Welcome to nakabi! The middle day of the basho falls on a Sunday, and it means that we are half way to the awarding of the emperor’s cup. In normal times, we would start our leader board coverage at this point, but I am going to say it’s not really a good idea just yet, as there actually is no yusho race on day 8. As predicted earlier in the week, any attempt at a leader board would intersect with the Darwin Funnel, which is routing as many rikishi as possible to 7-7 scores to start day 15. The only thing we can report on the leader board is Ichinojo is ahead by 1, with 7 rikishi including Yokozuna Terunofuji one win behind. I don’t personally expect Ichinojo to take the cup. In fact I expect him to start dropping matches starting yesterday. He will finish quite well, I predict. Maybe even double digits, but he would be hard pressed to take the cup, unless some other people pick up more losses.
On the subject of Mitakeumi’s COVID-kyujo. I expect he will be re-set of September as a kadoban Ozeki. Maybe he will be in better condition then. News today is that the entire Dewanoumi heya underwent PCR testing (more accurate), and Mitakeumi was positive for the virus. He last fought Ichinojo, so there is a small chance that COVID is now circulating among the top ranked men in sumo. Talk about a nightmare scenario!
There are some solid matches today, and I am hoping we get to see some good action on the clay.
Funnel scores for the end of day 8: 5-3, 4-4, 3-5. Anyone with one of those scores are inside the funnel. Above that on the kachi-koshi path, below that on the make-koshi path.
What We Are Watching Day 8
Onosho vs Daishoho – Daishoho visits from Juryo to fill the banzuke gap. He has fought against Onosho 6 times in the past, and has only managed 1 win – back in 2016. Now at 4-3, Onosho is still in the Darwin funnel, but he seems to finally be on balance, and once that happens I expect he should be able to win matches. They have not fought since 2019.
Chiyomaru vs Oho – As the last man on the banzuke, Chiyomaru will be headed back to Juryo with anything short of 8 wins. So he’s got to get his sumo in order and start bringing in the wins. Oho has yet to really show us much in the way of quality sumo, so maybe Chiyomaru can get the first win of his comeback campaign today.
Myogiryu vs Daiamami – I am certain the idea behind Daiamami returning from kyujo was to pick up enough wins to cushion the fall, or maybe even keep himself in the top division. Short of COVID kyujo, I don’t see that happening. His ankle is still not up to the demands of top division sumo, and he is gambling with a chance of a more serious mechanical injury. My guess in Myogiryu wins this one and inches closer to escaping the funnel.
Ichiyamamoto vs Tsurugisho – Ichiyamamoto has a chance to escape the funnel today if he can win over Tsurugisho, who has not beaten him in 4 attempts. Ichiyamamoto is fighting well enough this July that I think 8 wins will happen and maybe double digits.
Nishikifuji vs Chiyoshoma – Nishikifuji can likewise escape the funnel with a win today over Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma is sadly in the group of “fighting well but not winning enough” that has been plaguing the top division for at least the last year. His mechanics look good, but he really can’t finish his opponents. I would give a slight edge to Nishikifuji today.
Yutakayama vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji might also escape the funnel today, into the bad side of things headed for make-koshi next Sunday. If he loses to Yutakayama, he’s 2-6. They have a tied 3-3 career record, but right now Yutakayama is fighting slightly better.
Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Grim match. Both are 1-6, and the only good thing coming out of this match is the winner will get their second white star of July. Shimanoumi has a 12-4 career record against Terutsuyoshi, so you might think this one is a gimme for him. But I look at it as both are nowhere near their normal in terms of power or skill, so it’s a battle of the damaged.
Tochinoshin vs Midorifuji – Midorifuji at 5-2 has a lot of motivation to extend his 2-0 career record over Tochinoshin. That 2-0 surprises me, as I think Midorifuji is small enough that Tochinoshin could just lift him up and move him around like a piece of furniture. But I guess this kind of furniture fights back.
Kotoshoho vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi can also escape the funnel to the kachi-koshi path with a win over Kotoshoho. Kotoshoho has a 5-2 career record against him, so maybe this is a test to see just how much above “average” Nishikigi is fighting right now.
Okinoumi vs Chiyotairyu – 17 career matches, with a 10-7 in favor of Chiyotairyu. Both Chiyotairyu (4-3) and Okinoumi (3-4) are struggling right now, so maybe they will make quick work of this sumo stuff and go have a beer to ease their injuries.
Meisei vs Hokutofuji – Another 4-3 / 3-4 match up, with Hokutofuji having a slight career edge over Meisei. I don’t think that Hokutofuji has been fighting very well this month. I have seen him exploit mistakes and openings well enough, but I have not seen him executing the fierce combos of his pre-covid days. I wonder if that form of Hokutofuji can make a comeback…
Kotoeko vs Tobizaru – A Tobizaru win today, and he escapes the funnel, and may be counted as part of the leader group once it’s possible to describe any rikishi that way. He had a narrow 4-3 career advantage over Kotoeko, but I know Kotoeko is up to the task of shutting down the monkey sumo and tossing Tobizaru out.
Aoiyama vs Ura – Some great big man / little man sumo here, though at Ura’s current bulk he is not quite little any more. He does like to play grab-and-tug with Aoiyama, who always leaves an arm or hand where it does not belong in these matches. These are ready attachment points for Ura’s built in chaos engine, and it can cause a man the size of Aoiyama to become both airborne, and a penguin a same time. Though the penguin part is purely theoretical.
Kotonowaka vs Ichinojo – One of the indications of a champion is taking a loss and not letting it disrupt your mental fortitude in the following contest. This has never been Ichinojo’s strong suit. Kotonowaka has beaten him 3 times out of the 4 career matches, and will give him the business today. Can Ichinojo steel his thoughts and continue to focus?
Hoshoryu vs Kiribayama – Someone decided to have some fun with numbers. Everything about this match is 3-4. Both rikishi’s tournament scores, their career match record, the number of perfume soaked letters they get every day… all of it. I am not sure who I favor to win this one, but I am very eager to see how well they fight this July.
Sadanoumi vs Abi – After that masterful flying lesson for Takakeisho day 7, I kind of want Abi back at Sekiwake. So let’s cheer him on to as many wins as he can place onto the scoreboard. No offense to Sadanoumi, but he’s really struggling right now, and I think that Abi may make fast work of him today.
Wakatakakage vs Daieisho – Both of these guys are in the funnel, and are at least 2 consecutive wins away from exiting. They both start the day at 4-3, and they have been trading wins back and forth every other match since last year at this time. If they follow the pattern, its Wakatakakage’s turn to win this time.
Takakeisho vs Endo – Endo is going to try for a belt grip. If he gets it, he may help the Ozeki take to the skies for a second consecutive day. Flying tadpoles. What will they think of next?
Tamawashi vs Shodai – Shodai has dug himself a very big hole, larger then the hole that you would normally find a Daikon inside of. Does he just ride the walrus and head for Ozekiwake? Or can he tough it out and find 5 more wins in the last 8 days of the basho? Start with Tamawashi (11-9 advantage) and work up from there, I suppose.
Terunofuji vs Wakamotoharu – Terunofuji is giving it everything he can muster, which is not a whole lot right now. But I do compliment hm on toughing it out. 5-2 is a rough score for a Yokozuna on nakabi, but it’s what he has. He beat Wakamotoharu in their only prior match. Wakamotoharu likes yotsu-zumo, so I do hope he takes a hold of Terunofuji’s black mawashi.