins to stay in Makuuchi: Takekaze, Daiamami
Leading Juryo contenders for promotion to Makuuchi: Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Hidenoumi, with lots of action still to come.