Act 2 is running on overdrive and rikishi are being shunted away from the yusho hunt, but our leaders – the undefeated Kaisei and Yokozuna Kakuryu – have yet to show any inclination to lose a single match. At this point, the main group of contenders are two wins behind, and we would need to see both men lose not just one, but two of their next six matches. Mathematically possible, but it could be a tall order.
The easier mark is, of course, Maegashira 6 Kaisei. But don’t be fooled, Kaisei is huge, powerful and seems to be quite determined to keep pushing forward. He is, in fact, a serious contender. Given that Kaisei has in the past served and even had a winning record in San’yaku, he is not a total stranger to the pinnacle of sumo competition.
But this entire yusho race pivots on Yokozuna Kakuryu. Once again we head into the second week with him as the lone Yokozuna, and undefeated. At Hatsu, he struggled in the second week because he sustained an injury to his ankle which robbed him of the ability to create any forward pressure. If we see him looking hesitant, or not moving strongly forward, let’s all do ourselves a favor and assume he’s hurt, rather than that he lacks the fiber, courage or endurance to be a Yokozuna. Frankly, in the back half of this year and into 2019, he may be the only Yokozuna that survives.
Day 9’s matches continue to act 2’s theme – the scheduling team are creating increasingly interesting pairings, working to create three distinct groups, the contenders, the defeated and the survivors.
Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Aoiyama
8 Matches Remain
What We are Watching Day 9
(Abbreviated due to a shortage of time – apologies if I miss your favorite rikishi)
Aminishiki vs Hidenoumi – Uncle Sumo continues to suffer in Juryo. Now at 2-6, he is nursing a worsening of his injured knee. Likely a Hidenoumi pick-up.
Sokokurai vs Aoiyama – I am going to come out and say it. Aoiyama has only 2 losses. Had he not been robbed in the first week, he would be 7-1 and the second man in the chase group. No going back, but this would be the second time in 12 months that he would have been a contender. As it is, this match is strongly in favor of the Bulgarian.
Daiamami vs Asanoyama – The lone man with 7 wins steps off against Asanoyama. They are evenly matched at 3-3 over their career, but Daiamami is having a good basho, so I expect him to come in genki and strong.
Ikioi vs Kotoyuki – Mr 5×5 has been unable to produce any offense this tournament. I expect Ikioi to dispatch him with a wince and grimace of pain.
Abi vs Okinoumi – First meeting between these two, but it seems to have potential. Abi looked very good on day 8, but he will need to think fast as Okinoumi has a deep library of sumo knowledge and experience to draw upon.
Kaisei vs Ryuden – Odd fact that Kaisei has never beaten Ryuden, they have had two prior matches. But Kaisei is looking very genki, and this is almost a kind of cupcake for him, I would think.
Endo vs Tamawashi – This has the potential to be a great match. Endo’s ablative sumo on day 8 really caught my attention – he took a huge blast to land the grip he wanted, and he made his opponent pay. Tamawashi also likes to open big and open strong. They have had 12 prior matches, and they are split evenly 6-6.
Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – You can see the frustration on Takakeisho’s face now. His oshi attack will face a significant uphill struggle against the Boulder. Takakeisho has beaten him 3 times out of 4, so I think he has a plan, and it’s time to see which version of Ichinojo shows up day 9: The one that beat Takakeisho in January, or the one that lost in November.
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Power and speed are in ample supply when these two are fighting. Shohozan will stay mobile and try to keep the Hatsu Yusho Winner away from his mawashi. Tochinoshin holds a career advantage, but Shohozan is looking to uproot Tochinoshin from the hunt group and return him to the survivor pool.
Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi is firmly in the survivor pool now, and it’s somewhat frustrating as I think Mitakeumi is going to contend for higher rank at some point, but he just can’t seem to muster any bold forward drive. Kotoshogiku has the aura or make-koshi hanging over him already, but Mitakeumi seems like he may have been hurt day 8.
Chiyomaru vs Goeido – Actually the first time these two have matched, I am going to give the nod to Goeido, as he seems to have a stable build of GoeiDOS 1.5.1 running right now.
Takayasu vs Chiyotairyu – Both of these giant men like to open with a huge overpowering tachiai. If Chiyotairyu were a little lighter, I would suspect a henka, as it would be an easy way to beat Takayasu if you can pull it off.
Kakuryu vs Shodai – Kakuryu loves to exploit mistakes of his opponents. We can assume Shodai will be high off the shikiri-sen and Big K will take over and put him down.