With more sporting events canceled across the globe, allow me to give thanks that the Sumo Kyokai found a way to let the basho go forward. With Sunday, we come to the middle day of the basho. NHK World Japan’s Grand Sumo team will be streaming live for the final hour. For fans who are in a time zone where it’s not the middle of the night, this is a great hour of sumo every time it’s on.
With nakabi upon us, we start our look at the yusho race, and there is one man who owns the road to the Emperor’s cup yet again—Yokozuna Hakuho. Unless someone can put dirt on the dai-Yokozuna, it is yusho 44 for The Boss. But this day 8 feast of sumo set before us is full of rich and spicy sumo morsels to enjoy. Let’s dive into the buffet, but first—I bring you our first look at the Haru yusho race!
Chasers: Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Takanosho, Chiyotairyu, Aoiyama
Hunter Group: Kakuryu, Onosho, Ishiura, Chiyomaru, Kotonowaka
8 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Meisei vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru is fighting very well this March, and his speed and ferocity are at a level I have not seen from him in some time. Even though Meisei has never lost to him, I think today is the day that Chiyomaru can change that.
Kotoshogiku vs Shimanoumi – Kotoshogiku has won his last 3 in a row, and I would almost say he has grown more genki. Maybe those knees are not ready to head south for sun and surf just yet. Sunday will be a good test, as Kotoshogiku has never beaten Shimanoumi in 4 tries. Go get ’em, Kyushu Bulldozer!
Daiamami vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama took his first loss on day 7, but his history underscores that he is not prone to giving up his fighting spirit after a single loss. I expect he is going to carry forward strong and violent against Daiamami today. Their career history is 3-2 in favor of Aoiyama, but I should also note that Aoiyama has won the last 3 of their contests.
Ishiura vs Nishikigi – It pains me to say this, but I am expecting a continued slide from Nishikigi, until such time as he has such a deep make-koshi that he self-isolates in Juryo for at least 1 tournament. He and Ishiura have a 15 match history, with Ishiura holding a 9-6 advantage. In addition, Ishiura is really fighting well in Osaka.
Azumaryu vs Ikioi – After Ikioi got knocked around by Chiyotairyu, I am looking for him to bounce back against Azumaryu, whom Ikioi tends to dominate. Ikioi will need to keep Azumaryu from closing in and getting a mawashi hold, and stay mobile.
Chiyotairyu vs Kotonowaka – Both rikishi are thus far having a good tournament, and this first-time match is probably going to be strongly biased towards the surprisingly genki 6-1 Chiyotairyu. When Chiyotairyu is dialed into his sumo, it’s really tough to overcome his size, strength and speed. Good luck, Kotonowaka!
Kaisei vs Terutsuyoshi – I would love to see Terutsuyoshi run the same battle plan he used against “Big Dan” Aoiyama on day 7, but I think that as big as Aoiyama is, the less mobile but highly stable Kaisei presents a different puzzle to the lead Isegahama rikishi. They have split their prior 2 matches, with both of them ending with oshidashi.
Shohozan vs Tochiozan – The battle of ultimate sadness. Two storied veterans who are having an absolutely miserable tournament are meeting head to head to see who can be the most miserable. Their career record is 13-13, meaning that the misery should be fairly well balanced, and no matter what happens, everyone will be sad and a touch disappointed.
Takarafuji vs Sadanoumi – On a happier note, Takarafuji holds a 13-5 advantage over Sadanoumi, whose lightning fast moves are not quite effective over the careful, measured approach preferred by Takarafuji. Sure, sometimes Takarafuji fights less well, but he seems to be in good health and has plenty of fighting spirit.
Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Ah, back to a battle of the battered. This time it’s a former Ozeki and a former Sekiwake, both of whom have been quite limited in their sumo this March. Both come into the match with 2-5 records and a long list of aches, pains, miseries, maladies and injuries. Tochinoshin holds a 19-11 career record, but I think that in a battle of the walking wounded, it comes down to who has the higher pain tolerance.
Myogiryu vs Takanosho – Takanosho picked up a bit of a scratch on the right side of his head on day 7, but I would guess that this will not hamper him today as he faces off against another veteran rikishi who seems to have run out of juice, Myogiryu. Takanosho won their only prior match, and I am looking for the Chiganoura man to improve to 7-1 today and remain in the yusho hunt.
Kiribayama vs Kagayaki – Another first time matchup. It’s Kagayaki going up against Mongol Kiribayama in a contest that will pit mass (Kagayaki) vs. agility (Kiribayama). Kagayaki really needs to bounce back from his day 7 loss to Takanosho, where he lost before he really had a chance to fight. Both men come into the match with 4-3 records.
Enho vs Onosho – The first tasty morsel of the feast! We have the normally dangerous and high-energy Enho entering this match with an uncharacteristically dismal score of 2-5 at the midpoint. In fact, the Miyagino power pixie has lost 4 of his last 5 matches, and needs to rally. Oh but look, he has to fight Onosho, who is doing a bit better than his normal this March. They have a 2-2 career history, and if that teaches us anything, we will see Onosho load up a throw, and we will see Enho try to evade and get behind Onosho.
Daieisho vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu still has a single win to his name—a day 6 surprise kinboshi against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Of their 10 prior matches, Daieisho has taken 7, so I would guess that nakabi is not going to be kind to Tokushoryu.
Okinoumi vs Endo – Another nice morsel! In spite of Okinoumi’s height and mass advantage, Endo holds a 9-6 career lead over the the man from Shimane-ken. Both of them prefer to engage in yotsu battles, so I expect a strength contest between two high-skill veterans.
Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – I have been waiting for this match since the banzuke was published 3 weeks ago. We get to see two power players of the “Freshmen” cohort battle it out. Yutakayama has the mass, Asanoyama has the moves, and I think it’s going to be a contest to see who can set the tone of the match. A yotsu battle favors Asanoyama, but if Yutakayama can keep mobile and keep hitting center mass, he could prevail against the Ozeki hopeful, and possibly derail his bid.
Ryuden vs Shodai – I never thought I would write this, but I want Shodai to shake off his nerves and confidence problems today, and rally to put Ryuden face-first into the clay. He holds a 4-1 career advantage over Ryuden, so I know he has the recipe to win. Pull yourself together, man!
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – It just keeps getting better! Takakeisho has been lacking a fair amount of fire this March, and his middling 4-3 score shows it. As always, Hokutofuji fights with brutal, wild energy, but has just 2 wins to show for it. I am thinking of labeling him “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” because he always fights with vigor but can’t be counted on to produce a winning record. I think this bout may come down to that first step, which Hokutofuji does better than almost anyone.
Hakuho vs Abi – In spite of his challenges this March, Abi still has a 4-3 record, and is on track (at least today) for a kachi-koshi. Well, now he gets to fight Hakuho, who is so dialed in that he is unbeaten—without using his dominant hand. I should note that Abi has beaten Hakuho. Just once, in their first match during Natsu 2018.
Mitakeumi vs Kakuryu – These two are surprisingly well matched, with Kakuryu holding a narrow 7-5 career lead. Some sumo commentators have already raised the specter of retirement for Kakuryu if his performance in this basho continues to disappoint. That raises the stakes for this match considerably, given that Mitakeumi has been fighting very well, and comes in with a 6-1 record, having lost only to Hakuho so far.