We are about to start day 12, and only a handful of matches remain in the 2022 Natsu basho. It’s going to be intense as we have a lot of high interest matches today including an extended tour of the upper ranks by the Miyagino giant Hokuseiho. The second to last match has a lot of attention from fans, some of them saying that whomever wins will be Ozeki in July. I am not yet convinced that Kiribayama will get the nod this basho if he only beats an injured Takakeisho. Of course the whole matter is up to the Sumo Kyokai, and I am sure we will hear about it shortly after the final match on Sunday.
For Sunday, there is now a Darwin’s Funnel in effect. We can clearly see the schedulers working to herd as many rikishi with middling scores towards a day 14 finishing score of 7-7, setting up a spread of single elimination matches. As nasty and cruel as it may seem, it underscores the zero sumo game that is sumo. Every time someone gets a white star, the other rikishi gets a black star. Thus there are only so many wins in any division at the end of day 15. Those that accumulate a lot, like Terunofuji and Asanoyama, have to pull them from their opponents.\
We are nearly to the point where the only path to the cup will be with Terunofuji, Asanoyama and Kiribayama. I still favor Terunofuji to win it all, but the last 4 matches are likely to be brutal. I also wonder how many more upper rank challenges Hokuseiho will face. It’s one thing to throw the former Ozeki M14 Asanoyama at the san’yaku, he more or less belongs there right now, but it’s another thing for Hokuseiho to have a daily diet of sumo’s best right now. For having such challenges in his path, he has done remarkably well.
Leaders: Terunofuji, Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Wakamotoharu, Meisei, Hokuseiho, Tsurugisho
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Chiyoshoma (6-5) vs Ichiyamamoto (3-8) – Ichiyamamoto is already make-koshi, and may be employed here to donate a win to Chiyoshoma. He is the Kokonoe heyagashira, and it would be good to keep him in the top division. They have a fairly even 2-3 record, so this is far from a certain win for Chiyoshoma. He still needs 2 wins to reach his 8.
Myogiryu (6-5) vs Daishoho (5-6) – An excellent funnel match, as both of these rikishi are straddling the center line. Ideally Myogiryu would lose and they would both end the day 6-6. The wrinkle in that plan is that Myogiryu has beaten Daishoho in both prior matches.
Mitoryu (4-7) vs Takarafuji (3-8) – Mitoryu is one loss away from make-koshi, and he goes up against already make-koshi Takarafuji, who seems completely unable to execute anything other than the motions of a sumo match, without any of the required power to make it work.
Onosho (6-5) vs Oho (7-4) – As unlikely as it may seem, an Oho win today would be kachi-koshi for him. It would mean an amazing 7 wins out of the last 8 matches, which given how lethargic his sumo has been just does not seem plausible. Onosho won their prior match this year against an overall 1-2 career record. Maybe Onosho can come in ready to grab his 7th win today.
Tsurugisho (8-3) vs Hiradoumi (7-4) – I don’t recall ever seeing Tsurugisho fight this well in the top division. Today’s match will test out just how genki he is during act 3. He gets to face hot shot Hiradoumi, who has beaten Tsurugisho in all 3 prior matches. A win today for Hiradoumi would be kachi-koshi.
Sadanoumi (5-6) vs Kotoeko (6-5) – Both of these rikishi have fought well this basho, but not well enough to escape the funnel. They are straddling the center line and the recommended outcome is both are 6-6 at the end of today. Kotoeko does have a career 9-5 record against Sadanoumi, having won the last 6 matches in a row.
Hokutofuji (4-7) vs Ryuden (4-7) – One of these two will leave the dohyo today with a fresh new make-koshi. We all know that Hokutofuji is the man with the most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo, and that might make him a favorite to lose today. But in fact, he has a 10-5 career lead over Ryuden, who seems to be suffering once more from a chronic hip injury.
Aoiyama (4-7) vs Tamawashi (5-6) – A pair of grizzled old vets with 4 working tendons between them. Both are fighting at maybe 50% intensity, and it’s kind of tough to watch. Sure Aoiyama has a 9-7 career record against Tamawashi, but that’s not likely to matter right now given how banged up they both are. A loss today would be make-koshi for Aoiyama.
