Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of a sumo tournament. We are in the middle of act 2, and we find ourselves celebrating the day we transition from getting competition under way, to thinking about the yusho race, and other actives of the final week of the tournament. For those who have been fortunate enough to attend sumo in Japan, Nakabi Sunday is always a great day to be in the stands. People are happy, the sumo is almost always raucous and fun, and everyone feels celebratory.
Readers may have noticed, one of my normal themes is nowhere to be found – the dreaded Darwin’s Funnel. Try as I might, I could find no sign that the scheduling team was going to try a funnel this weekend. In fact, they may not try one at all. They are not always effective, and perhaps they decided they were just going to let this basho unfold as it may, and not try to boost the number of 7-7 rikishi at the end of day 14. Hopefully it works out well for them.
With Nakabi come our first look at the leaderboard, and oh what fun that thing is for this tournament.
It’s Hokutofuji atop our first look at the leaderboard, though I don’t the he will maintain that position. I do now expect him to be in competition for the cup next week. Our more likely candidates are Tamawashi, Takakeisho and Takayasu. First person to post “Chiyoshoma yusho” gets remedial yorikiri from Asanoyama for the entire month of October.
Chasers: Tamawashi, Takayasu
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Kiribayama, Wakamotoharu, Nishikifuji, Oho, Chiyoshoma
8 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Mitoryu vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi, who until recently was a top division regular, is our Juryo visitor today. He is ranked J1e, so a simple kachi-koshi would be enough to get him pack into the Maegashira ranks. But he comes in with a 3-4 record, and is not yet dominating the Juryo competition. He faces Mitoryu, who has a matching 3-4 record. They are a very even match, and neither have any distinct advantage. They last fought in Nagoya where their roles were reversed, Mitoryu was the Juryo visitor and Shimanoumi was ranked Maegashira 9e.
Ichiyamamoto vs Yutakayama – Ichiyamamoto (4-3) draws an easier opponent today in the clearly struggling Yutakayama (2-5). Normally he would be bashing the stuffing out of everyone this far down the banzuke. But he’s probably hurt, and he has almost no power for offense or defense.
Okinoumi vs Tsurugisho – I strongly suspect that 1-6 Tsurugisho is likewise injured, and won’t be able to reach 8 or even 7 wins this September. He’s up against 3-4 Okinoumi who has lost 3 of his last 4 matches, and may himself be in the “scratch and dent” bin for the rest of Aki. They have only fought twice before, resulting in a 1-1 career record.
Hiradoumi vs Ryuden – As stated above, I am not sure they are going to run the funnel this September. It may show up later in the schedule, bur right now this match is about as close as we can get to a funnel match. We have 4-3 Hiradoumi up against 3-4 Ryuden. For Aki 2022, Hiradoumi has been fighting better to me, but he has never beaten Ryuden in 3 attempts (0-3)
Kotoshoho vs Chiyoshoma – Hey, don’t look too closely, but it seems that Chiyoshoma has put together a pretty solid winning record for Nakabi at 5-2. Only one of those was a henka, so good show! He has a struggling Kotoshoho as an opponent today, but does tend to best Chiyoshoma given their 4 prior matches (3-1, Kotoshoho).
Terutsuyoshi vs Chiyotairyu – A traditional fan favorite, its big man vs little man sumo. In this case the little man is 3-4 Terutsuyoshi, who needs 5 more wins over the next week to hit the safety of eight. He’s up against a completely disrupted Chiyomaru at 1-6 who looks poorly and fights worse. With a 5-3 career record against Chiyotairyu, Terutsuyoshi would seem to have a dependable formula for getting sumo’s thunder god out of the match.
Oho vs Takanosho – Coming into nakabi with a 2 match losing streak after taking his first 5 in a row, Oho is now an example of what happens some times when a rikishi takes a loss. Assuming he did not get hurt, he has let his confidence or some other thought process get between him and his sumo. 4-3 Takanosho could certainly use a win today. This is their first ever match.
Tochinoshin vs Nishikifuji – Tochinoshin finds himself a bit below the kachi-koshi line a 3-4, and needs to pick up a win today against 5-2 Nishikifuji. Nishikifuji has been struggling this September against the larger rikishi, so I think that Tochinoshin’s size will make a significant difference today. He won their only prior match wich was day 12 in Nagoya, by tsukiotoshi.
Aoiyama vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko also finds himself scrounging for wins from the middle day of the basho thanks to his lackluster 3-4 score. They gave him injured Aoiyama to fight to seek out his 4th win and keep him in the hunt for his 8. The two have fought 10 times in the past, and split them evenly 5-5.
