Welcome to the penultimate day of the Aki 2022 basho. Over the past several years, the Aki basho has gotten a well-earned reputation for being the place where the odd, the unusual and the unexpected can and will happen. I mean… Goeido started this whole thing when he had an accidental upgrade to an untested version of GoeiDOS 3.x that turned him into a rampaging kill bot, sending him to a 15-0 yusho. Since then, it’s seen both Mitakeumi and Shodai take the cup, and more than a few wild and unexpected performances by the rikishi. I am sure when NHK puts together their always awesome “best of” reel for Aki 2022, we will all nod and remark about all of the wonderful and unexpected things we enjoyed.
Nearly everyone has figured out if they are going home with a winning or losing record this September. A few more will be decided today, and all eyes are rightfully on the yusho race. The man in the lead, Tamawashi, has held the title once before. The two who are one win behind are both eager, aggressive and hoping for any chance they might be presented with to receive the glorious macaron of victory for the first time. Given that all 3 of them are rank and file Maegashira, I really am not sure if any of them can be considered any kind of favorite. Any of them could drop a match or two in the final two days of the tournament. We know that should both Hokutofuji and Takayasu lose, and Tamawashi win today, he would eliminate any competition, and win the yusho outright. Readers know that I am secretly hoping for a 3 way “Brawl to end it all” on Sunday. But the path to that is narrow and unlikely.
All the bouts among the three leaders have taken place except Takayasu vs. Tamawashi, which is presumably being saved for senshuraku. So today, we get them all fighting the toughest available opponents the torikumi committee could muster.
Chasers: Takayasu, Hokutofuji
Hunt Group: Wakatakakage, Tobizaru, Nishikifuji, Ryuden
2 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 14
Terutsuyoshi vs Hiradoumi – First ever match up, and a Hiradoumi (7-6) win would mean the last man on the Aki banzuke would get his kachi-koshi, and get to stick around in the top division for at least one more tournament. he’s got to over come a flagging 5-8 Terutsuyoshi, who should really give up on the ultra-low tachiai. At one point about 4 years ago it was a a super-weapon, but for the most part nobody falls for it anymore.
Chiyoshoma vs Yutakayama – Chiyoshoma is already kachi-koshi at 8-5, and Yutakayama is already make-koshi at 4-9. They are both ranked at Maegashira 14, and it’s well past time for them to fight head to head. Yutakayama has a 10-5 career advantage, but Chiyoshoma has won two of the last three.
Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyotairyu – A pair of 5-8 rikishi working out their individual demotion velocities. After a terrible start, Chiyotairyu has won 4 of the last 5 matches, and almost looks like he might make it to 7-8 before this whole thing is done. I was surprised by Ichiyamamoto’s act 3 implosion, he has not won a match since day 9, and is looking to head deeper into make-koshi territory.
Ryuden vs Takanosho – Both men are kachi-koshi, and share an even 2-2 record. I am expecting Ryuden will end this basho with double digit wins, as he just needs one more out of the last 2 to reach that mark. I am happy that Takanosho has hit his 8, but his sumo still looks pretty rough, as it did on day 13. They have not fought since July of 2020.
Myogiryu vs Kotoshoho – Both are 7-6 to start day 14, and that means one of these rikishi will leave the Kokugikan today with a kachi-koshi. Given that the 3-0 career record only shows wins for Myogiryu, I am thinking it will be his white star today.
Tochinoshin vs Tsurugisho – Both are make-koshi, with Tochinoshin at 5-8, Tsurugisho at 4-9. I expect Tsurugisho to be in Juryo in November, so he is really fighting now to limit his fall down the banzuke. He’s big, and heavy, but the amazing strength of Tochinoshin seems to be up to the task of controlling him, as he holds a 3-1 lead in their career match ups.
Aoiyama vs Mitoryu – Another make-koshi match up. This match is also a first time fight between 4-9 Aoiyama and 5-8 Mitoryu. At Maegashira 16e, Mitoryu is headed back to Juryo, but how far down the banzuke is still to be decided. He would normally be an easy mark for Aoiyama, except that Big Dan is not healthy right now, and is just as likely to fall over as win.
Wakamotoharu vs Oho – Once again, we will wait to see if Oho (7-6) can finally get his 8th win. This has to be mental, because nothing has really changed about his nondescript, somewhat obligatory sumo in the last few days. He has lost the last 3 in a row, and 4 out of the last 5. Wakamotoharu (8-5) will want to battle hug him and waltz him out, and if Oho does not mind his feet, that is exactly what will happen.
