Well, we have a title race. Having let his Day 12 match get away from him, Hakuho has invited Tamawashi and a host of other characters back into a battle, when it was presumed he would have a smooth, easy ride up to Level 42. Ahem.
So, will the rikishi who loves to bake be able to throw a spatula in the works now that we’ve completed a dozen matches? Let’s look over the ingredients for Day 13:
What We Are Watching Day 13
Tomokaze vs Shimanoumi (Juryo) – Last tournament’s yusho winner Tomokaze is 7-5 and still very much has makuuchi promotion within his sights, and nailing down his kachikoshi here would be a huge step. That being said, Shimanoumi can seal at least a yusho playoff depending on other results with a win here, and will be going
buns glazing guns blazing for victory. Tomokaze has won their only previous matchup.
Kotoeko vs Abi – Kotoeko has been trying to establish himself in the top division and has been making a better fist of it this time. He needs two from three but has the big doughnut in his three previous matches against Abi, who already has his kachi-koshi. I give the slight edge to Abi, who’s displayed slightly more consistent, okay sumo this basho.
Takarafuji vs Daishomaru – Takarafuji (aka Little Uncle Sumo) has displayed his usual if declining blend of stable unspectacular sumo this basho. At 7-5 he has a glorious opportunity against the Osaka man with the 1-11 scoreline to get the job done. While Daishomaru is off the mark now, I would be stunned if the Isegahama veteran can’t put the icing on the cake here.
Kaisei vs Ikioi – The Big Brazilian Kaisei has been mowing down the bottom of the banzuke in a manner which throws his earlier loss to Sadanoumi into stark relief. Ikioi needs have his knives sharpened and ready to deploy heavy metal sumo here and keep the heavier man off his mawashi, as he’s probably not going to win a yotsu match against Kaisei in everyone’s current form. The Osaka native is 7-5 and a win away from getting his kachikoshi (and if he has sense, taking two days off). But all of the sudden Kaisei is in a title race, and I think that will just about give him the edge in this match.
Yago vs Onosho – These guys are both 7-5 and have been flagging in week 2, like a loaf that hasn’t had enough time in the proving drawer. Yago has looked listless in the second week, and streaky Onosho will see this first time matchup as a chance to deal the big man a lesson in top division sumo. Only one man can seal his kachikoshi, while the loser will be looking nervously over their shoulder…
Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – Meisei has done well to consolidate his top division status so far, but this is a big trip up the banzuke which sees the M12 taking on M6 Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu has done alright just outside the joi, and I would expect him to torch the relative newcomer in this first time matchup. Both men are 6-6.
Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – This might be unwatchable. Onosho couldn’t get any forward momentum against Kagayaki which makes me wonder what Yoshikaze is going to be able to do, given that he’s only really turned on the ol’ berzerker switch maybe once so far in the basho (his win against Shohozan). Like a couple of hotcakes that haven’t had enough time on the griddle, both of these guys have been awful in my humble opinion and already have make-koshi in the bag – though Kagayaki probably needs another win from somewhere to be absolutely safe from demotion. The lifetime series is split two apiece.
Aoiyama vs Endo – Somehow, Endo is in a yusho race again. Sumo will surprise you. He’s just been quietly good all throughout the tournament and now finds himself with 9 wins and a real chance for more. However, he gets a really tough customer here that he’s only beaten 3 times from 9 previous matchups. Endo has a lot of tricks, but unless he’s able to get a mawashi grip I fear that he may get pummelled.
Asanoyama vs Okinoumi – Having been passed by a number of exciting and more popular upstarts, Asanoyama is in danger of being one of those forgotten guys who’s just kind of always there. A little bit like Okinoumi, these days. They’re both good all-rounders, but without any defining quality that marks them out as best in class, a bit like the last slices of pie in the display case at a humble diner. This should be a good mawashi battle, though, between two 6-6 rikishi. They’ve faced off four times previously and surprisingly Asanoyama has won them all.
