As we head into the second half of this odd but entertaining Aki basho, I am anticipating a change in the tenor and tone of the matches to come. Thus far the scheduling has been more or less “by the book”, and starting day 9 the top 2 slots in the yusho race are held by Maegashira 8 and 10 respectively. While we have had a spate of rank-and-file yusho winners as of late, I am sure that the scheduling committee are going to try to make sure both of these men are tested in the next 7 matches. This might be a threatening proposition if the upper rankers were not a complete mess. Furthermore, do not be surprised if more of the top half of the banzuke go kyujo before next Sunday. At this point everyone has to be worried about what match will be the final one of day 15. Maybe they should pencil in Shokkiri as a safety measure in case every surviving rikishi above Maegashira 6 have already fought.
Leader: Okino “can you believe it?” umi
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Endo, Asanoyama, Tsurugisho, Ishiura
7 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Wakatakakage vs Toyonoshima – The youngest Onami brother makes a trip to the top division to face down grizzled vet Toyonoshima. Wakatakakage has never won a single match against Toyonoshima, but maybe Monday will be his lucky day.
Tsurugisho vs Takagenji – Takagenji is getting perilously close to make-koshi and a return to Juryo. It might do him some good, as right now he has more than a couple of things to get sorted out. But credit to the schedulers for giving him a shot, he has a 4-1 career advantage over Tsurugisho.
Tochiozan vs Nishikigi – Tochiozan seems to still have the moves, but they don’t carry the same amount of force that they used to. I am sure there are injuries involved that were never publicized, and never quite treated. But he’s up against the enigma named Nishikigi. Nishikigi can execute solid sumo from time to time – will day 9 be one of those times?
Shohozan vs Ishiura – Ishiura scored a brutal own-goal on day 8 when his henka attempt blew him out of the group 1 loss behind Okinoumi. Today he has to overcome the slightly less threatening Shohozan, and come up with enough wins to make a play for the lead if the front-runners take losses.
Azumaryu vs Enho – Enho’s has suffered 2 straight losses, both coming as his opponents have successfully blocked his attempts to go low and get his face near their mawashi. Azumaryu leads the series 3-1, so I would guess that the veteran has a formula for containing the pixie magic.
Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama’s goal has to be finding 8 wins by next Sunday, an getting some distance between himself and the bottom edge of the banzuke. Sadanoumi went from vague and a bit lethargic on day 8 to “fast and dangerous”. Can he bring it back for day 9?
Kagayaki vs Kotoyuki – This is a great chance for Kotoyuki rally, given that he has a 6-1 advantage over “Mr Fundamentals”.
Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Both at 2-6, with a 4-4 career record. This is one seriously even match up. Both men are likely headed for make-koshi, but both are likely safe thus far from demotion. Sit back and enjoy the salt-throw.
Onosho vs Kotoeko – Another balance match, both 3-5, with another 4-4 career record. Both rikishi have had a frustrating time at Aki so far, but both are within range of getting to 8 wins. Only one of them will exit this match with their 4th victory.
Kotoshogiku vs Meisei – Meisei is the sole rikishi trailing yusho race leader Okinoumi, and he has a date with the Kyushu Bulldozer. Kotoshogiku has lost 2 of the last 3, and may be running into knee problems that tend to plague him after 7 days. This is the biggest reason he is no longer an Ozeki, and I think it’s a great chance for Meisei to even up their career record to 2-2.
Shimanoumi vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji tends to turn in 8-7 or 7-8 records for his basho ranked mid-Maegashira, but with the upper ranks in tatters, who know what will happen. I do know that Shimanoumi will need a set of plans to deal with Takarafuji’s careful but effective sumo.
Okinoumi vs Ryuden – Maybe the bout of the day, regardless of what sumo these two bring to the dohyo. Ryuden can be quite effective when he’s genki. Thus far he’s not been very genki at all. But we should factor in that he knows this is a key match for the yusho, and beating Okinoumi would be a big deal. Can Shin-Ikioi make it work?
Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s really not fighting like himself at all. He has not been strong moving forward, and moving backward has been a disaster. I would give the edge to Chiyotairyu today.
Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – I will be giddy if that mawashi change leads him to rally from 2-6 to end up kachi-koshi. I know his sumo is good enough, but he has been short on execution in week 1. Daieisho brings a LOT of energy into every match, so even if Hokutofuji can stage a win, he’s going to take a beating.
Abi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama needs to keep winning if he wants to be in position for a possible bid for his second yusho, provided that the top two can take losses this week. He and Abi are quite evenly matched in many ways – will Asanoyama land that left hand grip, or will Abi slap him into submission?
Tamawashi vs Takakeisho – The big story line that still needs resolved is Takakeisho. At 6-2 he is in a spot similar to Asanoyama with regards to the yusho, but he needs to win 4 of the last 7 to make it back to Ozeki. Tamawashi is a tough customer, and it will be an oshi battle supreme today!
Mitakeumi vs Tomokaze – I just hope that we get a match this basho where Tomokaze performs sumo in a forward gear. I am sure the Mitakeumi army will once again be down from the hills, ready to cheer their lad on, even if he loses.
Tochinoshin vs Endo – I am really worried about Andy’s prediction of an Endo yusho, which is still shockingly plausible headed into week 2. Or can Tochinoshin save us from that possible future and limp a step closer to erasing kadoban?
Shodai vs Goeido – Goeido may try an overwhelming opening gambit, which is his forte. Putting such high stakes on a few seconds of sumo actually plays into Shodai’s typical strategy – throw as much chaos into the match as you can and watch your opponent fall down. For all practical purposes, Goeido is out of the yusho race at this time, so this is just for progress toward his 8.