As we enter the final weekend of this wild tournament, the schedulers have a nearly impossible task due to a dozen covid absences. While the bouts between Yokozuna Terunofuji and the two remaining Ozeki are relatively straight-forward, what to do with the rest? To fill in a few of the gaps, four Juryo wrestlers will be visiting makuuchi to fight. This gives us 16 top division matches, five short of the optimum 21. Basically, we’re getting a 25% discount. To fill in the void thus left in Juryo, three makushita wrestlers will visit the second division, filling out 10 matches in that division. Without further ado, let’s get to the top division matches.
Onosho vs Nishikifuji: Onosho and Nishikifuji are both kachi-koshi and having great tournaments. I’m really looking forward to this first time meeting. Onosho has experience on his side plus Nishikifuji has a bit of a weakness to his oshi-tsuki style. If Nishikifuji can contain Onosho and force a belt battle, he might pull off the upset.
Myogiryu vs Ryuden: Ryuden will mark his return to the top division after his banishment into purgatory. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. Like the previous bout, this will be a contrast of styles and both are fighting well. Myogiryu is not a fan of yotsu but he’s certainly capable of winning on the belt. Ryuden will force a grapple if he can. In that case, I think he’ll win. If Myogiryu can deny it, and turn the bout into a brawl, I think it’s his.
Terutsuyoshi vs Asanowaka: Asanowaka will fight in prime time, here in the top division, for the first time in his career. Not relevant to the bout, but I’m curious: he made it here before Asanoyama but will he be promoted to the top division before Asanoyama makes it back? Back to this match up. These two are very flexible, wide-ranging styles, facing each other for the first time. I may have mentioned Terutsuyoshi’s weakness to pulls. Asanowaka seems to like them. I think we may have a hatakikomi win for Asanowaka here.
Hidenoumi vs Takarafuji: Hidenoumi is already makekoshi but has beaten Takarafuji in both of their previous meetings. Takarafuji has been on quite the run after a bad start to the tournament. Hidenoumi’s not going to be an easy opponent but Takarafuji’s streak will continue. Kachi-koshi means a lot, especially here at this tournament.
Oho vs Midorifuji: Both men are kachi-koshi. Oho would love to move a bit further up the banzuke and I think he picks off an upset today.
Shimanoumi vs Kagayaki: I think Kagayaki will take this one. Shimanoumi has been dreadful this tournament, loose mawashi or not. Kagayaki won’t even try to mess up that nice orange shimekomi. His tsuppari will be too much for Shimanoumi.
Okinoumi vs Yutakayama: Okinoumi owns Yutakayama, undefeated in their six previous meetings. He’s wily on the belt but I felt this latest loss against Kiribayama was a bit sloppy. Easy. This might be the opening Yutakayama needs to have a shot at the elusive kachi-koshi.
Aoiyama vs Chiyoshoma: Two villains meet at dawn. Surprisingly these men have only faced each other three times. Aoiyama’s V-Twin Turbo might get revenge for Chiyoshoma’s henka against his heya-mate, Tochinoshin. This may be one time most root for Aoiyama.
Chiyomaru vs Sadanoumi: Chiyomaru will move pretty far up the banzuke to fight Sadanoumi today, from M17 to fight M5 Sadanoumi. Both are already make-koshi and Chiyomaru has not exactly been demonstrating top-division form. I’m going against their history here by picking Sadanoumi but I think he wins the day.
Hokutofuji vs Ura: Ura got a much needed reprieve from battle with the fusen yesterday. He’ll be rested and ready. Hokutofuji goes make-koshi today.
Meisei vs Ichinojo: Meisei is ranked M10 but when he’s “on form” he’s a quality sanyaku wrestler. We’re not far removed from those days. Ichinojo will be rested, though, and eager to keep the pressure on Terunofuji. Ichinojo will be patient and rein in the brawler.
Kiribayama vs Wakamotoharu: Bout of the day potential here. Both hidari-yotsu specialists, similar size. They’ve met 5 times so far, with Wakamotoharu having a slim 3-2 lead. But Wakamotoharu’s three wins are in the last three meetings. I think Kiribayama will put an end to his losing streak.
Hoshoryu vs Tochinoshin: Tochinoshin is fighting at a higher level than he has in quite some time. He’s beaten Hoshoryu in their only previous meeting. I thought he’d henka yesterday in order to get that kachi-koshi, but he didn’t. Hoshoryu will make him pay if he tries the sky crane. I’m calling Hoshoryu with a fancy trip.
Chiyotairyu vs Abi: What on Earth is Chiyotairyu doing up here fighting Abi? He’s going to get beat.
Takakeisho vs Wakatakakage: Takakeisho will spoil Wakatakakage’s chance at kachi-koshi today.
Terunofuji vs Shodai: Shodai got his kachi-koshi. He’s going to be out-classed by the Yokozuna and it pains me to say that.