It’s time for the middle weekend of the Nagoya basho, and I am struggling to accept the reality of this tournament. Ichinojo leads with 6-0, and continues to look unbeatable. His only challenger right now is 5-1 Tobizaru. Toby-freaking-zaru. The nearest competitors have 4 wins, represent the top end of the Darwin funnel, and there are 10 rikishi with that score. In fact, there are only SIX rikishi out of the whole entire top division that are NOT in the funnel at the start of the middle weekend. This is a situation I personally have not witnessed before. Sumo is in a bit of a shambles right now, and could really use a tune up.
You can think I am being a grumpy old sumo curmudgeon, and that may be true. But here, have this threat that Herouth posted on twitter as a way to see what others are saying…
What We Are Watching Day 7
Yutakayama vs Nishikifuji – A first time match between a pair of 4-2 rikishi. Considered part of the “leader” group, but within Darwin’s funnel. Sigh. Ok, I would take Yutakayama in this one.
Kagayaki vs Oho – Look who it is! Dear old Kagayaki coming to see how the top division is getting on. He’s at 5-1 at Juryo 3, so maybe he will have a good basho and come back to the top division for September. Hopefully he will have cured his performance problems if he does. He won the single prior match against Oho.
Chiyomaru vs Tsurugisho – No at the bottom edge of the funnel, the 2-4 crew (there are 9 of them). The winner gets to move higher in the funnel, the loser is probably doomed to the make-koshi path. Both are quite large and fairly round. Both are likely to try to pull the other one down early in the match. Tsurugisho leads the 18 match career series 11-7.
Ichiyamamoto vs Daiamami – Daiamami came back from kyujo on day 5, in an attempt to try and stave off a brutal return to Juryo by picking up a few wins. He lost day 5 for his return, but managed to put Oho away on day 6. Is he up to the challenge of taking on 4-2 Ichiyamamoto? I think that’s a tall order right now.
Onosho vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji continues to struggle to execute his sumo, and I worry he may not able to shut down Onosho today. Not that Onosho is really fighting well right now. Ugh, another scratch and dent match. They have 18 career matches that Onosho leads 10-8.
Myogiryu vs Midorifuji – Now onto a pair of 4-2 rikishi, still in the funnel. Midorifuji has a 2-0 record over Myogiryu, so he certainly seems to have a formula to take down the veteran. Midorifuji’s two wins have come from a throwing technique, so I would guess we will see him favor that attack plan today.
Kotoshoho vs Chiyoshoma – Back to the middle of the funnel, both are 3-3, both rikishi will remain in the funnel for Sunday regardless of win or lose today. Kotoshoho is falling well short of expectations this July, and he’s not really fighting up to his potential. So he will be on the Darwin path for the next 7 days, I think.
Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – Can Chiyotairyu summon enough of his mojo to unleash one of his remaining “cannon ball tachiai”. Those seem to be few and far between these days, darkening the gloom that seems to be haunting sumo, and it’s not even October. Meisei comes in at 4-2. and the share a 3-3 career record, definitely in favor of Meisei.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – I had to double check, but yes – 24 career matches between these two prior to today! This streches all the way back to 2015 in Makushita, and they are long serving rivals. Their score is tied 12 to 12, with Terutsuyoshi in dire need of wins to improve his terrible 1-5 score coming into today.
Okinoumi vs Nishikigi – Still more funnel matches, this time it’s low-eyesight Nishikigi going up against Okinoumi. There is no clear advantage to either rikishi right now, and both of them are likely going to remain in the funnel for a few more days at minimum. For Nishikigi, he has lost the last 2 since winning his first 4, and needs to get back on a winning track.
Aoiyama vs Shimanoumi – This is probably a “gimmie” match for Aoiyama, as he is fighting well enough with a 3-3 record, while Shimanoumi is really suffering at 1-5. Aoiyama has won all of the matches against Shimanoumi so far this year, and is likely to continue that trend today.
Tochinoshin vs Sadanoumi – More funnel matches – it’s endless! 3-3 Tochinoshin is up against 2-4 Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi is clearly in greatly diminished form from his outstanding 11-4 jun-yusho, and is now struggling 2-4 to start the middle weekend, and will be lucky to get his 8th win this month. Tochinoshin holds a small 6-4 lead in their career score, but seems to be day-by-day in terms of his sumo.
Endo vs Hokutofuji – Now for the bottle edge of the funnel, both are 2-4, and both of them are fighting well below their abilities. The winner gets to continue in the funnel, the loser gets to walk the make-koshi path starting on day 8. Endo has a 10-8 career advantage.
Wakamotoharu vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru has a 7-1 career lead over Wakamotoharu, and coupled with Tobizaru’s position on the leader board, this is actually a high stakes match up, with 3-3 Wakamotoharu having a shot to knock Tobizaru off the leader board and back into the funnel. I am looking for Tobizaru to stay mobile, and keep Wakamotoharu away from his belt.
Kotonowaka vs Tamawashi – After winning his first two matches against the kadoban twins, Kotonowaka dropped the next two to Takakeisho and Terunofuji. Since then he is back to winning, and I am looking for him to turn in more than 8 wins this July. Given the chaos in the san’yaku, there may be a bit of a ‘jump ball” for ranks going into September. Tamawashi is only at 3-3, in part because he could not close the deal in his day 6 match against Yokozuna Terunofuji. They share an even 3-3 career record.
Kiribayama vs Daieisho – Both are part of the Darwin Funnel group, with matching 3-3 records thus far in July. Both are capable fighters, but really have not been able to muster more than a middling record. Both will remain in the funnel no matter who wins today, as escape at this point requires at least 2 consecutive wins.
Wakatakakage vs Takanosho – I think 1-5 Takanosho is a lost cause for July, and with any luck, Wakatakakage can use today’s match to put up a much needed win that maybe might help move him away from the funnel. At 3-3, he also needs at least 2 consecutive wins to escape.
Ichinojo vs Shodai – Unless there is an odd turn of events, Ichinojo will dominate his match with Shodai today. Shodai is still not ready to be an Ozeki, and Ichinojo is still feeling fine and ready to toss ponies. He also has a 12-4 career record over the Diakon, including 5 of the last 6 matches. Ouch…
Hoshoryu vs Mitakeumi – I would love to say that a strong and confident Mitakeumi was going to extend his 3-1 career record over Hoshoryu, but we all know this July these things are not in the cards. So I expect this to be a struggle. Both are 2-4, so loser exits the funnel to the make-koshi path, winner survives another day to try and claw his way out of the trap.
Takakeisho vs Abi – Abi is fairly adept at shutting down Takakeisho, and I think he’s likely to show us that talent today. Takakeisho is at the upper end of the funnel at 4-2, and would need at least one win to realistically escape. Abi at 3-3 would need at least two consecutive wins to escape.
Terunofuji vs Ura – Ura has never won a match against Terunofuji. There is a small chance he might take his first today, if Terunofuji does to carefully manage where he has his arms and hands. One stray appendage, and it’s time for Ura’s grab-and-tug sumo. Terunofuji has been fairly stable on his feet, but I would rather not see Ura test out the Yokozuna’s knees.