My applause to the scheduling crew—they have given us a fantastic fight card for nakabi, and I can’t wait for some of these contests. With both Yokozuna out, nobody is going to get his kachi-koshi on day 8. But my prediction of a giant brawl in week 2 looks like it could manifest itself, if someone can get dirt on Takakeisho.
Do readers remember Chiyonokuni? The guy was a tireless scapper until he picked up a series terrible injuries, and twice found himself droped from the sekitori status. He is currently (fingers crossed) 6-1 in Juryo. He’s too far down the banzuke at J11w to make it back to the top division for November [unless he can pick up the yusho with 13 or 14 wins -lksumo], but I am hopeful he can continue to show strong sumo for the rest of the year.
Further down the banzuke, fan favorite Ura reached kachi-koshi in the Makushita joi-jin with a spotless 4-0 record. He would need another win or two to punch his ticket to return to his pink mawashi, and fans around the world are on pins and needles waiting to see what the second half of the basho will deliver for his bid to make it back to sekitori status.
With our preview of the middle day of the basho, it’s time to look at the yusho leaderboard. It’s still a giant mass of rikishi who are within range, but right now Takakeisho should be considered to have the edge. With the day 7 losses in the 5-1 group (ahem, Shodai..), it’s going to be necessary for someone to put dirt on Takakeisho if anyone chasing is going to be in contention going into the final weekend.
Leaders – Takakeisho, Kotoshoho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Shodai, Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Takarafuji, Takayasu, Kagayaki, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Chiyotairyu
Hunt Group – Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Takanosho, Meisei, Shimanoumi, Ichinojo
8 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Meisei vs Shohozan – Sadly, a loss today would be an 0-8 start for Shohozan, and a perfect make-koshi run. I think that sums it up.
Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – What fresh hell is this? Ishiura’s back? I am guessing he is trying to get a couple of wins in an attempt to stay in the top division. Last reports were that his ankle had converted from a useful joint near his foot to a block of wood. Shimanoumi holds a 4-1 career advantage. Well…ok.
Kotoshoho vs Ichinojo – Kotoshoho is having a brilliant basho, and I am delighted this young fellow is fighting well this September. He’s beaten Ichinojo the last 2 outings, and may deliver again today.
Chiyotairyu vs Kaisei – Another battle of the megafauna, but advantage clearly to Chiyotairyu regardless of Kaisei’s 14-4 career edge. Chiyotairyu is lighter, faster and more intense than ever at the moment, and I think he’s going to take care of Kaisei.
Hoshoryu vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku came back on day 7, and scored a win. I think his match against Hoshoryu may be a tougher challenge, but Hoshoryu seems to have gotten into a bit of a rut, losing his last 2 matches. I am sure his uncle is all over him before and after each match. That’s got to be terrible, as Asashoryu was always such a calm and rational fellow.
Sadanoumi vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru continues to outperform my expectations, and I am delighted that we have yet another young, high-energy rikishi in the top division who seems to genuinely be happy just to mount the dohyo and throw guys around. I would give him an edge over Sadanoumi solely on momentum. This is their first-ever match.
Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – I will venture an outrageous suggestion. Ura has drained Tokushoryu’s genki energy to power up his sumo in Makushita. Hey, as reasonable as anything else I could come up with to explain why the Hatsu yusho winner is at 1-6 going into the middle day of a basho just 8 months later.
Ryuden vs Onosho – I so want Onosho to bounce back and get out of his losing streak, but I am certain that Ryuden has a solid match plan. Out of their last 4 encounters, Ryuden has taken 3. That means Onosho is going to need to keep his mind on his defensive footwork and try to make sure he does not over-extend. Yeah, may as well ask water not to be wet.
Enho vs Aoiyama – An element of hope—Enho is 2-0 against Big Dan, and maybe he can evade the fate he suffered on day 7 when 170 kg of Kotoshogiku fell on him at the end of the match.
Kiribayama vs Kagayaki – Now here’s a match to be excited about! Kagayaki with the height and reach advantage, Kiribayama with the speed advantage. Both are going to be pushing and thrusting, so it’s power vs mobility. I think this one has great potential.
Wakatakakage vs Takarafuji – Another brilliant first-time match for nakabi! Wakatakakage is a busy fighter, eager to engage in a hit-and-shift offense. He will face the careful, deliberate sumo of Takarafuji for the first time. I am going to guess that the veteran is going to give the youngster a glorious lesson in endurance.
Takayasu vs Terutsuyoshi – I worry that Terutsuyoshi is going to unleash more of his weapons-grade baloneium sumo today, and maybe re-injure Takayasu. Not sure why, but this basho Terutsuyoshi is annoying to me. I am sure it’s just a passing mood. This is their first-ever match, and I would give the advantage to Terutsuyoshi just for speed and brazen sumo.
Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – A nakabi score of 5-2 at Maegashira 1 is excellent for a man who was all but written off in 2017. It’s been a long climb back from Jonidan, and now he’s back facing the top men in sumo. While the goal should be kachi-koshi, I think our dear Kaiju is going to blow past that. I just have to wonder how long those knees can hold out.
Okinoumi vs Takanosho – Okinoumi had a single win before he put Shodai down on day 7. He’s a high-skill rikishi with an almost encyclopedic knowledge, but his long career in sumo may limit how much energy he can deliver on any given day. But this kind of match is great for Takanosho, who probably gets tired of being Takakeisho’s attention. At least he can fight someone who can reach his belt today.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – I call this the disappointment derby.
Shodai vs Myogiryu – We hit the middle day of the tournament, and it’s time to see what Shodai’s made of. He’s has a solid run to 5-2, and he has been showing his best sumo ever. But the first week is, in many cases, easier than the second, and endurance plays an increasing role. Not just physical stamina, but the ability to maintain the intensity and focus into the final 8 days. A lot of sumo fans were heralding Shodai’s upgrades as the dawn of him as a force in the sport, and that very well may be. But first he’s got to survive strong through the coming week. I am eager to see how it goes.
Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi fans are used to disappointment. What is this, his 4th try to reach 33 wins? I think given the restrictions on practice, there is ample cause for Mitakeumi to be less consistent than is needed to make Ozeki, but it’s sad to see him struggle again. Thankfully, he’s up against another chronic under-performer today, Daieisho! At least Mitakeumi has an 8-3 career advantage over Daieisho.
Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – I am always excited for this match. These two started their top division careers on parallel tracks, and are more or less built by nature to be each other’s rival. But thus far Yutakayama has struggled to reach Asanoyama’s level of consistency. My big hope for Asanoyama for Aki is that he not exit the tournament kadoban. His sumo has been hit or miss, and I am going to place the cause squarely between his ears.
Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – If Tochinoshin can get a hand on Takakeisho’s belt, we know it’s going to be a bad day in tadpole land. As the favorite to lead the yusho race into week 2, the Ozeki will have his hands full today.