Kotonowaka vs Sadanoumi – Both are 8-5 to start today. Sadanoumi has never won a match against Kotonowaka, in 4 attempts. I do think that this is the kind of day where that might change. Sadanoumi has been moving well, and fighting strongly this September. So I am looking for Sadanoumi to employ some of his epic speed to overwhelm Kotonowaka at the tachiai.
Okinoumi vs Meisei – A mini-Darwin if you will. They are both 6-7, and the loser will get their make-koshi as a result. The winner will finish day 14 at 7-7, and will have to work for a win on Sunday to decide their fate. Okinoumi has a 10-1 career record against Meisei, with that only win coming day 3 of Kyushu 2021.
Tobizaru vs Tamawashi – High impact match in the middle of the top division once more. Both men have secured winning records, with Tobizaru at 9-4, and yusho race leader Tamawashi at 11-2. The goal is for Tobizaru to somehow evade Tamawashi’s brutal attack, and get some dirt on the front runner for the cup. He has the agility and tenacity to do it. But as Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face”.
Kotoeko vs Midorifuji – Back to seeing just how crummy some of the make-koshi records can go, we have a pair of 5-8 rikishi facing off today to see how low they might go. Its a bit of a shame that M1w Midorifuji was unable to get a kachi-koshi his first time at the top of rank and file, but I am fairly certain he will be back. His opponent, Kotoeko, has a 2-1 career lead, but has been unable to find the last 15% he has needed to win on most days.
Onosho vs Ichinojo – Another in the make-koshi playoffs, it’s two 5-8 rikishi with vary narrow ranges of sumo styles. It’s anti-weebil Onosho up against the Snorlax today, and it will come down to if Onosho’s big frontal attacks are enough to wake Ichinojo up and motivate him to fight.
Ura vs Kiribayama – If you have detected a pattern in the fight roster, congratulations. It’s time to pair up a set of 7-6 rikishi and see which one claims a kachi-koshi today. Ura should have a slight edge if you just look at the numbers, but both of them have lost 3 of the last 4 matches, with each man’s single win in that period coming on day 12. We have not seen trademark Ura sumo in several days, and I hope he turns Kiribayama into a can of soup for a few seconds by his sorcery, just to add some drama to the day.
Wakatakakage vs Hokutofuji – I know the temptation has got to be overwhelming, but I don’t want either of you two guys to henka today. Hokutofuji at 10-3 wants a win to stay in the yusho race, Wakatakakage needs 1 or 2 wins to firmly put his score in “Ozeki run” territory. They last fought in May, where Wakatakakage won (3-1).
Daieisho vs Nishikigi – Back to the make-koshi playoffs again, and once more both are 5-8. This will be a clash of styles, with Nishikigi having his “battle hug” yotsu-zumo against Daieisho’s “Mega thrust” oshi-zumo. Interestingly enough, Nishikigi actually has a 6-4 winning record against Daieisho.
Takayasu vs Hoshoryu – The last of the fights involving the leading trio, and I am hoping I don’t see flailing, wild-man sumo from Takayasu today. He has a 3-1 career advantage on the dohyo over Hoshoryu, but I note that Hoshoryu won their last head to head, in May of this year. The outcome of this match is tough to guess, so we are just going to have to watch it to see if Takayasu’s overflowing energy or Hoshoryu’s clever hybrid attacks will carry the day.
Takakeisho vs Nishikifuji – Two kachi-koshi rikishi, with Takakeisho at 8-5, and Nishikifuji at 9-4. This is a first ever match, and I think it is to test how far up the banzuke they can move Nishikifuji. It’s quite possible he will reach double digits, and could end up at the bottom of the joi-jin. First ever fight for these two.
Endo vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi (4-9), go kyujo and get that shoulder (or both) worked on. You are going to give 6-7 Endo a white star anyhow in all likelihood today, so may as well just own your injuries and prepare to try for 10 wins in Kyushu.
Takarafuji vs Shodai – Final match of the day, and we have a broken down and out of warranty version of Takarafuji at 4-9 probably taking a white star from deeply make-koshi 3-10 Shodai. Not sure if I want to watch this out of sick curiousity, or avoid it because it’s a 10 layer nonsense cake with daikon frosting.