Welcome to the middle weekend, it’s a wonderful part of the 15 day honbasho cycle, as it’s when it finally get to start tracking the yusho race with focus, and we sometimes get to see our first kachi-koshi. With everyone on the banzuke having at least one loss, we won’t see anyone reach 8 wins on Sunday, but I am certain there will be a roiling storm of sumo as the 8 rikishi with 5-1 records try to best their opponents and take a lead in the race for the cup, which will be decided just about one week from now.
I am thankful that for the second tournament in a row, it looks like the schedulers are not starting their funnel in the middle weekend. It makes the whole second week a rather ugly process like slow torture as they grind the middling performers down, searching for a maximum crop of 7-7 finishes on day 14. That’s not to say that the funnel won’t show up later, just that it looks like we may get to enjoy the next two days of just flat out brawling, slapping, pushing and shoving without that doom waiting some beloved favorites.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Takarafuji vs Bushozan – Because we had two rikishi go kyujo, the banzuke imbalance persists, and we will continue to see daily visitors from Juryo. Today, its Juryo 1 West Bushozan, who comes in at 3-3, looking to climb out of the middle of the score range. He has never fought 5-1 Takarafuji, and I think given how Takarafuji is fighting right now, he may not find the win he hopes to take home.
Ichiyamamoto vs Mitoryu – A battle of 3-3 rikishi, they share a fairly even 3-2 record. They each scored one win in 2022, and one win each in 2021. Ichiyamamoto lost his day 6 match against Kotoeko, and had a fusensho against Okinoumi, and had a day to mostly rest, which may give him an advantage today.
Kagayaki vs Chiyomaru – These two have losing records, with Kagayaki at 2-4, and Chiyomaru at 1-5. They have been fighting poorly, with Kagayaki’s last win on day 3, and Chiyomaru only getting his first win of Hatsu on day 6 against Juryo visitor Akua. With a 19 match career score or 9-10, I don’t really know who I would favor to win this one.
Chiyoshoma vs Kotoeko – Chiyoshoma (1-5) got his first win via a day 6 hair pull in his match against Takanosho, so thus far he has not been able to win a match with strong sumo. I am not sure if he’s hurt, or just out of sumo power for now, but given he has a 6-11 career deficit against 4-2 Kotoeko, I predict another loss today unless he can suddenly find some spare power at the heya.
Aoiyama vs Tsurugisho – I am sure Aoiyama (5-1) was disappointed to lose his match on day 6 against Onosho, but he’s got a significant power advantage against fellow super-jumbo Tsurugisho (2-4). The last time Tsurugisho was able to win against Aoiyama was a year ago at Hatsu 2022, and given how the series has gone, if Tsurugisho can get a belt grip, he has a chance to get a win. If Aoiyama can keep the pushing and thrusting going strong, it tends to be his match to win.
Kotoshoho vs Endo – I think this one has the ingredients for an exciting match. We have 5-1 Kotoshoho, looking to bounce back from his first loss, against 4-2 Endo who is on a two match winning streak, looking to make it 3. Kotoshoho won their only prior match by oshidashi at Kyushu 2022.
Takanosho vs Azumaryu – I am starting to really pull for Azumaryu, who has been trying for years to get a kachi-koshi in the top division, only to fall short each time. With a 5-1 record, he needs 3 more wins any time in the next week and a day to finally reach that goal. He’s against 3-3 Takanosho, who had his fingers get tangled in Chiyoshoma’s top-knot yesterday, and was disqualified.
Onosho vs Hiradoumi – Sure, go ahead Hiradoumi (4-2), try a pull in the first two steps of this match. Just because it’s failed 4 times already this basho doesn’t mean it won’t work this time. This time, for sure, Onosho (5-1) will be off balance and ready to fall.
Oho vs Myogiryu – I really don’t want to see 0-6 Oho be the first rikishi to get a make-koshi this tournament. I have to assume that at some point he’s going to be able to squeeze out a win somewhere. Why not today? He has an even 1-1 record against 2-4 Myogiryu, who looks off his normal sumo pace.
Ura vs Nishikigi – At 3-3, Ura seems to be headed toward a 7-7 score to start day 15. I double that he like Darwin matches, but it seems to be a fact of life in sumo. He had a 3-2 career advantage over 4-2 Nishikigi, who broke his 4 day winning streak on day 6 with a loss to Ryuden.
Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden (4-2) has won the last 3 in a row, and comes into today a bit of an underdog against 3-3 Hokutofuji. The overall career record is 5-9, but Hokutofuji has dominated the series since 2020, with a total of 5-2 favoring Hokutofuji. As well as Ryuden is fighting right now, this may be his best chance to claw back a win and close that gap.
Sadanoumi vs Daieisho – Much as I have enjoyed some of Sadanoumi’s sumo in the past, he is fighting poorly at 2-4, and he’s facing off against white hot mega-thruster Daieisho (5-1) today. But wait, there’s more. Daieisho holds a 4-7 career lead, and has won the last three in a row, going back to 2019.
Kiribayama vs Mitakeumi – Both of them are coming in 3-3, and seem to be struggling daily. Hopes I have for a future Ozeki Kiribayam vs Ozeki Hoshoryu rivalry are going to require both of them to tune up their sumo a couple of notches. He has an even 7-6 record against Mitakeumi, so he stands a fair chance of getting his 4th win today.
Wakamotoharu vs Kotonowaka – I think this match exists to give 2-4 Kotonowaka a chance to climb back toward the centerline by taking on 3-3 Wakamotoharu, who he holds a 5-1 career advantage against. Kotonowaka won all of their matches in 2022, and has won the last 2 matches after a cold 0-4 start.
Meisei vs Tobizaru – I think both of these guys are headed straight for make-koshi land, as we get 1-5 Meisei and 2-4 Tobizaru both having pretty crummy starts to the new year. Both of them seem to only be at about 80% of their winning intensity, so this match can be though of as a battle between two guys in need of recovery and recuperation.
Abi vs Hoshoryu – Having taken his first loss on day 6, Abi needs to keep pace with the rest of the 5-1 crew in order to try to forge a path to a second consecutive yusho. He needs to overcome 4-2 Hoshoryu, who has lost 2 in a row, and needs to get back on a winning streak and stay there. Hoshoryu has a 4-1 career lead over Abi.
Wakatakakage vs Nishikifuji – Wakatakakage, with a 3-3 score starting today, needs to really get his sumo together if he wants to make a case some time in 2023 that he should be the next Ozeki. Fortunately for him, he has not lost to 2-4 Nishikifuji in either of the two prior attempts.
Tamawashi vs Shodai – I would love to see Shodai rally and get his 10 wins, but with a 2-4 score starting day seven, he can only lose one more match and hit that goal. The chances of that are slim to none, although we all know he has the sumo to do it. We just don’t know where it’s gone. He has a 10-13 record against Tamawashi, who comes into today 3-3.
Midorifuji vs Takakeisho – Hello Midorifuji (4-2), please make sure you don’t have any loose dental work prior to today’s match. One good blast from the wave action machine, and you may be moving quickly without any control. I don’t think that 5-1 Takakeisho will drop a match today to Midorifuji today, but Midorifuji is going to do his best to put a dent in Takakeisho’s 2-0 career record against him.