It’s the final weekend of the Natsu basho, and we have a barn burner of a match that may settle the yusho race today. A number of rikishi are fighting for their kachi-koshi, and we have some “mini-Darwin” matches already cropping up, where one rikishi gets his kachi-koshi and the other gets a 7-7 record to end the day.
Many of the original story threads for Natsu have been resolved. We know that Terunofuji is strong and healthy enough to hold the lead into the final two days, and is still the favorite to take the cup. We can be fairly certain that Kiribayama will be promoted to Ozeki next week, but would be able to punctuate that achievement if he can best Terunofuji for the first time in 10 attempts, possibly also taking home the Emperor’s Cup. We know that Takakeisho has cleared kadoban, and will remain Ozeki for at least two more tournaments. We know that most of the other Ozeki hopefuls will need to try again, as they have given good performances, but probably not yet good enough.
Lastly, we will see a Juryo visitor today because for some reason Kotoshoho decided to re-enter the competition. Good luck Kotoshoho.
It’s down to Terunofuji or Kiribayama unless something very strange happens. They fight head to head in the final match of the day. A Terunofuji win gives him the Emperor’s Cup outright, and a loss will mean that the cup will be deduced on day 15 either by wins, or a head to head match against Kiribayama.
2 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 14
Kagayaki (5-8) vs Oshoma (7-6) – Oshoma could score his 8th win and kachi-koshi today if he can beat flagging Kagayaki, who had better be ranked in Juryo come July. They have never fought before.
Hokuseiho (8-5) vs Oho (9-4) – Having had a bruising tour of the upper ranks, Hokuseiho gets to finish out with someone ranked closer to himself. I think he did fairly well against the top men in sumo, so hopefully he is not too worried about his losses. He gets to fight Oho, who lost to Hokuseiho the only prior time they fought. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is all about rank for July.
Ryuden (5-8) vs Chiyoshoma (7-6) – Chiyoshoma can reach 8 wins with a victory over already make-koshi Ryuden. I know what you are thinking, super ultra henka mode engaged.
Onosho (7-6) vs Daishoho (5-8) – Likewise Onosho can hit kachi-koshi with a win over already make-koshi Daishoho. He has a 6-1 career record over Daishoho, so as long as he can keep his feet under him, this should be number 8 for him.
Kotoeko (7-6) vs Hiradoumi (7-6) – Thank goodness they are giving Hiradoumi a bit of a break. After quickly moving to 7-2, the schedulers sent his Maegashira 9 on a bumpy tour of top performance, some of them in the named ranks. The results were a predictable 4 match losing streak that kept him from reaching kachi-koshi. Today they finally gave him someone more his speed, Kotoeko. He has beaten Kotoeko each of the prior 4 matches. This counts as a mini-Darwin, as the winner get kachi-koshi, and the loser goes on to 7-7.
Sadanoumi (5-8) vs Aoiyama (4-9) – A battle of the busted, normally I would say Aoiyama has advantage here, but I have watched him step back and out under even moderate forward pressure for the past week. At his age, a worsening chronic injury could mean a exit from the ring. Let’s hope not.
Ichiyamamoto (4-9) vs Takanosho (5-8) – Both are already make-koshi, but the final tally is important as it will determine their rank. For Ichiyamamoto, that rank could be in Juryo if he loses too many more. He has a tall order today as he has never beaten Takanosho in 3 prior attempts.
Hokutofuji (5-8) vs Mitoryu (4-9) – Another rikishi from the bottom of the banzuke on the bubble is Mitoryu. His sumo has been somewhat glacial this May, and its up to already make-koshi Hokutofuji to possibly push his loss count into double digits. Mitoryu is also at risk of boarding the Juryo barge of the damned.
Myogiryu (8-5) vs Tamawashi (7-6) – Tamawashi needs one more win to secure a “fighting injured” kachi-koshi. He has a 10-6 career record against already kachi-koshi Myogiryu, so I suppose this is possible. I don’t know if Tamawashi can supply the sumo to get it done.
