Day 11 dialed this basho up to maximum and then added a box of firecrackers. Takarafuji’s battle against Tochinoshin was magnificent, no other way to describe it. Time and again Takarafuji blunted the big Georgian’s move to land his mighty grip and out-muscle him. But the rikishi with no neck would have none of it. Sure Tochinoshin won in the end, but what a battle!
With that win, and Kakuryu’s loss, the Yusho race is now a head to head run to Sunday. If each man can close out the remainder of his bouts without a further loss, they will face off for the second time at the end of the basho. There are fans in Japan who are ready to dismiss it as an uninteresting battle of foreigners, but for sumo fans globally, it’s more about the strength, skill, and speed of the contestants that matter. To get to that Sunday showdown, Yokozuna Kakuryu has the harder path. He faces both Ozeki and Mitakeumi, though neither Goeido nor Mitakeumi are looking formidable at this point.
Mitakeumi, in particular, is proving he is not yet ready to try to compete at Ozeki levels. That said, look at the bench standard here: Goeido. I hate to say it, but Goeido needs to take 2 of the last 4 matches to avoid once again being kadoban. Sure, you tell me – no worries. He faces Takayasu on day 12 and will face Mitakeumi soon. With his past two losses, he has proven that even Wakaichiro might have a fair chance against him. Not good.
Hatsu Leader Board
The Yusho race is down to two for now. Both of them have already matched, with Kakuryu the winner.
Leaders – Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Hunter Group – Takayasu, Daieisho
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Nishikigi vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is working closer to his kachi-koshi, and he may pick it up today. Somehow, Nishikigi is hanging on to Makuuchi with everything he has. Who can blame him? The chicks dig the top division guys, plus you can score free bi-ru (ビール) at any pub in Japan. Career record is 5-3 in Kagayaki’s favor.
Kotoyuki vs Asanoyama – Kotoyuki looked like he got a bit hurt in his day 11 match, but this guy has limped off the dohyo more times than I can accurately count. He tends to rebound and return, even if it looked like he was dismembered and on life support the prior day. Asanoyama is one win away from kachi-koshi, and a move away from the bottom edge of Maegashira. Kotoyuki took their only prior match.
Ryuden vs Daishomaru – Also in the category of new faces looking to pick up their 8th win is Ryuden. In his first ever match against Daishomaru, he will be looking to get things mobile and light, which favors his sumo. Daishomaru will look to pummel Ryuden into a disoriented mess and shove whatever remains out with enthusiasm.
Shohozan vs Sokokurai – Shohozan is fighting well, and a win here would give him kachi-koshi and Sokokurai make-koshi at the same time. Brutal but effective. Last basho, Sokokurai took the Juryo yusho, but he has been struggling in his return to the top division.
Abi vs Chiyomaru – The winner of this match will pick up the coveted kachi-koshi and an interview slot on the NHK broadcast. Plus, I would guess, several additional bi-ru payable on demand. Of course, Abi has never won against Chiyomaru, but perhaps Chiyomaru’s enormous bulk will somehow prevent him from winning. NAH! Of course, he will do just fine.
Shodai vs Chiyoshoma – What happened here? How is Shodai winning? Where did the man-droid version of Shodai go? That one was pretty crappy at sumo and just sort of flopped around like day old fugu in Tsukiji. Shodai is actually 2-0 against Chiyoshoma, and a win here would leave us facing the ugly possibility that Shodai could actually be promoted going to Osaka. Please, more bi-ru here. I need to get my head straight on this one.
Yoshikaze vs Ichinojo – There is no good way for this to go. Their career record is 3-3, and Ichinojo is looking genki, and Yoshikaze is not. As much as I love to see the berserker’s arms move at speed, there may be little to do against the boulder save to get him off balance and roll him over. Ichinojo, on the other hand, could probably bounce Yoshikaze on his knee like a toddler. Please, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, don’t let this happen, and if it does, don’t let it make it to video.
Takakeisho vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these guys are in a bit of a mood to throw caution to the wind it seems. Takakeisho’s flipper fight against Yoshikaze left him bloody. Kotoshogiku has been finding people giving him the chance to land the hug-n-chug. Maybe everyone thinks because he is Maegashira 2, they don’t have to guard against it. I am sure that Takakeisho won’t let him grab hold. Their career record is an even 1-1.
Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is make-koshi. So, my guess is that he drops Mitakeumi who once again regains his feet blinking in surprise. Get it together man!
Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – This is THE big match of the day. Tamawashi is the first, and so far only rikishi to put dirt on Kakuryu, and in doing so he pulled Tochinoshin back into the yusho lead. Now Tochinoshin gets to face down the same Tamawashi, who seems to have regained his sumo. Tamawashi typically presents a nearly unstoppable thrusting attack, which will be the antithesis of Tochinoshin’s yotsu style. We will see who sets the terms of the match coming out of the tachiai. Hopefully, Tamawashi is studying Takarafuji’s masterful defense.
Goeido vs Takayasu – Normally I would be very excited for an Ozeki battle. But Goeido is on hard times. He needs this win to keep outside of the kadoban penalty box, but Takayasu is looking slightly more genki. Notice I didn’t say a lot more genki. What is plaguing Takayasu, I can’t tell. It might be that he is worried about his senpai Kisenosato.
Kakuryu vs Endo – Lesson from day 11, Big K. Keep moving forward. Once you stepped back, Tamawashi had your number and you had no way to correct. Take the fight to Endo and power him out. You have this one, just be strong and go tonbo (蜻蛉) on him.