With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.
Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.
So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.
Kyujo and Absences
There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.
On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.
With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.
In spite of the huge distraction that is the Harumafuji story, the basho continues. Finally going into day 4, we can get a feel for how some of the top men are likely to fare physically for the remainder of the basho.
Hakuho – Looking very genki indeed! There had been some worries heading into the basho, but it’s clear he is in good enough condition to run everyone he has faced thus far ragged. Barring an injury, he’s going to be contending for his 40th yusho.
Kisenosato – There were quite a few worries that Kisenosato was not going to be able to produce much in the way of offense. After his day 3 match, its clear he has some strength back on his left side.
Takayasu – What thigh muscle tear? This guy is as strong and sharp as ever.
Terunofuji – He can’t muster any lower body force, he is too weak to actually compete at this level. His mental state may be somewhat impacted as well due to the drama in his stable.
Mitakeumi – That toe is really bothering him. I am going to guess he will struggle.
Kotoshogiku – He seems healthy, but he has yet to win a match.
Ichinojo – His persistent back problems are not bothering him thus far, and he’s winning matches.
What We Are Watching Day 4
Kotoyuki vs. Ryuden – Crowd favorite Ryuden is up in Makuuchi for the day, and he goes against Kotoyuki who just recently returned to the top division. Interestingly enough, this is the first time these two have faced each other on the dohyo.
Myogiryu vs. Aminishiki – Aminishiki is really doing very well in Kyushu. In prior basho he has been very day-by-day on his performance, but thus far he has been smooth, precise and completely in control of each match. Myogiryu has a 10-6 career advantage over “Uncle Sumo”, so maybe he can disrupt Aminishiki’s string of wins.
Daiamami vs. Kagayaki – First match between these two, and it would be easy to give an edge to Kagayaki. But Daiamami is a young rikishi who had a solid career in college sumo, and is looking to pave the road to a higher spot in the banzuke.
Kaisei vs. Okinoumi – I am going to cautiously say that maybe Okinoumi has a handle on his medical problems for now, and that we may see something closer to his performance during that barn-burner opening week of Nagoya 2016. Facing off against Kaisei today, who brings in a 2 win career advantage over the man from Shimane-ken in Western Japan.
Endo vs. Ikioi – Classic match of fan favorites, Ikioi has been flagging as late, while Endo is on an upward path after recovering from surgery. Ikioi has a 6-2 career advantage statistically, but I would give the advantage to Endo for this match.
Takarafuji vs. Tochinoshin – Both men have been under-performing this far, and both have a lot of potential for great sumo. I am going to assume that Tochinoshin’s knee is back on the endangered species list, as we have not seen him unleash his enormous strength thus far in Kyushu.
Arawashi vs. Ichinojo – This one promises to be fun. Both come in to day 4 with 3-0 records. Arawashi has been running a high-speed mobile combat approach, where Ichinojo has reverted to his “Angry Bridge Abutment” mode. It’s speed and agility against size and brute strength. Where this one goes is anyone’s guess.
Hokutofuji vs. Tochiozan – Hokutofuji has delivered some solid sumo in the first 3 days, and I expect he is going to do his utmost to contain the flagging Tochiozan, who is fighting well below his potential. They have only fought twice, with each man taking a win.
Terunofuji vs. Kotoshogiku – Terunofuji has nothing left. Without his legs he cannot transmit power to ground, which is what sumo is all about. I give Kotoshogiku a significant advantage in this match.
Onosho vs. Yoshikaze – Interesting fact, Yoshikaze has yet to win a match from Onosho. I am sure this bothers him quite a bit, and I am hoping Yoshikaze expresses his frustration on day 4 – in the form of tsuppari applied to Onosho’s head.
Mitakeumi vs. Chiyonokuni – What could be another highlight match, we have a somewhat injured and less stable Mitakeumi against a Chiyonokuni who really seems to be running at full throttle every match. Mitakeumi showed some decent strength against Kotoshogiku on day 3, so expect plenty of action.
Goeido vs. Tamawashi – Goeido seems to be solidly booted up in 2.0 mode so far, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. I expect he is going to throw massive, no safety offense at Tamawashi. Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, and he has a nice win over Kisenosato thus far. This could be another great match if Tamawashi can survive the tachiai.
Shohozan vs. Takayasu – Home town boy Shohozan is a tough customer, and he’s going to have his hands full with Takayasu, who has been delivering power sumo daily so far. But Takayasu’s day 3 match was rough, unbalanced and almost went to Onosho. Look for the Ozeki to try and lock up Shohozan rather than the run-and-gun approach he let Onosho dictate on day 3.
