Welcome to the end of Act 2 of the Aki Basho. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and where we start sorting the survivors from the damned. Sumo great Kintamayama coined the term “Wacky Aki”, for the Aki basho’s tendency to swerve into the unexpected and the unpredictable. It’s hard to think of a more unusual basho in recent years that the current Aki. No fewer than 6 rikishi are tied for the lead in the yusho race going into the final day of act 2, with another 4 just one loss behind. Given the schedules of who has already faced whom, it will be very difficult to run the final days lower-division style, where rikishi with matching records face off to narrow the field.
As stated in our day 9 highlights, you have to give former Ozeki Terunofuji the inside track as of today, because he has already faced, and largely beaten, those who out-rank him on the banzuke. I mused earlier, during his cold, 2-loss start, that perhaps he had been over promoted. Add that one to the pile of regrettable predictions! One thing (to me) is certain—the last 6 days of Aki are going to be intense and unpredictable. Bring it on!
Once more into the breach!
Leaders – Takakeisho, Shodai, Terunofuji, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Asanoyama, Kiribayama, Takayasu, Kotoshoho
Hunt Group – Mitakeumi, Takanosho, Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Aoiyama, Kotoeko, Chiyotairyu, Meisei, Ichinojo
6 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 10
Ichinojo vs Wakamotoharu – A sure sign of unusual days ahead, a SECOND Onami brother appears in the top division. It’s Wakamotoharu paying a visit (I think for the first time) to face off against Ichinojo. Both are straddling the make-koshi trend line, and I am wondering if there isn’t some nice Darwin match in Ichinojo’s future, with survival in the top division at stake.
Chiyotairyu vs Hoshoryu – I do love first time matches between energetic bright young rikishi and tough, grizzled veterans. Indeed we have sumo’s resident thunder god squaring off against a somewhat less than genki Hoshoryu. Would be a shame if Hoshoryu returned to Juryo for seasoning, but as Wakanohana said in a recent commentary, he’s not “done growing yet” (rough paraphrase).
Ishiura vs Kotoshogiku – Hey, lets put the two orthopedic candidates in the same match, and see if we can use the giant wheelchair! You know, they rent that thing, and I am sure there is some accountant somewhere that pointed out that every day they don’t use it, it’s money wasted. Kotoshogiku holds a 4-1 career advantage.
Sadanoumi vs Shimanoumi – An all umi battle if ever I did see one. This one is all Sadanoumi, I would guess. He holds a 4-0 career record over the younger “umi”. Both are also firmly astride the make-koshi trend line, and I see more Darwin matches hovering on the horizon.
Enho vs Shohozan – A loss today would give Enho a solid make-koshi, and with 5 days to follow, he could end up on the wrong side of the banzuke boundary between the top two divisions. We can all but assume this will be the case for hapless Shohozan, who has a single win thus far at Maegashira 15. Maybe, like the legendary Babe Ruth, he waited to get 2 strikes before blasting the ball over the center field fence. Nah…
Tokushoryu vs Kaisei – Speaking of make-koshi candidates, it’s clear that Hatsu yusho winner’s Cinderella story has reached 5 minutes past midnight. It was a great story while it lasted, but a loss today against Kaisei (10-4 career advantage) will seal the 3rd consecutive make-koshi following his 14-1 yusho.
Kotoshoho vs Wakatakakage – Co-co-co leader Wakatakakage defends his spot on the leaderboard against Kotoshoho today. Kotoshoho has taken both previous bouts, so this is a great test of just how genki Wakatakakage is right now.
Ryuden vs Tobizaru – Co-co-co leader Tobizaru has beaten Ryuden before in Makushita, but for all normal purposes, these two are going to go at it for the first time since 2016. Ryuden is struggling quite a bit this September, but he should be safe from demotion to Juryo as long as his make-koshi is not too brutal [I’d say Ryuden is already safe. -lksumo].
Meisei vs Aoiyama – Both men are just on the positive side of the make-koshi trend line, and only one of them will stay that way following this match. I have to like Aoiyama in this one, as he has shown a lot of bashing power so far. Check your dental work following, Meisei-zeki!
Takayasu vs Onosho – I adore both of these guys, but I think that Takayasu is going to be highly motivated after his day 9 match, which was a complete and total mess. They have fought twice before, with a 1-1 record. But I expect Takayasu to bump co-co-co leader Onosho out of his spot.
Kotoeko vs Kagayaki – Another pair running the make-koshi trend line. I can hear them getting out the ink for the day 15 Darwin Torikumi. I am sure there will only be a couple of 7-7s on the last day, but there sure is a crowd of folks who are on a hazardous course. Kagayaki holds a 8-3 career advantage.
Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Both have matching 3-6 records, and once again Hokutofuji is striving to reach the most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo. They are fairly evenly matched, and I think it will come down to Hokutofuji getting his much preferred nodowa in early.
Terunofuji vs Takanosho – Terunofuji has lost both of the prior matches to Takanosho (both in Juryo), but those were the days before this kaiju took his top-division form. I would not be surprised to see the “angry yorikiri” today, something that has not been sighted in a few years.
Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – I could not tell you who has the advantage in this match, but I can tell you that beyond question, the goal for both rikishi will be a see-saw back and forth exchange of clever attack and riposte. So if you like two high-skill big guys carrying on sumo-style, this could be your match! [This will be the 22nd meeting between the two, with Okinoumi trying to even the head-to-head, which currently stands at 10-11. -lksumo]
Tamawashi vs Endo – Endo, it’s not too late to reach into the sumo you reserve for Hakuho and lay down the doom on your remaining opponents. Your fans would take heart, and you would be sent countless perfumed love letters from grannies across Japan. Think it over, this could be your future.
Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – Something tickles the dark, useless rearward creases of the glob of fat and mucus that passes for a brain – “Mitakeumi Darwin match”. I have wanted the original tadpole to gain consistency for a while, and I know he is capable. But something holds him back. Now Tochinoshin on the other hand, he’s just really starting to get on my nerves. Bonus points if he tries a henka again today. Then we will know he has a sense of humor.
Shodai vs Terutsuyoshi – Cartoon sumo is coming for you, Terutsuyoshi! Co-co-co leader Shodai actually has a fair chance at the yusho, but we have seen Terutsuyoshi perform outrageous acts of sumo to clear the road for his stablemate, Terunofuji. So any antics or hijinks today are excused if they are for a greater purpose.
Asanoyama vs Kiribayama – Hey, it’s day 10 and Asanoyama has to fight someone. Sure, lets throw fellow 6-3 rikishi Kiribayama into the mix and see what pops. Asanoyama has to hope that 1) he does not drop another match, and 2) 6 other guys all lose some time in the next 6 days.
Daieisho vs Takakeisho – Even though Daieisho has a fairly crummy score for Aki, he and Takakeisho are tied up at 5-5 over their career. This could be a solid challenge to knock the Ozeki out of his position as co-co-co leader.