With Daieisho’s win over Hakuho on day 11, the race for the Yusho has broadened quite a bit. I am not surprised to see Hakuho and Asanoyama now in a tie for the lead. But also in the 1 loss crowd is.. Terunofuji? Why yes, the former Ozeki is at 10-1, and appears to be ready to run up the score. Word from the scheduling team is that if he wins his day 12 match against M9e Tamawashi (a 8 rank banzuke gap), he will start to take on San’yaku opponents starting day 13. As exciting as it sounds to have the resurgent former Ozeki, and sometimes Kaiju, stomping through the upper ranks, we fear his sumo and his knees may benefit from a slower climb.
Elsewhere, it seems to my eye that an amazing block of rikishi are headed straight toward day 15 7-7 “Darwin” matches. Our mock Natsu basho was thick with them as well, and for newcomers to the world of sumo, they are a head to head match between two 7-7 rikishi, where the winner exits with a kachi-koshi, and the loser a make-koshi.
Tobizaru vs Chiyomaru – I have been hoping for some time that Tobizaru would finally put together enough sumo to make a pay for the top division, and now from Juryo 2, he may finally have a shot. He comes it at 6-5 to face already make-koshi Chiyomaru. If the flying monkey (Tobizaru) can find 2 more wins, he stands a decent chance for making his top division debut in the next tournament.
Nishikigi vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is looking for win #8 today, and I have to compliment his stamina and form during this, his top division debut. Nishikigi, at 5-6, is part of that crowd that I think are headed into Darwin territory for day 15.
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Also in the Darwin lane is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin. The time without contact practice, Jungyo or even test matches seems to have given some strength back to his damaged knee. Dare we hope that maybe he might be able to rally one more time? His opponent, Shohozan, is probably feeling every one of his 36 years, more than half of which has been spent getting bashed in the head, body and legs every day.
Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – Both of these guys are also clearly on the Darwin path. It’s going to be brutal if we end up with 4 or 5 head to head 7-7s, but it seems to be endemic now, as the field in lower to mid Makuuchi is very evenly balanced between new talent finding the next level of power in their sumo, an fading legends and mainstays working through the decline.
Kotoshogiku vs Myogiryu – Twenty Five (25 / 13-12) career matches between these two. Kotoshogiku already having his 8th win, and Myogiryu looking for his kachi-koshi today, I have a hunch that we may see the Kyushu Bulldozer suffer a loss. Like Tochinoshin, the time with light, or individual practice seems to have benefited Kotoshogiku’s damaged undercarriage, and he is fighting better this tournament than he has in about a year.
Tamawashi vs Terunofuji – The big question mark match. These two have 10 prior matches, and have split them 5-5. Both are kachi-koshi, and will be moving up the banzuke for September. I have faith that Tamawashi will be giving Terunofuji every ounce of fighting spirit today, so expect fireworks. I expect Tamawashi to “hit and shift” and Terunofuji to go for a mawashi grip. Who gets the first offensive move to connect will have advantage.
Takayasu vs Ikioi – Also in grave risk of a day 15 Darwin match is former Ozeki Takayasu. Given how many injuries and miseries Ikioi has endured, I am going to be curious to see if he attacks Takayasu’s left elbow like half of his opponents have this basho. Their career record of 13-6 means little today, as both of these rikishi are a fraction of their proper power and strength.
Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – While Ishiura is one loss away from make-koshi, Kotoyuki is part of that broad group of men who are headed into Darwin territory. Ishiura has not really been able to find his sumo, and he has only managed to win 2 of his last 5. I would love to see him get his edge back, and dominate with aggressive small-man sumo, leaving some of the stunts and henka aside.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyotairyu – Shimanoumi already make-koshi, Chiyotairyu on a clear course for a 7-7 day 14 score and a lovely slot in a brutal match with only one survivor. Is it me, or has Chiyotairyu seemed to have dropped some of his belly-mass?
