The middle weekend of the Kyushu basho has arrived. It’s a magical time on the sumo calendar when some of the big matches take place, and we usually get our first look at the yusho race for all the divisions. I note with some interest that former Ozeki Asanoyama had a Juryo visitor match on day 6 against dear old Tokushoryu. He won, to go 4-0 and reach his Makushita kachi-koshi. I expect him to vie for the Makushita yusho in the coming week, and with a bit of luck a return to the paid ranks for January.
In the top division, we have 4 rikishi with leading 5-1 records, though for the most part I am not sure any of them have what it takes to win the cup. None of them have prior top division yusho races, and may choke into week 2. That would open the door to the cadre at 4-2, which includes 3 time yusho winner Mitakeumi and one time winner Wakatakakage, and Ozeki Takakeisho. With the lack of a dominant rikishi, this could be a wild race for the cup a week from now.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Atamifuji vs Azumaryu – Atamifuji and his nose bleeds, maybe it’s like Michael Jordan and the tongue hanging out. You knew that once the tongue was flapping in the breeze, the amazing basketball was about to be served. So, should we sumo fans start looking for hints of blood from his face at the tachiai? He has an even 1-1 with Azumaryu, so expect a big battle today.
Ichiyamamoto vs Terutsuyoshi – I hate to raise this, but might Terutsuyoshi go for a perfect (?) 0-7 for Nakabe? A loss today to Ichiyamamoto would bring that to reality, and it would be grim tidings indeed. They are fairly even when both are healthy (3-2, favoring Ichiyamamoto), but Terutsuyoshi is in dire need of a rebuild.
Hidenoumi vs Oho – After winning his day 1 match, Juryo visitor Hidenoumi has lost 5 consecutive bouts. He faces Oho today, who seems to have remembered why he came to Kyushu to begin with. It’s not for the sea food, it’s to hit people really hard and knock them out of the ring. I think that Oho will be 6-1 at the end of the day.
Okinoumi vs Hiradoumi – First ever match for these two, and I would love to see Okinoumi fight with the same vigor he was able to muster for his day 6 win against Azumaryu.
Onosho vs Kagayaki – I was disappointed that Onosho let Tochinoshin put him on the clay on day 6, but when you fight like Onosho does, you are always a hair’s breadth away from toppling over into a loss no matter where you are or what you are doing. I am sure Kagayaki knows this, and is ready to disrupt Onosho as much as he can get away with. They are evenly matched, with Kagayaki having a narrow 7-6 career lead.
Kotoeko vs Chiyoshoma – Kotoeko have earned new appreciation from fans after his day 6 win over Aoiyama, who was trying his hardest to stress tests any dental work Kotoeko may have had. Today he has Chiyoshoma, who could use a win right now to not be too close to the make-koshi score. Kotoeko leads the series 11-5.
Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – These two long serving top division rikishi share a 14-11 score across their 25 career matches. Both of them are suffering reductions to their already tenuous mobility, and I think this match will devolve into Aoiyama raining blows on Chiyotairyu from above, while Chiyotairyu desperately tries to pull Aoiyama down.
Takanosho vs Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho comes into day 7 with a three match losing streak, and he seems to be fighting with about 15% reduced power output. Takanosho continues to struggle to dominate his matches, in spite of being ranked far below his prior normal rank in the san’yaku. He does have a 2-1 career advantage over Kotoshoho.
Takarafuji vs Abi – If everyone were healthy, Takarafuji would have a narrow advantage over Abi, as demonstrated by his 6-5 career lead. But Takarafuji is not in fighting form, and will likely be bounced around like a cork on an angry sea, and tossed out of the ring in short order. I look for Abi to figure in the week 2 yusho race.
Nishikigi vs Myogiryu – I am sort of impressed that Nishikigi is hanging in there with a 3-3 ranked this high up the banzuke. He actually had a narrow 7-6 career advantage over Myogiryu on the clay, but Myogiryu has taken 2 of their 3 prior matches this year. Nishikigi tends to be a patient and measured, where Myogiryu likes his sumo on fast forward.
