The middle weekend is behind us, and it’s time to crank the second half of this final basho of 2021 into action. While the yusho race will take our interest in a few days, right now I am watching to see how many rikishi the schedulers can shove into a path to get to 7-7 on the final day. Right now I count 23 rikishi who might end up at the narrow end of the funnel in 6 days. There is almost no chance there will be that many with 7-7 records to start day 15, but I am going to guess there may be as many as 10. This is the kind of things that happen when everyone turns in middling performances in week 1, and a huge crowd is bunched around the make-koshi / kachi-koshi line. Time for some of these guys to turn up the power and get their sumo in gear.
One man who is not going to get anywhere near the funnel seems to be Abi. Since his suspension in July of 2020, he sat out for 6 months, returning in the lower end of Makushita. His record since coming back into active competition is a startling 35-7, with three yusho along the way. I cite his sumo as one dimensional, and I invite anyone to help persuade me otherwise, but that same sumo is going to put him right back in the top half of Makkuchi soon. He had a 4 basho posting to Komusubi, and I am going to guess, barring injury, we will see him back there by May of next year.
Leaders: Terunofuji, Takakeisho
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi
Chasers: Tamawashi, Ura, Hokutofuji, Sadanoumi
7 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Kagayaki vs Akua – Kagayaki needs to be careful now, he’s at 3-5, and low enough rank that there may be an outside chance that he could be handed a ticket on the Juryo barge of the damned. He’s only faced Akua once, and that match went to Akua. Wait, did I say Akua, no, this was a Makushita match in 2013 where Tatsu (Kagayaki) faced off against Toyononami (Akua).
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Speaking of that juryo barge, these two may want to consider packing their sea-bags soon. A loss today, and Shohozan is make-koshi, and the first to get piped aboard. Tochinoshin is in tough shape with 2 wins, but his M13 rank will be considered out of demotion range in most cases. They have a 24 match career record that favors Tochinoshin 16-8, but given how banged up they both are, none of that matters.
Yutakayama vs Sadanoumi – People may think I am a bit too imaginative with the funnel concept, but look at this match. 2-6 Yutakayama is on a solid make-koshi path, and Sadanoumi at 6-2 will be kachi-koshi soon enough. By making these two fight, they leave room in the torikumi to keep the 3-5s fighting 4-4s. That’s the funnel in action. Sadanoumi is going to blast Yutakayama out before he remembers what he was going to do, would be my guess.
Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Solid test match today to see if over-demoted Hokutofuji is healthy, as pushing around someone of Kaisei’s size takes a solid performance. I suspect an early nodowa, and a quick run to the bales for Hokutofuji. But I am not so sure Kaisei will want to go along with that.
Chiyonokuni vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi needs to upgrade his playbook, because as of right now, it seems most everyone has figured out not only his opening moves, but his recovery moves, his rescue moves, and his desperation moves. Chiyonokuni will hope to keep Terutsuyoshi far enough back that he can continue hitting him for maximum sumo effectiveness. This is, indeed, their first ever match.
Chiyotairyu vs Abi – Chiyotairyu win today would see him exit the funnel. So of course they give him Abi, who is not only red-hot, but also has a 3-1 career advantage over Chiyotairyu. I wonder if Chiyotairyu remembers to thrust upward against Abi’s elbows to shut down his attack….
Chiyomaru vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru will have plenty of opportunity for lateral motion today against Chiyomaru, and in fact I strongly recommend it. Chiyomaru will look to keep Tobizaru back to sustain his tsuki/oshi attack. Tobizaru will want to get close in and try to get to the side of the round one.
Kotoeko vs Ishiura – Kotoeko can knock Ishiura out of the funnel with a win today. I don’t see that happening at all, given that Kotoeko has just a single win, achieved on day 8 with a very narrow set of conditions that even my 4 year old son could have won against Terutsuyoshi.
Kotonowaka vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has never won a match against Kotonowaka in all 7 attempts. While I am delighted that Chiyoshoma has decided to up his sumo performance, I think he will hit the clay again today against Kotonowaka. My guess would be a throw to put him down.
Ura vs Aoiyama – An Ura win would more or less knock Aoiyama out of the funnel, and would put himself one win away from kachi-koshi. He just needs to not let Big Dan catch him in the head with one of those big swings he loves to take. There is ample evidence that Aoiyama is fighting hurt, and not quite up to his normal intensity.
Hidenoumi vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is, in my opinion, on track for double digits. His match against Hidenoumi strongly favors Tamawashi in form, intensity and career record (3-1 for Tamawashi). Once Tamawashi gets his hands in the right place, he can apply an amazing amount of force into his opponent, and Hidenoumi presents a rather broad target.
Takarafuji vs Shimanoumi – Loser of this match gets to exit the funnel, winner continues the march toward 7-7. Both have matching 3-5 records coming into day 9, and both are looking tentative every day.
Myogiryu vs Takanosho – Takanosho comes into today’s matches with three straight wins, and just maybe he has his sumo back in working order. I would really like to see him back in the san’yaku, but he needs a bit better consistency to get there. After an 11-4 jun-yusho in September, 2-6 Myogiryu certainly looks over-promoted at this point.
Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Blistering tsuki / oshi vs Mr. steady-state chest to chest sumo. They have 20 career matches, and they are split an even 10-10. Both are likely on the make-koshi path, so this match is more about a clash of styles.
Wakatakakage vs Kiribayama – Both of these younger future stars are having a rough basho, after enjoying quite a bit of success the rest of this year. They have matching 2-6 records, and are either hurt or incredibly demoralized. The good news is that they both outside the funnel, and won’t have to worry about the doom march everyone gets to endure.
Ichinojo vs Onosho – Like Wakatakakage and Kiribayama, Onosho can only dream of having enough wins to be included in the funnel. Instead he is going to fight a fairly rowdy Ichinojo, who make be quite a bit more conservative today after blowing his match against Ozeki Takakeisho on day 8 with a hair pull. Should Onosho prevail today, he would likewise knock Ichinojo out of the funnel.
Mitakeumi vs Meisei – I am looking for kachi-koshi today from Mitakeumi. We are not into act 3, so I don’t think we will see any fade start today. With any luck, he can put together 3 more wins and end up with double digits, and a distant glimmer of hope for yet another Ozeki run.
Hoshoryu vs Takakeisho – Hoshoryu has got to find a belt grip, or he’s little more than ballast for the mobile launching system known as Takakeisho. Any belt grip seems to work, but in his prior 2 attempts, it was all Takakeisho. The Ozeki wants to keep pace with Terunofuji, so he will look to put Hoshoryu away in the first 10 seconds.
Shodai vs Endo – Endo is in the middle of the funnel this time, and rightly so. His opening gambits have failed more than normal, and he has shown great difficulty switching to “plan b” in most matches. The challenge fighting Shodai is that most of the time, the whole thing is going to be plan B at best. Shodai, an Ozeki, is the highest ranked member of the funnel cohort.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu actually has a 12-10 career advantage over Terunofuji. But he has not taken a single match from Terunofuji since Terunofuji achieve Ozeki this time through the ranks. Oh I do hope he goes for a grinding stamina match against the Yokozuna, as I am curious just how long Terunofuji can maintain his stance against that much force.