Leonid covered the many storylines as we head in to Act 3. Here, I will focus on those matches tomorrow but a little overlap on a few topics is unavoidable.
All eyes will be on the fixture between Tochinoshin and Abi as the Georgian battles to regain his Ozeki rank. He has been a force this tournament, demolishing Mitakeumi last night, winning nearly all of his bouts by trademark yorikiri (all wins but the fusen). The one blemish so far comes from Endo, who has had a rather unimpressive outing so far.
The good news for Tochinoshin is that he’s got breathing room. Kotoshogiku lost three of his final five matches as he failed to regain his rank. While Terunofuji ultimately delivered the final nail in the coffin, Kotoshogiku needed to win three of his Act 3 bouts and quickly dropped the first two, meaning he had to win out on the final weekend.
Tochinoshin’s opponent for tomorrow, Abi, was quite aggressive against Yokozuna Kakuryu and at 6-3 is having a decent basho so far. Will he play spoiler? On paper, it seems unlikely as he has lost all three bouts to the Georgian. While his style can sometimes befuddle a one-dimensional belt-grappler, it really relies on hatakikomi pulling attacks, Tochinoshin seems rather impervious to that. According to the career visualizer, he has only lost to hatakikomi 13 times. It’s much more likely he’d lose to a superior grappler than a pull.
For the other wrestlers, Enho gets another chance at his kachi-koshi during this debut tournament. He’ll face Tomokaze, who lost his fourth bout in a row last night to Takarafuji in rather embarrassing fashion. The Ozekae tandem of Goeido and Takayasu are also in line to pick up that valuable eighth win, assuring they clear the kadoban hurdle with several lengths to spare. Takayasu will face Aoiyama and Goeido has drawn Ryuden. Both of those rank-and-filers are quite capable of the upset. Aoiyama leads in the head-to-head against Takayasu but this resurgent Ryuden is really an unknown quantity to Goeido. Both should be entertaining matches.
Other Matches to Watch Out For
Musubi-no-ichiban, the number one rice ball, features Kakuryu vs Myogiryu. The two have a rather even career rivalry but Kakuryu has won the last four meetings. With the yusho race on the line, we can expect Kakuryu to bring out all the stops, though it likely won’t be quite as easy as swatting away Abi.
Mitakeumi vs Endo will be a fan favorite. I’m expecting a lot of loud cheers for the victor. While Mitakeumi has had a solid basho, though not impressive, Endo is clearly in a slump. The Hokutofuji vs Kotoshogiku matchup is a great pairing to lead into the Mitakeumi/Endo bout. I’m already eating crow from my pre-tournament call for Kotoshogiku but both men need to turn the bus around this week. Hokutofuji’s in better position as the Geek is eyeing makekoshi.
Skipping down to Chiyotairyu and Tamawashi, Chiyotairyu will want to avoid going makekoshi but Tamawashi will be wanting to compete for the sanyaku slots that will be vacated this tournament. I expect fireworks.
The Sho- Sho- Showdown (excuse my stammer) is one of those that I have no idea how it will turn out. Shohozan‘s a brawler while Shodai somehow manages to cling on to his high-mid maegashira rank without much exciting sumo. Apologies, even I cringed at that pun but I can’t help myself sometimes.
Perhaps it’s the presence of other pixies but Ishiura is doing sumo again. And Meisei has been having a solid basho of his own so this should be another good bout. Skipping down to Terutsuyoshi as we already discussed Enho, his bout against Tochiozan will be an interesting one. Tochiozan is likely ranked a bit low here so I expect him to devour Terutsuyoshi.