Tochinoshin vs Nishikifuji – These two have only fought twice before, once each in the two prior basho, and their score is 1-1. Tochinoshin’s gamey knee looks a bit less capable this tournament, it may be Nishikifuji’s turn to win one. He is small enough that Tochinoshin is capable of his sky-crane, if he knees can comply.
Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – I dearly want to see Hokutofuji do well this basho. I like his sumo technique when he is “on”, which sadly is a day to day thing. If he were consistent, he would be Ozeki Hokutofuji. Maybe in some parallel universe where Hakuho never went into sumo but became a bumblebee rancher instead. But back in this universe, I think he stands a fair chance of giving Ryuden the business today, based on his 8-5 career record against him.
Endo vs Sadanoumi – I am not sure what is broken in Endo, but something is not right when you get to the middle weekend and his score is a lowly 1-5. If he goes on to his 8th loss, it will be his fifth make-koshi this year. So I am expecting Sadanoumi to pick up his 4th win today.
Meisei vs Ichinojo – Both men have matching 2-4 records for the start of day 6, and in spite of Meisei’s 8-4 career record against Ichinojo, I think “The Boulder” has the edge today. Simply because he has been fighting well, and has a 50kg weight advantage.
Tamawashi vs Kotonowaka – After a cold start, Kotonowaka has won his last three in a row. He is fighting Tamawashi today, who seems unable to repeat the same intensity of sumo that gave him the yusho in September. But we can count on Tamawashi to deliver big hits and a lot of forward power today.
Takayasu vs Daieisho – Takayasu, as the top man in the rank and file, is quickly running out of rikishi in the named ranks to beat up and take their lunch money. Today it’s Daieisho who needs to tend to his defenses, as his normal mega-thrust attack may be worthless against Takayasu, if Takayasu continues to keep his feet firmly planted, and his hips square to his opponents. Takayasu holds a 10-5 career advantage.
Kiribayama vs Mitakeumi – Things are starting to get serious for Mitakeumi. He can only lose 3 more matches if he wants to return to Ozeki for 2023, and he will need to over come a rather genki Kiribayama today to keep that campaign on track. Both have 4-2 records, and have an even 6-6 career record. But to my eye, Kiribayama is fighting a bit better than Mitakeumi this November.
Wakamotoharu vs Hoshoryu – One of the big matches for this middle weekend served up fresh here. Wakamotoharu has only ever beaten Hoshoryu once in five attempts. Layered above that is the clash of styles, with Wakamotoharu being happy to grapple his opponent and wait him out, up against Hoshoryu’s sumo pattern of direct and violent action. A Wakamotoharu win would knock Hoshoryu out of the leader group. Sparks shall fly!
Wakatakakage vs Tobizaru – Two Onami brothers fighting in consecutive matchs, sign me up! Tobizaru is part of a group of rikishi that started 3-0, then turned around and lost three in a row. Now sitting at a lack-luster 3-3 score, he’s got Ozeki hopeful Wakatakakage for day 7. Wakatakakage is looking for double digits to stoke his Ozeki run, so he must win 6 of his remaining 9 matches, starting with today. Can monkey sumo score an upset? Bonus points if we get to see Tobizaru jog out into the crowd for some long overdue fan service.
Ura vs Shodai – The only good that can come out of this match would be Shodai getting a win and inching closer to clearing kadoban. Sure, Ura has a 4-2 career advantage, but he’s hurt or homesick or his sumo co-processor is stuck in a no-op loop. Whatever is happening, Ura is not presenting any real sumo this month.
Takakeisho vs Midorifuji – I expect big sumo out of Takakeisho for the next 5 matches. He knows he has a chance at the cup again this time, if he can keep the wins rolling in. He’s only had one prior match against Midorifuji, which he won. So a repeat of his day 6 demolition project against Ura would seem to be in order.