Day 7 is jam packed with amazing matches – we have the undefeated battle for the last match, Enho’s first honbasho match against a Yokozuna before that, and the rematch of Tokushoryu’s yusho winning bout just prior to that. Open the big bottle of sake, if you dare – this is going to be a day of double-wide sumo!
As the strangest basho of my sumo fan experience is heading into its middle weekend, I am to the point now where I still notice the lack of a crowd, but it no longer creeps me out. The sumo is getting better, in my eye, and some of the rivalries of the next generation are undergoing tests as the younger crowd mix with grizzled veterans who are fighting to remain in the top division. Clearly the scheduling committee are trying to already shape the yusho race, as on day 6 we saw two high ranking undefeated rikishi face each other, and on day 7, 6-0 “Original Tadpole” Mitakeumi will take on Yokozuna “The Boss” Hakuho in the musubi no ichiban. Only one of them will leave the dohyo undefeated, and I think we all expect that to be Hakuho. But it raises the odd possibility of a THIRD Mitakeumi yusho.
I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to make a possible end point early in the basho out of caution that there may be active COVID-19 infection in one of the heya, and a mandate to shut down the basho. We have already seen this effect in American and European sports leagues, with almost any competition in the US that you might be able to name now suspended and canceled. I am thankful for each day of sumo that we are able to enjoy, and genuinely hope that the NSK can make it through all 15 days of Osaka.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Azumaryu vs Shimanoumi – With both of these rikishi fighting at 3-3 records entering the middle weekend, its easy to assume they will be struggling for kachi-koshi all the way to day 15. Veteran Azumaryu does have a 5-2 career lead over Shimanoumi, but Shimanoumi brings a 15 kg mass advantage. Go get ’em guys!
Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Sure, Nishikigi managed his first win yesterday, and now he’s going against Daiamami, whom he has beaten in 3 of the last 4 encounters. I know Nishikigi can battle back from a dismal 0-5 start, but can he put his sumo and his fighting spirit together to make it happen? Could be a great story arc for the second half of Haru.
Kaisei vs Kotonowaka – Once Kaisei gets his sumo running, he’s like some massive piece of construction machinery – no point trying to stop it, just get out of the way. Last time Kotonowaka tried to fight him (Kyushu 2019), he endured a plus sized yorikiri.
Kotoshogiku vs Meisei – After a rough start, the other piece of earth moving equipment in the roster (the Kyushu Bulldozer) seems to be dialed into his sumo, at least for the moment. Each time I figure, “Ah damn, this is the basho where Kotoshogiku’s knees finally give up and fly to Okinawa for sun under their own power”, he surprises me and starts to win. He and Meisei are tied at 2-2 each over their career.
Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura already used on his henka coupons on day 6, so the delight of seeing Chiyomaru bouncing and rolling along the hanamichi, unable to use any fans to somehow slow or arrest his momentum shall not come to pass. Instead I think Chiyomaru may try to grab Ishiura by the neck, but Ishiura’s 14 match history (8-6) with Chiyomaru says that the Hakuho’s dew sweeper will likely know what to do.
Aoiyama vs Terutsuyoshi – Undefeated man-mountain Aoiyama is undefeated at 6-0, and is completely dominating each of his matches. Although Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, I have no doubt that this is Aoiyama’s match to lose.
Chiyotairyu vs Ikioi – Will Chiyotairyu blast Ikioi off the clay in the first 5 seconds? Or will the human bandage (and hometown hero) Ikioi rally and put the the Kokonoe man in the first row?
Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – I predict that in this match, following a Sadanoumi yorikiri, Tochiozan’s latex rubber skin will tear as he falls of the dohyo, revealing none other than perpetual sumo loser Hattorizakura underneath an elaborate Tochiozan suit. The actual Tochiozan is in Okinawa, in a beach chair with a giant beer, sitting next to Kotoshogiku’s knees.
Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – How funny would it be if Takarafuji deployed a henka today? It would be really sad for Tochinoshin, and I would feel bad, but it would be epic. Instead I think Tochinoshin, having been embarrassed on day 6, finds his strength and his sumo, and starts to battle his way back.
Takanosho vs Kagayaki – Mr Fundamentals (Kagayaki) against the lesser Chiganoura makuuchi rikishi. They are tied up 2-2 over their career, but right now I think Takanosho is fighting better. He seems to surprise everyone he fights, so Kagayaki – you are next!
Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Hey, Tamawashi. There is a beach chair in Okinawa with your name on it. I am sure if you ask nicely and promise to buy the beer, they will let you tag along, Myogiryu, as long as you behave.
Kiribayama vs Onosho – First time match against these two, I am down for a big brawl with Kiribayama deflecting and stalemating Onosho. It will come down to the first two steps following the tachiai. If Kiribayama can keep on his feet, he will probably overcome the Onosho’s initial surge. Good luck new guy!
Ryuden vs Shohozan – Shohozan, may as well join the group enjoying the sun in Okinawa. You deserve it. Better than hanging around in Osaka waiting for COVID-19 to sneak up on you. Plus, Ryuden has your number (3-1 career advantage)
Daieisho vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama comes in with a strong listing record now (2-4) and he needs to bounce back to have a chance of making his 8, he’s going up against Daieisho, who has a tendency for surprising opponents. Its 5-3 in Yutakayam’s favor.
Hokutofuji vs Abi – The one thing we can count on for this battle, it’s going to be a slap-happy festival of wild chaotic sumo. The numbers favor Abi, but he’s neen quite lackluster this March, and I would give a slight edge to Hokutofuji.
Okinoumi vs Shodai – Shodai tends to be streaky – hot streaks, cold streaks, fortunately he has kept his mawashi in the upright and locked position, and the next available streak type has not shown itself. But Shodai has lost the last 2, and I worry it’s going to be 3 at the end of today, as Okinoumi is fighting well right now.
Asanoyama vs Endo – Asanoyama still wants to maintain the hope of an Ozeki bid, but he has yet to face anyone ranked higher than Komusubi. Today he takes on the West Komusubi, Endo. Endo has won 6 of their 8 career matches, so this match is going to be an important test in terms of “quality wins” for the Asanoyama.
Takakeisho vs Tokushoryu – Can Tokushoryu catch lightning in a bottle for the second day in a row? More importantly, this a rematch of the match that gave Tokushoryu the yusho in January. I expect some intense sumo action! But it will come down to Tokushoryu getting a hand full of mawashi, or Takakeisho landing waves of powerful blows to Tokushoryu’s chest.
Enho vs Kakuryu – The first time Enho will face a Yokozuna in honbasho – I think the whole world wants to see this one, I know I can’t wait! Big K’s reactive sumo against pixie magic, who’s sumo will come out on top?
Hakuho vs Mitakeumi – The battle of the joi-jin undefeated, bring it on! Hakuho tends to beat Mitakeumi like a drum (10-2), and I think “The Boss” is finally dialed into his sumo. But Mitakeumi is in the same sort of “mode” we have seen before – the one that took him to two yusho, but abandoned him at the threshold of an Ozeki promotion. Original Tadpole, beating the dai-Yokozuna is a tall order, can you fill it?