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoshoho – Newcomer Kotoshoho looks to be on track to score at least 8 wins in his first top division tournament. He has shown some great sumo, and tons of energy this July. Hopefully if he can stay healthy and focused, he can be a mainstay of the next generation of rikishi. Terutsuyoshi – yeah, another likely Darwin candidate.
Kotoeko vs Tokushoryu – I am genuinely pleased that Kotoeko has 8 wins with time and sumo to spare. This will likely be his best finish since last July when he turned in a respectable 9-6 in the sweat stadium of Nagoya. I am also enjoying the fact that we see Tokushoryu going to his tsukiotoshi trademark move quite a lot this basho. I know everyone expects it, but he does it with such flair.
Takanosho vs Ryuden – If ever there were two rikishi who seemed to be “Darwin Match” poster boys, it would be these two. Takanosho is really struggling at this rank, which is good. He is strong enough, and his sumo is good enough, that he was able to work up to the rank where he is truly challenged now. He’s young, personable and hard working, so I expect we will be enjoying his sumo quite a bit for years to come.
Aoiyama vs Onosho – As a shameless Onosho booster, its a shame to look at his 0-11 record, and realize that it has the possibility of wrecking his mental sumo for a long time to come. I hope he at least has some kind of injury or problem that gives him a reason to get himself over this dread terrible record. He’s going against Aoiyama today, and while I would love for him to have his first win (Shonichi!), it’s tough to win against Aoiyama unless your balance is perfect, and it’s clear that for this July, Onosho’s is not.
Endo vs Takarafuji – Our mock basho in May had Endo with a 7-7 heading into day 15, and it looks like the simulation may have gotten that one right. Endo and Takarafuji have an even 8-8 career record, and both seem to be suffering from the lack of full power training matches with rikishi from other heya in the days leading up to the start of the tournament.
Kiribayama vs Yutakayama – Only slightly less grim that Onosho’s 0-11 is Yutakayama’s 1-10, with that lonely white star being against hapless Onosho. Kiribayama has won their 2 prior matches, and needs to do what he can to stave off make-koshi for another day.
Kagayaki vs Okinoumi – Another one of my “up and coming” rikishi, Kagayaki, has run out of genki power early and stayed less than awesome for the past 11 days. This is an odd basho in so many ways, and its tough to know if the problem is lack of training, or just too many distractions for some of these athletes. Okinoumi at 6-5 as been fighting a bit better than normal, and given that he is 35 and has to contend with a chronic lower abdominal injury, he is doing quite well. They are tied 4-4 over their career, but I would give the edge to Okinoumi for day 12.
Shodai vs Enho – Shodai takes no crazy stuff from Enho. The power pixie of Miyagino has yet to find a winning formula to overcome Shodai and his uncanny cartoon sumo. I have faith that there is a way to apply the same kind of technique that worked so well on day 11 against Takanosho to Shodai as well.
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – I breathed a sign of relief when Takakeisho hit his 8th win. I know many sumo fans were less than happy with the ruling coming from the mono-ii, but he has cleared kadoban. Daieisho is fresh from beating Hakuho, and one win from his own kachi-koshi. So I am expecting full throttle Daieisho today.
Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama holds a 5-2 career advantage, but I watch for Hokutofuji to do the unexpected. He seems to have finally gotten back in touch with his sumo, and has won 3 of the last 4. In spite of his prior yusho experience (from Maegashira 8..), the pressure of waiting for that match against Hakuho may be eating away at his focus. Much of sumo is mental, and it will be interesting to watch Asanoyama in the final 4 days of this basho.
Hakuho vs Mitakeumi – The Boss is bound to be disappointed in his day 11 loss, which put him in a 3 way tie for the cup. He gets to try and take out his frustration on Mitakeumi, who has suffered a bit of his traditional week 2 fade. If Mitakeumi wants to start any kind of Ozeki bid, he doing to go have to win 2 of his last 4 match. Good luck, original tadpole!
Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – With Abi and Kotonowaka out, we are back to an unbalanced torikumi, so bring forth the Juryo vistors! Today its former top division rikishi, Daiamami. He may in fact be on track to return in September, depending on how he finishes in Juryo. With a 4-4 record, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Its possible he may swap places with Kotoyuki, who is nothing close to his performance levels a year ago (11-4 at Maegashira 16).
