We enter the final weekend of the basho, and its time to kick off the closer to the nearly non-existent yusho race. The job at hand – put dirt on Takanosho. The candidates for the task are Wakatakakage, Ura, and maybe
Yokozuna Terunofuji Kiribayama or Sadanoumi, as Takanosho has already fought and defeated Terunofuji, and he’s faced all other san’yaku opponents except Takakeisho, who is in the same stable [lksumo]. Can Onigiri-kun survive without picking up at least 1 loss? Would be a great story if it happens, but count on him getting at least one more loss.
At the end of today, at least one Ozeki will be kadoban, and we may face a situation where all 3 of them are kadoban at the start of Nagoya in July. Please don’t get me started on Shodai. But I suspect that just maybe they have decided to see if they can get all 3 of these guys kadoban. Rather than a Darwin match, for them it might be a Darwin basho. I admit to a certain sick fascination with this approach, and maybe its worth a try, brutal as it may be.
I am thinking that either Wakatakakage gives Takanosho his 3rd loss today, or Ura will give him that loss tomorrow or day 15. He may also face Sadanoumi. He has already beaten Terunofuji.
Chasers: Terunofuji, Ura, Sadanoumi
3 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 13
Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – If at first you do not succeed… After Chiyotairyu’s lame ass henka handed Kagayaki a win, they bring Hidenoumi (7-5) up to face 5-7 Kagayaki. The schedulers love these make-kachi-koshi matches. Furthermore, a win today would pretty much punch Hidenoumi’s return ticket to the top division.
Myogiryu vs Oho – First ever match between these two. They are both at 5-7, and thus the loser will be make-koshi for Natsu. The only way either of them can escape make-koshi now is to win their remaining 3 matches, passing through the funnel and enduring a day 15 Darwin match. Golly.
Midorifuji vs Nishikigi – Prime funnel match with both rikishi at 6-6. The trick is to give both of these men one win and one loss over the next two days and deliver them as 7-7 Darwin candidates on day 15. These two are pretty evenly matched in terms of capabilities, with Midorifuji having the agility advantage, and Nishikigi having the size advantage.
Okinoumi vs Kotokuzan – First ever match between these two. This is a chance for 6-6 Okinoumi to pick up a win from 2-10 Kotokuzan, who is destined to drop far down the banzuke for Nagoya.
Kotoshoho vs Meisei – Back to prime funnel competition. Both are 6-6, and both will be matched to ensure 1 win and 1 loss over the next two days. Kotoshoho took their only prior match in September of 2020.
Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Chiyoshoma (5-7) is hobbling before and after his daily matches, and that ankle remains taped. So in my mind its just a question of when he’s going to get his 8th loss. He has a dead even 5-5 record against already make-koshi Terutsuyoshi (4-8), who is at this point looking to pick up wins to cushion his fall down the banzuke for July.
Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama is already kachi-koshi at 8-4, and he’s lined up against 7-5 Shimanoumi, with Shimanoumi looking for his 8th win. Like most of the matches today, their career record is quite even, with Shimanoumi having a slight 4-3 edge. While it may be a slight advantage for Shimanoumi, if Aoiyama fights like he did on day 12, Shimanoumi is going to be exiting in a hurry.
Yutakayama vs Kotoeko – Both are 5-7, loser is make-koshi. You can think of this match as a mini Darwin match, with both men having fought pretty well this tournament, but I think Yutakayama is somewhat more injured right now. I expect Kotoeko to want to go chest to chest, and Yutakayama wanting to use hit-and-move oshi zumo.
Azumaryu vs Wakamotoharu – Another mini Darwin match, its 5-7 Azumaryu against 7-5 Wakamotoharu. If Wakamotoharu wins, he gets kachi-koshi, and Azumaryu a make-koshi. I think if Wakamotoharu can remain calm, lock up Azumaryu and wait him out in the center of the dohyo, he will probably take this match, and a winning record for May.
Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – I am surprised that we get to the final weekend, and Tamawashi is in the middle of the funnel at 6-6, after being part of the leader group at one point. But Tamawashi has lost the last 4 matches, and 5 of the last 6. Now he is up against 7-5 Chiyotairyu, who needs a win today to reach his 8. They have 21 career matches, with Chiyotairyu having a tiny 11-10 lead.
Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – The sadness of the make-koshi track matches cannot be summed up. Here we have two really good rikishi fighting it out to see who will have the worse record at the end of the basho. This happens when people compete hurt, and I am going to guess both of them are nursing some undisclosed injury. Hokutofuji (3-9) has a 8-3 career record against Takarafuji (2-10), and is probably less injured.
Tobizaru vs Kotonowaka – Simply put, Tobizaru (5-7) got robbed in his match against Shodai on day 12. But them’s the breaks. I think today is going to be a bit more straight forward for him when he takes on 6-6 Kotonowaka. Tobizaru is fighting to stave off make-koshi today, so I expect him to have an elevated sense of urgency as he fights Kotonowaka.
Kiribayama vs Tochinoshin – Both men start the day with 8-4 kachi-koshi, so this is all to map out who gets the bigger promotion on the July banzuke. I like Tochinoshin’s chances here, as his yotsu-zumo form has been pretty good given the prevalence of his injuries.
Takayasu vs Endo – There is no hint what the intent is today with this match. Takayasu has a 13-8 career advantage over 5-7 Endo. That is to hand Endo his 8th loss today, and lump him into the make-koshi track, where Takayasu landed on day 10.
Ichiyamamoto vs Daieisho – A bit of a head scratcher match. They are both 8-4 kachi-koshi, and there is a massive 15 rank difference between M15 Ichiyamamoto and Komusubi Daieisho. They have never fought before. I guess we get to see if Ichiyamamoto has the mojo to take the fight to Daieisho.
Hoshoryu vs Sadanoumi – These two fight about once a year, and I am looking forward to this year’s match up. Sadanoumi (9-3) is fighting some of his best sumo ever, and is part of the leader group. He shows up daily with an excellent blend of speed, agility and utter commitment to his offense. Hoshoryu needs one more win for his kachi-koshi, and I want to see him have a significant challenge to reach his 8.
Ura vs Abi – Ura, also part of the 9-3 leader group, gets a turn with 6-6 Abi. Abi wants 2 wins over the next 3 days to escape the funnel with a kachi-koshi, and he knows how to defeat Ura. His day 12 match against Ozeki Mitakeumi was a textbook example of how Abi-zumo can just completely swamp any opponent if Abi can make all the parts line up. With his long arms flailing, he’s also a perfect mark for Ura’s grab-and-tug technique. Of course if Ura changes the planck constant mid match again, who knows whats going to happen.
Wakatakakage vs Takanosho – I think this is the biggest match of the day. The goal is to let Wakatakakage advance a step closer to kachi-koshi, and knock Takanosho down one peg to join the troupe at 9-3. Takanosho does have a 7-5 career advantage, but Wakatakakage has taken 3 of the last 4 matches. This one is high stakes, and we get to see if Takanosho can take the stress.
Mitakeumi vs Shodai – The time has come for the Ozeki to fight each other going into the final days of the basho, and what a brutal start to that period. Both are 5-7, and the loser will be kadoban for July and go home with a make-koshi. They have 27 career matches, with Mitakeumi having at 15-12 lead. Will there be a monoii that cancels out a clear win today? Odd mistakes keep happing around Shodai, and they all go in one direction. Mitakeumi, please put him in the dirt, and leave no doubt.
Terunofuji vs Takakeisho – Not only is it time for the Ozeki to fight each other, it’s time for them to have their turn with the Yokozuna as well. Takakeisho has the leading record in the Ozeki corps at 6-6, and he is especially susceptible to the kind of attack that Terunofuji has resorted to this basho to keep himself in the battle. I expect Terunofuji to capture Takakeisho, give him a lengthy, firm battle hug, and then walk or carry him out of the ring.