With the middle day behind us, it’s on to week 2. In Juryo, Asanoyama continues to dominate, now 8-0 and kachi-koshi. He won his day 8 match against Gonoyama handily. While some of his opponents put up a good fight, Asanoyama shows Ozeki level flexibility with plans B and C at the ready. I am starting to think we may just see him at the bottom of the Makuuchi banzuke in March. Fair warning to the lower Maegashira.
Three of the 5 men who had a share of the lead starting day 8 took a loss. This is not at all unexpected, and to be honest I think the eventual yusho winner will have 2 or 3 losses in their final score. Yes, this means I think someone is going to put dirt on Takakeisho in week 2.
Leaders: Takakeisho, Kotoshoho
Chasers: Hoshoryu, Daieisho, Onosho, Aoiyama, Azumaryu, Takarafuji
7 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Chiyomaru vs Mitoryu – Sadly, this could be the day that 1-7 Chiyomaru gets his 8th loss and is both make-koshi, and consigned as the first crew member of the Juryo barge of the damned. He’s been aboard many times before, but it’s always sad to see him go. He’s never lost to Mitoryu (3-5) in 6 matches, but that may not matter for much today, as Chiyomaru is hurt and not fighting well.
Tsurugisho vs Atamifuji – Atamifuji is today’s Juryo vistor. He’s at 3-5, and unlikely to hit his 8 wins and stake any kind of bid for promotion to the top division. His opponent is doing really doing any better. At 2-5, Tsurugisho may find himself spared from the Juryo barge by all the other rikishi in line ahead of him, in spite of what is likely going to be a losing record at Maegashira 15.
Kagayaki vs Azumaryu – I am going to predict now that Kagayaki is on the short list to be part of “Team Darwin” on day 15. His sumo has been lack-luster, and his 4-4 score is right on the line between make and kachi-koshi. His 6-2 opponent, Azumaryu, is now just 2 wins away from his first ever kachi-koshi in the top division. I know it’s silly, but I really want to see the fellow finally have it happen after being in sumo this long, and trying at least 4 times before.
Chiyoshoma vs Takarafuji – Also likely on the road to make-koshi is Chiyoshoma, who seems to be missing something important in his sumo right now: power. Could be he has an injury that keeps him from applying full force. But at 2-6 he’s on the make-koshi trail. As the last man on the banzuke, his opponent Takarafuji has some breathing room at 6-2. But everyone is aware he is nursing an injured hand. Chiyoshoma leads the series 9-7.
Kotoshoho vs Hiradoumi – Kotoshoho has a 7-1 score going into today, which gives him a share of the lead in the yusho race. I don’t expect him to hang onto that spot, as he will get tougher opponents in the coming week if he keeps winning. His sumo caught my eye early, and I am very happy to see him doing well. Hopefully he is focused on kachi-koshi with a win today over 5-3 Hiradoumi, who is likely headed for at least 8 himself. They have split their two prior matches.
Aoiyama vs Ichiyamamoto – Hopefully 6-2 Aoiyama will forego any grappling or battle hugs today, and go straight toe to toe with the V-Twin against 5-3 Ichiyamamoto’s morotsuki. I suspect the V-Twin will prevail, but I would love to see this played out today.
Kotoeko vs Endo – Two more rikishi that I think are headed for Darwin, with their matching 4-4 scores. At this point even a single win won’t be enough to steer them off the shoals of a 7-7 day 15 record. They have split their 4 prior matches 2-2, so this one is statistically at toss up.
Takanosho vs Myogiryu – I truly want Takanosho to bounce back to his previous form, where he was a confirmed member of the San’yaku, and looked certain to stay there for a good while. Now with a 4-4 record, he seems to be struggling at Maegashira 9, which is not where he belongs. If to helps, he has 2-6 Myogiryu, but his fans can’t be sure he will win this one, such is the quality of his sumo this January.
