With the middle day of the basho behind us, it’s time to look forward to next weekend, and who will be contending for the cup. At the moment, the entire Makuuchi yusho arasoi is as big of a mess as Shikimori Inosuke’s officiating. There is a group of 7 rikishi who are 1 win ahead of the edge of the “Darwin’s Funnel”, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that half of them may fall back into the funnel before this coming week is done. At the moment there is no real “leader” in the yusho race, just some scores that qualify people to possibly contend if they can continue to win. I am sure the scheduling team will work to whittle that down starting… well… now.
The list of 7:
- Y1e Terunofuji
- M2e Kotonowaka
- M2w Ichinojo
- M6w Tobizaru
- M8w Nishikigi
- M13e Ichiyamamoto
- M17e Nishikifuji
On that list, only Yokozuna Terunofuji has prior yusho experience, and at this point should be considered the favorite to eventually take the cup. But be aware that the winning score is likely to be fairly low. As it is, it can’t be more than 13-2, and I think an 11-4 is quite possible.
What We Are Watching Day 9
Hidenoumi vs Chiyomaru – Hidenoumi visits from Juryo, and he’s 3 wins away from a kachi-koshi and a return to the top division. He’s usually competitive against Chiyomaru, who is struggling right now, so this may be a day when Hidenoumi picks up a valuable win. Chiyomaru at 2-6 is more or less locked in for a make-koshi and a rapid return to Juryo unless he suddenly finds some sumo at the bottom of that extra bowl of ramen at the train station.
Myogiryu vs Tsurugisho – Likewise, Tsurugisho is in deep trouble starting today at 3-5. To hit 8 wins he would need to take 5 of the remaining 7 matches, and given how he has been unable to win by power or guile this July, it’s not very likely at all. Worse yet, he has not beaten Myogiryu in either of his prior attempts.
Yutakayama vs Chiyoshoma – We saw some return to henka action from Chiyoshoma on day 8, and it was a complete dud. Hopefully he won’t deploy that crummy stuff again this basho. I mean, it’s nice to revisit the classics, but I thought his more recent sumo was better. Yutakayama, at 4-4, is squarely in the middle of the funnel, and I would assume he is headed for a 7-7 record to start day 15.
Ichiyamamoto vs Nishikifuji – Time to thin the crowd at 6-2! Both of these guys are in the somewhat-leader group, and by the end of the day only one of them will remain. I like Ichiyamamoto’s chances here. His Abi-zumo clone seems to be working well enough, and he has been giving his opponents a jolly thrashing before sending them out or down to the clay. He also holds a 4-1 career record against Nishikifuji.
Oho vs Takarafuji – Oho can escape the funnel with a win today. That’s precisely why he gets to fight Takarafuji. The best result for the Darwin outcome is for Oho to lose to Takarafuji, and both of them to move closer to the middle of the funnel at the end of the day. Oho won their only prior match, but I don’t really think that’s too indicative.
Terutsuyoshi vs Daiamami – Terutsuyoshi at 2-6 may get the opportunity to hand injured Daiamami his make-koshi today with a win. They are fairly evenly matched when they are both healthy, but Daiamami has a bad ankle right now, and may as well own up to the fact that he will have a spot on the Juryo barge of the damned.
Kotoshoho vs Onosho – Onosho can and should win this match. He is 3-0 against Kotoshoho, and I see no reason for that to change today. So a big hit early and a lot of forward power. Kotoshoho matches have resulted in monoii quite a few times in the past week, will we have another today?
Midorifuji vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is another member of the 6-2 quasi leader crowd. He has a match with Midorifuji who is at 5-3, but also has a solid history of beating Nishikigi on the clay. Their last match was in May, with Midorifuji winning with a katasukashi on day 13. It would be wonderful to see Midorifuji deliver one of those again.
