Oh yea, the middle weekend. A glorious time in every basho. We get to see our first kachi-koshi minted, we get our first look at the yusho race, and the scheduling committee tends to stack the roster with excellent fights to enjoy. I know I am ready for the middle weekend. The high quality sake is in the fridge, the ingredients for chanko are in the fridge, and its going to be a sumo party at my house.
The festive mood endemic to this part of any basho is clouded by my concern for Terunofuji. When he ascended to sumo’s highest rank, everyone knew we would only keep him for a short while. He knew it as well. Note he has lined up nearly everything for his post sumo career already. I am going to guess he married well, as there is ample evidence that his wife has been a huge factor in building a Terunofuji “brand” for them to enjoy and employ once he can no longer coax those lumps of gristle, mochi and chanko he uses as knees into action any longer. Am I saying he’s about to go intai? Not at all, I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest at all. I think we may see a 2 basho kyujo while they try anything they can get him into fighting form for some kind of “farewell tour”. I won’t like, I would love to see him take another yusho, if there is any way he can fight well enough ever again.
Day 8 – we get to see if the two undefeated rikishi: Hokutofuji and Tamawashi, can maintain their lead. Both of them have a lot of sumo when they are healthy, and both of them appear to be rather healthy right now. Behind them by one win is (no surprises here, Josh) – dear old Takayasu. This yusho run is going to be chaos in a cup, so don’t come looking for a predictable Yokozuna championship, and don’t even think you are going to get an Ozeki in the mix either. Right now the Ozeki corps is bordering back on shambolic, and we will be lucky to keep Mitakeumi come November. But trust me, the new crop of sumo athletes are looking amazing, and the future contains a lot of wonderful sumo.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Chiyomaru vs Hiradoumi – Chiyomaru comes back for a second visit to the top division. Right now he is 2-4, and his chances of scoring a coveted kachi-koshi and returning to the Makuuchi ranks are quite slim. He’s never faced Hiradoumi (3-3) before, so this match will be a discovery process. Many rikishi are confounded by Chiyomaru’s diameter the first time they fight him.
Terutsuyoshi vs Mitoryu – I am trying to figure out if Terutsuyoshi is hurt, or just out of new sumo things to throw at his opponents. He only has a 2-4 record so far, and each day he looks like his is trying anything he can to find another win. I think that Mitoryu has a clear advantage on day 7.
Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyoshoma – This is a match of serious interest to me. We have both men at 4-2, and Ichiyamamoto with a narrow 2-1 career record. Its a real clash of styles, as Ichiyamamoto likes to use his long arms to apply maximum combat range thrusts, much like Abi has done for years. Chiyoshoma’s sumo needs him to get close in and grab parts of his opponents body and use leverage to attack. Should be quite the match.
Tsurugisho vs Ryuden – I am almost ready to say that Tsurugisho needs to find his bunk on the Juryo barge of shame. At Maegashira 15w, and a 1-5 record, he is most certainly on the bubble. He has a 2-8 record against 2-4 Ryuden who wants to find a way to reach 8, or at least 7. So this will be a consequential fight for both men.
Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – I also worry about Yutakayama, now as well. Both of these guys are 1-5, but Yutakayama is far enough down the banzuke that he might be considered for demotion if his score continues to be a wreck on day 15. Chiyotairyu is no better off on his score, but his higher rank at Maegashira 11 will make it harder for him to be in danger. The good news is that one of these guys are going to pick up his second win today.
Kotoshoho vs Oho – Knocked out of a co-leader position by Mitoryu on day 6, this might actually help Oho. No longer in the spotlight that co-leadership brings, he can focus on his sumo. As the rikishi say, they want to look at this one match at a time. Today he has Kotoshoho, who is struggling at 3-3, but still in the running for a winning record. They have an even career match history at 3-3, so this should be a good contest.
Nishikifuji vs Okinoumi – As with many of 4-2 Nishikifuji’s matches this September, another first time fight. I think that Okinoumi (3-3) should be able to take care of this guy, but at his age and with his accumulated injury, everything can be day-to-day with him. I am going to look for Nishikifuji to move inside at the tachiai, which will fit Okinoumi’s match plan as well.
Myogiryu vs Kotoeko – The statistic that matters for this match is 8-1, that’s the career advantage that Myogiryu (4-2) has over Kotoeko (2-4). Given that Kotoeko is not fighting at all well right now, we should see Myogiryu dispatch him with little difficulty today.
Takanosho vs Hokutofuji – Hey, what a good idea. Let’s take white-hot Hokutofuji at 6-0, and put him against the former Sekiwake that everyone was convinced was severely under-ranked until he dropped 2 matches in a row, like Wile E Coyote dropping an anvil on his toe while chasing the Road Runner. Hokutofuji has a narrow 5-4 career lead, but let’s face it. This is a very even contest, and there is potential for some big, brutal sumo out of these two.
