As it so frequently does, the world of sumo has simplified matters going into the final day. The yusho race as been reduced into a single winner take all match between the Yokozuna, the winner takes the cup. Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid will probably fall short, as his match went to a monoii, and the judges overturned the gyoji’s gumbai (and rightly so). There are a slew of Darwin matches for the final day, and a number of deserving rikishi scored their 8th win today, to reach safety. Let’s dive into the action.
Kotonowaka defeats Nishikigi – Kotonowaka overcame poor body position at the tachiai to pick up his 8th win. Nishikigi’s attempt to change his grip opened door for Kotonowaka to go on the attack, and he rapidly put Nishikigi on the clay. That’s kachi-koshi for Kotonowaka in his first tournament in the top division.
Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura lost this match when he attempted to set up a throw and released forward pressure, and Meisei read it correctly and charged ahead. Meisei improves to 7-7, and will enjoy a lovely Darwin match on the final day.
Shimanoumi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi gave it a full measure today, but Shimanoumi had acres of motivation, and a keen desire to stay out of the Darwin mosh pit on day 15. If you want to see two very strong people grapple and struggle to overpower each other, this match is for you. Both men exit the match 8-6 with well deserved kachi-koshi results for March.
Chiyotairyu defeats Kotoshogiku – Chiyotairyu gave ground at the tachiai, and pulled Kotoshogiku forward and down for a quick win to reach the safety of kachi-koshi. Chiyotairyu opened strong, but lost 5 of his last 7, and is fortunate to get 8 in March. Kotoshogiku drops to 7-7 and joins the Darwin squad.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – Terutsuyoshi did a masterful job of disrupting Chiyomaru’s preferred attack mode, and took control of the match when he got beside the big man and danced him to the bales. I liked the little “get away from me kid!” slap as Chiyomaru’s overwhelming inertia drove him stumbling across the bales. Terutsuyoshi: kachi-koshi, Chiyomaru: Darwin time.
Tochiozan defeats Azumaryu – Tochiozan manages to piece together his second win of the tournament. You can see him losing power as Azumaryu increases his attack, but Tochiozan found some reservoir of genki and gave his opponent a final vigorous shove for the win. Both were deeply make-koshi before this match, so it’s down to 5-9 for Azumaryu and 2-12 for Tochiozan.
Sadanoumi defeats Shohozan – The timing on that tachiai was odd, and may have contributed to the lack of real offense from Shohozan. Sadanoumi uses his speed to get a hold of Shohozan at the tachiai, and escorts him out to improve to 6-8.
Tamawashi defeats Daiamami – Nice to see a little flavor of the Tamawashi of old. He came off the shikiri-sen looking to attack, and was able to get inside at once and apply a lot of energy into Daiamami. Both end day 14 at 5-9.
Myogiryu defeats Enho – Nearly everyone has done a solid job of shutting down Enho’s two main weapons, “Grabby and Squeezy”. They keep him at distance and hit him repeatedly. Today Myogiryu applied this well, but Enho did manage to get a left hand inside grip. As Enho pivoted to throw, Myogiryu expertly shut it down and send Enho to the clay for his 9th loss. Both are deeply make-koshi, and will end March with stiff demotions.
Tochinoshin defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama, for some reason, focused high – putting all of his force against Tochinoshin’s face and neck. Tochinoshin focused on Yutakayama’s body, and got good results. Yutakayama has massive potential, but is still working out some of his mechanics, and Tochinoshin’s experience got him a much needed, and well deserved win. Yutakayama drops to 7-7, and joins the Darwin mosh pit.
Takanosho defeats Mitakeumi – Impressive that Takanosho overpowered Mitakeumi at the tachiai, I was not expecting that. Takanosho followed up with a solid right hand ottsuke, pinning Mitakeumi’s arms to his body, and shutting down any real offense. Mitakeumi went to shift his grip, and that just furthered Takanosho’s advantage. Realizing he was almost out of space, Mitakeumi tried a pull, which released forward pressure and allowed Takanosho to drive him from the ring. Nice sumo today from Takanosho, he advances to 11-3. In spite of his loss, Mitakeumi is in double digits for the first time sine his Aki 2019 yusho (12-3).
Kiribayama defeats Okinoumi – Kiribayama took control of this match at the tachiai with a left hand inside grip, and moments later converted it to an uwatehineri. The win gives him a kachi-koshi at his highest ever rank. He has been kachi-koshi in 8 of his last 9 tournaments. Wow! Okinoumi drops to 7-7 and joins the Darwin group.
Tokushoryu defeats Kaisei – A bit more of the Tokushoryu magic came out today. He did a masterful job of controlling Kaisei’s Newtonian sumo, and was able to execute his step back / pivot / thrust finishing move that fans loved in January. Tokushoryu improves to 4-10.
Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Amazing the amount of aggressive sumo that Daieisho output today. Ryuden is no easy mark, but Daieisho battered him with vigor, leaving Ryuden really no means to counter attack. That’s Daieisho’s 8th win, and kachi-koshi for March.
Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Hokutofuji finds his tachiai after being a bit dull for most of March, and blasts Kagayaki out in a hurry, dropping him to 7-7 and placing him in the Darwin group.
Abi defeats Endo – Abi stood him up and then pulled him down. Given Abi’s height advantage and long arms, if he can get that set up, there is little that anyone of Endo’s stature can do to prevent it. Endo drops to 7-7 and is likewise relegated to the Darwin group.
Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Surprisingly sharp tachiai from Shodai today, I think it surprised Takarafuji as well, as Shodai was immedately on the advance, and Takarafuji had no chance to set up any manner of defense or deflection. Shodai now kachi-koshi, and he retains a Sekiwake slot. Nicely done.
Takakeisho defeats Onosho – Onosho had the early advantage, but Takakeisho got a moment to get both arms primed for a double arm blast, and that was really all it took to change the tone of this match. This is the first of many in the years to come, and I am glad they are going to battle it out as mainstays of the new era of sumo. This was a must-win match for Takakeisho, and he improves to 7-7. He has Asanoyama on the final day, and the contest more or less comes down to kadoban vs Ozeki promotion, I would guess.
Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – I am not sure I would call it nerves, but Aoiyama took his time to set up the V-Twin attack, and when he did, Hakuho so expertly deflected it that Aoiyama could not keep his footing. This kind of mistake Hakuho exploits with great skill and energy, and Big Dan was flat on the clay a moment later. Hakuho’s win sets the stage for the final match of the basho to decide the yusho.
Kakuryu defeats Asanoyama – Absolute showcase of Kakuryu’s reactive sumo. Asanoyama brought strong, careful offense today, and the Yokozuna absorbed it all. Asanoyama kept pouring it on, and for a long stretch he saw victory before him. Loading a throw at the bales, he pivoted just as Kakuryu pivoted as well. The went down in tandem, but poor body control saw Asanoyama’s left arm touch down first, costing him the match. That was solid sumo from the Ozeki candidate, but this means he cannot reach 12 wins to reach 33 over 3 tournaments this march. Will it matter? He showed excellent power, and great skill in this match in spite of the loss. Kakuryu joins Hakuho at 12-2, and will contest for the cup on the final match of the tournament.