Wakamotoharu vs Myogiryu – 5-2 Wakamotoharu has lost 2 of his last 3 after a big start to Aki. He won the only prior time has has fought 4-3 Myogiryu, which was March in Osaka. I am still looking for Wakamotoharu to hit at least 8 and maybe as high as 10 this basho, and join his brother in the joi-jin in Kyushu.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – The lone leader of the early yusho race, 7-0 Hokutofuji can reach kachi-koshi today with a win over struggling 3-4 Endo. The thing that makes this one most interesting to me – Endo frequently will rise to the occasion for “big fights”, like knocking the yusho leader out of position, or returning a brutal beating to the dai-Yokozuna who make a spectacle out of him the tournament before. They share an nearly even career record, so do be careful, gentlemen!
Takarafuji vs Onosho – I somehow knew Onosho was having one of his “bad” tournaments, but 2-5? Wow, thats pretty smelly. He’s got injured Takarafuji (1-6) today, so as long as he can keep his balance (hey, stop laughing Andy…) he should be able to score a much needed win here.
Tamawashi vs Sadanoumi – Former co-leader Tamawashi took a loss on day 7 to Wakatakakage. Now he needs to chase down Hokutofuji and hope someone puts him on the clay to open the race up. But before that, he has to come to fight Sadanoumi (4-3), who holds a surprising 10-4 career advantage. It’s the speed you see. Tamawashi operates by hitting his opponents very hard indeed. But someone as quick as Sadanoumi might not be there when the blow reaches it target.
Kotonowaka vs Meisei – A 4-3 from Maegashira 2, Kotonowaka has been reduced to trying to get to 8 wins, and disrupting everyone else’s September tournament. He’s never beaten 3-4 Meisei, and thus I think that both of them will end the day 4-4. If there were a funnel, this match would be a prime example that it was being implemented.
Tobizaru vs Ichinojo – I have my doubts that Ichinojo is going to be able to get to 8 wins at this point. He’s lethargic and just a fraction of his genki form that took the cup in July. He’s 2-5 an needs 6 wins out of the final 8 matches to maintain his san’yaku rank. 4-3 Tobizaru is doing somewhat better, and will have a largely easier schedule for the final week of competition.
Midorifuji vs Kiribayama – I would be delighted to see Midorifuji get kachi-koshi from the top of the rank and file. He would need 5 of the last 8 to do it, but it would confound the critics quite a bit. Blocking his path to that outcome today is 5-2 Kiribayama, who is fighting everyone in san’yaku and making it look like just another day in the keiko-ba. He won their only prior match.
Ura vs Hoshoryu – From here on out, it’s nothing but wild matches deluxe. This one has chaos written all over it. Ura has been unable to do any dimension shattering sumo sine day 4, and it’s high time that he used that mastery of space-time to turn Hoshoryu upside down and inside out. Both of them are 4-3, and need 4 more matches out of the final 8 for kachi-koshi.
Takakeisho vs Takayasu – 5-2 Takakeisho is looking more like his “good” self than he has in a while. We get to see some potent double-arm thrust attacks, and he has launched at least one rikishi into the zabuton. This fight today against 6-1 Takayasu is a different matter. Yes, he has given the former Ozeki a launch with a wave action blast before, and I will cheer if he does so today. But coming off of 2 extra months of rest, Takayasu is looking quite genki, and may be able to capture, crumple and discard Takakeisho today. Can’t wait to see how this one goes.
Wakatakakage vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi needs 5 of the last 8 to clear kadoban and stay an Ozeki. The problem be first that he’s fighting like crap and second that he gets Wakatakakage today, who has finally gotten into his sumo and has won his last 4 in a row. Mitakeumi has a clear career advantage at 7-3, but Wakatakakage won their last head to head in May by yorikiri.
Daieisho vs Shodai – Can you believe both of these guys are 1-6? Injuries abound this September, and they strike the mighty as well as the plain. I am not sure who wants to lose this match more, but I am going to guess Shodai, as he can’t seem to put two coherent sumo moves together right now. Daieisho can still move like himself, he just no longer has any power behind his attacks. Both of them are headed for make-koshi baring some miracle.
Terunofuji vs Nishikigi – I will be surprised if this match happens. Terunofuji needs to go kyujo. If it does happen, we can count on Nishikigi giving him a battle hug and trying to cuddle him to victory. The fought twice before, both times in 2020, with each taking one, and both matches decided by yorikiri. If Nishikigi gets another kinboshi on this his second “Magical mystery tour”, I will know that Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan was behind it all.