Tochinoshin vs Chiyotairyu – Two men at the top edge of the funnel with 5-3. The winner will likely escape as long as they can win their match tomorrow as well. They have a 10 year history that includes 16 fights, with the two prior fights this year being split 1-1. I was happy to see Chiyotairyu’s cannonball tachiai on day 8, but I don’t think he will try to deploy it against Tochinoshin today. But do look for a “stand him up / slap him down” combo.
Okinoumi vs Meisei – Meisei at the top edge of the funnel at 5-3 takes on Okinoumi at the bottom edge of the funnel at 3-5. This could push both of them out of the funnel if Meisei should win. The wrinkle being that he has only beaten Okinoumi once in 10 tries.
Shimanoumi vs Tobizaru – On paper it looks like this should be a contest. But given how poorly Shimanoumi has been fighting, and that Tobizaru is rightfully part of the leader squad, I think this is going to be a one sided affair. Should Shimanoumi lose today, it’s make-koshi for him. Should he win, well, he pulls Tobizaru out of the leader group.
Aoiyama vs Kotoeko – Ultra-mega-funnel-match. Both are 4-4, they have a 5-4 career record, and as a bonus it’s the always delightful big man / little man sumo contest. Note that Kotoeko is not really small, and Big Dan is bigger than most.
Hokutofuji vs Sadanoumi – The tough part about being in the funnel is that when you are at 3-5, the schedulers are trying to give you a win just to keep you in the funnel. So the best Hokutofuji can hope for right now is to remain on track for a 7-7 at the end of day 14. Of course he could take a loss today, and then he and Sadanoumi would be on the make-koshi path together.
Kiribayama vs Ichinojo – I think the big question I have is – can Ichinojo rally? He’s had two losses in a row, and I am quite certain his mental state is below where it was last week. For someone like Ichinojo, being in the right frame of mind is essential to winning these matches. Week 1 showed that he has all of the tools a rikishi needs to dominate even the toughest opponents right now. But the will do to so must be in place. If he’s not mentally ready to win, he’s going to eat loss #3 courtesy of Kiribayama today.
Hoshoryu vs Tamawashi – Another grand funnel match. Ideally (for the sake of the funnel) Tamawashi would win this one, with both ending the day at 4-5. For this to happen, Tamawashi needs to limit Hoshoryu’s mobility and prevent his escape from the expected Tamawashi tsuki barrage.
Ura vs Daieisho – I do tend to focus on the funnel, and how it’s a cruel instrument designed to prevent rikishi from reaching their kachi-koshi before the final weekend. But we have Ura, who just seems to be taking it all in stride, looking at it one day at a time, and generally a joy to watch. Daieisho tends to get Ura caught with a couple of his “mega-thrusts” to the face or the chest, and send the pink wonder flying. But it’s also true that Daieisho’s sumo tends to see his arms and hands linger near his opponent, giving Ura an option for his grab-and-tug sumo.
Wakatakakage vs Kotonowaka – A loss today would likely knock Kotonowaka out of the leader herd. Wakatakakage has a 4-1 career advantage over the Sadogatake man, and unless some sort of slippiotoshi happens in the opening moments of the fight, this could be the big brawl of the day.
Abi vs Shodai – I want to see the “Wall of Daikon” again today, please. Shodai, stop being a punk and break out the Ozeki sumo. You need 4 of the last 7 matches to be wins, so you can do this one. Just have to focus and be powerful. Now watch Abi give him a face full of meaty two hand thrust and send him into the front row.
Takakeisho vs Wakamotoharu – We all know that Wakamotoharu is going to sacrafice everything to get a handhold on Takakeisho’s mawashi. If he does, he should be able to win the match. What amazes me is these two have fought before, in Sandanme. In 2015. Way to reach back into the archives, scheduling crew.
Terunofuji vs Endo – There is no way Endo should pose too much of a threat to Terunofuji right now. I am certain that Endo will get a belt hold, and the instant he does he will be captured by the Yokozuna. Should he and Endo lock up in a battle hug, I expect Terunofuji to dismantle Endo a piece at a time before finishing him off.