Welcome to Nakabi! The middle day of this final tournament of 2021, held in the Fukuoka Kokusai Center. I want to call reader’s attention to an article by John Gunning, posted to the Japan Times a few days ago: Lack of excitement threatens Kyushu Basho atmosphere. In spite of the pessamistic headline, it’s a solid article from a friend of Tachiai, and I urge readers to go take a look.
He points out that Takakeisho tends to perform well in Kyushu, and has won both of his yusho here, a fact that I had forgotten. Indeed he is on par with Terunofuji with 7-0 going into the middle day of the tournament, and I expect both of them to hit their 8th win today and secure kachi-koshi.
On Nakabi, we take our first look at the leaderboard!
We are now in a phase where there are some easy to spot tracks in the daily torikumi, matches that shape the yusho race, matches that feed the Darwin funnel, and matches among the damned. See if you can spot those themes in today’s bouts.
Leaders: Terunofuji, Takakeisho
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Abi
Chasers: Ura, Hidenoumi, Chiyotairyu, Hokutofuji, Sadanoumi
8 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – They keep putting folks up against Shohozan that he has winning records against, and he keeps being at least 20% below the energy level needed to win. It’s great to see him in the top division highlight shows again, but he’s a mere shadow of his former self. I give Sadanoumi a clear advantage today, as he has been fighting well in his top division return, and I expect he may even see double digits this November.
Kagayaki vs Kaisei – On to the funnel then. It’s clear the schedulers are at least going to try to run one over the weekend, and see how it goes. Both are 3-4, and within the bracket to be funneled towards a 7-7 score on day 15. They have an even 5-5 career record, and both have been fighting a couple of notches below their best.
Akua vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is even more of a walking orthopedic case this time than he usually is, with his back acting up, he struggles to apply much forward power. After being kyujo for 3 days, he decided to do something to try and minimize his demotion, and so far he has picked up 2 wins. Akua is part of the funnel group, and he is 5 wins over the next 8 days to escape. He would be “well motivated”.
Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Two more for the funnel, with matching 3-4 records. They have a 19 match history that is almost evenly split. Ishiura’s sumo on day 7 was flat out confused and terrible, and I am hoping he comes in today with something a bit more more focused and offensive.
Chiyonokuni vs Hokutofuji – This one has fun written up one side and down the other. Chiyonokuni is fighting well enough, and Hokutofuji may have gotten his lower body back on side given the performance day 7 against Abi. Both have excellent mobility, and a propensity for hitting their opponent. Bring on the bashing!
Kotonowaka vs Yutakayama – Both of these guys should be doing better, and at least be in the funnel group. But with matching 2-5 records, they are clearly struggling to find any kind of offensive sumo this November. Kotonowaka has won on three prior engagements, but they are both so moribund, it’s anybody’s match.
Abi vs Hidenoumi – I had not considered the potential for this match, but now that it’s upon us, I think it has a lot to offer. Hidenoumi has quietly put himself into a good position with a 5-2 score, and he brings a conservative sumo style that may be difficult for Abi to overcome.
Kotoeko vs Terutsuyoshi – Should be the make-koshi match for Kotoeko. Has anyone seen this man’s sumo?
Ura vs Chiyotairyu – Well, its back to high interest now. A pair of 5-2 rikishi, and in the case of Chiyotairyu, he’s never lost to Ura. I am certain that Ura has his goal fixed on 8, but it would be fun to see him press higher. I am going to assume that we won’t see Chiyotairyu power forward at the tachiai given Ura’s tendency to bend space and time using his opponent’s energy.
Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – I hope today we see Aoiyama dial back the tachiai a bit, and put his energy into an early V-Twin attack. If he can catch Shimanoumi with a couple of solid blows in the first two steps, he will own this match.
Tobizaru vs Tamawashi – Tobizaru took their only prior match in July, but the Tamawashi of Kyushu is looking far more ready, and far more genki than he did in the heat of July in Nagoya. Tobizaru’s best hope is to stay mobile and not let Tamawashi bracket him up, or it’s three steps to the bales.
Takayasu vs Chiyoshoma – My frustration with Takayasu is starting to get the better of me again. He seems to have shown us a very interesting and unique technique that brought him a couple of wins, then set it aside. Now he’s got Chiyoshoma to contend with. I urge the big hairy wild man to just grapple this slippery fellow and grind him to dust. Make it a 5 minute match if you need to, but please oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, let it be so.
Onosho vs Hoshoryu – In spite of his day 7 win, Onosho’s sumo this November is a steaming mess. I don’t expect that he’s going to be much of a threat to Hoshoryu, as long as Hoshoryu can keep Onosho attacking at an oblique angle. Don’t let him square up, or you will face a lot of trouble.
Takanosho vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is coming in with a 2 match losing streak, and seems to have lost his good form somewhere in the last 8 weeks. He is moving well, but not delivering power in his offense. He may be a bit of an easy match for Takanosho, who holds a 6-3 career advantage.
Daieisho vs Kiribayama – I can’t tell if Kiribayama has given up for now mentally, or if he is hurt. But this promising young rikishi is letting his shin-Komusubi posting get the better of him. This is not the first rising star to hit the named ranks, get his head handed to him, and take half a year to get his fighting spirit back in order. I am sure Daieisho can delivery the blows, I just hope we see Kiribayama stand his ground today.
Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Mitakeumi is at 6 wins, and barring an injury in the next 8 days should be able to hit double digits. I am going to assume that Okinoumi will continue to fight well, but given his lack of power his chronic lower body problems may have kicked in once more.
Takarafuji vs Meisei – Both are at 3-4, and squarely in the funnel. Both have been under-performing so far, with Takarafuji seemingly abandoning his traditional “defend and extend” sumo, much to his detriment. Meisei holds a 5-2 career advantage, and if we don’t see Takarafuji get into his defensive mode, I would guess he won’t have much to offer today.
Shodai vs Myogiryu – Shodai comes in at 4-3, and he’s not even to the “hard” part of the Ozeki schedule yet. He has a nearly even career record against Myogiryu, so it’s anyone’s guess on if we will see Shodai or Shin-Goeido today.
Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Ichinojo presents a lot of bulk for Takakeisho to push around, but I think he’s up for the challenge. The biggest risk is we see another big hit from Ichinojo today like he delivered in the tachiai against Wakatakakage on day 7. A win here is kachi-koshi for the Ozeki.
Terunofuji vs Endo – Terunofuji presents a tempting target for Endo’s preferred style of sumo. We know the Yokozuna will accept an offer to go chest to chest. We know Endo will try for the frontal grip at the tachiai. If he lands that hold, he may try for an early nage / throw. The longer this match goes on, the more it favors Terunofuji, so I look for him to lock up the center of the dohyo and slowly tighten the vise on Endo’s body.