We are in the thick of Act 3 mechanics, and the schedule shows rikishi paired together to ensure that the ones on the cusp of make-koshi have a chance to be pushed over the brink, and the ones near 50% win/loss are paired up so that only the strong survive. This will culminate with “Darwin matches” on the final day, where two 7-7 rikishi face off, with one getting a make and the other a kachi-koshi.
The big question now is if Hakuho can maintain any form of sumo as he gets progressively more sore from those arm injuries. His ego is driving him on, but one has to wonder if his body is going to cooperate. His fusensho on day 11 may have given him a welcome chance to get his body back together and ready to fight. For him to have a chance, someone has to put dirt on Kakuryu, and he will be the last man given that chance in the final match of day 15.
The leader board has narrowed with Takayasu’s kyujo, and Myogiryu loss on day 11. We are entering a period of time when it will become mathematically impossible for anyone other than Hakuho to catch Kakuryu, unless someone can put dirt on him prior to the day 15 finale between The Boss and Big K.
Hunt Group: Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki holds a 5-1 career advantage over Kagayaki, and if he wins again today, he will achieve his kachi-koshi. In fact, Kotoyuki has not had a top division kachi-koshi since November of 2017.
Yago vs Nishikigi – Yago is already make-koshi, as is Nishikigi. So this is a match of the 8 loss club, and one of them will exit with 9. Both of them will be ok with Nishikigi initiating a mawashi battle, and that may in fact help Yago, who has seemed to have movement problems this July.
Kotoeko vs Sadanoumi – One of these rikishi exits this match with kachi-koshi, and it’s kind of an even toss up who will be the one to claim win #8. They have split their 4 previous matches, and are both fighting quite well this tournament.
Shohozan vs Enho – Everyone wants Enho to get win #8, including Shohozan. He just does not want it to be scored against him on day 12, which would give him his 8th loss. Shohozan needs to resist the temptation to grab a hold of that little sumo machine, but instead to use his preferred hit and move cadence. This is a rematch of what many consider the highlight bout of the Natsu basho. -lksumo
Onosho vs Toyonoshima – This match leads me to think the scheduling committee has a sense of humor. Both of these men are plagued by forward balance / momentum problems this tournament, and putting them head to head is kind of like testing which one is worse. Ideally they would both fall over helplessly moments after the tachiai, landing in unison and causing the longest and most puzzling monoii in the history of sumo.
Chiyomaru vs Okinoumi – Chiyomaru’s “cab forward design” gives him an edge in this match, where I am sure that Okinoumi will try to grab a hold of that Loch Ness Green mawashi and steer his roundness to a fall.
Myogiryu vs Terutsuyoshi – First time match, both of these rikishi are kachi-koshi, and both have had a great tournament. So this is to see who gets to run up the score.
Takagenji vs Shimanoumi – Takagenji went from a strong open to now teetering on the edge of make-koshi in his first top division tournament. Some of this seems to have come from easy to spot rookie mistakes against some seasoned veterans, and some of it may be a bit of a fade that started day 6, the last day he won a match.
Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – Two long-serving veterans going head to head, with 38 matches in their careers. I am sure both of them have an array of moves, counter moves and feigns they can and will deploy. I expect that it will come down to Kotoshogiku’s bad knees and Tochiozan’s bad back. Which one blows up first?
Daishoho vs Takarafuji – Another great first time match, Takarafuji is at the cusp of yet another make-koshi, where Daishoho still has a decent shot at his 8. But Daishoho is a excellent opponent for Takarafuji, whose skill will allow him to stay in the match until Daishoho presents an opening.
Tomokaze vs Ichinojo – What a great match! This is (to my mind) to see who is going to go where on the September banzuke. Ichinojo needs 1 more for his kachi-koshi, and he might get it today. Tomokaze has had a solid tournament, but there are some situations where size can win the day.
Asanoyama vs Daieisho – Asanoyama has only taken 1 of his 6 career matches against Daieisho, and he needs to get 3 more wins over the next 4 days. It’s a tall order, but possible. Step one – beat Daieisho.
Shodai vs Hokutofuji – Career record is 3-0 in favor of Shodai, and it seems he has a good recipe for shutting down Hokutofuji’s sumo. I expect Hokutofuji to get his 8th some time this week, and we will see him in a higher slot in the banzuke, which may be true for Shodai if he gets a bit of luck.
Abi vs Endo – Clash of styles, Abi will want to keep Endo dancing around avoiding his long-arm thrusts, but Endo will want to get inside and grab Abi’s belt. I expect Endo will succeed and we may see Abi-zumo 2.0 used again.
Aoiyama vs Ryuden – I am giving Aoiyama an edge in this one, as Ryuden is already make-koshi, and has struggled to overcome the beating he took from the rest of the San’yaku.
Meisei vs Tamawashi – A battle of the rikishi who can’t seem to win, I am going to give the edge to Meisei because to my eye he does not look as hopeless right now as Tamawashi does. I am not sure what is injured, sore or broken for him, but the effect is quite profound.
Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – In their 11 prior matches, Chiyotairyu has never once beaten Kakuryu. Given how well the Yokozuna is fighting this basho, I really don’t expect that to change on day 12. But should he surprise us, we would see the intensity of the remaining 3 days go through the roof.
Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – In general, Mitakeumi seldom gives Hakuho much trouble. But this Hakuho is not healthy at all, and has mechanical problems in both arms. Mitakeumi has a real opportunity to shape the yusho race and get his kachi-koshi at the same time. I am ready for whatever happens here, it will be good!