We have come to the end of act 2, which is all about shaping the yusho race, and starting to sort the winners from the losers. How did that go? Well, we have one rikishi in the lead, one rikishi one win behind, and a cloud of 10 that are just behind those two. For now the yusho race is all about Daieisho, and if Shodai can continue to keep pace with him. Daieisho already beat Shodai, so there is no way that the match making team can put them head to head to resolve any of this. It will be up to the rank and file rikishi he faces over the next 6 days to open up the race to the emperor’s cup. With that, lets take a look at the Hatsu leader board:
Leader – Daieisho
Chaser – Shodai
Hunt Cloud – Asanoyama, Terunofuji, Onosho, Meisei, Kiribayama, Shimanoumi, Ichinojo, Yutakayama, Kotonowaka, Akiseyama
6 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 10
Azumaryu vs Akiseyama – Today’s Juryo visitor is Azumaryu, who had a 15 match history with Akiseyama, with a near 8-7 split. These two are well versed in each other’s sumo. Akiseyama has won 3 of the last 4 matches, but I am expecting a big fight to start the day 10 top division.
Hoshoryu vs Kotonowaka – In three attempts, Hoshoryu has not taken a single match from Kotonowaka, who seems to have a knack for disrupting Hoshoryu’s sumo. Hoshoryu has shown a noticeable improvement in the last few days, so maybe he can put up his first win against Kotonowaka today.
Ichinojo vs Midorifuji – Midorifuji is going to use his smaller size, higher agility and superior mobility to win against “the Boulder”. But in reality if Ichinojo focuses on stability, keeping his stance wide and his balance centered, there is about zero that Midorifuji can do to defeat him.
Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – Both rikishi are turning in middling performance this January. They both have kachi-koshi within reach still, and are going to fight for their 8. Four of their last 5 matches have gone to Aoiyama, so maybe Big Dan will smack Sadanoumi around a bit before it ends.
Terutsuyoshi vs Myogiryu – With Terutsuyoshi’s hurt arm, he’s somewhat of an easy mark. I am looking for Myogiryu to pick up win number 6 today.
Tokushoryu vs Akua – Akua, already make-koshi, what kind of world would it be if you got your second win today to impose make-koshi on Tokushoryu?
Meisei vs Kiribayama – First time match between a pair of the 6-3 cloud. Up until yesterday, Meisei and Kiribayama had been keeping pace with Shodai, and I am sure they want to prevent any further slide down the leader board. Interesting that the scheduling team put them head to head on day 10, but let’s see who survives.
Kotoeko vs Tobizaru – After a really crummy start to Hatsu, Tobizaru has won his last 3 matches. Kotoeko has been fighting well, but is struggling to find any win. Kotoeko has taken the last 2 head to head match ups between them, so I think there is a good chance they both end the day 4-5.
Ryuden vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama, who is looking much better after a rough spot last year, is far up the banzuke to face off against Ryuden. Ryuden had a poor start to Hatsu, but is finally fighting and moving well. Ryuden is going to go for a right hand lead, I expect, and Yutakayama is going to want to counter to Ryuden’s face and neck. Whoever gets the first blow in will likely win the match.
Shimanoumi vs Kagayaki – Shimanoumi will fight to stay within the chaser cloud, and keep himself within 2 wins of Daieisho. Kagayaki is really just out to try to piece together 8 wins at this point, but has had a tough time winning on consecutive days this tournament. I give advantage to Shimanoumi.
Takarafuji vs Kotoshoho – This is more or less a “gimme” to Takarafuji, as hapless Kotoshoho may be going for a perfect 0-15 record this January. Its a tough tough score to hit, but right now Kotoshoho is setting a clear path to that mark. Whatever ails him, I hope he can overcome it by March.
Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – What are the odd that Ol’Stompy, the man who tends to have the most powerful make-koshi in all of the top division, can muster enough genki spirit to see Daieisho eat clay two days in a row? Wouldn’t that be quite the story indeed. They have split the prior 11 matches with it almost being an even back and forth trade. In all likelihood, it will be a solid confirmation of make-koshi for Hokutofuji with his 8th loss today.
Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Two grizzled former Ozeki veterans, slugging it out. While it would be great to see them both at full power each try to outdo the other with “His brand of sumo”, what we have instead are a couple of strong guys who will each try to improvise their way to a win. Could be some creative moments, so do watch closely.
Onosho vs Mitakeumi – Another glorious tadpole battle. Mitakeumi has had some big wins this tournament, and a larger number of petty losses. Onosho loves to have a large mass to push against, so this really fits his preferred approach quite well. Have it it, croakers!
Terunofuji vs Takanosho – I am hoping that Terunofuji can find his first ever win over Takanosho today to remain in the chaser cloud. He still has a decent chance of reaching double digits by Sunday, and that would keep his Ozeki return hopes alive for March.
Asanoyama vs Tamawashi – Asanoyama looks like he has settled into his sumo. Tamawashi has shown some power. They are going to battle it out today and Asanoyama has at stake his position in the chaser cloud, and a dim outside hope of being able to contest for the yusho. Layer on that the clash of styles with Tamawashi bringing a thrusting attack and Asanoyama wanting to go chest to chest. It has the ingredients for a solid match.
Endo vs Shodai – Shodai is the only man within striking range of Daieisho, and that has to eventually weigh on his thoughts. Endo has nothing to lose by taking the fight to Shodai today. Given how well executed Shodai’s defensive sumo is right now, he may find it a tough proposition, but Endo has beaten more complex and sturdy foes.
Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – A loss today and the Grand Tadpole is make-koshi. Maybe then he will go kyujo and work on returning in March.