Wakamotoharu vs Tochinoshin – Wakamotoharu (5-1) should be looking to pick up 3 more wins and hit the safety of 8, and then decide if its time to run up the score. At Maegashira 6, he is in a bit of a cul-du-sac on the banzuke. Just outside the joi-jin, he is in the right spot to stage a big run, if he wants to be at the top of the rank and file for November. Tochinoshin is at 2-4, and we all just hope that he can make it through September in the same number of pieces he had on day 1.
Onosho vs Sadanoumi – This match is a bit of a gift to Onosho. He’s 2-4, and really needs to put several back to back wins on the board. He has a 5-1 career record against Sadanoumi, so this should be an Onosho win, in my book. But Sadanoumi (3-3) would not have to be a sumo mastermind to exploit Onosho’s world famous balance problems to pick up a much needed win.
Takarafuji vs Aoiyama – The last man in active competition with no wins. Given how well he fights when he is healthy, there is zero chance this is caused by anything other than injury or illness. He’s up against 1-5 Aoiyama who is likewise a good candidate for an orthopedic ward right now. He does hold a 21-6 career advantage over Takarafuji, so he has a clear edge in this battle of the bruised.
Endo vs Takayasu – Starting to look at who might challenge for the yusho, Takayasu at 5-1 from Maegashira 4 is looking better than I thought he would at this point. To keep that rolling, he needs to beat 3-3 Endo today on the clay. Endo has a 9-13 career deficit, so – advantage Takayasu.
Tobizaru vs Meisei – Both men are 3-3, but if it’s at all possible, Tobizaru’s 3-3 is somehow more genki. This guy mounts the dohyo every day with enthusiasm and what seems to be a positive attitude. Sort of like a young Asanoyama. He needs to stay positive in the face of Meisei’s 6-1 career advantage on the clay.
Daieisho vs Kotonowaka – Daieisho at 1-5 looks to be setting course south of the named ranks for November. He will be back – he’s just probably banged up in some way we are not aware of. Kotonowaka at 3-3 looks like a man who is temporarily out of steam, and looking for a way to re-energize his sumo. They are more or less equal on the clay, but neither man is fighting well right now.
Midorifuji vs Hoshoryu – Oddly enough, Midorifuji (2-4) used to take Hoshoryu’s (4-2) lunch money early last year. In fact, he has never lost to Hoshoryu (4-0). So while some of Hoshoryu’s fans are starting to wonder if he can continue to elevate his sumo, it may be time for one of those famous Kokugikan clay facials. Midorifuji could really use the win, but the fans might really enjoy a Midorifuji watashikomi.
Wakatakakage vs Tamawashi – I expect nothing short of a brutal mugging from Tamawashi today. He is 6-0, and I am sure he can smell the path to a yusho right now. He just has to keep winning to make it all happen. He has a 2-5 career deficit against 3-3 Wakatakakage, who has won his past 3 matches after an ice cold 0-3 start. This one may be the match of the day.
Kiribayama vs Mitakeumi – Kadoban Ozeki Mitakeumi (3-3) needs to get his big sumo out of storage and bring it to work today. He’s perilously close to a make-koshi, and visit to the Sekiwake rank in November. Nobody wants that, not even for laughs. He is only 6-5 against 4-2 Kiribayama, so he needs that win today before he heads into his much harder schedule next week.
Nishikigi vs Shodai – Nishikigi (3-3) begins the “magical” part of his magical mystery tour. He took a trip through the named ranks several years ago, and came home with a kinboshi for his troubles. He can do that again this time if Terunofuji lasts that long. Today he’s got the moribund Shodai (1-5), who seems to be locked in for a kadoban status in November. I refuse to do any real analysis of Shodai’s sumo right now, mostly because I am not sure it is sumo.
Takakeisho vs Ura – Takakeisho’s loss to Tamawashi on day 6 probably removed him from the yusho contention next week. He instead needs to focus on his 8. He has a 9-3 career advantage over Ura, but as we all know with Ura, you never can tell what you are going to get. He could pull miniature black hole out of a pocket universe he keeps in his mawashi and Takakeisho would be thrust into the 24th and ½ century where he spends the rest of his days fighting advanced sumo cyborgs all modeled after Shodai. So they are really bad, and he is dai-Yokozuna. Both are 4-2.
Terunofuji vs Ichinojo – Knees, knees. Brother, can you spare a knee for a Yokozuna in need? Someone has a sick sense of sport to put 200kg Ichinojo up against someone with no knees. Maybe its a way to convince the Yokozuna that it’s time to go kyujo.