I find myself wondering about day 12. There is a lot on the line, as lksumo so expertly described, but it falls between a crew of rikishi who find themselves on the precipice of a make-koshi, and a narrow group of competitors who are fighting for bigger goals. This basho has been a return to the older days of sumo, where the upper ranks harvested vast numbers of wins from the lesser ranks, and everyone ended each tournament wondering what happened to their sumo.
The big question of the basho – will Hakuho take another yusho? Depends on if someone can put dirt on him between now and Sunday. There are a couple of candidates, but Hakuho seems to be in his genki mode, and short of injury, will be tough to beat.
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu, Takayasu
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Enho vs Toyonoshima – Spritely Enho is back for a second visit to Makuuchi, this time it’s against Toyonoshima who is already make-koshi, and possibly headed back to Juryo. After winning his first 3 matches, Enho has faltered a bit, and is now at 6-5, and not making the strongest case for promotion.
Kotoeko vs Kagayaki – A win today would give Kagayaki his first kachi-koshi since Aki 2018. Kagayaki got off to a slow start, but reconnected with his sumo on the middle weekend, and has been operating well.
Yutakayama vs Yoshikaze – In some prior tournaments, Yoshikaze has eased up once he reached kachi-koshi, and that may happen here too. Yutakayama is clearly on the bubble for demotion, pending how the Juryo promotion race plays out. Any win now would increase his chances of staying put and recovering his formerly genki status in the top division.
Chiyoshoma vs Meisei – Chiyoshoma really needs to pick up this win today. At Maegashira 17, he will need a kachi-koshi to remain in Makuuchi for May. Meisei is very much using speed sumo right now, and this suits Chiyoshoma just fine. We may see a series of Chiyoshoma henka, and hopefully Meisei is expecting that.
Aoiyama vs Ryuden – I very much doubt that the day 11 loss to Ichinojo did more than frustrate sumo’s man-mountain Aoiyama. His day 12 match against Ryuden may be a pugilistic pageant of planetary proportions. But Ryuden may also be little more than a straw bag that Aoiyama uses to work out his frustrations and unfulfilled need to hit things.
Okinoumi vs Shohozan – Another veterans match, there seem to be these every day and they are quite a contrast to the sumo of the younger crowd at times. I expect that Okinoumi will once again dig into this bag of sumo technical mastery and find something unique to use against the always flailing arms of Shohozan.
Terutsuyoshi vs Abi – The battle of the hapless under performers! Who will be let down more, the fans of Abi or the fans of Terutsuyoshi? Honest truth, Terutsuyoshi’s sumo lexicon (at least during Honbasho) seems more diverse than Abi’s.
Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Chiyotairyu has only beaten Kotoshogiku once in 12 tries. So I am going to guess we may see Chiyotairyu get a train of pelvic thrusts that rock his world. A win today would move Kotoshogiku to double digits, and it increasingly seems that the Kyushu Bulldozer may be back in the joi-jin for May.
Sadanoumi vs Onosho – It seems everyone in sumo knows what to do with Onosho’s balance problems, except Onosho. Today we see if Sadanoumi can hand Onosho his make-koshi to match the one that Sadanoumi already achieved.
Asanoyama vs Ichinojo – Nope!
Daieisho vs Tochiozan – How did Tochiozan end up make-koshi? This basho really has been a rough ride for a number of storied veterans and solid sumo practitioners. Daieisho holds a 4-1 career advantage, so this could end up being loss #10 for Tochiozan.
Kaisei vs Shodai – I will come out and say it, both of you guys should start breakdancing at the tachiai. This is no time for sumo for either one of you, so just give up and admit you’re not going to do any more sumo in Osaka. Bring a boom box, and a big boat of Takoyaki and just hold a dance off at the shikiri-sen. You bet it will annoy the NSK, but.. you know… YOLO.
Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Once you bleach the mental image of Kaisei moonwalking out of your mind, I am going to suggest that Mitakeumi will likely give Myogiryu the black star he is missing for his commemorative make-koshi from Osaka. Myogiryu has a lot of speed, but Mitakeumi has been protecting his knees, and not moving as much. This has resulted in him giving busy little guys like Myogiryu fewer chances to actually get an advantage.
Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Two more members of team make-koshi in good standing, I would guess that Hokutofuji will attempt a handshake tachiai blasting into a nodowa. Nishikigi typically is no too badly impacted by this stunt, so it may be a waste of Hokutofuji’s time. If Nishikigi can land a mawashi grip, he will likely take the match.
Endo vs Tamawashi – The loser joins team make-koshi, and I am not sure which one might have the edge here. Tamawashi has fought well, but definitely a notch below his January yusho grade of sumo. Chalk it up to the distractions associated with being the cup-holder.
Takakeisho vs Goeido – After all of the preliminaries, we get down to the heart of the matter. Goeido is in very good form, and his contest against Takakeisho will be a fast and brutal affair. I am looking for Goeido to open distance to Takakeisho and not let him get close enough to set up the wave-action attack. We saw day 11 that Hakuho did this with great skill, staying just beyond Takakeisho’s attack range, and forcing the Ozeki aspirant to move each time he wanted to engage. This robbed Takakeisho of a firm stance to power his thrusts, and reduced his effectiveness significantly. I am certain that Goeido saw all of this, and will act accordingly. He might also just blast out of the tachiai and take Takakeisho to his chest, shutting down his pushing attack.
Hakuho vs Tochinoshin – This has two primary possible outcomes. Hakuho dismantles Tochinoshin and puts him on the clay for his 6th loss is the most likely solution. But it’s also possible that Tochinoshin gets a grip on the dai-Yokozuna’s mawashi with that lethal left hand, and Hakuho ends up putting a lot of force into a counter move that could injure him or Tochinoshin.
Takayasu vs Kakuryu – This will be the best test yet of Takayasu’s change in sumo. Kakuryu is a fairly even match in most cases, and I am going to look for Takayasu to try to take the Yokozuna to his chest. Should that happen, Takayasu will need to be patient, and rely on his superior stamina – wear Kakuryu down. Any rapid move to finish the match, no matter how much Kakuryu feigns an opening, may lose the match.