Welcome to Nakabi! The middle day of the tournament, when everything pivots to driving the top performers toward the yusho race, and the competition for the emperors cup. With Tachiai, it’s also the day we start to track the leaderboard, and map out who may take home the the prizes this March. Today, we start with 3 rikishi in the lead, only one of which has earned the top division yusho before – Terunofuji.
With both Yokozuna out, it is up to the Ozeki to provide the final obstacle for anyone trying to reach day 15 with the most wins, including to each other. But sadly the Ozeki are all struggling to some degree or other, and day 8 marks a turn from what is normally considered the “easy” portion of the schedule to the “hard” part. But again, with both Yokozuna out, possibly for good, they won’t have to find a way to beat Hakuho or Kakuryu this March. While it is possible for Asanoyama to compete for the cup late in week 2 if he can improve a bit, the others are just hoping to get their 8 and end in suno’s good graces.
The pack is broad and rowdy at the start, and I am keen to see who can remain in competition. In fact, some of today’s matches are purpose-built to thin the ranks….
Leaders: Terunofuji, Takayasu, Chiyonokuni
Chasers: Asanoyama, Takanosho, Hokutofuji, Myogiryu, Tobizaru, Chiyoshoma, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Meisei, Tamawashi, Ichinojo, Hoshoryu, Akiseyama ,Aoiyama, Terutsuyoshi, Hidenoumi, Kaisei
8 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Kaisei vs Chiyonoo – There is a very tiny chance that Chiyonoo could find himself back in the top division in May, which would be the first time since 2017. But to reach that goal he needs to dial up the sumo another notch. He’s not got an easy road on day 8, with enormous Kaisei looking fairly genki.
Yutakayama vs Chiyoshoma – In spite of Yutakayama’s 8-3 career advantage, I am looking to Chiyoshoma for dominate this match, and further add to Yutakayama’s woes. Near the bottom of the banzuke, a strong make-koshi will likely demote him to Juryo for May.
Akiseyama vs Daiamami – That situation is more precarious for Daiamami, who is the last man on the top division banzuke. He needs to find 5 more wins, or pack his bags for the junior division. Akiseyama started March strong, but has won only one of the last 3.
Tsurugisho vs Aoiyama – It’s almost impossible to know day to day how Tsurugisho will perform. His body is in tenuous condition, and that knee could blow up during any given match. He’s never beaten Aoiyama, who started strong, but has dropped both of his last two matches. I do hope that he can get his sumo back in working order.
Chiyotairyu vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko is genki enough right now to be one win behind that leader group. I don’t know how long that will last, but its an indication that he is having a fairly good tournament. He and Chiyotairyu have an even 3-3 career record.
Hidenoumi vs Ryuden – I dearly want Ryuden to rally, but I worry that he’s hurt and the best he can do is suffer through the last 8 days of this tournament. If he drops this match to Hidenoumi today, whom he has never lost to, it will be as strong indication that he is far from full power.
Terutsuyoshi vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru is also in the elite group 1 win behind the yusho race winners. He struggles in his matches with Terutsuyoshi (3-5), losing 4 of the last 5. If the flying monkey wants to once again challenge for the cup, like he did in September, he needs to really dig in and find another level of strength now.
Tochinoshin vs Midorifuji – A first time match, and 91kg Midorifuji is little more than a bite sized delicacy for the raging bear that is Tochinoshin. I expect a lift, hoist and toss into the 2nd row.
Tamawashi vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu, do NOT pull against Tamawashi. He loves it when young rikishi employ that cheap move. This is their first ever match, and I am keen to see which version of Hoshoryu shows up today.
Chiyonokuni vs Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni hurt his right hand on day 6, and as a right-hand dominant fighter, he is in a tight spot without his primary weapon. Hey, I know. Lets give him Ichinojo! Sadly Ichinojo could not keep his strong start rolling, and has dropped 3 of his last 4 matches. Still, a one handed Chiyonokuni may not provide much of threat, we shall see.
Endo vs Kagayaki – After an ice cold start, Endo has won 3 of his last 4 matches, and may actually be able to salvage a kachi-koshi over the last 8 days. He will have goth-mode Kagayaki today, and I am sure there will be some well calculated counter-attack moves at the tachiai to prevent Endo from achieving his preferred front grip.
Kotonowaka vs Okinoumi – First time meeting between two rikishi having fairly miserable tournaments. Okinoumi lacks much forward power this March, and Kotonowaka is all over the map. It is at this point I will probably go refill my sake glass.
Hokutofuji vs Shimanoumi – Hokutofuji needs just 3 more wins for kachi-koshi, which would repeat an odd cycle for him. One tournament he earns a kachi-koshi, the following he achieves “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”. I expect him to splatter hapless 1-6 Shimanoumi, and maintain his spot 1 behind the leader group.
Wakatakakage vs Onosho – A 2-5 record at the halfway mark is a miserable record for Onosho. It was last July (Maegashira 2), where he ended 2-13, and frankly I wondered if he was gonig to need a trip to Juryo to rebuild. But at Maegashira 1, he is 2-5. He has won both prior matches with Wakatakakage, so maybe he can bring that win number to 3.
Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Both of these veterans are under-performing this March. I would be interested to see how much mojo Takarafuji can muster today after Takayasu rode him hard and put him away wet on day 7. Mitakeumi holds a 7-3 career advantage over Takarafuji, winning 3 of the last 4.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu – The big match! Two men in the leader group face off, with 18 prior matches. Takayasu is too big and too burly for Terunofuji to use as dead weight and heave about. Takayasu has won each of their last 3, and holds a 11-7 career lead. Both are genki and fighting well, as their 6-1 record describes. This could be one hell of a match.
Meisei vs Takanosho – Takanosho got spanked by Daieisho on day 7, and if he was hoping to have an easier run on day 8, he has to contend with Meisei, whom he has never beaten (0-5). At some point, he’s going to need to win one, but will Sunday be the day?
Shodai vs Kiribayama – Admit it, you want to see Kiribayama execute that relativistic sumo again. I know I do. But then again, I want Shodai’s strong rally to overcome Shimanoumi’s attack to be the point in the Haru basho where Shodai remembers his sumo, and fights strong. Shodai holds a 2-0 series lead, but has bee fighting poorly, and cannot even claim a winning record for the first half of the basho.
Takakeisho vs Myogiryu – Takakeisho has had 11 matches against Myogiryu, and won them all. I want to see him clear kadoban, so I am hoping that the Grand Tadpole can knock Myogiryu out of the group 1 behind the leaders.
Daieisho vs Asanoyama – We saw a hint of the yusho winning Daieisho on day 7, and if he shows up again on day 8, Asanoyama will have his hands full. To me, Asanoyama banks too much on getting his favored hand hold, and seems to be slow to shift to “Plan B” at times. This is a change he must make if he wishes to become a Yokozuna at some point.