Welcome to Nakabi! The middle day of the basho. This is a wonderful period where it’s finally time to start looking at the yusho race, and start speculating on who is going to go the distance. The leader board is below, but first, some commentary.
I am impressed with Mitakeumi, but I think the chances of him going zensho are quite slim. His best score ever is 13-2 which he racked up in front of his home town crowd in Nagoya for his first yusho. A repeat of that 13-2 would be damn impressive, and likely give him an Ozeki nod. He would need to take 6 of the remaining 8 matches to hit that mark. A tough route indeed.
I expect Yokozuna Terunofuji to continue to be in the hunt. He is one loss behind, and if you share the notion that someone (maybe even Terunofuji) will put dirt on the Original Tadpole, then we have to recognize that the Kaiju is still very much in play for the cup. But what about Abi? I think he’s strong, maybe even 10-5 strong, but the second week is where the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan separates the champions from the contenders. Both Mitakeumi and Terunofuji have multiple prior yusho, and I think that will make all the difference in the world.
Last, where would I be if I don’t mention Darwin’s funnel. It looks to me, the funnel is back on for Hatsu. 24 rikishi with 4-3 or 3-4 records going into day 8. That is a ridiculous number of men who are straddling the make/kachi-koshi line. As long as the scheduler just have them fight each other, they can funnel them toward an 7-7 finish at the end of day 14, and have a roster full of Darwin matches. I am going to watch this unfold over the next week with anticipation.
Hunt Group: Terunofuji, Abi
Chasers: Tamawashi, Onosho, Takarafuji, Kotonowaka, Kotoeko
8 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Kotoshoho vs Tsurugisho – Kotoshoho comes to visit today from Juryo to fill the banzuke gap, and he comes packing a solid 6-1 record. With few of the upper Juryo rikishi looking promotable right now, we may find Kotoshoho back in the top division in Osaka. Tsurugisho is a bit of a mystery, as he has looked pretty crummy in week 1, but seems to have found some way to execute some sumo. He won their only prior match.
Kotonowaka vs Aoiyama – Like Tsurugisho, Aoiyama is not quite ready for the Juryo barge, and may have a spark of sumo left in him after all. In good health, he should send Kotonowaka airborne with a blast from the V-Twin, but Aoiyama does not have that kind of power right now. He has a 1-2 career gap against Kotonowaka, and I am not going to be surprised if Kotonowaka takes this one.
Oho vs Ichiyamamoto – Oho has lost 3 of his last 4, and I would put him squarely in slump territory. Ichiyamamoto is doing only slightly better, and day 8 is where stamina starts to play an increasing role in the daily matches, as the constant grind of high intensity competition start taxing the rikishi. Both of them are 4-3, so this is a funnel match.
Kaisei vs Yutakayama – Another funnel match, I am looking for Yutakayama to win this one. Kaisei has found himself with an opponent to the side or behind him far too many times this basho. Dare we hope for another resounding tushie-o-tochi from the Brazilian?
Ishiura vs Wakamotoharu – Another funnel match as 4-3 Ishiura goes against 3-4 Wakamotoharu. Ishiura has a 2-0 career advantage, and has generally been fighting pretty well for a Maegashira 12. This is their first ever match in the top division, their prior contests were both in Juryo, with the most recent being March of last year.
Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko showing some fighting form by hitting 5-2, so they put him up against speed rikishi Sadanoumi. It will come down to the second step, and if we see a Sadanoumi hit-and move or a Kotoeko grab and tuck. My money is on Kotoeko this time, and I think I would love to see some his tiny gaburi-yori.
Tochinoshin vs Terutsuyoshi – A pair of 3-4 rikishi compete to see who gets to stay in the funnel, with the winner getting the nod to continue the grind toward Darwin. Terutsuyoshi has been hit or miss this January, and I am not sure if it’s because he is trying to expand his sumo, or if he’s just a hot mess right now. If we get a Tochinoshin left hand outside grip, Terutsuyoshi is small enough at 114kg for what’s left of Tochinoshin’s legs to manage a sky-crane.
