Act 3 starts now, and the scheduling team are wasting no time in turning up the heat on this basho. I take a look at the torikumi, and there are some solid, high-interest fights for today. I suspect they are going to do a bit of funnel work – that is to try and herd everyone who is 5-5, 6-4 or 4-6 into a maximum number of 7-7 scores to start day 15. This will give them a chance to set up “Darwin matches” where the winner is kachi-koshi, the loser is make-koshi. It’s a perfect example of sumo’s zero sum approach to a tournament.
We are also going to see much larger gaps in rank between opponents, and some of the high performers from the lower half of the banzuke will get to face some of the big talent near the top, to test their mettle, and see if they have what it takes. The chief among these is yusho race leader and human cuddle bug, Atamifuji.
Atamifuji is alone atop the leader board, at least for one day. On cue, he’s going to face some of the kanban rikishi to see if he has what it takes to compete for the cup. Today it’s Tobizaru, whom he has never faced before. Hell, this match along is worth staying up all night to see in real time. But what of Takayasu? I just hope he did not wrench his back in his loss to Atamifuji, but they are not giving him any creampuffs either, he gets Daieisho.
To be clear, the best outcome that the schedulers would have would be to have at least 3 rikishi in contention to start Saturday. To do that we have to have Atamifuji lose at least once, and preferably twice. So buckle up, this is where it gets ugly.
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Hokutofuji, Onosho, Endo, Tsurugisho
5 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Takarafuji (5-5) vs Kotoshoho (4-6) – Possibly part of a funnel, if they are running one (it’s not clear that they are), with the goal of keeping both Takarafuji and Kotoshoho on course for 7-7 scores to start day 15. Takarafuji has won 4 of their prior 6 matches, and I would consider him to have an edge today against Kotoshoho.
Aoiyama (3-7) vs Hokuseiho (6-4) – Their only prior match was day 3 of Natsu, where Hokuseiho grabbed Aoiyama and delivered an excess height yorikiri. Given Hokuseiho’s low creativity shown on the dohyo so far, I would expect him to try the same thing. An Aoiyama loss would be make-koshi for him.
Mitakeumi (6-4) vs Kagayaki (4-6) – Mitakeumi has never lost to Kagayaki, and I see no reason for this to change today. With a 7-0 career record, and his sumo looking a lot more like his Ozeki days, he’s going to probably toss Kagayaki out of the ring in short order.
Kinbozan (6-4) vs Nishikifuji (4-6) – Another possible funnel match, with the goal of having Nishikifuji pick up a win against Kinbozan. Kinbozan started Aki with 4 straight wins, but has dropped 3 of the last 4. Hopefully he did not pick up an injury fighting Hokuseiho on day 7.
Midorifuji (5-5) vs Sadanoumi (5-5) – Another possibly funnel match, both have 5-5 scores to start the day, thought Midorifuji holds a 4-1 career lead over Sadanoumi. Would Midorifuji be so bold as to try for a katasukashi two days in a row?
Daishoho (2-8) vs Hiradoumi (3-7) – The likely captain of the Juryo barge of the damed, Daishoho, has a chance to hand out a freshly minted make-koshi to Hiradoumi. All he needs to do is win today’s match. He has a 4-1 career record against Hiradoumi, though Hiradoumi won their most recent match on day 6 of Natsu.
Kotoeko (3-7) vs Chiyoshoma (2-8) – Chiyoshoma is already make-koshi, and I think now he needs to find some wins to keep from joining Daishoho on that Juryo barge. He has a tough hill to climb, and today he needs to overcome a 2:1 career disadvantage against Kotoeko. Kotoeko has won the last 3 in a row, and holds a 14-7 advantage overall since 2012. Should Chiyoshoma win, it would be make-koshi for Kotoeko.
Onosho (7-3) vs Myogiryu (6-4) – Another pair with a lengthy history where one rikishi dominates the other. Onosho holds a 14-3 lead against Myogiryu, with the last Myogiryu win being in 2019 on day 15 of Kyushu. An Onosho win today is kachi-koshi for him.
