Welcome to nakabe, the middle day of the basho. So far, the tournament has been a festival of the unusual and the unexpected, and it has kept fans, new and old, guessing what twist will come next. With the middle day, we start to look at the yusho race. At this moment it’s nearly wide open, with most of the crowd in contention being outside the normal ranks that one expects to take the yusho. With the Yokozuna all in dry dock, it was free fire for the Ozeki… But even they are facing losses in matches they should win, and none of them look to be dominant enough at the middle weekend to be considered a favorite. Out of the eight rikishi who are in serious competition for the Emperor’s Cup as of day 8, there is only one Ozeki and one Komusubi – the other six are from the rank-and-file Maegashira.
This is a huge leaderboard for day 8, showing how things are very evenly matched with no Yokozuna on duty, and most of the Ozeki too hurt or distracted to keep the ranks on losing streaks. As of today, any of these rikishi could take home the cup. It’s a barnyard brawl to senshuraku!!!
Leaders: Takakeisho, Daieisho, Onosho
Chasers: Takayasu, Tochiozan, Chiyotairyu, Abi, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Goeido, Mitakeumi, Myogiryu, Hokutofuji, Tamawashi, Shodai, Yoshikaze, Sadanoumi, Okinoumi, Endo, Daishomaru, Daiamami, Meisei
8 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
(As we are live blogging, we will be watching all of it!)
Kotoyuki vs Daishomaru – The question is, win or lose, how far will Kotoyuki end up in the zabuton section?
Onosho vs Meisei – Yusho co-leader faces Meisei, who is looking to bounce back after a day 7 loss. Onoshi is severely under-ranked right now, and is probably enjoying racking up the wins.
Arawashi vs Takanosho – First time match between two struggling rikishi. Arawashi’s bum leg continues to prevent him from really showing us much sumo, and Takanosho is struggling in his second ever Makuuchi tournament after an 8-7 finish at Aki.
Chiyomaru vs Endo – Chiyomaru maintains a glimmer of hope that he can pick up six more wins over the next eight days. He must do that or he returns to Juryo to sort himself out. His offense is completely missing, and his defense lacks any stamina. Endo will be tough for him to overcome in this state, although “Endo the Golden” is also struggling so far.
Chiyoshoma vs Yutakayama – After opening Kyushu with four straight losses, is Yutakayama finally starting to turn things around? With two wins already, he’s not too far from a safety buffer that would keep him in the top division for January. He has won 4 of the 5 prior matches with Chiyoshoma.
Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Two high intensity rikishi: Chiyonokuni will go for mobility and attacking at arms length, and Kotoshogiku will want to bring Chiyonokuni to his chest. As in the prior three basho, both are fighting well, but seem to lack the energy to finish the match with a win.
Okinoumi vs Daieisho – Daieisho shares a piece of the lead on day 8, and he will need to overcome his career 3-6 disadvantage over Okinoumi to keep it. Okinoumi is once again steering a course towards a comfortable but not over-performing kachi-koshi, and may not quite have enough genki in the tank to dispatch a surging Daieisho.
Abi vs Sadanoumi – Abi-zumo sputtered and wheezed on day 7, and a salty veteran like Sadanoumi may have a better chance of disrupting and overcoming the double-arm thrust attack that is every match for Abi. Does he win with it? Sure. Has it gotten boring? Yes.
Takanoiwa vs Shohozan – Takanoiwa went from hot (during Aki) to not (during Kyushu). Injuries, loss of an Oyakata, stable move, lawsuit with a former Yokozuna… need I go on? Takanoiwa is a shambles right now. He’s a solid rikishi, and we hope he can get himself re-centered soon. Shohozan got a rather blunt yorikiri on day 7, which frankly I thought he could have avoided. I want him to bounce back and score another white star today.
Takarafuji vs Kagayaki – Takarafuji to me seems to exemplify this basho. A solid rikishi, he seems hurt, tired, distracted and off his sumo. This is true for at least half of the rikishi right now. While it means that the competition space is quite even, it also means that there are frequent reminders that some good athletes are far below their best this November.
Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama is looking for his first ever win against Ikioi, who closed out a hot streak of 3 wins by losing yesterday to Kagayaki. Like Takarafuji, he’s a visible reminder that a large number of these “headline rikishi” are fighting far below their rated power.
Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – Coming off his loss to Ichinojo, Chiyotairyu will be looking to add more white stars to his score. I know I have poked fun at Nishikigi for his Maegashira 3 tenure, but I am quite delighted that he has two wins at the end of week 1, and that he seems to fight better than I expected. I think he might actually make a spot for himself in the upper Maegashira soon if he continues to improve.
Tochiozan vs Tamawashi – After opening strong, Tochiozan went to defeat two days in a row. He’s now looking to stem the losing streak against Tamawashi, over whom he holds a 12-2 career advantage. This is probably the point where the NHK live stream will begin.
Takakeisho vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu has never won against Takakeisho, but with the landscape of Aki a strange world of shadows and mirrors, any day could be the day everything changes. Myogiryu’s wins this tournament have come by yorikiri and yoritaoshi, so I am going to be interested to see how he defends against Takakeisho’s refined “wave action” attack.
Hokutofuji vs Kaisei – Hokutofuji will need every ounce of strength to take on Kaisei. Kaisei is not even at 90% genki, but he’s still a massive opponent, and can use his bulk with great effect. Hokutofuji’s approach will likely be similar to Takakeisho: raise him up at the tachiai and immediately bring him to the clay.
Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – About time we had a nice Sekiwake battle. Will we get passive Ichinojo, or the one that mounted the dohyo on day 7? Will Mitakeumi dial up the power, or phone it in? This will either be fierce, or like watching two bureaucrats argue at the end of a four-hour conference call.
Goeido vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze shocked Tochinoshin on day 7. Though he is getting older and fading a bit, he is capable of beating any rikishi any day he mounts the dohyo if the fight is on his terms. Their long history has Yoshikaze with a slight 13-11 lead, and I assume it will come down to Goeido getting Yoshikaze off balance at the tachiai. Given that Yoshikaze will likely lead with his face, there could be blood on the dohyo.
Ryuden vs Tochinoshin – After his surprising win over Takayasu, Ryuden may be over-stuffed with confidence, perhaps enough to give him a fighting chance against the flagging Tochinoshin, who is in real danger of ending Kyushu kadoban once again. We have not seen Tochinoshin’s “lift and shift” power sumo very much this basho, so maybe he can get the opening against Ryuden and deploy his super-human strength.
Shodai vs Takayasu – Takayasu has struggled for at lest a year with chronic strains and pains in his lower back. Following his loss in a marathon battle with Ryuden on day 7, the “Wooly One” stood gingerly, seemingly in pain. Shodai does not stand much of a chance against Takayasu’s tachiai, but if somehow he can keep his footing, Takayasu will have his hands full with the chaotic, flailing style of Shodai.