We come at last to the final day of this final tournament of 2021. What a year it has been, and what a satisfying end to this tournament. Terunofuji has 4 of the 6 yusho for this year, with Hakuho taking his final cup in July in the heat of Nagoya, and Daieisho winning in January. He has completely dominated sumo this year and looks to continue into 2022. The last question we have around the yusho is – can Terunofuji have his first perfect yusho? A win today against Takakeisho and he will reach that goal. He has already won his first two tournaments since promotion, a very rarefied roster.
We have three Darwin matches today, with a total of 7 rikishi finishing the first 14 days at 7-7. Chiyomaru escapes the Darwin fight and instead will face Ura to meet his doom. On the times I was fortunate enough to attend senshuraku in person in Tokyo, there is a very celebratory and relaxed feeling. The fans are generally upbeat, the rikishi are usually looking forward to the end of the tournament, and in the days before COVID, its on to the stable and fan group parties following the last match. Hopefully one day soon, that tradition will return. The rikishi and the stables really need the engagement and donations from the fans.
The last thing to be decided is who is falling out of the top division, and why from Juryo might take their places. lksumo has been doing a great job of looking into that murky future, and I am eager for the banzuke on Christmas eve.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Tochinoshin vs Terutsuyoshi – A pair of 6-8 rikishi face off, to see who can get that 7th win. I am surprised and delighted that Tochinoshin was able to have this good of a record going into the final day. There was a time a week ago when I was thinking he was going to be headed to Juryo, possibly never to be seen in the top division again. Instead, he should be around for a bit longer, and if he can get his body a bit more healthy, may even have a big score given he will be fighting at the bottom of the banzuke in January.
Kotonowaka vs Kagayaki – This match will likely gauge how far down the banzuke Kagayaki will drop, and to conclude the derby for the most losses in 2021 between Kotoeko and Kagayaki. Ugly stuff.
Chiyotairyu vs Sadanoumi – One of the many “Hey, why not” matches on day 15 where the rikishi need to fight someone, and the make/kachi koshi are already decided. I like Sadanoumi in this one, just because he has been fast and effective this November.
Chiyonokuni vs Hidenoumi – Matching 8-6 records, I think one may be to help gauge how far up the banzuke Chiyonokuni will rise. A 9th win will see him a bit above the midpoint, which I worry might be a tough rank for him.
Aoiyama vs Akua – Can Aoiyama find one more win before the curtain closes on Kyushu? He has really been struggling in spite of being able to use “his brand of sumo” frequently this tournament. Akua is already kachi-koshi, and has been fighting well, so I don’t expect Aoiyama to be successful today.
Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – Kotoeko is going to turn in at least 11 losses this basho, and I think he really needs to recover in Juryo. He’s Maegashira 8, so he’s not likely to drop all the way out of the top division, but he’s had two double digit make-koshi tournaments this year. Clearly he’s hurt.
Hokutofuji vs Chiyoshoma – I have a lot of interest in this match. Hokutofuji lost the last 2 out of 3, and he will face a much more genki Chiyoshoma that I can ever recall seeing. This guy always had a fair amount of potential, but has only recently decided to put it work. Hokutofuji is a tough competitor, and can attack using multiple forms. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is all about rank.
Ura vs Chiyomaru – Well, someone had to go up against Ura today. May as well be the 7-7 Chiyomaru, who is large and round, and rolls very well. I am hoping for another ashitori today to close out the cornucopia of kimarite from Ura this tournament.
Shimanoumi vs Shohozan – I would love to see Shohozan finish with a win, but given that Shimanoumi has a 5-1 career advantage, I just don’t see it happening. Its an open question on if he will go back to Juryo, or pull the lever on retirement and take up a position as an elder in the association.
Kaisei vs Endo – First Darwin match, and its likely to be “The Endo Show” today. Endo is fighting much better this November than Kaisei is, and I would expect him to land a grip early, and roll Kaisei out or down before the 4th step.
Takarafuji vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu has struggled this tournament. He came in with more mass, and as we have seen young rikishi bulk up, it usually takes them a tournament or two to get adjusted to their new size, so this is likely an evolutionary period for him, and we may see a much more effective Hoshoryu in January. Takarafuji seems to be lacking his ability to hold ground right now, and that’s likely due to some injury.
Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Wow, Myogiryu at 2-12, that’s a brutal score that could be 2-13 by the end of today. He and Okinoumi have a 30 match career record, and under normal conditions it might be a big fight. But clearly Myogiryu is not up to par, and it’s likely going to be win #7 for Okinoumi.
Abi vs Takanosho – This one bay be about deciding ordering and position in the ranks for January. I will be surprised if they don’t give Abi a special prize, or even two, this basho. He really over-performed. Takanosho has likewise hit double digits. Takanosho has never taken a match from Abi, and I hope he has a plan to shut down Abi-zumo before he loses any offensive position he might claim.
Onosho vs Takayasu – Two rikishi I really like, both with miserable 5-9 scores. One of them is going to hit double digit losses, and I am worried it will be Takayasu. I am not sure what is damaged in that big hairy body, but I hope he can get it mended in time for January.
Tobizaru vs Wakatakakage – Second Darwin match, its a pair of high mobility fighters looking to rip kachi-koshi from the other man’s hide. They have an even 4-4 record, so I expect this one to be fast, fierce and brutal.
Daieisho vs Ishiura – This one is a bit of a puzzler, M1 Daieisho vs M12 Ishiura in the final Darwin match. I don’t give Ishiura much of a chance in this one, as Daieisho is out of his normal range of opponent. Winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.
Tamawashi vs Kiribayama – It seems that Tamawashi has not been able to win against Kiribayama in any of his previous 3 tries. I like his chances today, as Kiribayama comes in with 5-9 score to mirror Tamawashi’s 9-5.
Ichinojo vs Meisei – Folks had a lot of hope for Ichinojo this basho, he was in the named ranks, he had some early matches that showed real fire, and everyone was looking for him to hold rank. But in reality he found himself on the losing end of a few too many matches, and is starting at the possibility of a double digit make-koshi if he loses his match with Meisei today.
Shodai vs Mitakeumi – These two wide-bodies have 25 previous matches, and they balance out 12-13. Thankfully Shodai is not in the Darwin group, but could reach double digits if he can best Mitakeumi today. Of course Mitakeumi is looking for an 11th win to give his Ozeki run a solid push.
Terunofuji vs Takakeisho – This will decide if Terunofuji can finish with a perfect 15-0 yusho for the first time in his career. He has an even record against Takakeisho, who can give the Yokozuna a good fight as long as he does not get too eager and try to pull Terunofuji down.