Takayasu down, and its going to be a brawl to the end, I predict. As he and his day 11 Wakatakakage share the yusho lead now, they will not fight again unless they are tied at the end of day 15. That’s a pretty dramatic scenario, and it would be devilishly tough to construct. They would need to ensure that Takayasu and Wakatakakage have the same win/loss record over the next 4 days. Or they may just throw them both into the mill and let the scores sort themselves out.
We have 6 rikishi that could get their 8th win today, so we may mint a fair number of kachi-koshi on day 12. This list includes: Ichinojo, Kiribayama, Endo, Wakamotoharu, Kotoeko, and Nishikigi
Last and certainly not least, the injured Chiyonokuni returns to try and squeeze out a couple more wins, hoping to save his position in the top division.
With Takayasu’s first loss, the yusho race has opened up, and we now have a more complex situation heading into the final weekend. Who is that at the back, who has a shot at the hardware… Tochinoshin?
Leaders: Takayasu, Wakatakakage
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Kotonowaka
Chasers: Takakeisho, Tochinoshin
4 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Akua vs Azumaryu – Azumaryu is up from Juryo, with his kachi-koshi secured, and looking to run up the score to make the case to re-ascend to the top division in the Natsu banzuke. He has a 4-1 career advantage over Akua, who is already make-koshi, and likely headed for Juryo.
Kotoeko vs Chiyonokuni – Welcome back, Chiyonokuni! You can start by trying to prevent Kotoeko from getting his 8th win. While Chiyonokuni has a 4-2 career advantage, he is likely in no condition to slow down or stop Kotoeko from running amok today and bagging his kachi-koshi.
Kagayaki vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu still has hope of a kachi-koshi, and it may come at Kagayaki’s expense. With a 4-7 record, and once again looking vague and under powered, Kagayaki is a natural to return to Juryo for another tune up. His prior top division finish was 5-10, and earned him the captaincy of the Juryo barge at the end of Kyushu.
Myogiryu vs Kotokuzan – Maybe a bit of a funnel match. Both are 5-6, the winner will be 6-6 and on course for day 15 Darwin, but it’s clear to me that the schedulers are not hitting it too hard this time. Or are they?
Yutakayama vs Terutsuyoshi – Ok a pair of 6-5, loser goes to the magic 6-6 that the Darwin acolytes are looking for. They have an even 5-5 career record, and both are fighting about 15% below their best this basho. This is an even fight, and should be of significant interest.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoshoho – Well, maybe there is something to this Darwin stuff. Both of these are 6-5 as well, and having them face each other optimizes for another 6-6 score at the end of today. Kotoshoho has a 2-0 career record over Shimanoumi.
Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – A battle of the mega-fauna, with close to 400 kg of rikishi on the clay, these super-heavies have a lot of force when they are in motion, and both are agile and love to move around in a fight. If Chiyomaru loses, is 8 losses and make-koshi for him.
Tobizaru vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is already kachi-koshi, but seeing as he has no idea just how banged up he is going to be in May, he wants as much safety rank cushion as he can manage. So expect him to run up the score. Will we get to see him left Tobizaru today?
Chiyoshoma vs Nishikigi – Once again having some fun with numbers then… We have 4-7 Chiyoshoma vs 7-4 Nishikigi. If Nishikigi wins, They will have a 7-4 career record, favoring Chiyoshoma. I do expect Chiyoshoma to pick up his 8th loss today, and be make-koshi.
Ichiyamamoto vs Okinoumi – First ever match between these two, and if Okinoumi can find his 4th win today, it will be an 8th loss and make-kishi for Ichiyamamoto. Not bad motivation.
Kiribayama vs Hokutofuji – This one has big potential to be a crowd pleaser. Both of them have done pretty well this March, with Hokutofuji winning 3 of the last 4. I predict good motion, lots of strong oshi/tsuki moves, and maybe someone with a bloody nose in this match today. A Kiribayama win is kachi-koshi for him.
Wakamotoharu vs Endo – Wakamotoharu moving up to take on Endo for the first time is a bit of a flex. I really like Wakamotoharu’s yotsu mechanics this tournament, and I think it may be a bit early to see if he can overcome Endo’s technical brilliance. Winner today gets kachi-koshi.
Takarafuji vs Meisei – A battle of the make-koshi, these fights make sure that none of the rikishi who are fighting to stay out of the Darwin funnel from picking up an easy escape win. It’s tough to say if anyone has an advantage going into this match, as both are banged up, and have horrible scores coming into day 12.
Daieisho vs Tamawashi – Back to the funnel matches, this pair come in at 5-6, and the winner gets to advance to the center line at 6-6. I honestly think Tamawashi is doing slightly better this basho, and his day 11 victory using Ura as a bowling ball underscores that point.
Sadanoumi vs Ura – Speaking of Tamawashi’s favorite projectile… He has a chance to pick up just his second win of the entire tournament today. Wow is he in having a bad basho. He has faced Sadanoumi 3 times and won them all. If he loses today, well, best not watch his matches for the rest of the basho and hope for May.
Takanosho vs Ishiura – I think Ishiura’s day 11 match was all about being rusty again, coming back into the basho after consecutive days of trying to recuperate from a pinched nerve, and finding out he’s not quite sharp enough for honbasho competition. With any luck he worked out with “The Boss” since then, and will fight closer to his capabilities today. He has an even 3-3 record against Takanosho on the clay, and I would love to see him pick up another win at least.
Onosho vs Hoshoryu – Back to the funnel, a pair of 5-6 rikishi fight to see who can join the likely crowd at 6-6. I like Hoshoryu’s chances here, even though the 3-2 career record slightly favors Onosho. Hoshoryu is fighting better, and fighitng harder opponents as a Komusubi.
Wakatakakage vs Kotonowaka – One way to clean up the leaderboard, have the leaders fight the hunt group, that is the plan of the day, and we get Wakatakakage bringing his 3-0 career record against Kotonowaka to the dohyo for day 12’s kanban matches. A Kotonowaka win is not likely, but would completely blast the doors off of the yusho race, so I am hoping to see a surprise over night.
Ichinojo vs Abi – An Ichinojo win against Abi-zumo today would be kachi-koshi for the Boulder, and well deserved. He has shown better sumo more constantly than he has in recent memory. He only needs 1 win out of the last 4 matches, so I think his 8 is a safe bet. Abi seems to have run out of mojo following the middle weekend, and has lost the last 3 in a row.
Shodai vs Takakeisho – A high stakes Ozeki fight. Shodai only needs 2 more wins in the last 4 days to clear kadoban, but I fear that he will be 7-7 on the final day, and end up fighting for his rank. He has a 5-10 deficit against Takakeisho, and I don’t think he’s going to be favored in any way today.
Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – The big battle of the day, Takayasu needs to defend his spot at the top of the leaderboard. Mitakeumi needs to give him a second consecutive black star to put himself in closer contention for the cup. Takayasu comes in with a 19-8 career advantage, Mitakeumi comes in with consistent execution of some of the best sumo of his career. Mitakeumi’s best opportunity will be within the first 5 seconds, after that I am going to guess it may devolve into a wild and chaotic chase across the clay with both men trying to knock the other off balance.