Given the limited number of kanban rikishi in this tournament, the scheduling team has really done a masterful job of creating something out of almost nothing. They were helped by Shimanoumi’s hot streak, and a resurgence from Terunofuji. We head into the final weekend with an interesting run to the finish, and quite a lot is at stake. For Shimanoumi, it would be the latest rikishi to challenge for the cup going into the final weekend from the bottom of the banzuke. In fact, each basho this year has had someone below M12 in serious contention going into day 13.
For Terunofuji, he has stated in all seriousness that he is aiming to return to Ozeki. He has already taken a first step by hitting 10 wins by day 12, and can only improve from here. A yusho would likely be in the 12-13 win range, and that is quite the start to an Ozeki run. If he can pull off a return to sumo’s second highest rank, it would be one of sumo’s great stories of this era.
Lastly, for Takakeisho, a yusho in November adds a thick layer of savory curry to what is already shaping up to be a brutal and intense Hatsu basho. An Ozeki yusho for him would put him on the launch pad to become the 73rd Yokozuna. I know the YDC seems eager to force the aging, Mongolian Yokozuna intai, but frankly the current Ozeki corps is in tatters, and it would be unwise to push Hakuho or Kakuryu towards the barber before the NSK can resume normal training operations.
Leaders – Takakeisho, Shimanoumi
Chaser – Terunofuji
Hunter – Ryuden
3 Matches Remain
Aoiyama vs Hoshoryu – A win today for Hoshoryu would seal his kachi-koshi. It’s his first match against Aoiyama, and that initial encounter has proven brutal for other rising stars. But Big Dan is not quite up to his normal levels of power and fight this November, so it’s anyone’s guess how this will go.
Takarafuji vs Daieisho – Both are kachi-koshi, so this one is all about rank. The career record is 6-6, and this is a big battle of styles. Daieisho is going to move and strike, and Takarafuji will defend and extend. I am looking for Takarafuji to tangle up one of Daieisho’s arms early.
Tobizaru vs Takayasu – I can see Tobizaru’s dissapointment daily as he mounts the dohyo. He had a lot of hopes for his first visit to a much depleted joi-jin during this basho, but most rikishi get torn up and thrown out sideways. So his experience is no surprise. I am expecting Takayasu to do more “wild man” sumo, and I would really like to see Tobizaru exploit some large movement of an arm or leg from Takayasu to drop him to the clay. More likely, Takayasu is going to knock him into next week. This is their first time meeting.
Terunofuji vs Ryuden – Oh yes indeed. It’s time to test kaiju powers vs whatever happened in Ryuden’s butt. My money is on the kaiju, but I do worry about Ryuden’s shiri-zumo, which as already claimed a number of scalps. A win by Terunofuji today would shunt him into the group that will battle it out for the cup this weekend. I can’t wait to see how that goes. This is, in fact, their first battle.
Mitakeumi vs Takanosho – Both Sekiwake at 6-6, kind of miserable given that there is just the one Ozeki to rough them up. But they are going to fight for win #7 today, and both need to win 2 out of the next 3 to survive at this rank. It’s almost assured that Terunofuji is going to take one of their slots, or force a 3rd come January.
Takakeisho vs Shimanoumi – The big match we are all eager to see. Its going to be the first step that decides this one in all likelihood. If we see Shimanoumi get that left hand close to Takakeisho’s belt, its going to be his match to control. But I am looking for Takakeisho to hit him with both arms at the tachiai, and possibly put him into a ballistic trajectory toward the Sumida river.