Oh, final weekend, here you are! What a joy and delight this July tournament has been. We have two top men in sumo going into day 14 undefeated, and the winning score will be at least 14 or 15 wins, a worthy tournament indeed. Both Hakuho and Terunofuji have fought very well, and I am delighted that they have a big show down at the end of day 15.
While we have two who are flying towards sumo’s stratospheric heights, there is a broad set of 14 rikishi caught in what I have named “Darwin’s funnel”. The schedulers clearly are trying to shape the field to have as many rikishi as possible start day 15 with 7-7 records, setting up a series of “Darwin matches”, where one man takes home a winning record, and the other a losing record. Survival of the fittest in a pure and brutal form. Its tough to guess how many of these rikishi will end today at 7-7, but the list of candidates includes kanban names like Takayasu, Shodai, Mitakeumi, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, Takanosho and Kagayaki. What a roster!
The final question left unanswered, will Terunofuji get promoted to Yokozuna. It seems that the Shimpan, who have the final say, are already thinking this one over, including his oyakata who is the lead. Herouth brings us the details
No matter what happens in his match against Takayasu today, the last match on Sunday will decide the yusho, it only means that Terunofuji would need to beat Hakuho twice to take the cup. This means that no matter what, Terunofuji has achieved the jun-yusho for Nagoya 2021. This will be his 6th yusho or jun-yusho since his return to the top division, out of 7 basho. Honestly, a 13-0 record with that count in the past year screams “Yokozuna”, but I suspect that Terunofuji is not quite done with Nagoya yet. But he may, in fact, have convinced the judges that he is ready.
What We Are Watching Day 14
Daiamami vs Wakamotoharu – I have to wonder if Wakamotoharu (7-6) might end up in the top division for November. One of the big factors that has kept turnover from Makuuchi back down to Juryo low is the tendency to have a lack of demoteable or promotable records at the end of the basho. We may be heading to that again in July. Wakamotoharu has a 4-0 career advantage over Daiamami, who at 3-10 is unlikely to reverse that trend today.
Tochinoshin vs Ichiyamamoto – A first ever match, and I am sure Ichiyamamoto (7-6) knows enough to attack from his left against Tochinoshin’s (5-8) right. We saw that the former Ozeki can still muster a fractional sky-crane if he can get his hands set and his feet planted. So Ichiyamamoto will be wise to keep moving and not let Tochinoshin get that left hand outside grip.
Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Kaisei (6-7) is in the heart of the funnel right now, and can only exit it by accepting make-koshi, or winning out. He has make-koshi Tokushoryu (5-8) today, whom he dominates with at 10-5 career record. They both will want to go chest to chest, so this will be a straight up mega-fauna yotsu battle. Yosh!
Tsurugisho vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi (8-5) has a solid chance to send Tsurugisho (7-6) to Darwin land today. Sure Tsurugisho has a 8-6 career advantage, but Terutsuyoshi has a 6 match winning streak, and is already kachi-koshi. He finally found his sumo in week 2, and he has been belting out the wins.
Chiyonokuni vs Shimanoumi – The winner of this match will be kachi-koshi, the loser will be eligible for a Darwin match tomorrow. I love it, this is brutal stuff and only one of them is going to make it to 8 today. They have a 1-1 career history, but to my eye, Chiyonokuni is fighting better this tournament. Both are 7-6.
Takarafuji vs Kotonowaka – Both Takarafuji (8-5) and Kotonowaka (10-3) will leave Nagoya with winning records, but it seems Kotonowaka is looking to run up the score. The Great Sumo Cat approves of this kind of behavior, and I would love to see if Takarafuji can employ the “frustration defense” against Kotonowaka today.
Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – Oh lord, what a great match. Might we see the blazing double henka today? I think perhaps not. But Ishiura at 8-5 has less motivation than 7-6 Chiyoshoma. A win today and he gets a well deserved kachi-koshi. A loss, and it’s Darwin time for him.