Hokutofuji vs Onosho – I am surprised to see Onosho at 6-2, as I thought he would keep pace with fellow tadpole Takakeisho a bit longer. But 6-2 still has him firmly headed for kachi-koshi, and maybe even double digits if things go well. He has 5-3 Hokutofuji today, who has proven versatile and tough to defeat. Hokutofuji has been able to endure attacks that would have eliminated others, and pushed through to win. They share a 8-7 career record.
Oho vs Nishikigi – A loss today, and 1-7 Oho may be an early member of the make-koshi club. He has never lost to 5-3 Nishikigi, but something is going on with Nishikigi this month. He’s looking very sharp, strong and confident on the clay. It would be wonderful to see him back in the joi-jin when Terunofuji returns.
Nishikifuji vs Ura – I have hopes that Ura can hit an 8 win kachi-koshi this January. He’s been fighting well enough, and has a workable 5-3 score starting day 9. Nishikifuji is in worse shape at 3-5, and given his rank is probably not done facing san’yaku opponents yet. Ura won their only prior match, on day 1 of Kyushu last year.
Abi vs Midorifuji – Is Abi fading out? Or is he just up against opponents that are able to disrupt and shut down his double arm thrusting attacks? He lost the only prior match to 4-4 Midorifuji, which was on the final day of the basho held in July of 2021, prior to Abi’s suspension. I am pretty sure the back-to-back yusho idea is long gone, but I would like to see him at the top of the rank and file for Osaka.
Tobizaru vs Tamawashi – We have high mobility Tamawashi (5-3) against extreme mobility Tobizaru (3-5). Tamawashi won two of their three matches in 2022, and I think he may be dominant today, too. He comes in with two consecutive wins against former Ozeki: Shodai and Mitakeumi. If that’s not a boost, I don’t know what is.
Meisei vs Mitakeumi – Speaking of the relic that is Mitakeumi, here he is fighting Meisei. Both are 3-5, and at least for Mitakeumi, a make-koshi would further push him down the banzuke. This whole demotion swirl has to be attributable to some kind of injury or illness that has robbed him of this power and drive, and frankly it’s no fun for anyone. Even though Mitakeumi holds a 9-3 career advantage, I favor Meisei to win this one today.
Daieisho vs Kotonowaka – 6-2 Daieisho’s day 8 loss to Meisei knocked him out of a co-leader spot, but I don’t think for a moment he’s lost any of his sumo power. He’s probably still dialed up to “launch mode”, and 3-5 Kotonowaka is the next payload. Kotonowaka managed to put together three wins in a row starting day 5, but other than that it has been loss upon loss, and I think that Daieisho is going to be tough to beat today.
Wakatakakage vs Ryuden – Normally, I would think Wakatakakage (4-4) is the easy choice to win this one. But he has been a far cry from his double digit winning self. Even though ranked much further down the banzuke, I think Ryuden (5-3) has to be slightly favored today, as he is fighting much better than Wakatakakage this January.
Kiribayama vs Shodai – Sadly, the predictions last year that Shodai would follow Mitakeumi down a path of demotion and into the lower reaches of the banzuke are correct. With his 6th loss on day 8, he has not opportunity to resume his Ozeki rank, and if he does not win 5 of the last 7 matches, he will be make-koshi and may have to vacate the san’yaku all together. Kiribayama, at 5-3, is fighting well enough to give Shodai, even if Shodai were genki right now. Which he is not.
Wakamotoharu vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu’s 6-2 features that dopey day 8 henka, which was not a boss move at all. “But he won, and henkas are permitted in the rules!” I can hear the chorus now. Yes, correct. But not the kind of sumo that should be on offer from a man who hopes to convince the sumo elders he should be given a higher, more permanent rank. I think that if 4-4 Wakamotoharu can get a grip, he has a fair chance of giving him a black star today.
Sadanoumi vs Takakeisho – I am starting to feel a bit sorry for 2-6 Sadanoumi. The guy has had some rough matches, and has been to visit that salt basket twice already. Takakeisho 7-1 has a habit of getting opponents moving at speed, and I sure hope he does not toss him back down the hanamichi again today. A win today for Takakeisho would be kachi-koshi, likely on his way to double digit wins for January.