We have only completed four days of the Kyushu basho, but in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “it got late early.” This is especially true of Yokozuna Kisenosato, but there are other high-stakes bouts on tomorrow’s torikumi.
K1e Takakeisho (4-0) vs. S1w Ichinojo (1-3). Takakeisho has extended his rank-saving six-bout winning streak at the close of Aki with four straight wins to open Kyushu. If he continues his strong performance, he’ll be stating his case for promotion to Sekiwake, and perhaps starting his own Ozeki run. Could he even factor in the yusho race? His next challenge is Ichinojo, who is off to yet another lethargic start. Takakeisho holds a 5-2 edge in their rivalry, including victories in the last two basho.
S1e Mitakeumi (2-2) vs. K1w Kaisei (0-2-2). I still believe Mitakeumi could earn Ozeki promotion with 11 or more wins, but this question is being rapidly rendered moot by his lackluster performance. Kaisei has been his kryptonite, holding a 5-1 advantage. Mitakeumi’s only victory came in his breakthrough yusho-winning Nagoya basho; tomorrow is his chance to claim another against an opponent who is clearly less than 100%. By the way, I am not sure why we are getting two san’yaku pairings on Day 5, when there clearly won’t be enough of these to go around for the remaining ten days.
O1e Goeido (2-2) vs. M3e Nishikigi (0-4). Goeido has had an uneven start to the tournament, but this is a huge mismatch, as will be most of Nishikigi’s bouts at this rank. Unsurprisingly, this is a first meeting between the two.
M1w Hokutofuji (2-2) vs. O2w Tochinoshin (3-1). Hokutofuji has fought well, and his record is even, but his two victories came against struggling Kisenosato and Ichinojo. Tochinoshin recovered from his opening loss to Tamawashi with three straight victories, though he has yet to look like his dominant self from earlier in the year. The Ozeki has won both of their prior meetings.
M2e Tochiozan (4-0) vs. O1w Takayasu (4-0). Wow, a meeting between two of the three remaining undefeated rikishi on Day 5! Tochiozan has taken full advantage of the banzuke luck that elevated him to M2, while Takayasu has looked cool, calm and collected against underwhelming opposition. The career record actually favors Tochiozan 19-7, but most of those bouts took place years ago in Tochiozan’s heyday and before Takayasu’s rise to the upper ranks; they are 1-1 since the latter became Ozeki. Bout of the day.
Y2e Kisenosato (0-4) vs. M2w Tamawashi (2-2). Hoo boy. As of this writing, I haven’t seen anything about Kisenosato pulling out of the tournament, so we may indeed witness a winless Yokozuna ascending the dohyo on Day 5. Via the Sumo Forum, I’ve seen statements from members of the NSK that 8-7 would be good enough for Kise to continue his career, along with insinuations from forum members that he might be “gifted” some victories. Fun times. If the bout does take place, Kisenosato holds a 9-2 edge (not counting fusen), but those two losses came the last two times he’s faced Tamawashi, including their bout at Aki. Tamawashi has alternated dominant victories over Tochinoshin and Ichinojo with weak losses to Mitakeumi and Goeido; if this pattern holds, the prediction for tomorrow’s fight is [puts on Mr. T voice] PAIN :-o