Takayasu vs Chiyomaru – I am starting to really lose hope that Takayasu can stage any kind of rally and attempt to claw his way back to even the middle of Makuuchi. Every single opponent seems to want to try some kind of jerk-move to put strain on that left elbow. I do get sick of watching what appears to me to be attempts to intentionally injure him. But then there is that limp at the end of day 8. That knee that blew up in Osaka, as the cameras kept running, showing him groaning in pain on the dohyo. Yeah, sumo can be brutal. I don’t know what he is going to be able to muster against Chiyomaru. I just hope nobody leaves the dohyo in the wheelchair.
Nishikigi vs Shohozan – Both of these guys are not able to really produce much in the way of offense this July, and for Nishikigi that would mean a likely trip to Juryo. He has a 4-5 record against Shohozan, who is not looking at all healthy or strong right now.
Sadanoumi vs Terunofuji – A win today could be kachi-koshi for Terunofuji. What a great mark that would be for a man who has devoted countless hours to battle back from injury and disease and regain a place in the top division. His sumo looks more conservative than his first tenure in the top division, and I think that is probably for the best. But his strength is thus far unmatched by the bottom half of Makuuchi. I wonder if we will see him get higher ranking opponents in the third act.
Shimanoumi vs Wakatakakage – If Shimanoumi can take any solace from this match, its that Wakatakakage has never beaten him in 3 tries. But right now I would say that Shimanoumi is with Nishikigi and Shohozan (and many others) whose sumo is not close to normal due to lack of training during the isolation period. Wakatakakage needs to come up with 4 wins in the next 7 matches, and he has to be careful to avoid a path that leads to a day 15 Darwin match.
Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – Kotoeko has been a puzzle for the past few years. He seems to shift from compact powerhouse with heaps of fighting spirit to a tentative rikishi with below average mass and a bucket full of doubt. Right now we have the genki Kotoeko attending this basho, and I am very happy for him. Myogiryu has won 3 of their 4 matches, so look for two strong, quick rikishi to really deliver hell by the gallon for what may be a quick match today.
Kotoshoho vs Ikioi – The March Juryo winner Kotoshoho has not missed a stride in the intervening 4 months. Coming into day 9 with 6-2, he’s going to have his first ever match with Ikioi. Ikioi is not visibly wounded like many times in the past, but he is certainly not fighting well. Already 2 losses from make-koshi, he could end up with a double-digit loss record without increased effort to rack up more white stars for the remaining 7 days.
Tamawashi vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these verterans of the top ranks of sumo are part of the group of 5 who are 2 losses behind the yusho race leaders. Smart move to have them face off and narrow the field. Frankly, Kotoshogiku is performing well above expectations, much as he did in the mock Natsu basho in May. It will come down to the first step in this match. If Tamawashi can get moving after the tachiai, it’s his match to lose. If Kotoshogiku can land a hand on Tamawashi’s belt, it will be a brawl.
Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin benefited hugely from Kotonowaka’s withdrawal on day 8, and I think the former Ozeki has a sound chance of getting to 8 wins by next Sunday. Ishiura finally showed some quality sumo on day 8 when he took a white star from Shimanoumi with a… get this.. susoharai. Yes, a very nice leg sweep that made me cheer. Please, lets have more of this!
Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – Kaisei is listing to port, and drifting into the shipping lanes again. He had been enjoying some fine Newtonian sumo for a few days, but now he’s at 5 losses, and has resumed his lumbering, stumbling format. Terutsuyoshi may lack the mass needed to shift an iceberg like Kaisei, so this will be a nice test of strength and stamina for Terutsuyoshi.
Chiyotairyu vs Ryuden – Chiyotairyu failed to form the much anticipated Chiyoshogiku singularity form, so it’s 7 more days of fine sumo. Really though, Chiyotairyu… what the hell was that day 8? Yes, I read that he thought it was a matta, but you should have just give Kotoshogiku the full measure anyhow. Both he and Ryuden share worrisome 3-5 records, so they may just want to limp through the rest of July and hope for better training leading up to September.