Onosho vs Chiyonoo – Onosho (5-8) has a chance to toss Chiyonoo (7-6) bodily back into Darwin’s funnel, if he manages to summon his best sumo and attack with measured aggression. They have never faced off in the top division, but during their tenure in Juryo then went 4-4. Their last match was in 2016.
Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – The best that Kagayaki (6-7) can manage coming out of today would be a 7-7 score, and a trip to a Darwin match tomorrow. He has a 6-6 record against Okinoumi (5-8), and the things that catche my eye are the 5 straight losses Okinoumi has sustained since day 9’s loss to Terunofuji.
Kotoeko vs Chiyomaru – A make-koshi battle, with Kotoeko (2-11) looking to be in free fall territory in terms of rank. It’s a real shame, as I think that for starters, he a solid rikishi. But I also think due to the odd results coming from Natsu, he was over promoted on the back of his 9-6 record in May. Chiyomaru (5-8) is likewise make-koshi, so this match is really all about figuring out who gets the bigger demotion.
Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – I am certain that this match is going to be fun. They are both kachi-koshi, so there is no real threat in any loss. Both are expert thrusters with a strong mobility aspect to their sumo. They have a 13 match history with a 1 match lead to Tamawashi (10-3). I am looking forward to see if Hokutofuji (8-5) can continue his good sumo that we have seen since opening day.
Myogiryu vs Tobizaru – Matching 3-10 records. The only good news about this match is that one of these dismal and roundly defeated rikishi gets to pick up their 4th win. But I worry that Tobizaru can find some way to foul that up.
Takanosho vs Hidenoumi – One of these guys gets make-koshi, the winner gets invited to play Darwin on Sunday. I kind of like Takanosho’s chances on this one.
Kiribayama vs Ichinojo – This pair have matching 8-5 records, and following lksumo’s write up, I am going to guess they are looking to see if Ichinojo can rack up enough wins to make a bid for an san’yaku rank in September. They have only had 1 prior match, which went to Ichinojo.
Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Another battle of the make-koshi duds. One of these guys may end up with a 5-10 record at the end of the basho. I do like that we saw some of the old fire from Daieisho (4-9) on day 13. Maybe he can rally again and dispatch Aoiyama (5-8) for good measure.
Wakatakakage vs Chiyotairyu – More candidates for double-digit losses. Rising star Wakatakakage (4-9) is going to take a few tournaments before he can get his sumo together enough to try the joi-jin again. I think he’s another rikishi who, thanks to the crazy results in May, ended up over promoted and is getting hammered. My only thought for Chiyotairyu (3-10) is that he’s got to be injured in some way, and that’s a shame given the improvement to his sumo from last tournament.
Ura vs Meisei – Someone decided to haul crowd favorite Ura (8-5) up the banzuke form M13 to face a Komusubi. In addition, this is their first ever match. Meisei (7-6) needs one more win to hit kachi-koshi. Should he fail to get his 8th today, it’s a Darwin match for him on Sunday.
Hoshoryu vs Mitakeumi – I am sensing a bit of a theme here, and I DO like it. We have san’yaku hopeful Hoshoryu (9-4), needing a few more wins to raise the chances up against Mitakeumi (7-6) for the first time. Mitakeumi is on the bubble as well, and needs a win today to escape a Darwin match on Sunday. Mitakeumi is in his traditional week 2 fade, having lost 4 of his last 5 matches, and generally showing us scruffy sumo.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu has a 12-8 career advantage over Terunofuji. Yes, most of that is from before 2018, and since returning to the top division, the score has been 4-1 in favor of Terunofuji. This matters only just a little bit, as Terunofuji seems to be operating at the highest levels of sumo right now, and I would guess that Takayasu is going to be Darwin fodder on day 15.
Hakuho vs Shodai – Shodai showed us on day 13 that he has not lost all of his cartoon sumo moves. He nearly got the upper hand against Terunofuji, causing the Yokozuna hopeful to shift into 3rd gear to dispatch the human daikon. His record of 2-9 against Hakuho portends a pasty, blubbery mess taken airborne for a 7th loss, and a Darwin match against Takayasu.