Welcome to the end of act 2! As described earlier, act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. Much to my delight, the field for the yusho is still fairly broad, with 9 rikishi occupying the leader board with 6 matches left, though there were 14 yesterday. We can expect a different mix of matches in act 3, and we will see much larger rank gaps between competitors as the schedule works to whittle down everything to an entertaining conclusion.
Chasers: Takayasu, Daieisho, Aoiyama, Onosho
Hunt Group: Goeido, Tochiozan, Abi, Okinoumi
6 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 10
Kotoeko vs Chiyomaru – These two rikishi could well trade places for January, as Chiyomaru is one loss away from nearly certain demotion to Juryo, and Kotoeko is on a kachi-koshi trajectory that would make him a good candidate to return to the top division.
Onosho vs Chiyoshoma – Onosho looks to stay in the yusho hunt, and seem to be dialed into his sumo. I am still hoping we might see a playoff between Onosho and Takakeisho, but the odds of that are long indeed.
Kotoshogiku vs Daishomaru – The crowd in the venue love Kotoshogiku, and he seems to be eating it up. He won the only prior match with Daishomaru, and as long as he can lock up the Oitekaze man, he should be able to score the white star for day 10.
Takanosho vs Daieisho – Daieisho also seeks to stay in the yusho race, and I predict he will make short work of Takanosho, who is not looking very competitive this tournament.
Aoiyama vs Takarafuji – Also a member of the yusho race team, the giant Bulgarian has an impressive combination of size, speed and strength. Takarafuji’s performance has been middling at best, and I don’t see him overcoming the 16-3 career advantage of Aoiyama today.
Abi vs Okinoumi – Both of these rikishi are in the hunt group. The winner gets a clear advantage in remaining in the hunt for the yusho. Now that his opponents are starting to disable Abi’s preferred attack, will he move to change things up?
Chiyonokuni vs Shohozan – How badly is Chiyonokuni’s arm hurt? A loss on day 10 against local favorite, and unapologetic street brawler Shohozan will relegate Chiyonokuni to a make-koshi. If he can’t find a few more wins, he could face a brutal drop down the banzuke for New Years.
Takanoiwa vs Ryuden – Ryuden is in much better physical condition than Takanoiwa as of day 10. Frankly it’s guts and iron will that keeps Takanoiwa in the basho at this point. I am sure he is looking to prove to his new oyakata that he’s tough and willing to do whatever it takes to compete. Given Takanoiwa’s preferred sumo style, I would not expect to see Ryuden draw him into another endurance contest, but we can always hope!
Tochiozan vs Yoshikaze – Tochiozan’s impressive start has sputtered to a stop. Likewise, Yoshikaze (who is from Kyushu) has been struggling for wins. These two are evenly matched over their career, but Yoshikaze needs the win badly to stay away from a make-koshi trajectory.
Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – I am inclinde to favor Myogiryu in this match, if for no other reason that his intensity has been off the scale thus far. It’s tough to keep that kind of drive going for 2 solid weeks of brutal grinding sumo, but I think he still has some stamina left.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – Both are pugilistic powerhouses, but right now Takakeisho is on an unrestricted afterburner run at the yusho. Hokutofuji has the size and strength to stop him, but can he overcome the “wave action” attack? I am looking for Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” today, and an early gambit to get inside no matter what the cost. If he can break through the first wave, Takakeisho may have his hands full.
Tamawashi vs Kaisei – I think of this match as good clean sumo fun. Tamawashi will try to push and muscle Kaisei around. Its like putting a huge set of plates on the bar, and then showing off for your buddies. Kaisei knows he’s huge, and he knows how to use that amazing bulk to confound and conquer the strong and the mighty. Can’t wait to see how this one goes.
Mitakeumi vs Shodai – I will say it for certain now, Mitakeumi is off his sumo. He’s struggled this basho more than he should in a No-kozuna situation, which was tailor made for him to run up the score and push for Ozeki. But instead he has faded, and is struggling against the likes of Ryuden. Baring any physical problems we don’t know about, the problem is in that brain of his. Perhaps he was rattled by missing the Ozeki bid at Aki, who can tell. But don’t go into a match against Shodai, as his cartoon sumo will eat you alive and leave you wondering how.
Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin can in fact lift Ichinojo, if it comes to that. We have seen it before, but I still worry about that odd knee motion at the end of his day 9 match against Takakeisho. Above all, I would like to see the newest Ozeki continue to stay healthy and in the fight. This may be a good test match: if Tochinoshin is healthy, he should hand Ichinojo his 7th loss.
Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – Hopefully Takayasu will give Chiyotairyu a better fight on day 10 than he got from Goeido on day 9. I am still mumbling to myself about that henka. Both men love to do giant blast-off tachiais, so it may be loud and brutal as they launch off the shikiri-sen.
Goeido vs Asanoyama – Goeido, please don’t henka again today. This is your first time fighting Asanoyama, but he’s still not quite up to his full potential. Respect what he will become and give him the benefit of a good battle with the top Ozeki in the sport.