We’ve reached nakabi: the middle Sunday of the tournament. The torikumi makers appear to have thrown the banzuke out the window in drawing up the matchups for Day 8, and we get some unusual pairings. To be fair, the bouts were set before today’s results were known, and in particular, could not anticipate the losses by Aoiyama and Onosho.
We start with M14 Yutakayama (4-3) vs. Juryo 1 Terutsuyoshi (6-1). Terutsuyoshi is making his second visit to Makuuchi this tournament, having defeated the hapless Daishomaru on Day 1, and needs two more victories to secure the top-division promotion he was denied (wrongly, IMO) last basho.
After this opening act, we get to see two of the 6-1 chasers in action early, when M13 Yago (6-1) takes on M16 Daiamami (2-5) and M15 Chiyonokuni (6-1) takes on M12 Kagayaki, who sports a mirror 1-6 record. Raise your hand if you had Yago and Chiyonokuni in the thick of the yusho race.
The next bout of note is M4 Kotoshogiku (4-3) vs. M8 Kaisei (6-1). Kaisei has never beaten the former Ozeki on the dohyo in 10 attempts—the only victory he owns in the series was by fusen.
Let’s see if facing M2 Nishikigi (4-3), who’s lost three in a row after his surprising start, can wake up M1 Ichinojo (4-3), who’s never lost to Nishikigi in five meetings going back to Makushita.
The bouts for what’s left of the upper rank start with Komusubi Myogiryu (3-4) taking on M1 Tochiozan (2-5). This is today’s pairing with the longest prior history: the two have met on 26 previous occasions, and the series is deadlocked at 13-13.
In the first torikumi surprise, the schedulers skipped past a number of available higher-ranked opponents and picked M6 Onosho (6-1) as the next hurdle in Sekiwake Takakeisho’s (5-2) Ozeki campaign. This clash of two top tadpoles, close friends, and rivals is always exciting, and especially so given the stakes. Onosho will look to stay in the yusho race and build a case for a big promotion in March, while Takakeisho can likely afford only two losses the rest of the way if he wants to secure his claim to sumo’s second-highest rank. This is the fourth meeting between the two, with Onosho taking 2 of the previous 3.
The two Ozeki face challenging opponents in their quests for eight wins. It’s 3-4 Goeido vs. Sekiwake Tamawashi (5-2), with the career series favoring the Ozeki 11-7, and 4-3 Takayasu vs. M3 Shohozan (2-5). Takayasu has a 4-bout winning streak in the rivalry.
Finally, in the musubi no ichiban, the undefeated leader, Hakuho, faces a surprising opponent in M5 Aoiyama (5-2). Hakuho has won all 18 of their previous meetings on the dohyo (Aoiyama owns one fusen win). Aoiyama has famously not done well against Yokozuna opponents: in 48 matches not decided by default, he’s won only 3, all against now-retired Harumafuji, the last one coming exactly four years ago.