With the dawn of day 11 in Western Japan, we are on to the final act of this Kyusho basho. Act 3 is where all of the pieces come together, we sort everyone into make and kachi koshi, and we crown the yusho winner. As predicted at the start of this tournament, Yokozuna Terunofuji is the favorite to hoist the cup yet again, with his nearest rival for the honor, Ozeki Takakeisho, eating clay on day 10 at the hands of Meisei.
In act 3, we are going to see two things of interest – first will be the “test matches” this is where there are much larger rank differences between the competitors. I tend to think of them as testing out the target promotion rank for the next banzuke. Second is the conclusion of “Darwin’s Funnel”, that herds as many rikishi as possible into starting day 15 with 7-7 scores. Many or all of them will face off against each other in single bout elimiation style. The winner get kachi-koshi, the loser make-koshi. But we have 4 days of action before we can get there.
It will all come down to “who can put dirt on Terunofuji”. My money is on an Ozeki.
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Abi
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Ura, Hokutofuji
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Chiyomaru vs Hokutofuji – The only think I can think of about this match is that they want to make sure that Chiyomaru stays in the Darwin funnel. He has never won against Hokutofuji, who is already 8-2, and was over-demoted coming out of his September kyujo. I suspect this will not be pretty
Ishiura vs Sadanoumi – A win today, and Sadanoumi escapes the funnel, he would improve to 7-4, and would pretty much be a lock for kachi-koshi. He has been fighting well, and I think will be able to make his 8 no matter what. Ishiura is another matter, he has not been able to generate consistent quality sumo, and I think he will struggle today, in spite of his 9-5 career advantage over Sadanoumi.
Kagayaki vs Terutsuyoshi – I worry that Kagayaki might actually win this one, which would leave both of them with 3-7 scores. A Kagayaki loss today would be make-koshi for him on day 10, and may portend a double digit loss. At his rank, that might put him back in Juryo if things pay out a certain way. Terutsuyoshi is at the bottom edge of the funnel, and needs a win to maintain any hopes of reaching 8, a significant long-shot at this point.
Kotonowaka vs Akua – An Akua win today would be his first ever over Kotonowaka, and would also deal Kotonowaka his make-koshi. Akua would exit the funnel with a win, and so there is a lot of tension built into this match before these guys even get their mawashi on.
Kaisei vs Hidenoumi – Kaisei finds himself in yet another basho where he is struggling to keep more wins than losses in his record. He’s going to struggle some more against Hidenoumi today, who seems to have quietly found his sumo, and has been racking up wins. A win by Hidenoumi would probably push him out of the funnel.
Aoiyama vs Chiyonokuni – What pain or misery has beset Aoiyama? After a 3-0 start, Big Dan has had 7 straight losses, and if Chiyonokuni should prevail today, it would be 8 and make-koshi. It’s like the ancient game of pinball, there were times when the ball would take just the right trajectory, and after racking up a few nice points, rocket into the center drain, forever lost. Aoiyama, don’t be the pinball.
Kotoeko vs Shohozan – I guess they just had to have a misery match. Both already make-koshi, both of them fighting well below their abilities, and for Shohozan, the captaincy of the dreaded Juryo Barge. There are some who argue that such an honorific must go to Asanoyama given his standing as a former Ozeki. But as Shohozan is senpai, they can just keep quiet.
Tochinoshin vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma really does seem to have his sumo in good working order right now. That say 9 win over Endo was a thing of beauty. Today he’s got a much different opponent in Tochinoshin, who seems to be willing to endure quite a bit to try and save himself from demotion to Juryo. Going chest to chest won’t work, given the massive weight and strength difference, but please, for the love of sumo, do NOT henka this injured guy.
Ura vs Abi – Well, if a match could have neon details and streamers, this would be the one. What the hell is going to happen here? Really no good way to guess. Abi is going to attack at range, Ura going to go for grab and tug against anything left sticking out. If he can catch Ura with one of those big broadsides, it’s done and done for him, I would guess. Both are kachi-koshi, and fighting for rank.
Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – Both men like a big opening move, lots of forward power transmitted through their arms. It may come down to who connects first, and my bet would be Chiyotairyu. They have a 20 match history that narrowly favors the thunder-god, Chiyotairyu, at 11-9.
Shimanoumi vs Yutakayama – Must be a “gimme” match for Shimanoumi, or a make-koshi punctuation mark for Yutakayama. I don’t see Yutakayama winning today, so this will be loss number 8 should to happen that way.
Tobizaru vs Hoshoryu – Back to the high interest match set, this one may throw quite a few sparks. I am certain that Hoshoryu has had quite enough of losing matches that he has won in the past. Today it’s him against that flying monkey fellow, who is ripe for a big leg trip and face full of clay. Both are in the funnel, and the best funnel outcome would be a Hoshoryu win.
Takarafuji vs Takanosho – Fresh off of giving Mitakeumi the business, Takarafuji is going against Takanosho for the taka-battle of the day. While it would be great to see Takarafuji win this one, signs are that he is going to be the underdog in this match. Takanosho is 2 matches away from kachi-koshi, and 4 of the last 5.
Okinoumi vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage has proven a challenge for Okinoumi, beating him in both of their prior matches. At 3-7, the lead Onami brother needs every win he can find, and I am sure he is pushing to make it 3 in a row over Okinoumi today.
Daieisho vs Onosho – Both of these mega-thrust rikishi are staring a make-koshi down in act 3, the question is “when”. I think it comes down to who in this match will lose footing first, and my money is on Onosho. A loss today for Daieisho, and he is make-koshi.
Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama wins today, or picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi. Myogiryu has lost 7 in a row, and I think he won’t be able to overcome Kiribayama’s 2-0 career advantage.
Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – A rivalry that goes back tp 2015, these two have 26 prior matches between them, with Takayasu holding a 19-7 advantage. Its been all Takayasu for the last couple of years, so we may see 2 losses in a row for Mitakeumi, to officially mark his traditional week 2 fade. And what is sumo without traditions? Just a couple of fat guys in underpants having a fight.
Endo vs Takakeisho – Endo will go for the belt early. If he gets there, it’s his to win. Takakeisho needs to bounce back after that suprise day 10 loss to Meisei. Hit hard, hit center mass, and don’t let Endo get his hands near your waist.
Shodai vs Meisei – Meisei will try to make it 2 ozeki scalps in a row, if he can overcome whatever random sumo Shodai pulls out today. With a 7-1 career record, Shodai has a clear advantage, but he’s really hit or miss right now. A Shodai win lifts him out of the funnel, but at this point I would rather see him remain.
Terunofuji vs Ichinojo – I am looking for Ichinojo to go soft early, not wanting to risk a back injury against Terufnofuji’s big sumo today. Once the Yokozuna sets up his grip, I don’t see The Boulder offering a lot of resistance past the initial pressure.