Kisenosato vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s day 3 match against Hakuho had a couple of surprises that went by at a blistering speed. My favorite was where he set up a throw against the Yokozuna, and almost made it stick. Kisenosato is at least one gear lower than he normally fights, so Takakeisho may find more leverage on day 4. Their only prior match went to the Yokozuna.
Chiyotairyu vs. Hakuho – Chiyotairyu gave Kisenosato a good run on day 3, but Hakuho is in no need of confidence boosters. I would expect a quick match with Hakuho the winner. It should be noted that Hakuho has not lost in their prior encounters (6).
While some rikishi experience meteoric rises up the banzuke, for others slow and steady wins the race. This was the path that Arawashi Tsuyoshi took to sumo’s top ranks. Of all the foreign-born rikishi who have ever competed in the Makuuchi division, only one has taken longer to get there than the Mongolian born Arawashi. This long and arduous path began at a 2002 junior sumo tournament. From the beginning, it was obvious that Arawashi was talented. One noteworthy spectator at this tournament was Kyokushuzan Noboru, Mongolia’s first sekitori and veritable department store of sumo techniques. Kyokushuzan was impressed by Arawashi and commented on the young man’s skill on the dohyo. Later that same year Arawashi was invited to join Araiso beya and made his professional debut at the Kyushu basho. At the same time as his debut another foreign-born rikishi, future Ozeki Kotooshu of Bulgaria, was also beginning his career. Though they may have begun together, Kotooshu advanced quickly up the ranks leaving Arawashi behind. Unperturbed, Arawashi vowed to make it to the top division to once again compete against his Bulgarian rival.
Over the next three years, Arawashi made steady progress through the ranks. This progress was disrupted when a dislocated shoulder forced him to withdraw from competition and miss the first two basho of 2006. From this point on his shoulder was prone to dislocation and would afflict the young athlete on seven different occasions. Arawashi eventually relented to getting corrective surgery. While rehabilitating his shoulder, he began to study the techniques of Yokozuna Chiyonofuji, who had also suffered from shoulder dislocation issues throughout his career. In September of 2008, Arawashi relocated to Hanakago beya after his original stable closed due to the retirement of its owner. In the 2011 Nagoya basho, Arawashi was promoted to the Juryo division despite having a losing record in the previous tournament. This unexpected rise up the banzuke was due to the dismissal of several high ranking rikishi who had been implicated in the match-fixing scandal of 2011. Arawashi continued to float in and out of Juryo over the next three years. Hanakago beya would close in 2012 as a result of financial difficulties. Arawashi once again found himself transferring to a new stable. The move to his current stable, Minezaki beya, seemed to have a positive effect on Arawashi. He found more consistency in his sumo and would eventually break into the top Makuuchi division at the 2014 Natsu basho.
Debuting at Maegashira 16, Arawashi became the twenty-first Mongolian to compete in sumo’s top division. Despite reaching Makuuchi he was not able to fulfill his vow of once again meeting Kotooshu on the dohyo. Ironically, Kotooshu announced his retirement at the very basho Arawashi had been added to the top ranks. After a career-high 11-4 winning record at the 2016 November basho, Arawashi was promoted from Maegashira 10 to Maegashira 2, his highest rank to date. Although he only managed to record six wins at this rank, two were kinboshi victories over Kakuryu and Hakuho respectively. Arawashi primarily uses yori-kiri force outs and uwatenage overarm throws to win his bouts. His favorite grip is a migi-yotsu left hand outside, right hand inside hold. After Ishiura, Arawashi is the second lightest rikishi in the top division
Kakuryu (left) vs. Arawashi (right), Hatsu basho, 2017.
Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.
As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.
Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.
This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.
Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.
This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.
Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.
For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.
After many twists and turns, we have reached the final day of the 2017 Aki basho. I would like to thank our readers for joining us for the ride, and we are grateful for each of you taking the time to read our musings for the past 15 days. The fall out from Aki is likely to be quite dramatic. The old guard re-asserted their dominance in the second week, but the trend is clear that the younger rikishi are coming into their own. But first day 15 – it comes down to the rikishi still struggling for kachi-koshi, and the final act of the yusho race.
Going into day 15, there are 5 rikishi who will decide their kachi-koshi in their final match. Two of them are San’yaku! The list is: Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Ichinojo, Chiyoshoma, Okinoumi. Mitakeumi in particular is a tight spot, as he faces Yoshikaze. But the 3 Maegashira who are on the bubble all have relatively easy draws for the final day.
The yusho race was narrowed to a simple contest between Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Goeido. The final match, of the final day. If Goeido wins, he is champion. If he loses, there is an immediate tie-breaker match between them again to determine the winner. For the scheduling team, this is a remarkable triumph in the face of absolutely miserable conditions. Ideally the yusho will come down to a high-stakes match on the final day. This draws viewers and fans, and creates overwhelming excitement. So my congratulations to that team for succeeding in spite of a difficult situation.
