We’ve arrived at the end of Act II. Some storylines have reached a clear conclusion, while others remain muddled and will need to be resolved in Act III.
The yusho race
Yokozuna Hakuho remains the sole leader at 9-1. His only serious pursuer is Komusubi Asanoyama (8-2), who has been fighting at the level of an Ozeki and might get there as soon as January. On the outskirts of the race is Ozeki Takakeisho (7-3); I am not going to list the trio of double-digit maegashira with the same record as realistic contenders.
The Ozeki and aspiring Ozeki
An Ozeki run by Asanoyama would be most timely and welcome, as we are rapidly running out of Ozeki—we’ll be down to two in January, and could easily have only one in March. Tochinoshin (2-3-5) will be a mid-maegashira at Hatsu, while Takayasu (3-5-2) will take over his “Ozekiwake” slot. Mitakeumi (5-5) has failed to seize his promotion opportunity, just like he did after his first yusho in Nagoya last year, and needs to refocus on finishing with a winning record. Goeido will be kadoban in January, and must get 8 wins to remain Ozeki. Only Takakeisho is doing justice to the rank, even if he is less than 100% fit.
The San’yaku ranks
It’s hard to tell how this will play out, which makes for a fun final five days. All we know at the moment is that one Sekiwake slot will be occupied by Takayasu, and another san’yaku slot by Asanoyama. Of the other current occupants, Abi (6-4) is the best bet to join them, followed by Mitakeumi, Endo (4-6), and Hokutofuji (4-6). M1e Daieisho (5-5) has dropped two in a row but remains in pole position for promotion among the joi maegashira; others in striking distance include M2w Meisei (5-5), M1w Okinoumi (4-6), M2e Myogiryu (4-6), and M4e Tamawashi (5-5), although, as the records indicate, all of these contenders would need a strong finish.
The mediocre muddle in the middle
Much of the top division seems in no hurry to secure a winning (or losing) record this tournament: fully 25 of the remaining 35 rikishi have records of 4-6, 5-5, or 6-4. They might as well have been flipping coins for the outcomes of the first 10 bouts! If things continue like this, we’re going to witness a lot of “Darwin bouts” in the closing days.
M15w Daishoho (2-8) is the first Makuuchi man to fall to make-koshi, and he would need to win his last 5 bouts and have good banzuke luck to escape demotion. M15e Daishomary (3-7) is in slightly better shape—he controls his fate if he can pick up 5 wins, and he might survive with 4. Others eyeing tickets for the Juryo barge are M14w Nishikigi (3-7) and M9e Kotoshogiku (2-8). Terutshuyoshi and Shimanoumi each need one more win for safety, and Ishiura‘s recent surge has probably been enough but another victory wouldn’t hurt.
The promotion queue in Juryo seems to get reshuffled every day. The current leaders are J2 Tochiozan (7-3), J1e Azumaryu (6-4), J3e Ikioi (7-3), J5e Kaisei (7-3), and J7w Kotonowaka (8-2).