Kagayaki (5-6) vs Mitakeumi (6-5) – Another Darwin’s funnel match, with both rikishi straddling the center line. But Kagayaki has never won against Mitakeumi, and if Mitakeumi loses today, I am going to consider revoking his Tadpole status.
Tobizaru (5-6) vs Ura (5-6) – More funnel madness! Both men are 5-6, the winner gets to keep on track for a day 15 Darwin match, the loser is one black star away from make-koshi. Tobizaru holds a 5-1 career advantage, but I try to keep in mind that Ura seems to have found a reserve of reality distortion cream, and is using it to win matches the last 2 days.
Takanosho (4-7) vs Nishikifuji (2-9) – You combine Takanosho’s record, and his 0-3 history against Nishikifuji, and you get a likely outcome of make-koshi for Takanosho today. Nishikifuji is already there, so he is likely happy to bring another into the losing side of the roster. The only problem to that is how poorly Nishikifuji has been fighting this month.
Abi (5-6) vs Meisei (8-3) – Sadly once red hot Meisei has faded into the second week, and has now lost 3 of the last 4 after dropping a match to Hiradoumi on day 8. He has a tough fight against Abi today, who has a 6-4 history of taking his lunch money. In addition, Meisei has lost all prior matches to Abi this year. An Abi win would put him at 6-6, a prime position for the funnel.
Takayasu (1-1-9) vs Midorifuji (3-8) – Takayasu is already at a 10 loss make-koshi, so he’s really just trying to cushion the fall at this point. He’s got size and skill over Midorifuji on a good day, but Midorifuji is not looking anything like his normal self. He’s already make-koshi, and has lost 3 straight matches coming into today.
Kotonowaka (5-6) vs Nishikigi (5-6) – Both are 5-6, so this is a prime funnel match. Kotonowaka has the well earned reputation for being a tough competitor, but I hope he does not underestimate what Nishikigi can do if he gets the right opening. The winner will advance to 6-6 and be in the middle of the funnel for day 13.
Shodai (5-6) vs Kinbozan (4-7) – I am not sure who should win here. I know that if Kinbozan loses he is make-koshi, but that’s going to happen anyhow. If Shodai wins, he’s in the middle of the funnel. Oh my, such temptations. I think it would be best if Kinbozan can stave off make-koshi for another day. This is their first ever match.
Daieisho (7-4) vs Asanoyama (10-1) – Daieisho can reach kachi-koshi and knock Asanoyama out of the lead at the same time. That’s quite a nice ripe peach to be picked. He has a 9-7 career advantage against the former Ozeki, so maybe he can make it work. Their last match was day 12 of Natsu 2021, which Asanoyama won. Let the deja-vu commence!
Hokuseiho (8-3) vs Hoshoryu (7-4) – They are not giving Maegashira 11 Hokuseiho any breaks, he is now stomping up to battle against Hoshoryu, who needs to overcome a ludicrous size advantage to pick up his 8th win and reach kachi-koshi. Hopefully he watch the footage of how Wakamotoharu did it, but I would guess that Hakuho / Miyagino is loading his giant up with some explicit things to try in todays match. Should be worth staying up to watch.
Kiribayama (9-2) vs Takakeisho (7-4) – A big battle in the second to last match. If Takakeisho wins, he clears kadoban. If Kiribayama wins, he reaches double digits and has a fairly strong case to be promoted to Ozeki. If Takakeisho was healthy, he would have the advantage, but we know he is not. I expect Kiribayama is going to capture a belt hold early and toss the Grand Tadpole out of the pond.
Terunofuji (10-1) vs Wakamotoharu (8-3) – They have only fought twice before, with both going to Terunofuji. He’s holding in tough for the final 4 matches, and he’s still the favorite to take the cup. But Wakamotoharu has made a step change improvement to his sumo, and I want to see him give the Yokozuna a challenging fight today.