We enter the middle weekend, and it’s time to start thinking about the yusho race. I will start with my pre-basho favorite, Yokozuna Terunofuji. He increasingly seems to be favoring / keeping pressure away from his left leg, and I have to consider the possibility that he may go kyujo should he lose again today. His entire career now as Yokozuna will be governed by how long he can keep those knees in some level or repair that allows him to win 10 matches every 2 months. I admire his fighting spirit and his almost inhuman drive to get him back to this spot. But fans and those who cheer him on have to know that it’s only going to be for a short while.
But then if we look at the score, we see Mitakeumi and Abi in the 6-0 column. Mitakeumi has 2 prior yusho, and Abi has had a jun-yusho in the top division. Long time sumo fans like to argue if his narrow range of technique is a blessing or a curse. I think that for a rank and file rikishi (where he is right now), its a potent and at times overwhelming weapon.
For Mitakeumi, he is once again trying to rack up 33 wins over 3 tournaments to make a bid to become Ozeki. He would need 13 this tournament, which is a pretty tall order. The only time he reached 13 before was his first yusho at Nagoya 2018. Plausible, but a long shot. In fact, a Terunofuji kyujo combined with Takakeisho already sitting out the rest of Hatsu might be his green light to run up the score. If that will count with the NSK is anyone’s guess.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Kotoeko vs Nishikigi – Dear Nishikigi comes to visit the top division. A Juryo 2, with a 3-3 record, its not beyond reason to think that he might be able to fight his way back into Makuuchi. I for one think if he does, he may find himself a short stay. Kotoeko seems to have found his sumo somewhere. Maybe he left it in a basket by the Sumida river, and that explains why he did not have it in Kyushu. So think that he will likely dominate today.
Aoiyama vs Kaisei – I have a soft, rubbery spot in my heart for these battle of the mega-fauna. Any time the combined weight of the combatants approaches 400kg, I always perk up. Aoiyama was among the bunch that suddenly improved on day 6, and I would like to know if he can keep it rolling. Of course, fans around the world want to see Kaisei defeat another opponent with his butt. Talk about a boutique kimarate!
Kotonowaka vs Oho – Oho, he sounds like a snack cake, fights like a Maegashira. He’s got Kotonowaka today, who I must admit sounds like a laundry detergent. I always take the snack cake over the soap, but what do I know. Both are 4-2, both are fighting well, and I think we are going to see a good match here today.
Wakamotoharu vs Yutakayama – Wakamotoharu had a strong start, but now seems to be sputtering badly. It is indeed tough to hit and hold in the top division, and it’s not too late for Wakamotoharu to turn things around. But 4 losses is a pretty stiff black star load to overcome if you want to hit your 8. Yutakayama won their only prior match, and I think he has a better than equal chance to take the head-to-head today.
Chiyomaru vs Tsurugisho – Oh man, another battle of mega-fauna. This time its going to be, I would guess, some Chiyomaru running-around crazy sumo. The one thing that stops that would be Tsurugisho capturing him early in the match. The problem with that is Tsurugisho is struggling to maintain any kind of forward pressure, or even to be able to consistently put up a solid fight. His one advantage is a 10-6 career advantage over Chiyomaru.
Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s day 6 against Ishiura was a refreshing reminder of what kind of sumo Chiyotairyu like to employ. Fast, decisive, overwhelming. It had been absent for the opening 4 days of Hatsu, but may be back for a limited time. He has never faced Ichiyamamoto, so they may surprise each other with random acts of sumo.
Ishiura vs Akua – Akua got his first win on day 6, and just maybe he can start to turn things around. His day 7 opponent, Ishiura, is no better than median with an unremarkable 3-3 record. Both of them like a good throw, so maybe we can get a mutual pinwheel effect from the two of them trying to toss the other one.
Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – I look at Tochinoshin’s M15w rank, I look at his 2-4 score, and I worry this may be the exit ramp for him unless he can somehow overcome the limitations of his injuries. He lost Ozeki 2 years ago, and has been knocking around the Maegashira ranks since then. Given how much that knee must hurt most days, it’s a remarkable testament to this guy’s drive that he continues to hold rank in Makuuchi.
Terutsuyoshi vs Shimanoumi – Terutsuyoshi can employ some really nice sumo when he sets aside his ashitori fetish. Sure it’s flashy and it’s fun, but everyone is looking for you to use it, and so it has a lower chance of success. Shimanoumi holds a 9-4 career advantage over Terutsuyoshi, so he may not even get more than 3 steps past his big salt throw.
Sadanoumi vs Tobizaru – Lets stick a high energy, even match right in the middle of the day! Two fast moving, fast hitting, highly maneuverable rikishi, who are both in the middle of the pack at 3-3. Also, the have split their only 2 prior matches. That’s what we have today. Everybody hold on tight…
Hoshoryu vs Chiyonokuni – One of these days, Chiyonokuni is going to win his first match of the tournament. Could happen any time (checks calendar). Any… time (checks DVR set to NHK). Almost… any… time.
Takarafuji vs Chiyoshoma – It must be some kind of special love for the middle weekend, as here we have another high interest match. Chiyoshoma is only at 3-3, but when he is able to execute, his sumo can be a joy to watch. He’s going to take on Takarafuji, who is looking better right now than he has in a few tournaments. I give a light edge to Takarafuji, but its likely to be a see-saw battle.
Onosho vs Abi – Both of them are big thrusters, and both of them can deliver a lot of force. I am going to assume that Abi connects first, and I am eager to see if Onosho attempt to counter, or just does his best weebil mode. I could see Onosho rolling a fair distance if Abi can connect in just the right spot.
Ura vs Hokutofuji – These two have been fighting since their earliest days in sumo. I mean 2015 when they are both in Jonikuchi. For the most part, Ura has always had a way to win over Hokutofuji. I think it’s mostly because Ura loves to grab any unsecured body part and give it a solid tug. Hotutofuji is all about flailing body parts, so its a match made in heaven.
Ichinojo vs Kiribayama – To quote Futurama’s own Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8, “Why doesn’t Ichinojo just eat the smaller rikishi?” Primitive, violent, but correct. Maybe he can start today.
Wakatakakage vs Daieisho – Both of these guys are 2-4, and seem to maybe bit a bit outside the rank that their current health can support. So I would not be surprised to see both of them make-koshi a week from today. But while we are at day 7, lets enjoy the fight. If Daieisho can connect center mass first, it will likely go his way. Wakatakakage will look to get any kind of hand hold on Daieisho to maintain contact and shut down the thrusting attack.
Meisei vs Takanosho – Another of the 3-3 group, and they are both more or less somewhat stuck riding the middle path toward an even score right now. It’s going to take a significant effort for either of them to get 2 wins ahead of the middle. To my eye, Meisei is fighting better right now. Both have only won one of their last three.
Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Coming off a great day where Tamawashi put dirt on the lone Yokozuna, it’s time for him to dismantle another of the unbeaten corps. If he can drop Mitakeumi today (a tall order), it would possibly leave Abi as the sole leader for the yusho going into the middle day of the basho. I should point out that Mitakeumi holds a 25-3 career record against Tamawashi.
Okinoumi vs Shodai – You know its not good for Shodai when you have to think through who might be favored in this match. Normally, it would be Shodai all the way. But for whatever reason, he’s not really able to muster either his cartoon sumo, or his fabled “wall of daikon”. Robbed of both his primary techniques, he is left to flubber around the dohyo and hope for the best. Hell, I will say Okinoumi has the upper hand.
Terunofuji vs Endo – Terunofuji needs a bounce back win here. Endo has a number of way to disrupt someone’s offense when he gets into the mode where rather than trying to win himself, he works to prevent his opponent from winning. If we see that today, it might be a long, frustrating haul for Terunofuji.