Welcome to the final act of the Kyushu basho. This is where we crown the yusho winner, and a lot of people suffer. For Makuuchi and Juryo rikishi, fifteen solid days of top form sumo is exhausting, and the final five days in particular are a huge grind. Many of the rikishi are already losing energy, while others seem to be limitless heading into act three.
During act three, many of the normal match ranges amongst the rank and file are set aside, as the schedulers are eager to shape the yusho race and sort the make- from the kachi-koshi. We see this kicking in already on day 11, and you may notice my rank annotations on some matches from here on out to highlight the wide gaps between competitors.
Chasers: Takayasu, Daieisho, Aoiyama, Onosho
Hunt Group: Goeido, Okinoumi
5 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Arawashi vs Yago – While we give our heartfelt condolences to Arawashi for his impending demotion to Juryo, we marvel at the possibility that our Juryo visitor for the day, the 6-4 Yago, might get two more wins and possibly make a top division debut in January. Yago is a bit of a protege, and we will be looking for his typical good fighting form. Sadly Arawashi is in no condition to give him much of a fight.
Chiyoshoma vs Okinoumi – A win today would be an Okinoumi kachi-koshi, and it would be Okinoumi’s third in a row. For a man with a chronic injury that might have ended his career, his perseverance is humbling.
Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Aoiyama is, at times, a sumo puzzle. When his health is good, his body is working and he is on his sumo, he’s a bit unstoppable except for rikishi in the named ranks. He appears to be in that mode going into day 11, and he faces a disrupted Yutakayama, who is still not quite right after injury, kyujo and returning to a beating or five during Aki. Should Aoiyama win again on day 11, we will see him face higher ranked opponents soon.
Kotoshogiku (M9e) vs Daiamami (M15e) – First match between these two, and I can almost imagine that they are feeding the smaller rikishi into the maws of hometown favorite Kotoshogiku to see what he will do. I think a kachi-koshi for the “Kyushu Bulldozer” could come before day 14, and maybe he can run up the score.
Onosho (M13e) vs Shohozan (M7w) – I have been saying since the start of the basho that Onosho was woefully under-ranked. Now it’s time for him to deliver some of his typically aggressive sumo to another hometown favorite, Shohozan. Both of these rikishi like to knock their opponents around, but I am going to give an edge to “Big Guns” today, as he seems to soak up the enthusiasm from the crowd.
Abi (M7e) vs Endo (M12w) – Endo has yet to beat Abi, so lets see if he can use the same disruption technique that saw Abi lose the prior two days with the same effect.
Daieisho vs Kagayaki – Daieisho holds a share of the chase group, and will look to hand Kagayaki his make-koshi today to remain one loss behind Takakeisho. Kagayaki is in no danger of a deep demotion at this point, and I expect that he will benefit from a period at the bottom end of Makuuchi.
Shodai vs Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa holds a 5-2 career advantage, but is only fighting at a fraction of his normal power. Shodai, aside from his tachiai, is showing consistent and strong sumo for the past 5 days, and I give him the advantage today.
Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Ryuden is also one loss away from make-koshi, which is not an uncommon result when a rikishi joins the joi-jin for the first time. It’s a rougher schedule at the top, and Ryuden will walk away from Kyushu with plenty of sore joints and bruises, but also a couple of great wins over high ranking opponents.
Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has never beaten Nishikigi, and given how he faltered in his match against tournament leader Takakeisho on day 10, we have to wonder if it was nerves or indication that he’s running out of gas in the marathon to senshuraku. Nishikigi has surprised everyone a few times, and I am sure we will all be watching to see if he can do it again. While I think a kachi-koshi is unlikely this time, I think he may actually be able to hold his own at Maegashira 3 some time in 2019.
Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – It took Tamawashi a while to get warmed up, but he seems dialed into his sumo now. I expect he is going to give Myogiryu a fierce battle on day 11. Myogiryu holds the edge in agility and speed, Tamawashi the edge in strength and precision. This will either be over in the blink of an eye, or a great battle.
Takakeisho vs Tochiozan – After opening strong, Tochiozan has lost 4 of the last 5 matches. But he is the same rikishi who defeated Takayasu, Goeido and Kisenosato last week, and given the right scenario, he could be trouble for yusho race leader Takakeisho. The odds are against it, as Takakeisho holds a 5-1 career advantage.
Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze – What’s going to happen here? Lord, who knows. I would like to think Mitakeumi is going to break out of his doldrums against the always intense Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze is still on a trajectory that could see him secure a kachi-koshi, but he is not nearly as genki right now as he was during Aki.
Goeido vs Kaisei – Go ahead Goeido, I dare you.
Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s opponents seem to have gotten very good at keeping the Ozeki away from a working mawashi grip this tournament, and it would seem to be frustrating the Georgian’s sumo. Chiyotairyu has a lot of fast power, but seldom shows much stamina, which Tochinoshin seems to possess in buckets. So I am going to expect for the Ozeki to let Chiyotairyu discharge his opening gambit, then get to work.
Ichinojo vs Takayasu – It seems that Takayasu might give Ichinojo his 8th loss today, and many in the sumo world would be sad to see the big Mongolian behemoth vacate the Sekiwake slot that had to be enlarged, at great cost, just to hold him. The one redeeming thought in this match up is that Takayasu has a lot of trouble winning against Ichinojo, with a slim 5-4 margin. A loss by Takayasu would disrupt his chances to contend for the yusho.