There has been a fair amount of discussion about the yusho race for this basho on Twitter and Facebook, yep and even in our comments section. I look at it like this: the winning score will be between 11-4 and 13-2. I tend to think given how evenly matched folks are right now it’s closer to 11-4. From that I look at who can put together 11-4 mathematically. From that group I look at who has the stamina and focus to go 11-4, as the pressure of being in the lead group can crush a rikishi’s concentration in the last few days. Using that benchmark, I would come up with the following hypotheticals
11-4 Yusho Candidates
12-3 Yusho Candidates
13-2 Yusho Candidates
Why not Meisei? His best ever record in the top division has been 10-5, and his highest ever rank Maegashira 4. He has never earned a yusho in any of the lower divisions, and may not have endured the pressure of a championship race. I think he has fought well, but if he makes it far enough to be in contention the final weekend, he would probably struggle with the likes of Asanoyama, Takakeisho or Mitakeumi.
I do think this will likely be an 11-4 yusho, and that means a huge amount of competition right up until the end. So far, everyone is on course for a big brawl to end it all.
Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s lengthy thrusting attack had surprisingly little effect of Tochiozan, who seemed content to stand his ground, and exhaust Chiyomaru’s limited stamina.
Yutakayama defeats Nishikigi – This looked like they could have called a matta, as Yutakayama was early off the mark, but the Gyoji let them fight it out. Nishikigi found himself 2 steps behind from the start, and never had a chance to recover. Yutakayama one win away from kachi-koshi now.
Onosho defeats Takagenji – Onosho completely dominates Takagenji, who takes his 8th loss and a confirmed return to Juryo. I have no doubt he will be back once he gets his sumo and his life in order. He’s in a tough spot.
Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura once again takes flight, and finds that sumo is usually about keeping your feet firmly on the clay. For some odd reason, he makes a leap to his right, I think anticipating a charge forward from Meisei that never happened. Instead he made himself weightless and an easy mark for a shove into the zabuton. Meisei maintains his share of the lead.
Sadanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki again used solid fundamentals to control the early stages of this match, but he could not match Sadanoumi’s intensity. With his heels on the tawara, Sadanoumi finds a route to morozashi and attacks. Kagayaki has no response and finds himself with his 6th loss.
Azumaryu defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki, even the fierce one, is weak against lateral motion. After a strong opening attack, Kotoyuki finds himself lunging for the east side shimpan after Azumaryu deftly steps to the side.
Takarafuji defeats Daishoho – After a surprisingly weak tachiai, and a moment where both men are a bit “soft”, the two go chest to chest, which clearly favors Takarafuji. After a protracted leaning session, Takarafuji switches his grip and drops Daishoho to the clay. Takarafuji gets his 8th win, and Daishoho his 8th loss.
Tsurugisho defeats Okinoumi – Co-leader Okinoumi finds himself face down on the dohyo thanks to Tsurugisho’s acrobatics. This knocks Okinoumi out of the leader group, but still within range of most possible yusho outcomes. Tsurugisho reaches his 8th win, and kachi-koshi.
Shohozan defeats Kotoeko – Both men take a left hand inside grip at the tachiai. I have noticed that Shohozan is working more on the mawashi now than ever, and we seldom see his mobile “strike and move” sumo. In a battle of strength, Kotoeko finds out what “Big Guns” has loaded as Shohozan dances him over the bales.
Enho defeats Kotoshogiku – And for another day, Enho delivers some of the most exciting sumo on the torikumi. To his great credit, Kotoshogiku absorbs a fantastic amount of “tries” from Enho: a throw, a twist down, a leg pick – and remains upright and in the fight. But when Kotoshogiku grabs Enho around his neck and tries to pull, he gives up the match. Great sumo from these two. Maybe this is why Hakuho is kyujo so much, he trains with this guy who is throwing the kitchen sink at the Yokozuna several times a day.
Myogiryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Welcome back Myogiryu. Terutsuyoshi did not even really get off of the shikiri-sen before he had Myogiryu attacking with vigor.
Shimanoumi defeats Daieisho – This match was all Daieisho, as Shimanoumi absorbed thrust and blows at a frantic pace. But Daieisho over extended in a push to force Shimanoumi out, only to find Shimanoumi had stepped to the side and left Daieisho with a eye level view of the tawara.
Tomokaze defeats Aoiyama – No this is more like Tomokaze’s typical sumo. Sadly Aoiyama is a bit of a wreck right now, but at least we got to see Tomokaze moving forward and fighting strongly.
Hokutofuji defeats Asanoyama – Hokutofuji surprises Asanoyama, completely disrupting his attempts to establish a belt grip and an offensive stance. For readers asking about the “handshake tachiai”, it’s on full display today. Asanoyama finds himself trying to react to the resulting nodowa, rather than getting a belt grip and getting to work. Asanoyama drops one back from the leader group, but still very much in yusho contention.
Endo defeats Shodai – Endo has control of this match from the tachiai, granted the tachiai was against Shodai. But he catches Shodai shifting his stance and rotates into a beautifully executed uwatedashinage.
Tamawashi defeats Abi – Abi gets his preferred double arm thrust to Tamawashi’s neck at the tachiai. But Tamawashi has his hands pushing against Abi’s chest, and Abi find himself out matched. Abi continues to try working at Tamawashi’s face, which I think Tamawashi has long since written off, and focuses his thrusting attack at Abi’s body, completely disrupting him, and taking the match.
Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – Ryuden spends most of this match trying to absorb everything that Mitakeumi throws at him, which seems to be quite a bit. But Ryuden stays in the fight and finds a route to Mitakeumi’s chest. In fantastically timed move, he moves in with his right hand and pivots, turning Mitakeumi who struggles to regain his footing. Before the Sekiwake can plant his feet, Ryuen shoves hard and gets Mitakeumi over the tawara. Great recovery from Ryuden, and he also knocks Mitakeumi out of the leader group.
Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – A wild and chaotic match that was one part yotsu, two parts oshi. Was anyone else amazed to see Takakeisho go for a deep right hand grip as Tochinoshin attempted what looked like a kubinage? With Takakeisho latched on to his belt, the kubinage falls apart, and Tochinoshin falls forward. Takakeisho moves behind and pushes Tochinoshin into a surprised and gyoji, dropping not only the Ozeki but the highest ranking referee in sumo. In the more ancient forms of sumo, this would have counted as 1 win for Tochinoshin (oshidashi vs the gyoji), 2 wins for Takakeisho (Tochinoshin by okuritaoshi, the gyoji by oshidashi), and would have resulted not only in the immediate re-promotion of Takakeisho back to Ozeki, but an on the spot presentation of the rare and seldom awarded jicchuugi-sho (十柱戯賞) special prize.
Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – The matta fest was the attraction, the match itself was a brief and bloody affair. One more win for Goeido to clear kadoban.