Takarafuji (4-9) vs Kotoshoho (1-9-3) – I guess if you are going to get Kotoshoho back in the torikumi, you give him what looks like a tough match. He has never won against Takarafuji in 4 attempts. But that is likely a healthy Takarafuji, which is not who Kotoshoho will face today. Kotoshoho is looking for only his second win of the basho.
Tobizaru (6-7) vs Mitakeumi (8-5) – Tobizaru need 2 more wins to finish with 8, so why not give him a real challenging fight. If the “good” Mitakeumi shows up, it will be a real struggle for Tobizaru. Mitakeumi has a narrow 4-3 career lead, and has won the last two matches.
Takayasu (1-3-9) vs Nishikifuji (3-10) – Watching his day 13 match, its pretty clear that Takayasu is still nursing that leg injury. He’s got no forward power and can’t hold ground. I think this makes him an easy mark for Nishikifuji today, and he could really use the wins. Takayasu is going to re-rack much lower down the banzuke in July, and nothing is going to stop that at this point.
Abi (7-6) vs Nishikigi (7-6) – Oh, I do hope that we see Nishikigi get a hold on Abi and battle hug him out of the ring. This is another mini-Darwin, with the winner earning kachi-koshi and the loser going to 7-7. There’s nothing wrong with Abi-zumo, it even won him a yusho. But folks like myself don’t want another henka from him this month.
Kinbozan (4-9) vs Midorifuji (5-8) – Another battle of the already make-koshi, this time we two that could be headed to double digit losses and a big shove lower in rank for July. For Kinbozan, this is his first professional sumo make-koshi, so he may as well make it a big one.
Kotonowaka (6-7) vs Ura (7-6) – Another form of the mini-Darwin is this beauty. We will either see both men end 7-7 today, or Ura kachi-koshi and Kotonowaka make-koshi. It’s been 2 ½ years since they last fought, with Ura taking that match, and Kotonowaka the one before.
Shodai (6-7) vs Asanoyama (10-3) – Battle of the former Ozeki! I am so happy the schedulers set up this match. These two had been strong rivals, with 10 prior matches and a 6-4 split favoring Asanoyama. Already at double digits, Asanoyama is now seeing just how high up the banzuke he will be in July. I think he has more work to do to get back to Ozeki form, but we can already see it from here. Should he win today against Shodai it would put him at 8 losses and finish his make-koshi.
Daieisho (8-5) vs Meisei (8-5) – Daieisho can still hit double digits, but he must win this match and whatever they set up for him tomorrow. He has a 12-3 career record against Meisei, who has now lost 5 of the last 6. He’s already kachi-koshi, so I am not too worried about him.
Tsurugisho (9-4) vs Hoshoryu (9-4) – Very interesting first ever match. Interesting in that Tsurugisho has at least 60kg more mass than Hoshoryu. I am fairly certain that does not daunt Hoshoryu in the slightest, but it will be fun to see him piece it together on the clay. Tsurugisho’s day 13 loss to Wakamotoharu looked pretty weak, so I wonder if maybe he hurt something in the past two days.
Wakamotoharu (9-4) vs Takakeisho (8-5) – Someone has a twisted sense of humor. One of the most ardent practicianers of yotsu-zumo in the sport today against a man who can’t win if his opponent gets a belt grip. Interestingly enough, Takakeisho has won 3 of their 4 prior matches. Given Takakeisho’s state, and already secured kachi-koshi, I am not sure he is going to run this one at full power.
Terunofuji (12-1) vs Kiribayama (11-2) – The big match, possible the biggest match of the tournament. A Terunofuji win secures his 8th yusho, a loss means that the yusho will be decided on day 15. He has won all of his 9 prior fights against Kiribayama, so the Ozeki hopeful will need to climb a steep wall of habit to pull out a white star today.