Welcome to the middle weekend. We are still waiting to see who will emerge dominant in a cluttered and chaotic field of competitors this September. But with each passing day of the Ozeki struggling to stay above the make-koshi line, the chances of a rank and file rikishi taking the cup grow. At this point we can expect the yusho winner to have 13 or 12 wins, and that means the race is wide open for now. Tachiai will start tracking the yusho race with tomorrow evening’s preview post, so be sure to return for that. Likewise our ace prognosticator, lksumo, will likely begin his coverage of promotion and demotion chances around the start of act 3.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Atamifuji (5-1) vs Kagayaki (3-3) – Baring serious injury, we can look forward to Atamifuji getting his kachi-koshi, and possibly even double digits on his second attempt to stay in the top division. Kagayaki seems to be riding the center line of a make-koshi / kachi-koshi result, so this is about as high as he should be ranked until he can find a way to improve his sumo through the injuries that keep him from fighting better. They have an even 2-2 record, but clearly Atamifuji has the edge today.
Kotoshoho (2-4) vs Nishikifuji (3-3) – Nishikifuji leads their career head to head match ups 4-2. This is their first fight for 2023, but Nishikifuji won both of their fights in 2022. For fans like myself who are waiting for Kotoshoho to return to mid and upper Maegashira ranks, this will not be the time. He has struggled daily, and going into the middle weekend only has won twice: Against the two men who are my favorite early picks for Juryo demotion, Daishoho and Chiyoshoma.
Myogiryu (4-2) vs Tsurugisho (5-1) – The strength of Tsurugisho’s performance so far means he’s likely to be part of the yusho race, at least at the beginning. If he keeps winning they will test him further up the banzuke in act 3, but for now he can take on Myogiryu. He has a narrow 4-3 career advatage over the Sakaigawa man, who has won his last three matches.
Chiyoshoma (1-5) vs Sadanoumi (3-3) – My nominee for the first officer of the Juryo barge of the damned is none other than master henkagrapher, Chiyoshoma. Each fight, he’s moving well, but he seems to only be fighting at 75% power (at best). So it may be the case that he will regroup down in Juryo for a time. He does have an 8-5 career advantage over Sadanoumi, but that may not count for anything today.
Takarafuji (3-3) vs Daishoho (2-4) – My nominee for captain of the Juryo barge of the damned is Daishoho, who at the bottom edge of the banzuke, only needs a simple make-koshi to get punted down to the junior division. While Takarafuji has very much been hit or miss this September, I think he has enough mojo to dispatch the flagging Daishoho.
Mitakeumi (4-2) vs Aoiyama (2-4) – Color me disappointed that Mitakeumi did not get a second rematch on day 6. I certainly thought the situation warranted it, but I am not a sumo elder in any way, and thus cannot make such decisions. Aoiyama has racked up his first two wins of the tournament, after starting 0-4, and I would guess would like to beat a third white star out of Mitakeumi today. They have a 4-4 career record, but have not fought since that bizarre basho in March of 2020, aka the “Silent basho”.
Kinbozan (5-1) vs Hokuseiho (2-4) – Hokuseiho only has 2 wins to his name so far in September, which is really quite a surprised. He looks more moribund than any of his previous top division outings, and I have to wonder if maybe he hurt something in the past few weeks. The good news is, he has never lost to Kinbozan in 4 attempts, so maybe he can find win #3 today.
Endo (3-3) vs Hiradoumi (2-4) – After starting 0-3, Endo has won the last three in a row. I think in this state, he’s got a clear advantage over Hiradoumi, who is moving well but not delivering nearly enough power to dominate his matches at this level. They share a 2-1 career record.
Takayasu (5-1) vs Midorifuji (2-4) – There is a question that Takayasu fans are dying to break out and ask, but let’s not jinx him – ok? With any luck he will be able to dispatch the faltering Midorifuji today without too much trouble. They share an even 2-2 career record.
Kotoeko (2-4) vs Shonannoumi (3-3) – I don’t have much of an opinion on this match. I am surprised that Kotoeko is entering day 7 with only 2 wins, as it seems to not align with the effort he has been putting into his daily fight. I am going to guess that maybe Shonannoumi has an edge, given his higher rank, tougher schedule so far, and better score.
Gonoyama (4-2) vs Oho (2-4) – I think Gonoyama learned a valuable lesson in his day 6 loss to Takayasu, that he will face power levels and attack combinations that he may never have experienced by training in the heya. But hopefully he will console himself with his first ever match against Oho, which I am going to guess he should win. Oho is not fighting well at all right now, and we can just guess what may have sapped his performance.
Ryuden (2-4) vs Ura (3-3) – I was surprised to review the stats, and see that they have only fought twice before. The most recent was day 4 of Hatsu, which went to Ryuden. But if you go back do day 4 of Hatsu… 2016, you get to see Ura win one while both were ranked in Makushita.
Takanosho (2-4) vs Onosho (4-2) – Another battle of the nosho rikishi, this time I think the advantage will be with Onosho. He tends to run in hot streaks or cold streaks. He started the basho 4-0, and has now lost two in a row. But today should be the day he returns to the winning path, as I am not sure Takanosho is in the best of health, and may be an easier mark than his M4 rank would suggest.
Abi (3-3) vs Asanoyama (2-4) – There was an article published in the past day of Asanoyama lamenting that he’s not performing nearly as well as he thinks he should. This gives me hope, as the first step to improvement is recognizing that you have a problem. The bigger question is, will Abi reverse is 2 loss losing run with a double arm orbital launch of a former Ozeki today? Guess we will find out soon enough!
Meisei (3-3) vs Tobizaru (3-3) – Both rikishi come into the match at 3-3, and they have a close to even (6-7) career record behind that. Tobizaru has won 2 of their 3 matches this year, and should benefit by fighting someone in the rank in file today.
Hokutofuji (4-2) vs Wakamotoharu (4-2) – This match should go to whomever gets the first combo in. I expect Hokutofuji to attempt his opening nodowa, but even if he lands it, he tends to leave his right side open for a mawashi grab. We can expect Wakamotoharu to try to bring Hokutofuji chest to chest, and should he succeed, will probably control the match.
Daieisho (2-4) vs Kotonowaka (4-2) – Daieisho harbored dreams of getting to 33 wins over 3 basho at one point, but that is out of the question for now. He will have to settle for making sure that Kotonowaka hits a speed bump in his campaign to do the same. Kotonowaka does hold a 6-3 advantage on the clay, so Daieisho will need to hit hard, early and often.
Nishikigi (3-3) vs Hoshoryu (3-3) – Both start the day with 3-3 records, and Hoshoryu should be cautioned that Nishikigi won both of their prior matches this year. If he battle hugs you, you are probably going down.
Shodai (2-4) vs Takakeisho (5-1) – Shodai has never performed well against Takakeisho. They have 21 career matches, and Takakeisho leads the series 15-6. But Shodai is always a wild card, and should we suddenly see either his cartoon sumo or the “wall of daikon” today, it could put a dent in Takakeisho’s plans to clear kadoban before act 2 is done.
Kirishima (4-2) vs Tamawashi (0-6) – I would love to think that we are going to get one star performance out of injured Tamawashi this September. But in reality, I would assume Tamawashi is too clever to do that, and will instead limp along and work to return in November in better condition. he has only beaten Kirishima 2 times in their 9 match history.