Takarafuji vs Tokushoryu – Takarafuji is fairly predictable in that he will tend to get a decent 9 win kachi-koshi, then proceed to have losing records for the next few basho. I don’t know if its because he consciously wants to hold a mid-Maegashira slot, or if that’s just how it works out. Although their career record has them dead even, I would give an edge to Takarafuji today, because his ability to defend and extend is sometimes a problem for Tokushoryu.
Onosho vs Yutakayama – Someone has a sick sense of humor. Both of these sad-sack favorites of mine are make-koshi on day 8, and have yet to find a single win. Well, good news, that changes today as one of these damaged athletes is going to walk away with their first white star. History would indicate that Onosho would have a slight edge, but neither of them has fought up to their abilities this basho. Hopefully neither of them finish 0-15.
Endo vs Takanosho – Somewhere in a closet in Oitekaze heya, there is some kind of cybernetic module that plugs into Endo while he sleeps, and loads him up with genki energy that gets harvested from a shrine in Nara. But since COVID, none of his tsukebito have been able to make the trip to reload it. What we are left with a shambling hulk that looks like Endo, but is missing up to 25% of his normal sumo energy.
Daieisho vs Hokutofuji – Matching 5-3 records, a 4-4 career balance and an easier path to kachi-koshi for the winner. Hokutofuji has been a bit underpowered this tournament, and seems to be lacking some of his “big” sumo moves so far. I think this basho is a “best effort” project for most, and hope to keep some workable rank for the net basho, and hope that training conditions will improved. I would give a slight edge to Daieisho today, as he seems to be closer to his typical fighting state.
Kiribayama vs Mitakeumi – Mark me disappointed that Mitakeumi dropped out of the leader group. But heading into week 2, there is plenty that can happen to make him a viable contestant for the yusho, if he can keep winning. Mitakeumi has a tradition of a week 2 fade, which is why he has not made Ozeki. I sincerely hope he can keep pushing into act 3, and get to at least 10 wins. This a first ever match for Kiribayama, so please give him a warm welcome, Mitakeumi.
Shodai vs Kagayaki – Please, don’t joke about a Shodai yusho. If he lifts the cup, I will congratulate him, but I will also finally have confirmation that the whole of 2020 has been nothing more than a horrific fever dream brought on by eating that container of 2 week old chanko I found in the fridge at the end of the January basho. Now if I can just find a way to wake myself up and clear that questionable mix from my gullet….
Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama looks more Ozeki than anyone I have seen in the rank for a few years. My only hope would be to see him smile as he mounts the dohyo like he used to when he was first promoted to sekitori. I know, hinkaku and all that. The fellow may make Yokozuna in the next year or two, and he has to dial up his stoic energy. But I know inside each time he grabs for the kensho stack, that big schoolboy grin is still in there trying to break out.
Takakeisho vs Enho – Back in the struggling Ozeki segment of the basho, Takakeisho needs to win 3 of the last 7 to clear kadoban. Should be doable, right? but that includes Asanoyama, Hakuho, Shodai and Daieisho. Pre-injury Takakeisho, I would be eager to see him shove at least half of these worthy opponents into next week. But now it’s a worry for each and every one. Enho tends to suffer terribly against Takakeisho, so maybe he can add one of those 3 wins today.
Hakuho vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama has beaten The Boss exactly once in 23 tries. So i am looking for another quick dispatch for Hakuho, who has yet to look like he really has had much of a challenge. He seems to be working his way through the crowd until he faces Asanoyama later in week 2.
