With the middle weekend behind us, we go hurtling into the second week of the Aki basho. It’s Hokutofuji and Tamawashi as they men to beat, but a lot can happen in the final 7 days. In fact I would say the chances of Hokutofuji remaining unbeaten are slim, and we can expect to see him face increasingly difficult opponents in the coming week. Thus far Maegashira 6 Endo was his highest ranked opponent. Time for that to change.
In my opinion the person to watch is Tamawashi. He has earned a yusho before (January 2019), and although he is now 37, he’s still showing he has quite a bit of sumo left in him. He’s already faced two of the Okzei (beat them both) and picked up a kinboshi from the Yokozuna, so his schedule is not going to be super tough for the coming week. I think he would be the favorite, at least on day 9, to be forecast to take the cup.
But just one win behind, there is Takakeisho. He is two off of Hokutofuji’s lead, which I don’t expect Hokutofuji to maintain. Right now Takakeisho is fighting better than I have seen him fight in over a year. It would take a difficult set of circumstances to get “just right” for the 6-2 group to have a chance, but I am going to guess the scheduling committee is going to do everything it can to bring that about.
Please, no talk of an Oho / Chiyoshoma playoff next Sunday for the cup….
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Takayasu, Wakamotoharu, Nishikifuji, Oho, Chiyoshoma
7 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Azumaryu vs Tsurugisho – Azumaryu is back again for a visit to the top division. Is anyone else surprised there has not been a single kyujo so far except for Abi dropping out pre-basho? This may be an exchange match, with 1-7 Tsurugisho having a narrow chance for some manner of face-saving win here, as he holds a 14-7 career record over 5-3 Azumaryu.
Mitoryu vs Ryuden – I am starting to suspect that there is some effort to run a bit of a funnel. The preponderance of 4-4 vs 4-4 matches today would seem to indicate that. Here is our first pair – Ryuden has never lost to Mitoryu. So I am looking for Ryuden to advance.
Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – our next 4-4 match, we have a strong 4-1 career advantage for Okinoumi over Terutsuyoshi, who has won his last 3 matches in a row. Has the makings of a good fight.
Hiradoumi vs Takanosho – Third 4-4 match, it’s a surprisingly un-genki Takanosho finding himself in a first ever match against Hiradoumi. Hiradoumi opened strong with 3 consecutive wins, but then lost his momentum, and has lost 4 of the last 5. Oddly enough, this is also true of Takanosho.
Nishikifuji vs Oho – With those middling matches out of the way, lets do some weeding on the leaderboard. Both men are 6-2, with Oho having 4 career wins over Nishikifuji to Nishikifuji’s 2 wins against Oho. Their last match was in Nagoya on day 3, and it went to Nishikifuji by yorikiri.
Ichiyamamoto vs Kotoeko – Enough of that leaderboard stuff, back to the slog! It’s 4-4 time again (4th one), and we have Ichiyamamoto against Kotoeko. Kotoeko has a strong 2-0 career record against mini-Abi, as he is usually able to duck under and attack beneath Ichiyamamoto’s pulverizing oshi-zumo.
Tochinoshin vs Kotoshoho – Well, now the recipe is a bit off balance as we have 3-5 Tochinoshin taking on 4-4 Kotoshoho. Tochinoshin has never lost to Kotoshoho (4-0), and I see no reason for him to do so today. Their last match was Natsu in May, featuring a Tochinoshin oshidashi win.
Chiyoshoma vs Onosho – Well, the theme has now been completely dismissed all together. We get 6-2 yusho contender Chiyoshoma (violating my own guidance here) up against the unbalanced sumo that is the hallmark of 3-5 Onosho’s Aki basho. Their 10 career matches have been split, 5 each, with Onosho taking the match on day 12 in Nagoya.
Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Well, what can we do next? Two really bulky guys, with injuries, trying to stay away from 8 losses? Sure! It’s the pendulant 1-7 Aoiyama up against Shodai’s sparing partner, Yutakayama. Sure there is some kind of career record, but it does not matter here. Both of these guys are wrecked, and are just trying to get through the last 7 days. Maybe a slight edge for Yutakayama, but it’s like deciding which case of food poisoning you would rather have. An Aoiyama loss is make-koshi for him.