Gonoyama (6-4) vs Endo (7-3) – I swear, every day as I read the torikumi, my eye catches on Gonoyama, and my brain goes, “damn, that might be a really hot match”. I guess Gonoyama is my favorite of the moment. He has Endo today, who beat him in their prior encounter on day 9 of Nagoya. Both are having solid tournaments, but a win today for Endo is kachi-koshi.
Ryuden (3-7) vs Tamawashi (0-10) – Shall we save Ryuden from make-koshi for another day? Sure, why not. Put him up against the battle damaged Tamawashi and let him pick up a win.
Shodai (4-6) vs Oho (3-7) – A win today for Shodai would push him closer to the middle of any funnel that might be underway, while at the same time a Oho loss would be make-koshi for him. Its plain to me that Oho needs (at minimum) a tune up and valve train alignment, so the sooner he is make-koshi, the better. Shodai won their only prior match on day 14 of Nagoya.
Shonannoumi (5-5) vs Asanoyama (5-5) – What the hell, Asanoyama? Ok, here you are fighting the perennial Makushita door stop Shonannoumi. But I can’t honestly say that I think you are going to walk away with this one, in spite of the fact he has never won against you in 4 attempts. Good luck today, sir.
Abi (6-4) vs Ura (5-5) – Will the “Ura goes flying” tally increase by 1 today? We can only hope. He’s been especially energetic this tournament, ending up in flight any number of times. I do hope that the NHK highlight reel splices them all together to give like a super cut of Ura aloft. Abi leads their series 5-2, and will probably boost the man in pick off the clay today.
Hokutofuji (7-3) vs Tsurugisho (7-3) – Winner today gets kachi-koshi, and I do like Hokutofuji’s chances. Mostly because in spite of his 160+ kg bulk, he is still quite mobile, this is a problem for Tsurugisho who has the bulk but not the agility to do much against Hokutofuji’s independently articulated lower body. This one will be fun to watch no matter what.
Atamifuji (9-1) vs Tobizaru (5-5) – It’s time to test young Atamifuji against something he’s not used to – some flying monkey sumo. Given the battery of combos Tobizaru is likely to deliver in the first 10 seconds, I will consider it a victory if Atamifuji can even keep his feet. First ever match, with a Atamifuji loss possibly knocking him out of the sole possession of the lead.
Nishikigi (5-5) vs Meisei (4-6) – I like this match because I find it unpredictable. They have a 4-4 score over their careers, with both winning a match this year. If Meisei can set up a throw, he tends to win by shitatenage. We all know that Nishikigi only serves one big wide flavor – yorikiri. I can’t wait to see which way this one goes.
Daieisho (6-4) vs Takayasu (8-2) – Time to find out if Takayasu hurt himself in his day 10 loss to Atamifuji. He leads the career match up 11-7 against Daieisho, including both prior matches this year. An Atamifuji loss to Tobizaru would draw Takayasu back into a share of the yusho lead should he win today.
Kirishima (6-4) vs Kotonowaka (6-4) – Its time for the kadoban Ozeki to finish out their last victories and get on with sumo. I think the chances are quite strong that Kirishima will dispatch Kotonowaka today, given his 8-3 career record, with wins in 3 of the 4 prior matches this year.
Takanosho (5-5) vs Hoshoryu (4-6) – Hoshoryu needs to win 4 of the last 5 matches to reach the safety of 8. His sumo is good enough, its just a question on if his brain can make it happen. He’s fairly evenly matched against Takanosho, who needs 3 wins to reach kachi-koshi himself.
Wakamotoharu (6-4) vs Takakeisho (7-3) – A Takakeisho win today will clear kadoban for the Ozeki. He will need to keep Wakamotoharu away from any kind of grip to make that happen, a feat he can only pull off about half the time. Takakeisho lost their most recent match, day 14 of Natsu.