Welcome to nakabi! It’s the middle day of the July basho being held in Tokyo, and we are still on track to see the three leaders of the yusho race possibly get their kachi-koshi today. But before we dive into the creamy goodness that the scheduling team has cooked up for the middle Sunday, a few thoughts on day 7…
It seems that others are starting to wonder if Shodai is actually some kind of cartoon character who has escaped from toon town. He seems to at least have some built in chaos generator that he engages when he’s not sure what to try next, and unlike most rikishi who end up with some horrible, mangled loss, his opponents end up falling over, stepping out, or otherwise ending the match with a black star. I am not sure what kind of trans-dimensional conduit he is using to generate an improbability field, but don’t be surprised if two disheveled looking fellows pop out of the air on a Chesterfield sofa in the middle of today’s match.
Abi kyujo? For being a gibbering moron? You don’t say… Did you see Mitakeumi’s face? A combination of puzzle and disappointment, as I honestly think he was looking forward to stuffing Abi into the salt basket today.
With the arrival of nakabi, it’s time for us to take our first serious look at the leader board
Nishikigi vs Terunofuji – Oh sure, Nishikigi won their only prior match, but does anyone doubt that Terunofuji is going to carry around Nishikigi like a toddler in a grocery store? Terunofuji seems to be a man on a mission right now, and that mission one I am enjoying.
Takayasu vs Kotoeko – If Kotoeko follows form, he is going to put a portion of his focus on trying to re-injure that left elbow. I keep being annoyed and disappointed by this, but I know that’s part of sumo. Right now I am just hoping that Takayasu is going to find a path to 8 wins. Oddly enough this is their first ever match, and I have to worry it’s going to be Kotoeko with the advantage.
Sadanoumi vs Kotoshoho – Another of the 4 first time match ups that grace day 8, and it’s 6-1 Kotoshoho getting a shot at Sadanoumi. I know Sadanoumi is going to try to control the form of the match by getting the first offensive move in at the tachiai. He’s surprisingly fast of the shikiri-sen, and I think the first move will be his to make. Kotoshoho has never had a make-koshi tournament, which I am sure will change, but for his debut in the top division, he seems to be unstoppable.
Wakatakakage vs Shohozan – Another first time match, fading brawler Shohozan vs the leading Onami brother, Wakatakakage. Both of them currently have losing records, and I am expecting Shohozan to finish the tournament with a make-koshi. Time to find out if Wakatakakage’s sumo can stay focused while Shohozan bats him around.
Kotonowaka vs Tochinoshin – Both of them have matching 4-3 records coming into day 8. Tochinoshin needs to focus on keeping Kotonowaka’s mobility down, and getting his offense established. Kotonowaka will try to evade Tochinoshin’s left hand seeking his mawashi.
Kaisei vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki’s basho is horrific and grim right now. He’s almost as bad as Onosho and Yutakayama, but not quite. No word from the tsukebito crew searching for his lost sumo, and until it turns up somewhere (did you check the soba shop at the Ryugoku station?), he’s going to struggle. For Kaisei it means that he gets to once again enjoy being huge, and with an 8-4 career advantage over Kotoyuki, it may be win 4 for Kaisei.
Chiyomaru vs Myogiryu – Challenging Kotoyuki for the “have you seen my sumo?” award for July is Chiyomaru, who had not managed a single win until day 7. This is a mirror of Myogiryu, who has only suffered a single loss. While it would be nice to see Chiyomaru rally from a 0-6 start, its more likely he is headed for double digit losses and a early berth on the barge of the damned headed slowly for Juryo.
Ishiura vs Shimanoumi – This match really is likely to require fumigation, as both of these rikishi come in with 2-5 records, and are headed for make-koshi. I am going to count Ishiura among the rikishi who really are suffering this tournament due to lack of sumo practice matches against rikishi of his own calibre. It’s clear his body is not moving well, and his sumo instincts are all but missing. Hopefully in the run up to September the sumo association will be more permissive of training between stables. That is unless Abi does something stupid to ruin it for everyone.
Kotoshogiku vs Chiyotairyu – Two massive bodies are going to impact some time around 4:45 AM Central US time, and it’s possible it may be detected via LIGO, and as such would be the first detection this close to the earth. Now, for it to really work out that way, one of the two would need to complete absorb the other in a flash of radiation, but we can always hope for something unexpected. The resulting Chiyoshogiku would likely continue to absorb most of greater Tokyo, to the horror of the world, at least until he collapsed into a pinpoint and exited the known universe in a dazzling flash of blue light. Kotoshogiku holds a 16-3 career lead.
