We come to the end of act 2 with nearly complete success from the team that puts together the torikumi – the daily fight schedule. Their job in act 2, the middle five days of the tournament, was to narrow down the leaderboard, and to sort the rikishi into three groups: the contenders, the defeated and the survivors. Sumo fans can look across the standings at the end of today, and clearly see each of the three groups taking shape across the top division.
The ultimate score would be to get dirt on either or both of the leaders on the final day of Act 2. This would suddenly make the contender group far more viable, and launch us into act 3. In all basho, act 3 is focused on finding the yusho winner. In general, you want as many of your rikishi who made it into the “Contender” group to be fighting it out every day for their chance to take home the cup, while the rest of the crowd work to avoid being cast into the “defeated” group. We certainly have the crew on deck for this kind of act 3, but our leaders are 2 wins ahead of everyone else, and that makes it quite tough to open the yusho race to a fierce multi-way barnyard brawl. [Especially since one of them is Kakuryu. As the sole Yokozuna in the tournament, his schedule is largely fixed by tradition – he can be expected to fight almost all of the San’yaku in the final five days. The torikumi committee have little desire to change this. –PinkMawashi]
That leads us into day 10, which has some fantastic sumo action, and a number of bouts with “highlight reel” potential.
Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Daiamami, Aoiyama
6 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 10
Aoiyama vs Takekaze – Takakaze is up checking out his return to Makuuchi for Natsu, facing off against a seemingly unstoppable wrecking machine in the form of Aoiyama. I am sorry, but I must beat this drum again. Had it not been for the shoddy call on day 5, he would be the sole man at 8-1. A big advantage for Aoiyama in this match.
Tochiozan vs Daiamami – First-time match between an injured and failing Tochiozan, and a rather genki Daiamami. Daiamami is still hanging tough only 2 losses back from the leaders, and his sumo is looking very solid this basho.
Ikioi vs Yutakayama – Ikioi has really been putting on a show for his hometown fans, and they are legion. In spite of his injuries and daily discomfort, this man puts on some solid sumo. Granted he’s down at Maegashira 14 right now and has an easier than normal fight card. But fans new to sumo may be getting a taste of why Ikioi is a big draw for many sumo followers.
Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – Kagayaki is in real danger of being sorted into the “Defeated” group, and he’s up against another of the surging Oitekaze heya team. Historically, it’s 6-2 in Kagayaki’s favor, but Daishomaru is on a roll right now.
Hokutofuji vs Takakeisho – I am going to be watching closely, as I suspect Takakeisho has injured his right thigh or pulled his groin muscle. Either way, he is not moving well and seems to be working to endure his matches. Hokutofuji desperately needs to regroup, and I wonder if the upcoming jungyo tour might actually help him, as he would be sparring daily with a larger variety of rikishi.
Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – This has the potential to be a solid bit of sumo, even though Takarafuji, sadly, has just one win. Takarafuji has been putting out a great effort each and every day, just not enough to earn white stars. We saw some great classic Kotoshogiku form on day 9, and if he can muster that again, we could be in for a real battle.
Ichinojo vs Kaisei – Quite possibly the match of the day here, can Kaisei overpower the Boulder? I think it’s mechanically possible, but how it plays out is going to be awesome to watch. Ichinojo still doing quite well and is part of the group 2 behind the leaders.
Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Both men suffered greatly during act 2, and now both of them are struggling to stay above a 50% win mark. With double digits wins almost mathematically impossible now for Mitakeumi, it will mark another basho where his fans wonder what it will take for him to rise to the next level.
Takayasu vs Shodai – Oh good lord. Unless Shodai “Goes Hulk”, which he does sometimes, this is going to be a question of how long Takayasu wants to play with him before winning.
Tochinoshin vs Goeido – Another option for the match of the day. Goeido lost day 9 due to a poorly timed move. It’s time to see if he puts that aside or if it worries him into another loss. Goeido has a habit of letting one mistake throw off his sumo, and fans are all hoping he can keep steady. Tochinoshin’s sumo just seems to be stronger with each passing match, so this one has much potential with the Hatsu Yusho winner facing down Osaka’s hometown champ.
Kakuryu vs Chiyomaru – The biggest risk here, in my opinion, is an injury to the Yokozuna. Chiyomaru tends to start with a giant blast but rapidly lose stamina. With Kakuryu’s reactive sumo, I am looking for him to blunt Chiyomaru’s opening salvo and work to get him off balance and once again rolling westward. Look out Hiroshima, he’s coming through!