Nishikigi vs Shohozan – Here’s a match with contrasting styles between two 5-7 rikishi. Nishikigi got the party back on track with a win yesterday after his 7 bout losing streak, but he needs to win out or else I’m going to have to burn all the Komusubi Nishikigi t-shirts I’ve been waiting to sell. Both of these guys have had a tough run of fixtures and I think it’s going to come down to who’s able to establish their style in this contest as they both look to avoid make-koshi. If it’s a slapfest, Shohozan will break him like a gingersnap.
Tochiozan vs Shodai – Potentially another skippable moment between two rikishi with losing records. Shodai already has make-koshi while Tochiozan will be looking to avoid his here. Tochiozan has been better than his record would suggest and is 2-1 against non-sanyaku rikishi in this tournament (as opposed to Shodai, who has lost one more match overall despite having twice as many rank and file opponents to this point), so if he can win the tachiai, he can probably win this match.
Ichinojo vs Mitakeumi – Ichinojo started with a bang but then has reverted to his habits of giving up at the tawara recently. Bad Ichinojo, bad, bad, bad! You can’t have any ice cream until you get a kachi-koshi, that’s how it is. Mitakeumi, meanwhile, has shocked and henka’d his way back into contention for a kachi-koshi, to the delight of everyone except henka victim Tochiozan. Given that the two practice together, I’m sure he’ll be hearing about that. Pulling a henka here will probably not accomplish anything, so it’s going to come down to whether Mitakeumi has the strength in his leg to use his terrifying forward movement to push the big man back. He’s another guy who needs to get his 8 and get back out. He leads the lifetime series 5-3.
Myogiryu vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has just had an awful run of fixtures. His 4-2 start proved he could still do the business against the rank and file types, but he doesn’t have anything left in the piping bag against sanyaku level opponents. When he looks bad, he’s unable to plant his feet in order to execute his famous gaburi-yori and I think Myogiryu – despite possibly being slightly more known as an oshi-zumo rikishi – would actually do well here to embrace a mawashi battle. He has beaten the Bulldozer many times by yorikiri, and if he can unsettle Kotoshogiku’s footwork and possibly even set up a throw, I think he’s got a better chance. But I don’t think he will embrace it and I think Kotoshogiku may break his losing streak here and demote Myogiryu from Komusubi.
Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – Hokutofuji has suddenly been thrust into a match no one will want him to win. Which is sad, because he’s really rediscovered his sumo well in this tournament, and has a chance to wrap up his kachi-koshi early. Tamawashi has a slender 3-2 edge in this rivalry, but all of the momentum having come through all of the toughest matches he will face already, and certainly should have an easier run-in than Hakuho. But matches are played in the dohyo, not on paper. The Kataonami Baker has pre-heated the oven with his stunning upset of Hakuho on Day 12, and with these guys both being pusher-thruster types it should be a very intense battle.
Takayasu vs Goeido – It’s a Day 13 Ozeki battle where the only thing of consequence is Who’s Not Going to Be Kadoban? It’s possible that neither of them will make it out of this tournament with eight wins, although Takayasu can get the deal done here. Goeido still has to face a Hakuho who now desperately needs wins to fend off bloodthirsty challengers, so he’s less able to afford a slip in this match and is about as hot as kakigori. The lifetime series heavily favors Takayasu (18-9 when ignoring fusen-sho), and the Top Dog of Tagonoura is showing (marginally) the better sumo in this tournament as well, having come through the flu.
Takakeisho vs Hakuho – The two winners of the last two tournaments go head to head in the musubi-no-ichiban, and with rather more subplots than we’d originally anticipated: Takakeisho needs to win 2 of his last 3 matches to be considered for an Ozeki promotion. He’s also now just one win behind in the yusho arasoi, himself. Hakuho, meanwhile, has dropped 2 in a row and has not only left the door ajar but kicked it wide open for his challengers with two losses that could as much be attributed to his opponents to mistakes that he made. Takakeisho has never beaten Hakuho, and no one is ever favored against the Dai-Yokozuna, but the young starlet is fearless and – especially if the other yusho challengers keep up the pressure – this will be the highlight bout of the day.