Terutsuyoshi vs Ikioi – The word I was looking for was “amiuchi”. A rough translating into the barbaric English tough is “What just happened?” I will be looking to see if any other rare words appear on screen following Terutsuyoshi’s day 8 match with Ikioi. Such as “ちくしょう”, “すごい”, “うそ!”, or even “おっと”
Tamawashi vs Tokushoryu – I think Maegashira 7 is a great rank for Tokushoryu, and I would not be surprised to see him finish 8-7 or 7-8 this July. The Hatsu yusho winner still has enough sumo to be a challenge to many of his opponents. Today’s fight is a fairly even match against a somewhat bloated Tamawashi, who is already up to 5 wins.
Takarafuji vs Ryuden – I count Takarafuji as another in the cadre of rikishi who seem to have little or no fighting edge this tournament, and I would peg that on the oft mentioned lack of join training in the days leading up to the first day of competition. Ryuden has also looked vague and uninspired. Lack of a big crowd? Lack of joint training?
Enho vs Kiribayama – The final first time match up of the day, and I would really like to see Enho fold Kiribayama neatly and store him in a clean dry place.
Takanosho vs Yutakayama – Like Onosho in the match following this one, I am fearing a day 8 make-koshi for Yutakayama. I cheered when his hard work to recover from injury and demotion returned him to the joi-jin, but now he is doing so poorly, I wonder if he is hurt again. If not, he has to be one of the most frustrated people in all of sumo right now.
Daieisho vs Onosho – A loss today and that’s make-koshi for Onosho, who really has not found his groove at all this July. He’s far enough up the banzuke that he’s not really in any kind of danger of ending up in Juryo. One has to wonder if he got injured in the first 7 days, or if he has just fallen into some kind of sumo-doldrum. He holds a 7-4 career advantage over Daieisho, but I am not expecting that to make a difference.
Endo vs Okinoumi – I don’t think I have seen Endo get his frontal grip set once this entire tournament. That may be the key to his crummy score (2-5). The other rikishi are watching for it, and can shut it down before he can use it to gain any kind of offensive advantage. Endo has, in the past, been very good with plan b/c/d type sumo, but that seems to not be working for him right now.
Shodai vs Mitakeumi – I think THE match of the day, this one is just too ripe to resist. Its the Sekiwake showdown, and it’s Shodai’s cartoon sumo versus the original tadpole. Mitakeumi looks hard, focused and intense right now, and Shodai seems to be having some sort of reality dysfunction. Their career record is 10-10, so this one is going to be worth staying up for. Bonus points if Shodai gets a delivery from ACME moments before the match.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – I know Takakeisho is on a solid track to get his 8 with and clear kadoban. But given how many Ozekis have been through the grinder in the past 2 years, i get worried. Hokutofuji typically has a solid, wide stance that is resistant to Takakeisho’s oshi zumo, and I predict if Takakeisho is going to get a win, he is going to have to find a way to pull. Dangerous territory for a man with very short arms.
Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – Big Dan Aoiyama seems about a half step slow right now. Against Asanoyama this means he may not be able to initiate his preferred attack mode, which a pushing style I call “V Twin”. Aoiyama has yet to really dial in his sumo this basho, but should be able to make his 8 once he finishes his tour of the named ranks.
Hakuho vs Kagayaki – Hakuho is happy to have these matches with the likes of Kagayaki. He was concerned about the lack of degeiko leading up to the start of this basho, and while his first 8 matches don’t quite make up for not having days of bouts against less rikishi, it’s better than nothing. Now much as I love Kagayaki and his sumo, its going to be a quick and ugly bit of sumo, and we are probably going to get Kagayaki face down in the clay. I am predicting the boss gets his kachi-koshi today while he continues to wait for Mitakeumi and Asanoyama.