Let’s start from the bottom of the torikumi, and work our way up.
M16w Chiyomaru (1-5) vs. M13w Takanosho (1-5). This is as close as we get to an elimination bout this early in the basho. Chiyomaru was spared a trip to Juryo despite a demotable record at Aki (6-9 at M14w), and has carried his struggles over into Kyushu, where he can only afford 2 more losses in the remaining 9 days. Takanosho has hit a sophomore slump in his second top-division tournament, and while he has a little more breathing room at M13, he needs to start picking up victories fast. He won the only prior meeting between the two.
M13e Onosho (5-1) vs. M16e Arawashi (1-5). Onosho at anything close to 100% is ridiculously under-ranked at M13, and his record reflects this. He will attempt to keep pace in the yusho race against Arawashi, who picked up his first victory on day 6 and, like Chiyomaru, can ill-afford any more losses. Onosho leads the series 3-1.
M7e Abi (5-1) vs. M9w Daieisho (5-1). The 10 combined victories by this pair are the most of any day 7 matchup, and both are in the chase pack behind Takakeisho. We all know Abi has had a great start to the tournament, but Daieisho has been quietly keeping pace and holds a 3-1 career edge.
M3e Nishikigi (2-4) vs. M2w Tamawashi (3-3). What has possessed Nishikigi? Will the other rikishi be attempting an exorcism? The man who’s tripped up two contenders, not to mention Bruce’s culinary plans and seating posture, will seek an improbable third consecutive victory against a much more accomplished opponent. Although Tamawashi has as many losses as victories, he is through the hard part of his fight card, and I’m sure eyeing a return to san’yaku. He’s won both of their prior meetings.
M2e Tochiozan (5-1) vs. M1w Hokutofuji (3-3). Tochiozan and Goeido, somewhere, over beers: “How did we lose to that guy?”. Despite today’s loss, Tochiozan remains one off the pace in the yusho race, and both men are well-positioned for san’yaku promotion should Kaisei and/or Ichinojo vacate their slots. Their record is fairly even at 2-3.
M1e Myogiryu (4-2) vs. K1w Kaisei (1-3-2). As the top-ranked maegashira, Myogiryu is in pole position for any open san’yaku slots if he can maintain a winning record. With three more losses, Kaisei would create one such slot. Myogiryu leads their matchup 9-6, including victories in their last three meetings.
M5e Chiyotairyu (5-1) vs. S1w Ichinojo (1-5). Following his lenient demotion, Chiyotairyu is having a great basho. He takes on Ichinojo, who has had a lethargic start and sports a mirror record. Before we completely write off our favorite giant, let’s not forget that he started the two previous basho 3-6 before going 5-1 over the final days to earn a bare-minimum kachi-koshi and defend his rank. If he is to turn his fortune around in a similar fashion this time, he needs to start now. Their record is fairly even at 3-4.
S1e Mitakeumi (3-3) vs. K1e Takakeisho (6-0). In my most anticipated match of the day, the king of the tadpoles takes on the pretender to his throne. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. This is a huge match for the young guns, who’ve met in seven of the last eight basho, with the record narrowly favoring Mitakeumi 4-3. The Sekiwake will seek primacy in the rivalry, and try to keep the faint embers of his Ozeki run glowing. The Komusubi will be fighting to keep his lead in the yusho race, move up a rank, and launch an Ozeki run of his own. While both men started out as pusher-thrusters, Mitakeumi has added belt techniques to his repertoire, and will probably want to turn the bout into a mawashi battle.
M4w Yoshikaze (3-3) vs. O1w Tochinoshin (3-3). The veteran Yoshikaze has held his own after a 9-rank promotion, but now starts his tour of the upper ranks. First stop is Tochinoshin, who has largely dashed pre-tournament yusho hopes with a string of unconvincing performances. The two have met 24 times dating back to 2008 (!), with the Ozeki holding a 15-9 edge.
M3w Ryuden (1-5) vs. O1w Takayasu (5-1). Unlike his fellow over-promoted M3 neighbor, Ryuden has yet to pull off any miracles. I don’t expect this to change against Takayasu, though I am not making any rash bets. The Ozeki has looked solid despite his glitch against Tochiozan, and remains in contention for his first yusho and a step toward shoring up the Yokozuna ranks. Surprisingly, Ryuden has won their one prior bout … in 2009 … in Makushita.
O1e Goeido (3-3) vs. M4e Shodai (4-2). Goeido has been … Goeido, while Shodai is off to a strong start and will look to claim his second consecutive Ozeki scalp. Goeido holds a 7-4 edge in the rivalry, and the pair split their four previous bouts this year, so this match has the potential to close another exciting day of sumo on a high note.