With the middle weekend behind us, we are now 7 matches away from everyone’s final score. There is still no clear cut sign of a funnel to march as many rikishi as possible to day 15 7-7 “Darwin Matches”, so I am going to guess for this basho the scheduling crew have decided to let things unfold as they may. There still seems to be a prevalence to match mid-score with mid-score, and bad score with bad score.
With both Asanoyama and Meisei taking their first losses on day 8, they both have their next chance at kachi-koshi today. I think Asanoyama may have underestimated Hokuseiho, so I am eager for their rematch in July. Meisei may be thrown off his sumo by the loss, but I hope not. I would like to see both of them pressure Terunofuji during act 3 in the race for the cup.
Terunofuji is the sole leader of the yusho race. As the Yokozuna and multiple yusho winner, he controls the outcome. It will be up to some brave soul to put dirt on him if there is to be any chance of the two chasers trying their luck to take home the hardware.
Chasers: Meisei, Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Kiribayama, Hoshoryu, Daieisho, Wakamotoharu, Hiradoumi, Hokuseiho, Myogiryu
7 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Oho (4-4) vs Myogiryu (6-2) – Oho showed some signs of life in his day 8 loss to Kotoeko, and I think this match is an opportunity for him to start clawing his way toward a kachi-koshi. He has a 3-1 career record against Myogiryu, including winning both prior matches this year.
Mitoryu (4-4) vs Kotoeko (3-5) – I would like to see Kotoeko build a string of white stars out of his brilliant won over Oho on day 8. He has an even 2-2 record against the bulky Mitoryu, but has lost both prior matches this year. It may be down to the tremendous 50 kg weight difference between them.
Aoiyama (2-6) vs Kagayaki (3-5) – Aoiyama has no ability to hold ground, and won’t stand up to frontal pressure for more than a fe seconds. To win this match Kagayaki will want to set his defenses, then push with all he can muster. Aoiyama holds an 8-4 career advantage, but that may not matter given that he is hurt.
Ichiyamamoto (3-5) vs Daishoho (2-6) – Both men are on a solid make-koshi path. Both would need to win nearly all of their remaining 7 matches to get to 8 at this point, so each of them is hoping to limit the fall. The situation is a bit more of a concern for Ichiyamamoto, who is ranked near the bottom of the banzuke at Maegashira 15 East.
Tsurugisho (5-3) vs Takarafuji (3-5) – These two have mirror scores, and a 3-3 career record. But in terms of health and capability when they step on the dohyo for day 8, I give Tsurugisho the advantage of being less banged up. Takarafuji’s sumo depends heavily on his ability to hold ground under relentless attack, but his current condition seems to preclude that.
Ryuden (3-5) vs Asanoyama (7-1) – I am certain that Asanoyama will be quite careful with his sumo today. He should not have lost that day 8 fight with Hokuseiho, and he gave up a share of the top spot in the race for the Emperor’s Cup. They last fought on day 11 of that odd “silent basho” in Osaka during March of 2020, with Asanoyama winning by yorikiri. An Asanoyama win today would be kachi-koshi.
Onosho (5-3) vs Hokuseiho (6-2) – First ever match between Hakuho’s giant and the junior tadpole. I am going to guess that Hokuseiho gets the over the shoulder belt hold, and we get to see what Onosho is going to do about it.
Chiyoshoma (4-4) vs Tamawashi (3-5) – Will we see more high amplitude sumo from Tamawashi, like what he was able to produce in his day 8 win over Ryuden? Not sure how much more of that his body can support, but I am all in favor of watching him try. He has a 5-1 career record against Chiyoshoma.
Hokutofuji (4-4) vs Hiradoumi (6-2) – Hokutofuji is getting dangerously close to establishing a winning record, which could rob him of the “Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All of Sumo!!” if he is not careful. With any luck, Hiradoumi will block Hokutofuji’s nodowa opening gambit, and quickly put him on the clay. They share a 1-1 career record.
Takanosho (2-6) vs Kotoshoho (1-7) – Both of these guys need to get their fighting form back somehow for July. A loss today for Kotoshoho would be make-koshi for him. They both share a 2-2 career record.
Kinbozan (3-5) vs Sadanoumi (4-4) – Kinbozan has lost 3 of the last 4 matches. His loss 2 days ago to Terunofuji is understandable, but his loss on day 8 to Nishikifuji is not. I hope he did not get hurt in his fight with Hokutofuji on day 5, but I suspect maybe he did. If he’s less than genki, he could be an easy target for speed demon Sadanoumi.
Ura (3-5) vs Mitakeumi (5-3) – At this point I think Ura is headed for make-koshi. His form is poor, and we have seen little of his trademark physics bending sumo. Starting with his loss day 5 to Terunofuji, he has lost 4 matches in a row. Add to that Mitakeumi’s 6-1 career advantage, and I think we will see Ura with his 5th consecutive loss today.
Tobizaru (3-5) vs Nishikifuji (2-6) – All things as they are this May, this should be a Tobizaru win. Both of them are on solid tracks towards a losing record on day 15, but I think Tobizaru still has some good sumo left to deliver this Natsu basho. Tobizaru won their only prior fight.
Shodai (3-5) vs Midorifuji (3-5) – Both of them have 3-5 records, and this match is to figure out who is going to have a slightly easier path to 8 for the remainder of the basho. Neither one of them is anywhere close to their optimum fighting form, and have been struggling all through week 1. Can either of them rally starting week 2 and finish strong? Shodai holds a 3-1 career advantage.
Kotonowaka (3-5) vs Abi (4-4) – Kotonowaka looks to be on a path to vacate his san’yaku slot for Nagoya, unless he can win 5 of the remaining 7 matches. Something he could do if he was a lower rank, and in good form – neither of which are true right now. Abi has some fans speculating that maybe one of his shoulders is not quite up to spec for now, as he seems to have lost some of his thrusting power. They share a 2-2 career record.
Wakamotoharu (6-2) vs Hoshoryu (6-2) – A high interest match as the schedulers look to narrow the field at the top of the yusho race. One of these rikishi will stay in the hunt for the cup, the other will drop out after today’s match. Hoshoryu holds a 6-2 career advantage, but Wakamotoharu has made a step change improvement to his sumo this year.
Kiribayama (6-2) vs Daieisho (6-2) – Another pivotal match to narrow the competition for the cup. This time with mega-thruster Daieisho taking on the person who I think is the lead Ozeki hopeful, Kiribayama. They have a fairly even 8-6 career score, and I think it will come down to Kiribayama being able to absorb about 20 seconds or so of high power Daieisho sumo to get to the point where he can take over.
Nishikigi (2-6) vs Takakeisho (6-2) – I think that if Nishikigi can get a belt grip, he could win this one. He has onl beaten Takakeisho once in 7 tries, but given his strength toe to toe with some of the toughest rikishi in the sport, I think he has the grip strength and the lower body to hold on under a Takakeisho counter attack.
Terunofuji (8-0) vs Meisei (7-1) – Another fight meant to narrow the race for the cup. I expect Terunofuji to win this one without too much drama, in spite of Meisei’s excellent 7-1 record at the start of day 9. Out of their 10 career matches, 8 have gone to Terunofuji, thought Meisei did drop the Yokozuna on day 12 of Hatsu 2022 via katasukashi.