Welcome to Act 3 of the Aki Basho! Act 3 is where we sort the survivors from the damned, and we crown a yusho winner. As lksumo has so expertly written, right now it seems the conditions for demotion out of Makuuchi are gentle, and many of the lower ranked rikishi with mild losing records may find safe-harbor. Meanwhile, the yusho race looks like it will barely make double-digits for most contenders. While the score may be low, the action is going to be intense for the next 5 days.
We hope, we wished, and now we have possibly the most wide-open yusho race going into the final 5 days in many years. Odds are good that one of the current 8-2 rikishi will be the one to beat going into the final weekend, but even that may shock and surprise us. I am still hoping for a multi-way 11-4 playoff on senshuraku. Do you notice that there are three rikishi in the leader board who have already won their first yusho? I know I did. This may be a glance at the future of the sport.
Somewhere, Takayasu is cursing is foul luck.
I don’t ever recall a leaderboard this bulging with meaty people in all of my days following sumo.
Leaders: Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Asanoyama, Okinoumi, Meisei
Chasers: Takarafuji, Tsurugisho
Hunt Group: Goeido, Abi, Endo, Enho, Shohozan, Ishiura, Yutakayama
5 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Chiyomaru vs Tochiozan – The front of the Makuuchi promotion queue comes back to the top division, and his match against Tochinoshin may prove to put a kink in his plans to join.
Yutakayama vs Nishikigi – Yutakayama is still looking quite rough, but he’s 2 wins away from kachi-koshi, which is his most important goal right now. At Maegashira 16e, he is motivated to get his 8.
Onosho vs Takagenji – Interestingly enough, a first time match between these two. Takagenji is one loss away from make-koshi, and a spot on the slow barge captained by Toyonoshima. Onosho needs to win 4 of his last 5 to reach kachi-koshi.
Ishiura vs Meisei – The scheduling committee continues to hand the mid-Maegashira ranked leaders much lower ranked opponents. Ishiura had a solid start to Aki, but has gone stone cold, losing the last 3 in a row. Can he take down Meisei, and pare down the leader group?
Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both rikishi at 5-5, and they come with an even 6-5 match. Sadanoumi will bring speed, Kagayaki will bring fundamentals. I think if Sadanoumi can stay mobile, he has a clear advantage today.
Azumaryu vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has been rather fierce the past few days, and this is the second of these “even matches” that will play out. Both are 5-5, and they have a nearly equal career record.
Daishoho vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is one win out from kachi-koshi, and a win today would simultaneously hand Daishoho his make-koshi. First step should decide it.
Okinoumi vs Tsurugisho – Member of the leader group takes on a member of the chaser group, and one of them is getting nocked down a slot. These battles should take place almost every day for the remainder of the basho.
Shohozan vs Kotoeko – For a variety of reasons, Kotoeko does not seem to be able to buy a win right now. Shohozan is fighting well enough, but he seems quite a bit detuned from even a year ago.
Kotoshogiku vs Enho – First time match up, and I have no clue what is going to happen here. Kotoshogiku fights by grappling and pushing with his hips. I can only imagine the intersection of Enho’s submarine tachiai and Kotoshogiku’s pelvic thrusts. Actually now that I have imagined that, I am sorry.
Terutsuyoshi vs Myogiryu – Freshly make-koshi Terutsuyoshi comes up against Myogiryu, who has freshly returned from kyujo. Many times these mid / late basho returns are perilous, and I worry that Myogiryu may have no way to access if he is actually well enough for competition.
Daieisho vs Shimanoumi – Another first time match, and a loss by Shimanoumi will be his 8th. I expect him to fight with vigor to try to hang onto his standing in the middle of Maegashira.
Tomokaze vs Aoiyama – Who is going to push and who is going to pull? Tomokaze needs to win 3 out of 5 to keep his unbroken string of kachi-koshi rolling. I am going with the idea that both of these men are hurt, and this match may be a bit rough.
Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Hokutofuji has a chance to play spoiler, and knock Asanoyama into the lower bracket in the yusho race. Hokutofuji needs 4 out of 5 to get to kachi-koshi, which is a pretty tall order at this stage of the basho.
Shodai vs Endo – Shodai holds a 4-1 advantage over Endo. He is already make-koshi, so I wonder how hard he will fight. History shows that when it comes to Shodai, he sometimes fights better once he has a losing record, as if some sort of pressure or worry is lifted from him.
Abi vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is an expert oshi-rikishi, but has yet to have a single win against Abi. Abi is not really in the yusho race at this point, unless the leader group all eat clay in the next day or two, but he’s 2 wins away from keeping a slot in San’yaku.
Mitakeumi vs Ryuden – Oh yes indeed, this one should be good indeed. Ryuden has won the last 3, and he’s got a slight career edge over Mitakeumi. But for Aki, I think that Mitakeumi is starting to hit his traditional second week stall, and we may see him picked off today or tomorrow.
Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – The battle of ultimate pain. Tochinoshin needs 3 of the last 5, and Takakeisho needs 2 out of 5. This is a huge clash of styles, with Tochinoshin seldom winning any oshi-matches, and Takakeisho helpless on the mawashi. Takakeisho has a 6-2 career edge, but Tochinoshin has a desperation edge. I can’t wait for this one….
Chiyotairyu vs Goeido – Goeido needs 2 more wins to clear kadoban, so lets see what Chiyotairyu has on day 11. These two have a 7-8 career history, so it’s anyone’s guess which version of Goeido shows up.