It’s time to kick off the final weekend of this last basho of the year. In spite of some high profile dud performances, we manage to find ourselves with some great themes for the last two days. First off is the yusho race, which is far from decided. Takayasu has solo possession of the lead, but absent any surprise developments, needs to win his last 2 to ensure claiming his first yusho. There are 4 rikishi one win behind him, eager to try and grab the cup for themselves, if somehow someone can put dirt on Takayasu.
We have the unresolved question of Wakatakakage, who is not going to get his double digit score, and probably needs to restart his Ozeki run in January. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi, so his disposition is still undecided. He should be able to get that 8th win today, but with this crowd, never assume things will go the direction they were pointed in.
And gloriously, we have what could be an overflowing vessel of Darwin matches. There could be as many as 8 of those things on the final day, if the stars align. Given how middling everyone’s scores have been all year, it’s a fitting tribute to 2022 to have the whole thing end with a flurry of 7-7 matches competing for survival.
Up for a try at kachi-koshi today: Wakatakakage, Meisei, Myogiryu, Kotoeko, Okinoumi, Ichiyamamoto, Azumaryu
Takayasu controls the outcome. Stay in the ring, stay off the clay and you take home that cup at long last. As I have said since week 1, watch for Takakeisho, who if he gets the chance will be tough to stop.
Chasers: Takakeisho, Hoshoryu, Abi, Oho
Hunt Group: Kagayaki, Hiradoumi
2 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 14
We will see this all day, a 6-7 vs a 7-6. Call it a “Darwin Qualifier”, either both men end the day 7-7, or one is kachi-koshi and the other make-koshi.
Okinoumi vs Chiyoshoma – Darwin qualifier match, we have Chiyoshoma with a narrow lead, and 6 wins looking to stay in the hunt for kachi-koshi. Okinoumi has won 3 of the last 4, so I am looking for.. dare I say it… a henka?
Takanosho vs Azumaryu – Another Darwin qualifier. An Azumaryu win would be his first kachi-koshi in the top division, after 3 failed attempts. He’s got Takanosho who has been surprisingly lack-luster this November.
Kotoshoho vs Myogiryu – A third Darwin qualifier, Kotoshoho has never beaten Myogiryu, but he needs to today if he wants to try for his kachi-koshi on day 15. Myogiryu broke a 3 match losing streak yesterday with his win over Kotoshoho’s stable mate, Kotoeko.
Nishikigi vs Ichiyamamoto – The fourth and final Darwin qualifier match of the first group, it’s Nishikigi trying for his 7th win against Ichiyamamoto looking for his kachi-koshi. Ichiyamamoto has had a bit of a week 2 fade, having lost 3 of his last 4 matches.
Hiradoumi vs Nishikifuji – We take a bit of a break from Darwin qualifiers for a Hiradoumi test match. The banzuke gap between these two is 10 full ranks. Hiradoumi (9-4) have never won a match against Nishikifuji (8-5), with four prior attempts.
Wakamotoharu vs Kotoeko – With an odd number of Darwin candidates, someone had to fight outside of that group, and the schedulers picked Kotoeko (7-6) to take on Wakamotoharu (8-5). I like this match because both have strong yotsu-zumo abilities, and Kotoeko loves a good fight. I like that Wakamotoharu has a 3 match winning streak going, which includes his day 12 win over Tobizaru.
Tochinoshin vs Sadanoumi – This match is “Darwin or make-koshi”. Both men are 6-7, so whomever loses will end the tournament with a losing record. The winner gets a day 15 Darwin match. Tochinoshin holds a 7-5 career lead.
Ura vs Terutsuyoshi – A sad match, both are double-digit make-koshi this November, with Terutsuyoshi still in the hunt for the rarely seen zenpai. Given how he has been fighting, I don’t give Terutsuyoshi any chance of winning today.
Endo vs Midorifuji – Another “Darwin or make-koshi” match, call it a “Mini-Darwin” if you want, the winner is rewarded with a Darwin match tomorrow, and the loser a make-koshi. First time match between these two.
Atamifuji vs Ichinojo – Another double-digit make-koshi fight, with both men fighting well below their capabilities. I would actually give 3-10 Atamifuji a slight edge over 2-11 Ichinojo in this, their first ever match.
Takayasu vs Kagayaki – Takayasu, having run out of high rankers to beat on, is pretty far down the banzuke to take on Kagayaki, who is 2 wins behind Takayasu. Of course the outcome that everyone is looking for is a Takayasu win, and Kagayaki’s removal from the hunt group. But I would like to think that maybe he has a chance. A slim one, but a chance. He has only beaten Takayasu once in 4 attempts, in September of 2020 when Takayasu was struggling to recover from injury.
Meisei vs Kotonowaka – Meisei at 7-6 needs a win today over 8-5 Kotonowaka to avoid a Darwin match on day 15. He holds a 3-1 career lead, but Kotonowaka is on a bit of a hot streak, having one 3 of his last 4.
Tamawashi vs Takarafuji – Another battle of the make-koshi, its 4-9 Tamawashi, hoping to avoid double digit losses, against 2-11 Takarafuji, who has already embraced his growing doom.
Ryuden vs Daieisho – The schedulers are trying hard to get Daieisho (6-7) one more win to put him into the Darwin pool. He’s up against 8-5 Ryuden, who at 8-5 is already kachi-koshi. Daieisho has an 8-4 career advantage.
Tobizaru vs Aoiyama – Ah, Tobizaru. You had a strong start to this basho, but now at 5-8 you are looking less formidable. You have the man-mountain that is Aoiyama today (6-7) who will either win and go on to a Darwin match tomorrow, or lose and be make-koshi for November.
Onosho vs Kiribayama – Both men are 8-5 kachi-koshi to start today, so this fight is really all about rank. They have split their six prior matches 3-3, so maybe a big fight here.
Wakatakakage vs Hokutofuji – Last of the Darwin qualifiers, and you could not ask for two better candidates to end the series. We have former Ozeki hopeful Wakatakakage up against Hokutofuji, owner of “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo” title. Wakatakakage needs a win to avoid a day 15 Darwin match, and further deflation of his once grand aspirations.
Abi vs Hoshoryu – With the preliminaries out of the way, it’s time to make all of the 10-3 guys fight each other, starting with these two. This match set will ensure only 2 rikishi remain in the hunt for the cup should Takayasu lose a match. Hoshoryu has never lost to Abi, with 4 prior fights. Abi is looking better than he has in some time, but his sumo is so one dimensional, if Hoshoryu has a formula for shutting him down, it may be certain that Abi will lose.
Takakeisho vs Oho – I can’t see this first time battle being much more than a rapid, short flight down range for Oho once he catches a full blast. I am certain he will try for a mawashi grab as a route to upset the Ozeki, but the chances of him getting there are remote.
Mitakeumi vs Shodai – What could be more “Sumo 2022” than ending the day with these two head to head? Shodai, I present you with your future. The best Mitakeumi can hope for right now is to beat Shodai and qualify for a Darwin match tomorrow. He has a 13-16 career deficit against booger-boy, but maybe Shodai is ready to throw in the towel.