It’s the final weekend of the Hatsu basho. We have a 2 way race for the Emperor’s cup between Shodai and Daieisho. Shodai continues to find ways to win, in spite of a tougher schedule than Daieisho, who beat all of the Ozeki in week one. Should the two prevail in their 2 remaining matches, there will be a playoff following the final match of day 15, which is expected to be Asanoyama and Shodai. Yep, if will probably come down to that Asanoyama and Shodai match on day 15 to see if there will be a playoff. Great drama to end this tournament.
It’s Daieisho and Shodai – nobody else is likely to contend.
What We Are Watching Day 14
Yutakayama vs Kotonowaka – Yutakayama will try again to find win number 8 and kachi-koshi. He’s only met Kotonowaka once, during the November tournament, where Yutakayama lost. Kotonowaka is fighting very well, and we may see Yutakayama end the day 7-7, and become a candidate for a “Darwin match”.
Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – The loser of this match is make-koshi, the winner likely gets a Darwin match with a 7-7 score. Myogiryu holds a 5-1 career advantage, so I think its Kotoeko who make go make-koshi today.
Tokushoryu vs Sadanoumi – Both are make-koshi, both are facing a drop in rank, and I have to wonder if this match is to help determine if Tokushoryu drops to Juryo along with Sadanoumi. They have an 18 match history, with Sadanoumi holding a narrow 10-8 advantage.
Midorifuji vs Kiribayama – First ever match between these two, and I am eager to see if Kiribayama can overcome Midorifuji’s tendency to shut down his opponent’s sumo, and toss them rodeo style to the clay.
Hoshoryu vs Tobizaru – Hoshoryu come into day 15 with a respectable 8-5 kachi-koshi, and Tobizaru with a 6-7 score that is a formula for a make-koshi. Should he win today, it’s time for him to face his own Darwin match tomorrow. Tobizaru has a 4-1 career advantage over Hoshoryu.
Ryuden vs Akua – Both have a 4-9 record going into day 14, and this match is probably to help figure out if Akua is going to remain in the top division. Even if he does stay, I am not sure he’s every going to return to his pre-COVID level of power, as he may have suffered damage to any number of internal systems.
Tochinoshin vs Akiseyama – Tochinoshin is in no danger of demotion, but that 4-9 record for January is ugly news for the former Ozeki. Akiseyama managed to lock in his kachi-koshi on day 13, and he is safe at near the bottom of the banzuke. Tochinoshin has won their prior 2 matches.
Kotoshoho vs Terutsuyoshi – Both are make-koshi, and I have my doubts that Kotoshoho will ever find his second win for Hatsu. Terutsuyoshi is unquestionably injured, but I expect he will gamberize through the last 2 days and strive to finish as close to 7-8 as he can. Kotoshoho, at 1-12, is a lost cause.
Shimanoumi vs Onosho – A win today will be kachi-koshi for Shimanoumi, and to get there he will have to survive the initial big forward attack from Onosho. Onosho comes in to today kachi-koshi, and will be part of the joi-jin in March.
Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – As both rikishi already have winning records, this one is just for score, and I am really looking forward to it. Ichinojo has a 12-2 career advantage over Takarafuji, mostly because the defend and extend approach has limited use against Ichinojo. Doubly so if Ichinojo brings his “Boulder” style to his day 14 match, turning the tables on Takarafuji and forcing him to attack.
Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – Both of these rikishi start the day with 5-8 records, but right now Hokutofuji is fighting much better. He also has a 10-2 career record over Aoiyama. So I expect a big V-Twin open from Aoiyama, and a fast Hokutofuji nodowa that gives control of the match to Ol’Stompy.
Tamawashi vs Daieisho – Tamawashi has a narrow chance of knocking Daieisho out of the lead. While he has beaten Daieisho before, Daieisho is red-hot right now, and Tamawashi is a shadow of his former brutal self. Maybe he can rally for this big match, but I would say it is unlikely.
Takayasu vs Kagayaki – Takayasu at 8-5 takes on Kagayaki at 5-8. I expect that Kagayaki is going to get tossed about like a nickel in a laundromat dryer, and finally hit the clay.
Endo vs Mitakeumi – Another 8-5 vs 5-8 match, this time we get to see if the 10-5 career advantage that Mitakeumi holds over Endo will carry forward into day 14. Given that Endo is struggling to fight well this January, the advantage belongs to Mitakeumi.
Okinoumi vs Takanosho – Winner gets kachi-koshi, loser gets nominated for a Darwin match. They have evenly split their 6 prior matches, and both have been fighting reasonably well. This has the potential to be a good match.
Terunofuji vs Shodai – Oh my. I recall day 4 of Aki, where Terunofuji was one of two rikishi who beat Shodai on his way to his first ever yusho, and sealing his Ozeki bid. A Terunofuji win today would likely block Shodai from the yusho, and would put Terunofuji into double-digit wins. Really looking forward to this match.
Asanoyama vs Meisei – Both are kachi-koshi, so I am looking for Asanoyama to work to stretch for his 10th win against Meisei. He holds a 3-1 career advantage, and is finally more or less “in form”. It’s the kind of score he will be expected to deliver every basho should he manage to become an Yokozuna.