Myogiryu vs Chiyotairyu – I would love to hype this match, but Chiyotairyu just does not seem to have it in him. They have a tied 9-9 career record, but that assumes a full power Chiyotairyu, which I am going to assume he won’t be today.
Chiyomaru vs Akua – Speaking of wreckage, we have Akua. Much as I want him to do well, he just can’t put it together this January and he’s getting pantsed evert day. Maybe his sumo just isn’t competitive at Maegashira 10 like it is at Maegashira 15 or Juryo 3. We have not seen superior Chiyomaru agility in a couple of days, so maybe a bit of break dancing today, sir?
Shimanoumi vs Takarafuji – You know what would make me happy? To see Takarafuji get his kachi-koshi early. With 5 wins right now, he is on course to hit his 8 well before day 15, if he does not twist and ankle or some other mishap. Shimanoumi, try as he might, is funnel-fodder to be certain. He was in Darwin matches at least twice in the last year, so he may be comfortable there.
Hoshoryu vs Abi – First ever match, and I am going to guess that Hoshoryu may not quite know what to do with Abi-zumo. So maybe we are going to see a rampaging double arm attack toss young Hoshoryu about before he drops to the clay or rockets over the East side.
Onosho vs Chiyonokuni – One of these days, Chiyonokuni is going to get his first win of the Hatsu basho. Will it be today? Not unless he can match Onosho’s massive forward pressure, which we know is exactly where Chiyonokuni struggles.
Tobizaru vs Chiyoshoma – A pair of high agility, high maneuverability rikishi who may or may not have shenanigans in the tachiai? Dare we pray for the coveted double flying henka? Unlikely, but something that would be magical if it could take place. Tobizaru holds a 5-1 career advantage.
Tamawashi vs Hokutofuji – Both of these guys rely on heavy broadside thrusting as their primary attack mode. Hokutofuji has incredible lower body stability, and Tamawashi has what I can only call “unstoppable drive”. I think advantage will go to whomever gets their hands inside first.
Wakatakakage vs Ichinojo – I think most fans prefer the rampaging, pony tossing Ichinojo. But we are not seeing him this basho. I think we do get the “Boulder” this January, and an enormous Ichinojo is a formidable Ichinojo. Stay patient, stay put, and don’t fall for any of Wakatakakage’s invitations to pull.
Meisei vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama is better than his 1-6 score lets on. But right now he’s going to be hard pressed to limit his make-koshi to 7-8 given that he starts day 8 at 1-6. Meisei is part of the funnel group, and a win today would center him in the funnel at 4-4.
Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – Yusho race leader up against mega-thruster Daieisho. If Daieisho connects and gets an open route, he is more than capable of moving Mitakeumi around at great speed, putting the first 3 rows of fans at significant risk. The Original Tadpole is going to need to think about another denshamichi session to put Daieisho away before he can get started. A win today is kachi-koshi for Mitakeumi.
Ura vs Takanosho – I love watching Ura fight, even when he loses. He runs his own sumo, and it’s distinct from the rest of the top division, and its typically quite entertaining. This is his first match ever against onigiri-kun, and a Takanosho loss today would shove both of them into the middle of the funnel group, which is where they belongs right now.
Endo vs Shodai – Oh why!? Two guys who are fighting like it’s spring break and they are perpetually hung over. Hell if I know which one of them is going to have the edge today. I would love to see Shodai snap out of whatever is limiting him right now, but its probably an injury, and he is probably doing the best he can. Same for Endo, but a Shodai win would keep him in the funnel group.
Terunofuji vs Okinoumi – Terunofuji should be able to dominate this match. The concern being that Okinoumi can, on any given day, beat any rikishi if he gets the right set up. This is always one of the reasons why he’s great to follow, as he can have a crummy basho, but be able to put an Ozeki on the clay in the midst of a make-koshi run. I hope Terunofuji locks in his stance and his balance early before Okinoumi can get on offense.