This is without a doubt one of the most brutal fight cards I have ever seen in my years as a sumo fan. Match after match are rikishi whose best possible outcome is a 7-7 score and a ticket to a Darwin match on Sunday. Fans, do not expect the matches for Sunday to be announced during the day today, they are going to wait and see who finishes where to pair them up. This is especially true of the yusho race, where the tantalizing possibility of a multi-way barnyard brawl for the cup is starting to take shape, with none other than the last man on the banzuke, red-hot Hakuoho in the mix.
In reality the hunt group is out of contention, unless something very unlikely happens. The winning score will be no higher than 13-2 this tournament, though I think 12-3 is far more likely. The top 4 men in this race are all deserving of special prizes, and please NSK, don’t stiff these guys. I suspect that we will come down to a playoff on Sunday, and that Hakuoho will be in the mix.
Chasers: Hoshoryu, Nishikigi, Hakuoho
Hunt Group: Wakamotoharu, Kotonowaka, Shonannoumi, Ryuden
2 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 14
Tamashoho (8-5) vs Bushozan (3-10) – Today’s Juryo visitor is the already kachi-koshi Tamashoho who is coming to apply some additional doom to the already heavily make-koshi Bushozan. Tamashoho won their only prior match, Bushozan is hurt, and this is not going to be much of a fight, I would think.
Takarafuji (8-5) vs Kotoshoho (5-8) – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, Kotoshoho already make-koshi, but it’s a good day to figure out how far down the banzuke Kotoshoho will drop. Takarafuji won 4 of their 5 prior matches, although Kotoshoho’s win is the most recent bout.
Kinbozan (6-7) vs Shonannoumi (9-4) – The best Kinbozan can hope for right now is to somehow find a win against red hot Shonannoumi, who is reaching for double digits in his first top division basho. That win would put Kinbozan at 7-7 and shunt him into a Darwin match on Sunday – oof. A loss is make-koshi.
Endo (8-5) vs Myogiryu (6-7) – Likewise, Myogiryu needs to find a win against already kachi-koshi Endo to secure a Darwin match tomorrow, or eat his make-koshi at the end of his fight today. He’s got a 10-8 score against Endo over his career, so it’s not out of the questions.
Takanosho (7-6) vs Gonoyama (8-5) – Takanosho can avoid his Darwin match by winning his first ever match against shin-Goeido, AKA Gonoyama. Gonoyama is already kahci-koshi, but I am certain he would love to run up the score.
Hakuoho (10-3) vs Hokutofuji (11-2) – A surprisingly early slot for such a consequential match. Sole yusho race leader, Hokutofuji, is up against the increasingly genki (even while injured) Hakuoho, who is just won win behind him. A Hakuoho win today would blow the yusho race wide open, and open the door for Hakuho’s protege to vie for the cup on Sunday. Wow.
Aoiyama (7-6) vs Nishikifuji (5-8) – A win today for Aoiyama would be seven in a row, and secure a come from behind kachi-koshi in a basho that I thought might be his last in the top division. That guy is as tough as iron, in my book. He won his only prior match against Nishikifuji on day 6 of Osaka this year.
Takayasu (6-7) vs Daishoho (4-9) – The best outcome Takayasu can hope for now, like many of the others earlier in the fight card, is a day 15 Darwin match. he would need to win today against Daishoho, which is entirely possible. They have never fought before, but Daishoho’s sumo is in shambles right now, worse than Takayasu.
Kotoeko (7-6) vs Tamawashi (8-5) – Kotoeko can avoid a Darwin match by winning against Tamawashi, something he has only been able to do once in 7 tries. Tamawashi is already kachi-koshi, so he may not be as willing to put his sumo up to full power.
Midorifuji (3-10) vs Tsurugisho (4-9) – Both are deeply make-koshi, but I think that both of them are safe from demotion at this point (lksumo’s analysis would trump my ideas here). Midorifuji has a 5-1 career lead in their matches, and Tsurugisho can’t withstand much forward pressure, so I would give an odd advantage to Midorifuji in spite of a nearly 80kg difference.
Hokuseiho (5-8) vs Meisei (6-7) – Another match where the best one of the competitors can hope for is a day 15 Darwin match. Meisei must overcome the enormity that is Hokuseiho to get to 7-7, or accept make-koshi. Hokuseiho already has his 8th loss, and is in new territory for him. He has been able to leverage his size and marginal sumo skills to carry him through every tournament up to this point, and now he faces the challenge of needing to grind out improvements to his technique going forward. Hokuseiho won their only prior match.
Shodai (5-8) vs Oho (5-8) – Both men come in with 5-8 make-koshi records, and are surprisingly similar in their sumo right now. I would label it as: vague, sometimes effective, and uninspiring. This is their first ever match, and I am suspecting Oho has a bit of an advantage as Shodai really seems to not muster much fighting spirit right now.
Sadanoumi (4-9) vs Mitakeumi (2-11) – Both make-koshi, both fighting well below their best, and both in dire need of rest, recovery and re-grouping. Mitakeumi has won 4 of their 6 prior matches.
Nishikigi (10-3) vs Ryuden (9-4) – Nishikigi was knocked out of the lead yesterday by Hakuoho, and he has a chance to re-enter the battle for the cup should Hakuoho score a white star against Hokutofuji earlier on day 14. But he will need to beat Ryuden, who is in better form than I have seen from him in some time. They have a fairly even 4-5 career record, so this one is a gut check for Nishikigi. I don’t think the kami who has taken a hold of him is done yet.
Chiyoshoma (6-7) vs Tobizaru (7-6) – Call this one a “mini Darwin”. We either get one make-koshi and one kachi-koshi out of this, or we get two men primed for a day 15 Darwin match. Tobizaru has won 7 of their prior 8 matches. Maybe today it’s finally time for a henka. Really, Chiyoshoma, it’s time.
Kotonowaka (9-4) vs Ura (6-7) – Yet again, we see a match set up where a rikishi can win today to get to 7-7, and face a Darwin match on day 15. They have had 3 prior matches, and Ura has only won one of them. He’s got to find a way to break through Kotonowaka’s massive defense and overcome a 30kg size advantage. Not easy for him, but possible.
Hiradoumi (5-8) vs Abi (4-9) – Both are make-koshi, so we may as well sort folks out for the September banzuke. I am not sure what happened to Abi this basho, but he’s not fighting well at all. He won their only prior match, but I suspect Hiradoumi has the stronger sumo today.
Hoshoryu (10-3) vs Wakamotoharu (9-4) – Wakamotoharu already shared the gift of “No promotion for you!” with Daieisho, now he can do the same with the one man with any chance of reaching 33, Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu has won 6 of their 9 prior matches, so Wakamotoharu has a tough hill to climb here today. A Wakamotoharu win today would also toss Hoshoryu out of contention for the cup, in most instances.
Onosho (6-7) vs Daieisho (8-5) – We see the pattern yet again – one rikishi needs a win to get to a Darwin score, or accept his make-koshi today. He’s up against a tough peer or superior opponent and needs to find a way to come up with some potent sumo after 2 weeks in the heat of Nagoya. Daieisho can’t be happy that his Ozeki bid for this month has run around, but to keep his hopes alive he needs 2 more wins.
Asanoyama (6-4-3) vs Kirishima (6-5-2) – If the rest of the day were not brutal enough, here we have it. A current Ozeki and a former Ozeki with matching 6-7 scores. One will be make-koshi today, one will improve to 7-7 and face a Darwin match tomorrow. Should Kirishima lose, it would be kadoban for him in September.