Welcome to nakabi, the middle day of the sumo tournament. In ancient times, there would be drinking, screaming sharing of snacks with the locals and generally carrying on crazy throughout the venue. This was in a mythical age before COIVD and states of emergency, when sumo was enjoyed at full volume by people from many lands coming together, and sweating profusely in a poorly ventilated arena in the blazing mid-summer heat.
There are 21 rikishi with 3-4 or 4-3 records. That is a huge number to be holding the center line going into the middle day of the tournament. Thats slightly more than half the field, and a lot of folks are going to be increasingly trapped into the funnel that will try to push them all to 7-7 scores for the final day. We can see the schedulers already starting to work this out, by focusing on having rikishi from this pool face each other. Granted, its pretty easy given how many of them there are.
It’s the middle day of the basho, and that means it’s time for the leaderboard. Who will take home the hardware, and who will get to lift the fish?
Leaders: Hakuho, Terunofuji
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Hoshoryu, Kiribayama, Tamawashi, Chiyonokuni, Ichiyamamoto
8 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Akua vs Tokushoryu – Akua’s come to visit to celebrate nakabi. At Juryo 2 and a 4-3 record, its not impossible that he might return to the top division for September, but one has to wonder if his sumo is any better than his last trip. Tokushoryu is likewise straddling the kachi/make-koshi line, and needs to rack a few more wins to protect his position in the top division.
Chiyomaru vs Tsurugisho – Another 3-4 vs 4-3 combo, with Tsurugisho having 8 wins over their 14 match career history. Chiyomaru has struggled to generate much offense in July, and I think he’s a candidate for a day 15 Darwin match. Yes, its early days to make such predictions, but nothing in his sumo right now indicates he is going to find a hidden reserve of strength in the second week.
Ishiura vs Ura – Ishiura (4-3) has not won a single match against Ura (4-3) ever. Part of it is that they are both compact, and Ishiura struggles against Ura’s low attack path. But to be honest, their last match was in May of 2017, and a lot has changed for both men in the last 4 years. I am interested to see how this one goes.
Tochinoshin vs Daiamami – I think the question around Tochinoshin (2-5) is now – can he win enough to keep himself away from the Juryo barge of the damned. His opponent on day 8, Daiamami (2-5) is likely going to be a deck hand himself, given his pitiful score and M14 rank. Tochinoshin won their only prior match, which was in May.
Kaisei vs Ichiyamamoto – Kaisei (3-4) is part of that group that is being herded into the funnel, and he’s got a chance to give himself some padding if he can pick up a win against Ichiyamamoto (5-2). Ichiyamamoto’s fighting pretty well right now, but his double arm thrust attack has limited effect on mega-fauna like Kaisei.
Chiyonoo vs Kotonowaka – I am looking for Kotonowaka (6-1) to continue to dominate for a while longer, and today he has hapless Chiyonoo (2-5) who is also advised to start picking out his seat on the Juryo barge. I am going to assume that going into week 2, we are going to see Kotonowaka get a few test matches further up the banzuke, to try his sumo out against some of the mainstays at the top of the rank and file.
Tamawashi vs Chiyonokuni – High interest match, I still don’t know if Chiyonokuni ever found that crowbar and managed to remove that robot head from Kyokutaisei. We do know that Tamawashi’s head is quite firmly attached, and we urge Chiyonokuni to focus center-mass against Tamawashi. Given how Chiyonokuni likes to take big swings, and land big blows, we may see the pugilist side of Tamawashi come out. This fearsome form has not been seen in a while, and it can draw blood.
Kagayaki vs Shimanoumi – Two more at the start of the funnel, with the winner given an easy path to avoid it. Both are 4-3, and the winner will be 5-3, with the loser 4-4. Kagayaki holds a 4-2 career advantage, though Shimanoumi took the most recent match in May.
