With most of the story lines resolved, we are down to two things to follow: Who will take the yusho, and can Hoshoryu make it to 33 wins?
On the yusho front, we have 3 contenders fighting across 2 matches:
Hokutofuji – I sort of expect him to beat Nishikigi today. I worry that Nishikigi has reached an ebb point in his stamina, and can’t quite bring the same level of power on the final day that he could for most of the basho. Hokutofuji in contrast seems as sharp now as he has on any day this tournament. His job will be to stay mobile and avoid Nishikigi’s battle-hug.
Hakuoho – Win or not, he has announced his presence in the top division in a massive way. It is rare when a new debutant in Makuuchi can compete for the on the final day of the tournament. Part of that may be due to the state of the Yokozuna / Ozeki corps, but you can only fight who shows up. I think that he will be at a distinct disadvantage to Hoshoryu today, who has a greater depth of experience to draw from.
Hoshoryu – I think the most likely person to take the cup. He has the power and speed to take down Hakuoho, though he has already lost Hokutofuji once this month, I don’t think he would again. A yusho would certainly cement his Ozeki bid with a massive punctuation mark that would make it nearly impossible for the NSK to put him off for September.
My expectation – Hokutofuji vs Hoshoryu in a play-off with Hoshoryu winning the yusho, and securing an Ozeki promotion.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Daishoho (5-9) vs Roga (8-6) – Roga comes to visit the top division in what may be a preview of Aki, when we will finally get to see him ranked in Makuuchi. He has never won against Daishoho, who is Juryo-bound and already has his gear stored upon the Juryo barge of the damned. Their last match was 6 months ago on day 8 of Kyushu, time to see if Roga has managed to make improvements since then.
Takarafuji (8-6) vs Tsurugisho (5-9) – Possibly the decider for Tsurugisho remaining in the top division. He’s up against already kachi-koshi Takarafuji, so I would not be surprised to see Taka step off the gas and let Tsurugisho have this one. They have a 3-4 career record.
Shonannoumi (9-5) vs Myogiryu (6-8) – First ever match, this one rings of “he has to fight someone…” Myogiryu already make-koshi, but will remain in the top division. Shonannoumi has had a pretty good run for his first tournament with the “bigs”, a win today would put him at double digits, and maybe consideration for a special prize.
Endo (9-5) vs Nishikifuji (5-9) – Another “may as well…” fight, with Endo trying to overcome a 0-2 career deficit to get to 10 wins against already make-koshi Nishikifuji.
Sadanoumi (5-9) vs Aoiyama (8-6) – Sure, lets keep that theme with already make-koshi Sadanoumi trying for a final win against a surprisingly resurgent Aoiyama, who somehow managed to rescue himself with 6 straight wins to reach kachi-koshi on day 14. They share an even 11-11 career record.
Gonoyama (9-5) vs Tamawashi (8-6) – First ever match, and I think this one may be the first match of the day with real spice to it. Gonoyama would like to hit double digits on his first top division basho. But he’s going to get past Tamawashi, who loves showing new guys how hard he can hit. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this one is just for points.
Takayasu (6-8) vs Chiyoshoma (6-8) – I would predict this one is all Chiyoshoma, due to Takayasu being hurt and unable to really power forward at all. So all Chiyoshoma needs to do is get a hold of Takayasu, and drive ahead for three steps. Both are already make-koshi.
Bushozan (3-11) vs Oho (5-9) – Bushozan is deeply make-koshi, and has his spot already picked out on the barge back to Juryo. The open question around today’s match is: can he pull out one more win to send Oho to a double digit loss? Sure, why not? Think of it as a going away present.
Hiradoumi (5-9) vs Kotoshoho (6-8) – Another make-koshi pairing, and both would like that final win to ease their slide down the Aki banzuke. They have had 3 matches before today, with Hiradoumi taking 2 of them.
Kinbozan (7-7) vs Meisei (7-7) – Much to my disappointment, the only Darwin match of Nagoya 2023. Winner is kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.
Midorifuji (3-11) vs Hokuseiho (5-9) – Another make-koshi pair up, I will be interested to see what direction Hokuseiho takes following this tournament. The primary body part involved in high ranking sumo is that 7 pound analog computer sitting in a person’s skull. Up to this point, Hokuseiho has been more or less rolling along with whatever he felt like doing, winning enough to advance. That’s over now, he’s got a losing record, and the best way to reverse that is to upgrade the wetware in that computer. He’s got one of the greatest ever as his teacher, I encourage him to apply himself.
Onosho (6-8) vs Mitakeumi (2-12) – These two have 16 prior matches, with Mitakeumi taking 11 of them. But clearly Mitakeumi could care less right now. Given his circumstance, I do not blame him. He’s going to take a massive slide down the banzuke for September, but if he can get his mind right, he could really clean up from the bottom third of the roster.
Shodai (6-8) vs Ura (6-8) – Another make-koshi pairing, each looking for a final win to finish 7-8. I honestly think that Ura wants it more, as Shodai seems to be going through the motions yet again. I wish we could resolve whatever broke him. I miss the “good” Shodai now.
Kotoeko (8-6) vs Tobizaru (8-6) – Both are kachi-koshi, and will fight it out to see who can get to 9 wins on the final day. Tobizaru leads their career series 7-3, and has been fighting quite well. Kotoeko’s strategy will likely include something to cut down on Tobizaru’s extreme mobility.
Nishikigi (10-4) vs Hokutofuji (11-3) – The match we were all hoping for earlier in the week, when the two were the sole leaders of the yusho race. But this should be a good, and maybe great, match. They have an even 5-5 record on the clay, with each winning one so far this year. A Nishikigi win would torpedo Hokutofuji’s chance at the cup.
Kotonowaka (10-4) vs Ryuden (10-4) – Both men with impressive 10-4 scores to start day 15, they have an even 2-2 career record, and it will be a tough and even fight. Ryuden really showed the sumo world what he is capable of when his body is healthy, and the results are excellent.
Asanoyama (7-4-3) vs Wakamotoharu (9-5) – Asanoyama need a win today for kachi-koshi. Wakamotoharu needs a win today to keep an Ozeki run on warm standby. I dare say we won’t see a Wakamotoharu lame-ass henka attempt today. Strangely enough, this is their first ever match.
Takanosho (7-7) vs Daieisho (9-5) – Repeating the theme, Takanosho needs a win to be kachi-koshi, Daieisho needs a win to keep his Ozeki run alive. Hopefully no lame-ass henka attempt today from Daieisho. They have an even 7-7 career record.
Hoshoryu (11-3) vs Hakuoho (11-3) – Possibly the decider. Will to be “Mr Attitude” Hoshoryu to take the cup, or will it be injured rookie Hakuoho? This is their first ever match, so I would think that Hakuoho may have a slight edge, as Hoshoryu may underestimate just how potent the rookie is. Should Hokutofuji fall to Nishikigi, this one will decide the cup.
Abi (5-9) vs Kirishima (6-6-2) – An anti-climatic finale, as these matches sometimes are, it’s already make-koshi Abi against make-koshi and soon to be kadoban Kirishima. Good luck to both.