Bring on the third act of Nagoya! What’s the plan for act 3? Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we crown a champion. Someone takes home the hardware and hoists a big fish. We see who survives with a kachi-koshi, and who gets relegated to the demotion queue with a maki-koshi. Act three can sometimes be a snoozer if one rikishi is really dominating. The schedulers try their hardest to make sure the yusho race stays interesting up to the end. Right now we have Mitakeumi 2 wins ahead of everyone else, with just two rikishi in striking range, both of them from the bottom of the banzuke. Behind that is a mass of 9 rikishi at 7 wins (3 behind Mitakeumi), many of whom would provide credible threats. This includes both Ozeki, and human chaos machine Takakeisho.
While many fans, and some of our readers seem to regard Nagoya as “sumo light” due to the depleted Yokozeki ranks, I actually think that this basho (and possibly Aki) are the ones to watch. We are probably at or near a memorable deflection point in the flow of sumo history, and this unique basho, with its top men out, is the time when our new favorites show themselves. Look at it this way – by not competing, the upper level rikishi have a chance to rest and recover, but they are also gradually losing their edge. They return healthier and better able to fight, but their skills do in fact atrophy. If you need examples – Kisenosato can’t actually fight at San’yaku levels now, it’s been too long since he competed. Hakuho returns from each kyujo a little less unbeatable.
The future is being built today in the hot and humid air of Nagoya. I firmly believe it will lead to a clash of the past vs the future at Aki, which has the potential to be one of the great sumo tournaments of our age.
Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
Hunters – Asanoyama, Tochiozan
Peloton – Goeido, Takayasu, Takakeisho, Kaisei, Endo, Chiyotairyu, Myogiryu, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji
5 Matches Remain.
What We Are Watching Day 11
Ryuden vs Onosho – Onosho needs to regroup, and his day 11 match against Ryuden is a great chance to do just that. His only prior match against Ryuden was a win in November of 2016 in Juryo. A lot has changed since then.
Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – Asanoyama has been fighting very well, and is already kachi-koshi. The question is: can he run up the score? The biggest worry being that he does and promotes to a level he can’t yet handle. Nishikigi is struggling a bit, but I think he can still get his 8 before Sunday.
Chiyomaru vs Meisei – Meisei has a make-koshi on the line, and his return to Juryo hangs in the balance. Chiyomaru is shaky at best, so this will be a contest of the desperate vs the uncomfortable.
Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has kachi-koshi at stake on day 11, and like Asanoyama he could run up the score and find himself in a tough spot for Aki. Sadanoumi continues to plug away with worthy sumo, and I think he could surprise Yutakayama.
Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Winner kachi-koshi. Note the M9 to M16 gap between their ranks. As mentioned before Nagoya, a healthy Hokutofuji is at least mid-Maegashira class, so this is a fair fight, possibly a bit in Hokutofuji’s favor.
Takarafuji vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko is also facing a possible make-koshi and a likely return to Juryo if he can’t get his 8. Takarafuji has been looking quite un-genki in during act 2, and is wandering close to the make-koshi line as well. This is their first ever match.
Tochiozan vs Chiyotairyu – This is possibly my match of the first half. Chiyotairyu could reach kachi-koshi if he can defeat the rather genki Tochiozan. This is going to be smooth, tight efficient sumo vs an out of control sumo-reactor ready to blow.
Kyokutaisei vs Yoshikaze – As a die hard Yoshikaze fan, I now want to see if he can get his 15 consecutive losses. Or will Kyokutaisei derail his one-man crusade to turn in the worst possible record for a single tournament?
Endo vs Takakeisho – Yes, yes oh yes! This one is my chuumoku-no-ichiban. Endo has a weak spot when defending against someone who is really sharp in oshi-zumo. So Endo is going to need to do NOT do what he has done the past 2 days. On day 9 and 10, Endo let his opponent take the initiative and dictate the form and cadence of the match. If he does that, Takakeisho will disrupt Endo’s sumo and give him a clay and sand facial. Will we see more Takakeisho wave-action attacks? I do hope so. In addition, this is their first ever match.
Abi vs Kagayaki – I don’t know what to make of this. Abi has had a rough basho, and is already make-koshi. Kagayaki needs to win-out in order to not go make-koshi himself. I am sure at this point, Abi may try something odd and new.
Shodai vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku may have injured himself in his short distance flight from the dohyo. He is one loss away from make-koshi, so he needs to find some way to win out. His day 11 opponent is Shodai, who is very soft and light this tournament.
Chiyonokuni vs Shohozan – Shohozan holds a 7-2 career lead over Chiyonokuni, but Chiyonokuni is looking aggressive, fast and creative this basho. Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins for kachi-kochi, and day 11 may be the next step on that road.
Tamawashi vs Ikioi – It’s good to see Ikioi healthy and fighting well again, after a long painful period where it was clear he was always in pain and had problems moving. But over his career, Tamawashi has beaten him 10 times (vs 4), and holds a clear advantage in terms of executing “combat sumo”, which they both seem to favor.
Kaisei vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has never beaten Kaisei. Think that through. If he beats Kaisei, it’s another indicator that Mitakeumi has really gamberized, and is operating at a higher level of performance. There is a LOT of Kaisei to fight. Although he is usually slow and lumbering, his niku-dango shaped body is preposterous in scale, and his sumo fundamentals are sound. Good luck King Tadpole!
Ichinojo vs Takayasu – What do you do with this one? Takayasu needs one more to get safely out of kadoban. Ichinojo has shown himself to be an unreliable opponent. His sumo against Yoshikaze day 10 was puzzling. Meanwhile, Takayasu keeps underperforming, and is likely suffering from multiple mechanical injuries now.
Goeido vs Daishomaru – Goeido gets a creampuff match for the musubi-no-ichiban. A win today (and he had better win) would clear kadoban. A Daishomaru loss would leave him make-koshi.