The middle weekend was massive fun, but its on to the dirty business of finishing up this basho. There are a number of themes that will play out across the remainder of act 2, and into act 3. There is an effort once again by the schedulers to run the “Darwin Funnel”, coaxing as many rikishi as possible to enter day 15 with 7-7 records. Part of this is the undifferentiated performance by the bulk of the top division crew, and part of it is the scheduling crew carefully selecting who faces whom. In the second week, we will see broader differences in rank in some of the matches, as they work to keep the action fresh and exciting to the fans.
Kotonowaka’s day 8 loss means nobody is closer than 2 wins behind Hakuho and Terunofuji, and unless something unexpected takes place in week 2, at least one of these men will be lifting a fish next Sunday.
Leaders: Hakuho, Terunofuji
Hunt Group: Tamawashi, Kotonowaka, Ichiyamamoto
7 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Tsurugisho vs Wakamotoharu – Welcome to what I think is your first top division match, Wakamotoharu! Could we be so blessed as to have two Onami brothers in Makuuchi come September? Well, its possible if Wakamotoharu (5-3) can rack up enough wins from Juryo 3e. He faces Tsurugisho (5-3) today, and they have split their 4 prior matches. Fight well!
Chiyomaru vs Ichiyamamoto – Its almost time to start handicapping banzuke positions for Aki. At Maegashira 13e, Chiyomaru (3-5) has a bit of a cushion if he turns in a losing record, but a lot of that comes down to how those around him fare. He has at least 2 knuckleheads below him in rank that seem to be headed for make-koshi in Chiyonoo and Tokushoryu, but the rest seem to be lined up for winning records. He faces newcomer Ichiyamamoto (6-2), who is having a pretty good basho from the last slot on the banzuke. He also won their only prior match.
Ishiura vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki (4-4) is squarely in the sweet spot of the funnel right now, and needs to really gather his sumo and fight his way out of it. His opponent, Ishiura (5-3), is closer to escape, and I think finally has his sumo in working order. They are evenly matched at 8-7 across their 15 prior encounters, so this has the markings of a big fight.
Tochinoshin vs Chiyonoo – First time encounter, even though both are in their 30s. They both have matching 3-5 records, and can only dream of being trapped in the funnel, with the chance of kachi-koshi still out there in the future. I note with interest that has won 3 of his last 4, and maybe has found a formula to fight in spite of not having much of a right knee left.
Chiyonokuni vs Kotonowaka – No real funnel risk here, just two men beating on each other until one of them has had enough. Chiyonokuni (5-3) gets the nod for delivering the blows, but Kotonowaka (6-2) gets the nod for grappling and throwing. Which one’s sumo will reign surpreme?
Kaisei vs Daiamami – Another match of the damned, as Daiamami (2-6) is risking a quick return to Juryo while Kaisei (3-5) needs to consider upping his sumo tactics. Neither one has fought well this July, and I hope they can recover once they return to Tokyo.
Tokushoryu vs Terutsuyoshi – Matching 3-5 records between these two, with Tokushoryu holding a slight 6-4 edge in career match ups against Terutsuyoshi. Terutsuyoshi has won 2 of his last 3, and I can only hope that he has regained some control of his body, and some ability to fight.
Takarafuji vs Ura – Somehow, these two have never fought before. Ura (4-4) is not looking so well this basho. Maybe some strain to his knee in practice leading up to the basho or some adjacent injury. I am expecting his grab-and-tug sumo will confound Takarafuji’s (5-3) plans to trap and contain Ura, and incrementally wear him down. Ura is part of that group in the middle of the funnel, so he needs to really get it in gear now or suffer next weekend.
Tamawashi vs Chiyoshoma – I can hope for a Chiyoshoma (4-4) rebound, but that’s not going to make it so. He has never beaten Tamawashi (6-2) in 3 attempts, with the most recent being this past may. Chiyoshoma, like Ura is in the middle of the funnel group, and is being guided to a 7-7 day 14 score.
Myogiryu vs Shimanoumi – A Myogiryu (1-7) loss today would hand him his make-koshi. Given how poorly he is moving and how little power he can deliver in his sumo, it’s inevitable. At least it will give Shimanoumi (5-3) another win and take him a step closer to kachi-koshi.
Hidenoumi vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama (5-3) has lost 2 of his last 3, and needs to bounce back before he gets sucked into the funnel. He has a 3-1 career record over Hidenoumi (4-4), and has generally been fighting well this tournament. But keep in mind, week 2 can become quite the endurance test.
Onosho vs Aoiyama – As much I would love to see Onosho (2-6) snap out of this slide and improve his score, I just don’t see his sumo coming together right now. He has a 5-5 career record with “Big Dan” Aoiyama (4-4]), who is part of the team in the middle of the funnel, being channeled toward a day 15 Darwin match.
Tobizaru vs Ichinojo – Prediction – Tobizaru (3-5) leaping about and attacking like a “pantless thunder goose“, annoys Ichinojo (5-3) enough that he declares him a “Bad Pony” and puts Tobizaru in time out. This is in spite of Tobizaru having a 3-1 career advantage over “The Boulder”.
Takanosho vs Daieisho – How did Takanosho (4-4) find himself in the middle of the funnel? Worse yet, how did Hatsu yusho winner Daieisho (1-7) find himself about to go make-koshi at Maegashira 1w? July is bringing many strange outcomes, but we have to hope that it’s for the best. Maybe Daieisho can turn this rig around, given that he has a 5-3 career advantage over Onigiri-kun.
Wakatakakage vs Hoshoryu – You could call this one “The Battle Of Sumo’s Next Generation”, but thats kind of dramatic. Wakatakakage (3-5) has yet to lose to Hoshoryu (5-3) in their 3 prior matches, so I am looking for the lead Onami brother to overpower the Mongolian and send him over the bales.
Kotoeko vs Mitakeumi – Kotoeko (2-6) has been 20% short on most of his matches. He fight well, gives it a lot of energy and fighting spirit, but just can’t quite seem to dominate his opponents. He has Mitakeumi (5-3) today, and if he’s not getting started on his traditional week 2 fade, he will likely provide quite the opponent.
Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – You knew there were a bunch of people looking forward to this match. They have matching 4-4 records for Nagoya, and are nearly even in their 15 career fights. Will Takayasu open with a big crazy shoulder hit? Will Hokutofuji land the handshake tachiai, and nodowa Takayasu into submission? Will Hokutofuji end up with one his frequently seen bloody faces? I can’t wait to find out.
Terunofuji vs Okinoumi – Terunofuji (8-0) has a 12-3 career advantage over Okinoumi (5-3). That is all.
Shodai vs Meisei – As annoying as Shodai can be some times, I beseech thee, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, let this blob of diakon get his 8 wins so we have one less annoying thing going on in September. Both men are 4-4 and riding the middle of the funnel lane right now, and Shodai leads the series 5-1.
Hakuho vs Chiyotairyu – Hakuho (8-0) has a 9-0career advantage over Okinoumi (5-3). That is all.