Myogiryu vs Endo – They try to get back on theme, but can only get close. They put 4-4 Myogiryu up against 3-5 Endo. A note scribbled in the margin reads “Hey, Endo was supposed to win 8 against Hokutofuji… Not our fault!” Given all that we have asked of the scheduling crew, maybe they have a point. They have split their 16 career matches at 8-8.
Wakamotoharu vs Hokutofuji – Speaking of Hokutofuji, some fans may be disappointed that we will not get “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo!” this time out of him. I for one hope he can take it all the way. The guy has been awesome since the start, and it would give me a 2 month grin to know he took the cup. But hey, he’s got 6-2 Wakamotoharu, who has beaten him once, and lost to him once. After starting with 4 consecutive wins, Wakamotoharu is fading out a bit, just 2-2 for the last 4 days.
Takarafuji vs Chiyotairyu – While the eagles soar, someone has to shovel out the stables. Here we have a pair of 1-7 rikishi, the loser gets their make-koshi today. I like them both, and their healthy state sumo is wonderful, but neither is healthy today. If it were possible for both of them to fight without moving forward, it would be fine. But today we are going to have two men without any forward power trying to move the other one out. This could take a while.
Tamawashi vs Meisei – Tamawashi (7-1) should be able to dispatch 3-5 Meisei without too much fanfare. Meisei is seldom a top performer, and right now is looking like he is headed for a mile make-koshi.
Tobizaru vs Kotonowaka – It would tickle me to no end of both Maegashira 1 ranked rikishi were able to reach kachi-koshi this September. I have to compliment Tobizaru, he has fought quite well this basho up to this point. He’s faced all of the Ozeki and the Yokozuna, so from here on out it’s the easier portion of this basho for him. Both men are 5-3, and need just 3 wins out of the final 7 matches to reach the safety of 8.
Midorifuji vs Ichinojo – The second half of the Maegashira 1 pair faces off against the July yusho winner, resident geological formation, pony tosser and ice cream sommelier, 2-6 Ichinojo. Can 4-4 Midorifuji find the last 4 wins he needs to stay at the top of the rank and file? Well, he has never won against Ichinojo. That’s a lot of Mongolian to put away in one afternoon.
Sadanoumi vs Hoshoryu – It’s the revenge of the theme! Back to a 4-4 pair off, I am sure Sadanoumi is happy to mount the dohyo today. Rumor has it that he is looking for one of the fillings that flew out of his mouth when he was swept away by Tamawashi’s forward rush. They have split their 4 prior matches. Hoshoryu has not faced a Darwin match since March, I think he’s due.
Wakatakakage vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s (4-4) magical mystery tour pulls into camp Wakatakakage today. We know Nishikigi will apply a battle hug, but what will 5-3 Wakatakakage do about it? They last fought in July of 2020 at that weird silent basho in Tokyo. That was enough to put anyone off their sumo. To make up for it, I urge the fans in the Kokugikan to bring the volume up another notch.
Ura vs Shodai – Normally, I would relish seeing two forms of WTF sumo go head to head. But it looks like Shodai (1-7) is too hurt to use any of his Acme sumo, so I think he’s just target practice for 5-3 Ura today. A loss today would give Shodai his make-koshi, and render him kadoban for November.
Takakeisho vs Kiribayama – Takakeisho (6-2) needs to stay focused a day at a time, and keep winning to hope for a shot at the cup. Today he’s going to take on 5-3 Kiribayama, who beat him on day 1 of Nagoya. There was no love lost in that match, and sometimes it’s good to even the score.
Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – I refuse be believe that Mitakeumi (3-5) being demoted to Ozekiwake is inevitable. He needs to find 5 wins over the last 7 days, not impossible. But Mitakeumi tends to have a week 2 fade, and that will cripple any chances he has to reach 8. The only piece of good news is that Daieisho is in worse shape than he is, and maybe Mitakeumi can expand his 14-8 career lead over Takakeisho’s buddy.
Terunofuji vs Takayasu – There are no easy days for the Yokozuna. Each of Terunofuji’s (5-3) competitors will be difficult, except maybe the day he has Shodai. He needs at least 3 more wins out of the last 7 days to avoid the barber. I think short of a total failure of one of those busted artifacts he uses as knees, he should be able to do it. But I think that today is going to be an ugly match. Takayasu (6-2) needs to keep winning, and he has enough matches against Terunofuji (12-12) to know how to exploit his injuries.