Myogiryu vs Terutsuyoshi – Hapless Myogiryu (1-6) probably needs a couple more wins to make sure there is no risk of joining the Juryo barge, but I am left guessing who he is going to be able to beat in his current state. Oh, that’s right, Terutsuyoshi (2-5) may fit the bill. Seriously, Terutsuyoshi has so much to offer sumo, I wish whatever his injury is could be resolved.
Onosho vs Hidenoumi – Its high time for Onosho (2-5) to revert to some kind of genki form, but a win today over Hidenoumi (3-4) would just allow him to join the funnel. Damed if you do, damned if you don’t.
Takarafuji vs Kiribayama – I honestly expected Takarafuji (4-3) would be better able to deal with Hoshoryu in their day 7 match. He has a chance to revert to form today, and give Kiribayama (5-2) a long, painful lesson in patience. The last match between them was in March, with Kiribayama winning by the seldom-seen okurihikiotoshi (rear pull down)
Okinoumi vs Chiyoshoma – Both of them are firmly at the mouth of the funnel at 4-3, with the winner being granted a fairly easy path of escape. Normally I would give Okinoumi a clear advantage, but Chiyoshoma has been fighting pretty well. Both like to go chest to chest, so it may come down to who can get the better hand placement at the initial merge.
Aoiyama vs Hoshoryu – Aoiyama (3-4) seems to be unable to get out of second gear, and really put the power into his sumo. This is usually an issue around some kind of injury, and I would guess he is susceptible to Hoshoryu’s (5-2) leg attacks. Hoshoryu has won their last 2 bouts.
Takanosho vs Chiyotairyu – Takanosho (3-4), oddly enough, is in the funnel, while Chiyotairyu’s (2-5) score is low enough he is not. In fact Chiyotairyu is probably on track for double digit losses given how ineffective his sumo has been thus far lacking. I still have some hope for Takanosho to pull out a kachi-koshi and return in September to his better form.
Wakatakakage vs Ichinojo – their only prior match, in January of 2020, was an Ichinojo (4-3) win. But Wakatakakage (3-4) has made great improvements to his sumo since then, and I am delighted we will get these two to re-test their sumo head to head. Both of them are in the funnel group, and both are going to have to work very hard indeed to escape it in the positive direction.
Daieisho vs Meisei – Daieisho (1-6) has just a single win in the first week of Nagoya. It’s hard to believe this man has at one time lifted the Emperor’s cup, but I am going to guess his body is damaged and he’s not able to really engage with his sumo. Meisei can still work for a kachi-koshi, but he’s on the disadvantaged side of the funnel at 3-4. He has also only ever won a single match from Daieisho in 7 tries.
Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – 24 match rivalry between these two going all the way back to 2015. Takayasu is in the funnel at 3-4, while Mitakeumi (5-2) is outside of it with a clear course to a kachi-koshi going into day 8. Takayasu has a 18-6 career advantage because he puts most of his energy up front into a big opening salvo, which frequently takes apart any defense that Mitakeumi may have counted on to keep him in the match. In fact, the last time Mitakeumi won a match against Takayasu was May of 2019.
Shodai vs Hokutofuji – Get used to the phrase “Kadoban Ozeki Shodai” (3-4) because I think you are going to be hearing it and reading it a lot. He has an 8-2 career advantage over Hokutofuji (4-3), but Shodai is fighting poorly right now, and may be susceptible to Hokutofuji’s preferred attack route of nodowa and push combo.
Terunofuji vs Tobizaru – I am going guess that Tobizaru (3-4) watched replay of his match against Hakuho, and was likely mortified. If so, I expect him to try a new attack plan against Terunofuji (7-0) today, and who knows – it may actually pay off. A win today gives Terunofuji a kachi-koshi.
Hakuho vs Kotoeko – First ever match between these two, the risk is identical to day 7, where Hakuho (7-0) and that bum knee are going to need to contend with a compact, high agility lateral moving rikishi driving hard against his weak side. I think Kotoeko (2-5) has a small but interesting chance at a kinboshi today.