With Nakabi behind us, its on to week two, and the march to the yusho. We have 2 days left in act 2, and I am a bit surprised and maybe relieved that it seems the schedulers are no running a “Darwin’s Funnel” this time. they are letting things unfold a bit more naturally. Part of it is that they don’t have a huge cadre of 4-4 rikishi to work with. I am sure there will be a handful of 7-7 rikishi on day 15, and there will be a Darwin match or two.
But the focus seems to be on what could be a barn-burner of a yusho race. As stated before, I expect someone to put dirt on Takayasu in the next 5 days, and that will open up chances for all 3 of the chasers, each of whom are fighting well enough to rack up the numbers into week 2. But when push comes to shove, and the pressure is on, it’s Mitakeumi who has the prior yusho race experience, and would be my favorite to try and take the lead in the final days.
I really like this set, everyone is strong, healthy and capable. Lets the the brawl started, please!
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Wakatakakage, Kotonowaka
Chasers: Takakeisho, Abi
7 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Nishikigi vs Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi visits from Juryo today to face Nishikigi. Unlike the prior Juryo visitors, Hidenoumi is not coming for his day in the top division with a strong record. At 4-4, a win today will make a big difference for him. He has a 5-3 career advantage over Nishikigi, so he has a fair chance.
Ichiyamamoto vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has lost 5 in a row. Is he injured? I would guess yes. If so, he’s going to be an easy mark for Ichiyamamoto, who has a matching 3-5 record to start day 9.
Kotoshoho vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is really surprising me right now. He started Haru looking ready for a sunset ride down to Juryo. But I don’t think you get to be Ozeki without a lot of fighting spirit in your soul. He has brawled his way to 5-3 starting day 9, and he’s going to take on Kotoshoho today, which I think he will likely win.
Chiyomaru vs Kotokuzan – First ever match between these two, they come in with matching 4-4 records. After a slow start of 4 straight losses, Chiyomaru rallied with 4 straight wins. Kotokuzan has been hit or miss, but seems to finally found his sumo during the middle weekend.
Akua vs Chiyotairyu – Both of these guys need to get their sumo in order. Both of them are fighting well below their peak capabilities, and I am going to assign that to injuries. Chiyotairyu missed out on a great opportunity to go to 4-4 on day 8, and it came down to poor timing on his tachiai. Maybe today he can make it work.
Kotoeko vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has now racked up 3 straight losses, maybe yet another injury or problem with his lower body? Although he has a 10-6 career advantage over Kotoeko, Kotoeko is fighting much better right now, and I would give him a clear and distinct advantage today.
Terutsuyoshi vs Sadanoumi – Why I would love to see Sadanoumi rally and snatch a kachi-koshi in week 2, he’s just not moving well, and his attacks are lacking sufficient power to really dominate his matches at his rank. So now he is fighting lower ranked rikishi, and it is still not going well. He has a 4-1 career advantage over Terutsuyoshi, so maybe today will be his day.
Chiyoshoma vs Shimanoumi – Yotsu form from Chiyoshoma vs a preferred oshi style from Shimanoumi. I have noted that Chiyoshoma tends to get inside and get at least a hand hold. This may prevent Shimanoumi from fighting his preferred format. Chiyoshoma also holds a 7-2 career advantage.
Myogiryu vs Okinoumi – A battle of the damaged here, both of them on a clear make-koshi run, with Okinoumi facing that option today should he lose. They have a 31 match career history, with an even 15-16 balance.
Takayasu vs Aoiyama – I would rather see Takayasu starting to fight some of the other leaders, rather than the flagging Aoiyama. Aoiyama typically fights much better than this in Osaka, but something has him unable to get out of second gear. So I expect that Takayasu is going dominate today.
Tobizaru vs Kotonowaka – Tobizaru has lost 2 of his last 3, and he is at the unlucky 4-4 score. He normally does not do so well against Kotonowaka, but right now Kotonowaka is fighting in some of his best form ever. So I am going to look for Kotonowaka to dominate this match, and it will be up to Tobizaru to come up with something solid to deliver a challenge. A Kotonowaka win today will be 8, and a most welcome kachi-koshi for Haru.
Hokutofuji vs Wakamotoharu – There is a substantial mass difference in this first ever meet up. Wakamotoharu will want to go for the belt, but I don’t know if he will even get that far. Hokutofuji tends to delivery strong hits in the tachiai, and I will expect him to block Wakamotoharu’s opening combo.
Kiribayama vs Meisei – A loss today, and it’s make-koshi for Meisei. I am of the opinion that he will be back to good form in May, so hopefully he can find a few more white stars before Sunday.
Onosho vs Ura – Well, this should be interesting. A rikishi with balance issues (Onosho) vs the champion of grab and tug sumo. I expect Onosho to depart from his usual “guns blazing” opening and instead be quite defensive in an attempt to keep Ura’s sumo in check. A loss today would be make-koshi for Ura, and frankly I think he would be well served to regroup further down the banzuke for a couple of tournaments.
Takanosho vs Daieisho – At least Takanosho can be reasonable sure he will get to at least try some of his oshi-zumo today. He is the last of the group in the “one loss to make-koshi” crowd, and I would not be surprised to see him rally today and stave off an 8th loss for several days.
Takarafuji vs Abi – Yeah, this match, a least for this basho, is going to be terribly one sited, in my estimation. Takarafuji has not been able to set up his defensive sumo at all this month. When he can execute that well, he can shut down Abi and take him apart a piece at a time.
Wakatakakage vs Ichinojo – Normally, this would be considered a near automatic advantage for Wakatakakage, given how well he is fighting. But I really am enjoying the more patient, willing to use his enormity version of Ichinojo. I might guess that possibly Wakatakakage might make him a bit hasty given the intensity of Wakatakakage’s sumo, so I will be hoping that the Bolder stays calm, confident and huge throughout this match. A Wakatakakage win is his kachi-koshi for Osaka.
Endo vs Takakeisho – it will come down to the tachiai, if Endo can land a grip, he should be able to take the match. If it gets to the second step and Endo is still reaching for something to hang on to, it’s a fast trip over the bales and one win closer to clearing kadoban for Takakeisho.
Shodai vs Hoshoryu – Shodai has never beaten Hoshoryu. Shodai, in spite of his unexpected win on day 8, is still trying to compete in spite of lingering COVID symptoms. I predict that Hoshoryu will find win number 5 today.
Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – 29 career matches between these two, and it favors Mitakeumi 28-3. With Tamawashi clutching his side at the end of his day 8 match against Meisei, it might be that he has re-injured his ribs, and may be operating at reduced ferocity today. A win today is kachi-koshi for the shin-Ozeki.