We start right at the bottom of the torikumi, where M15 Chiyonokuni (5-1) takes on M14 Yutakayama (4-2). When healthy and fighting well, both men belong much higher on the banzuke, and both are enjoying a strong start to the Hatsu basho after managing only 10 victories between the two of them in Kyushu. The pair split their four previous bouts, all of which took place last year, and we could see a spirited battle between two pusher-thrusters.
Moving up, we have top-division newcomer M13 Yago (5-1) taking on winless M16 Daishomaru. Daishomaru seems determined to show that the banzuke committee erred for a second-straight basho in keeping a struggling ‘maru (Chiyomaru after Aki) in the top division instead of promoting a more deserving Juryo performer (Yago after Aki, Terutsuyoshi after Kyushu). Yago, like Chiyonokuni, is one off the pace in the yusho race, and if he can pick up another 5 victories in the final 9 days, should claim a fighting spirit prize. The last seven men to do so in their Makuuchi debut are something of a mixed bag: Shodai, Ishiura, Onosho, Asanoyama, Abi, Ryuden, and Kyokutaisei.
Skipping over some less consequential bouts, we come to the first candidate for match of the day: M8 Kaisei (5-1) vs. M6 Onosho (6-0). Kaisei’s surprising loss to Sadanoumi today took only a little shine off this matchup between our co-leader and one of the chasers. There’s not much history between the two: they’ve only faced each other once, with Onosho prevailing during his breakout Makuuchi debut in May 2017 against a struggling and Juryo-bound Kaisei. The bout presents a classic contrast in styles between a mawashi man and a pusher-thruster. With all the withdrawals in the upper ranks, the remaining Ozeki and Yokozuna will need to face opponents ranked at least as low as M5. Given the poor records of Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu, it’s easy to see Onosho being thrown into the fire, especially if he is still in the yusho race in a few days. I’m guessing that he will get a couple of easier bouts next against opponents like Asanoyama and Endo before getting tested against someone like Kotoshogiku or other upper maegashira. If he comes through all that with a share of the lead, it could be time for a big jump up the torikumi.
Another chaser, M5 Aoiyama (5-1 but should be 6-0), takes on M6 Chiyotairyu (2-4). Aoiyama has dominated their previous meetings 7-2 and is having much the better basho.
Word on the street is that Komusubi Mitakeumi (5-1) is planning to show up for his bout with M2 Hokutofuji (4-2) tomorrow, despite having left the arena in a wheelchair. Much as I want to see Mitakeumi fighting for higher rank and the yusho, I hope he only returns if his injury is truly much more minor than it looked—I don’t want to see him fighting on one leg and risking further damage. Edit: Mitakeumi is kyujo for day 7.
The other Komusubi, Myogiryu (2-4), takes on M2 Nishikigi (4-2). This is one bout where a Nishikigi victory would not qualify as a surprise: he leads the series 5-2, with most of those bouts taking placing much lower down the torikumi. Indeed, Myogiryu’s return to sanyaku, after a couple of years spent struggling at the bottom of the banzuke and taking two detours to Juryo, makes this a meeting of two Cinderellas.
M1 Tochiozan (2-4) faces Sekiwake Tamawashi (4-2), whom he has completely owned during their careers. Over the past ten years, the two have met 15 times, with Tochiozan winning 13, including the last 12.
Next we have another potential match of the day: Sekiwake Takakeisho vs. M1 Ichinojo. Both men are 4-2, and both picked up dispiriting losses today after a strong opening five days. Will Takakeisho give up his belt again? Will Ichinojo yield easily for the second straight day, or revert to being an immovable object? Answers to these questions will determine whether this will be a great bout or a dud. The two have met regularly, facing off in eight of the last eleven basho, and Takakeisho leads the series 6-2.
Ozeki Takayasu (3-3) looked powerful today against Nishikigi. Tomorrow, he faces M4 Kotoshogiku (4-2), who is pulled into the joi as a consequence of the kyujo in the upper ranks (note the complete absence of intra-sanyaku bouts today). Kotoshogiku is having a second consecutive strong tournament, and the career record between the two is seemingly quite even at 14-11 in favor of Takayasu, but this is deceptive: Kotoshogiku dominated the early days of the rivalry, when he was the Ozeki, but Takayasu has won the last 11 in a row.
In the penultimate bout, it’s struggling M3 Shodai vs. struggling Ozeki Goeido. Both men are 2-4. Shodai managed to pull off the upset in 4 of their 12 prior meetings. And in the musubi no ichiban, the other struggling M3, Shohozan (2-4) is still looking for his first victory against the last Yokozuna standing, Hakuho (6-0), in their 15th meeting.