Here we are, at the end of the Natsu basho, looking at the final day of competition with really just one question left to sort out – who will take the cup? There are two leaders at 11-3: Yokozuna Terunofuji and Maegashira 4 Takanosho. They have faced each other on day 8, and Terunofuji lost, so they will not fight today except if there is a playoff. We will get a playoff of both of them win, or if both of them lose. Should both of them lose, they will face each other in the playoff, plus Sadanoumi, and Daieisho should he win his day 15 match. The most likely outcome in my book is that Terunofuji defeats
Shodai Mitakeumi, and Takanosho defeats Sadanoumi, forcing a playoff following the musubi no ichiban.
We already know that both Mitakeumi and Shodai are kadoban for July, and as long as Takakeisho can win against Shodai, he will be the lone secure Ozeki. Should he lose, its a 3 for 3 kadoban triplets. Just one notch down the banzuke, Wakatakakage’s Ozeki dreams are on reset. The best he can do is score 9 wins, one of which is a fusensho. In general, it’s time for him to start over and try to piece together 33. This is the same problem that kept Mitakeumi from sumo’s second highest rank for years. One bad basho that is single digit kachi-koshi tends to scrap matters, and force a restart.
On to the matches.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Chiyotairyu vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi needs a win to be kachi-koshi for Natsu. I think he will likely get it. But he will need to absorb Chiyotairyu’s cannonball tachiai. From there he will try to go chest to chest and hump-a-lump Chiyotairyu out of the ring. Chiyotairyu has a 6-3 career lead, so best of luck to Nishikigi for today’s opener.
Okinoumi vs Meisei – Both are happily 8-6 kachi-koshi after a string of make-koshi tournaments going back to 2021. This fight is for that last little boost up the banzuke. Okinoumi has an 8-1 career lead.
Midorifuji vs Tochinoshin – Another pair of 8-6 kachi-koshi rikishi, they have only fought once before, which was a Midorifuji win. There is a nice, wide rank difference between these two, with Midorifuji at M16w and Tochinoshin at M9w. My money is on Tochinoshin for this one.
Kotoshoho vs Aoiyama – This is Big Dan Aoiyama’s chance to improve to a double digit winning score. He goes up against 6-8 Kotoshoho who is already make-koshi, and will be looking to regroup for July.
Azumaryu vs Terutsuyoshi – Its 5-9 Azumaryu against 4-10 Terutsuyoshi, with Terutsuyoshi looking to have them both end the day at 5-10. A 10th win would probably ensure Azumaryu’s demotion back to Juryo, so there is quite a lot on the line today.
Kagayaki vs Kotoeko – Another make-koshi bracket match, we have 5-9 Kagayaki, who is Juryo bound for sure against 6-8 Kotoeko. Given Kagayaki’s 10-7 career advantage, this is a narrow chance for him to easy the depth of his drop back to Juryo.
Takarafuji vs Kotokuzan – What a match, both already had double digit make-koshi records, and this is to find out of Takarafuji will end with 11 or 12 losses at the end of Natsu. Frankly, Kotokuzan is dead meat already, and I hope he absorbs the loss and adds it to his baggage to be stowed on the Juryo barge of the damned. I think he has a bunk in the same berthing space as Kagayaki. This is their first ever match.
Yutakayama vs Tobizaru – Both come in today at 6-8, and this is to see who will get that 7th win. They have only fought once before, at Nagoya in 2019, which went to Yutakayama. Big difference today in that Yutakayama looks injured, and Tobizaru looks rowdy.
Sadanoumi vs Takanosho – Nice pairing here, we have co-leader Takanosho up against would-be challenger Sadanoumi. If Sadanoumi wins, he has half a ticket to compete for the cup following regulation. Should Takanosho prevail, he’s at least assured of a playoff should Terunofuji also win, or the cup outright should Terunofuji lose. They have a 4-4 career record.
Endo vs Myogiryu – Another battle of 6-8 rikishi to see who can pick up that 7th win to act as a banzuke adjustment cushion. Endo and Myogiryu share a 7-8 career record, so this one is a very even match.
Ichiyamamoto vs Tamawashi – I feel a bit bad for Ichiyamamoto. Although he and Tamawashi are both kachi-koshi at 8-6, Tamawashi is fighting quite well, and delivering quite a bit of punishment to his match opponents this May. He won their only prior match, at Nagoya last year.
Hokutofuji vs Oho – A first ever match, Oho has a slim chance to pick up a 7th win, which might just keep him in the top division for July if he gets lucky. Hokutofuji has been moving well and fighting aggressively, but not winning matches. So it’s really anyone’s guess how this one is going to start, let along finish.
Wakamotoharu vs Kotonowaka – Another fine kachi-koshi bracket match, we have 9-9 Wakamotoharu, who has his 5th consecutive kachi-koshi at 9-5, and could end the basho with 10-5 if he can best 8-6 Kotonowaka today.
Takayasu vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma will be looking to improve to 7-8 if he can win over 5-9 Takayasu today. Takayasu is not looking crisp, nor focused right now. I am going to guess one of the many injuries he as accumulated over the years of sumo that have never really had a chance to heal up. Chiyoshoma is nursing that bad ankle, so you can consider this match to be a contest of the wounded. Takayasu has a 4-1 career advantage, but that may not matter much today.
Shimanoumi vs Daieisho – If Daieisho wants to have a shot at the cup today following regulation, he needs Sadanoumi to win, and then he needs to beat 7-7 Shimanoumi, who will be fighting for his kachi-koshi. The best he can do is put Shimanoumi on the clay, and hope against the odds that Mitakeumi can play spoiler.
Hoshoryu vs Kiribayama – Both are kachi-koshi, and I think this is to sort out ranks in the banzuke for July. They have an even 3-3 record, and are a pretty even match for their quality of sumo this May. I am expecting a good fight.
Wakatakakage vs Abi – The Sekiwake fight I have been waiting 15 days to see. Abi is 7-7 to start the day, and needs one win to keep his position at Sekiwake. Wakatakakage won their only prior fight which was in Osaka this year on day 10. Personally, I would rather see Abi make his 8, and keep his rank.
Takakeisho vs Shodai – Takakeisho needs a final win to make his 8, and he needs to take it from Shodai. A Shodai loss today would leave him with a 5-10 score for Natsu, which is reminiscent of the worst days of dear old Goeido. Takakeisho has a 10-6 career lead over Shodai, and I can’t even begin to guess what is the governor for Shodai’s sumo right now. Maybe he will be the genki Ozeki in the tournament’s penultimate match, or maybe he will be the soft, doughy booger picker. I would prefer the former.
Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi – The big match at the end of the basho. Terunofuji needs this win to finish setting the field for the Emperor’s Cup. My hunch is that he will either take it outright with this match, or in a playoff against Takanosho immediately following this match. He has a 12-5 career advantage over Mitakeumi.