We enter the final weekend of the Nagoya basho, and all eyes are on that final match on day 15 between the two yusho leaders, and what might happened on day 14 to set the stage for the conclusion to this tournament. As lksumo has pointed out so well, there are a handful of possible outcomes now, and they all revolve around how the two top men in sumo acquit themselves today.
Lower down the banzuke, the nature of sumo is showing its teeth. A good number of rikishi are still in the narrowing middle ground between a losing and winning record, and where possible they face each other to ensure that only the best rikishi will advance. This is true up and down the banzuke, where in the lower ranks an army of young men have 3-3 records going into their final match, and face another equally determined sumotori, who will throw everything they can muster into that final match in an effort to gain a winning record. Watching these “Darwin” matches on day 13, the action on day 14 will be fast, brutal and unforgiving.
Some fans have expressed disappointment in the torikumi for the final weekend, and with good cause. Sumo fans want to see the top men of the sport battling it out for all the hardware, and for the best there is to emerge triumphant. But with all of the Ozeki out with injuries now, the schedulers have had to make do with what they can, reaching far down the banzuke over the past few days to find opponents for the remaining Yokozuna. We all hope for a better lineup for Aki in September.
Key Day 14 Matches
Toyonoshima vs Nishikigi – Somehow, Toyonoshima is still in the hunt for a winning record. He’s only faced Nishikigi once before (for a loss), in May of 2016! Toyonoshima will have to win both of his remaining matches in order to get his 8 wins, but it could just happen.
Onosho vs Kagayaki – Both of them come in 6-7, so someone is getting loss #8, and someone gets to go into day 15 at 7-7. This is going to strongly favor Kagayaki in my book, given Onosho’s suspension and alignment issues, but their career record has them tied at 4-4. Pop the popcorn and open a fresh bottle of sake, this one might be good.
Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is also still in the running to get to his 8th win, and he has to overcome his fellow veteran, the deeply make-koshi Tochiozan. Their career record is 13-13, but Tochiozan is looking really dismal this tournament.
Myogiryu vs Enho – Enho has hit a wall, and just can’t seem to find that final win to get to the safety of 8. He will find no relief today when he faces the much higher ranked and already kachi-koshi Myogiryu. Enho has been hurt since before the basho, but he’s out there fighting every single day. I think we all want to see him pull it off.
Aoiyama vs Shimanoumi – One of these two, both coming in with 7-6 scores, will get their kachi-koshi, and the other will have to try again on day 15. This is their first ever match, so no history to go from. I think Shimanoumi will struggle with Aoiyama’s long reach and powerful oshi-attacks.
Asanoyama vs Shodai – Shodai can still make it to 8, but he has to win both of his final matches. Asanoyama has had a rough ride (typical for first time ranked this high), but has fought well. He’s a force for the future, and he’s capable of putting Shodai away, if he thinks he can win.
Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – These two are surprisingly similar in some ways; you could almost think of Terutsuyoshi as a ¾ scale model of Hokutofuji, but just as fast, just as powerful and just as determined. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is just to run up the score for Hokutofuji, or to stay 1 behind the yusho leaders for Terutsuyoshi.
Abi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has never lost to Abi, who needs 2 more wins to reach the safety of 8. How is Abi-zumo going to deal with what someone once called the “Mongolith”?
Daieisho vs Ryuden – Ryuden is make-koshi, but can still play spoiler to Daieisho’s bid to rank higher on the banzuke for September. They are evenly matched, but Daieisho has been fighting better this tournament.
Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – Chiyotairyu needs one more win, and he might find it today against the wreck of Tamawashi. Tamawashi has a dismal 3-10 record at the moment, I think one of the worst of his career. Clearly he is hurt, and not able to really be very effective on the dohyo.
Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – I expect a lot of caution on Kakuryu’s part today. He’s going to play to his strengths, and use a collapsing / retreating defense against Mitakeumi’s opening gambit. I will watch for him to protect the inside and try to deflect / re-direct Mitakeumi, who is likely going to power in strong. Kakuryu will stalemate and wait for an opening to put Mitakeumi away.
Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Man with damaged knees takes on man with damaged elbows. Don’t tell me the scheduling committee does not have a sense of humor; there have been too many “ha ha” moments this tournament to convince me otherwise. Hakuho has no problem dispatching a genki Kotoshogiku, let along the damaged relic who will mount the dohyo for the final match of day 14.