Please note, the Tachiai Yusho Drinking Game is still valid for day 15, if readers choose to participate.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Okinoumi vs. Sadanoumi – Okinoumi is battling for kachi-koshi but lksumo has him safe at the bottom of Makuuchi regardless. Sadanoumi seem to have found his sumo, and has won the two prior days. He is certainly returning to Juryo, but with any luck his injuries will be healed enough that he won’t be there long.
Kaisei vs. Arawashi – Kaisei test match, going up against the higher ranked Arawashi. Kaisei looks lighter, faster and generally in much better condition than any prior 2017 appearance, and I am delighted to see him back in form. With any luck he will continue his improvements and be fordable in Kyushu. Arawashi has been eating his Wheaties, and is generally doing awesomely this basho.
Chiyoshoma vs. Yutakayama – Scheduling throws Maegashira 8 Chiyoshoma a bone by making him face Maegashira 15 Yutakayama for his kachi-koshi on the final day.
Ichinojo vs. Daieisho – Another gift from scheduling, Maegashira 6 Ichinojo faces Maegashira 11 Daieisho for his kachi-koshi deciding match. A win will likely put Ichinojo in the joi-jin for Kyushu. We hope he can find some of his old energy and vigor.
Shodai vs. Endo – Another Endo test match, these are likely helping the banzuke team figure out just how healed up Endo is, and how high they can safely rank him for Kyushu. With Ura and possibly a few others out for a while, they need more kanban rikishi in the public eye to keep sumo compelling.
Asanoyama vs. Chiyotairyu – Likely a test match for Asanoyama, to help judge where to rank him for Kyushu. I am sure sumo-Elvis Chiyotairyu will dismantle him, but it’s important to see how Asanoyama holds up.
Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho – Komusubi Tamawashi needs a win to keep his San’yaku rank alive, and he’s going to have a tough time taking a win from Takakeisho. I have no doubt that Takakeisho is eager to rejoin the joi-jin and revisit his experience with Yokozuna Hakuho.
Mitakeumi vs. Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze has been very docile the past two days, and one has to wonder if he is injured or just throttled back for now. Mitakeumi needs to hope that he’s off his sumo on day 15, or the future Ozeki will lose his coveted Sekiwake rank. Yoshikaze holds a 3-1 advantage in their career statistics.
Goeido vs. Harumafuji – The ultimate match to end the basho, the yusho is on the line, and it’s Japan vs Mongolia. It’s the unreliable Ozeki against a battle scared war machine Yokozuna who never gives up. Harumafuji holds a 31-11 career advantage. If the same Goeido shows up that was on the dohyo day 14, this will be one for the highlight reels.
Everyone knew that the 2017 Aki basho was going to be a strange animal. With Yokozuna sitting out, Ozeki dropping like flies, and even Maegashira (Ura) getting in on the act. The ranks for Makuuchi were decimated in the style of the old Roman legions. This lack of top end talent has led to a large group of Rikishi with nearly the same score as of the end of day 13. We have seen this phenomenon in Juryo in many of the past several basho. Without the upper San’yaku around to thrash the rank and file, most rikishi are around .500.
Which brings us to the question of the yusho winner’s record. We don’t know who it will be yet, but we know for certain it will be no better than 12-3, and that only happens if Goeido’s is undefeated in his final two matches. It’s perhaps a bit more likely that the final score may be 11-4, or even a dreaded 10-5. Now to be sure, a 10-5 record is a good score in sumo, but keep in mind just how many rikishi who are active in this basho have turned in a 10-5 score. There are even disastrous possibilities that Goeido loses his last 2 matches, and Harumfuji loses one. Many of the 13 (yes, THIRTEEN!) rikishi currently at 8 wins will be at 10 wins by the final day. While the chances have faded for now, the specter of the barnyard brawl / Senshuraku Showdown is still there.
But first all competitors must negotiate a rather treacherous day 14. The scheduling gods have constructed a set of bouts to winnow that field of 13 to a hopefully more manageable number.
Aki Leader board
Goeido needs to win, and needs Harumafuji and Asanoyama to both lose, and he will win the Aki basho. Please note the numbers below are not a parody, but are the actual stats for the yusho race.
Please note, due to the special circumstances surrounding this basho and the stakes of day 14, please feel welcome to observe the following Tachiai Yusho Drinking Game:
Get a 330 ml or 750 ml of drinkable sake. I will be using a fine Hakkaisan, myself.
Pour a standard sized cup, if you are in Japan, have someone pour it for you.
These events require a sip from your sake cup:
a match with more than 1 wave of banners
Yoshikaze bleeds for any reason
Someone secures their kachi-koshi
These events require you to drain and refill your cup:
a member of the hunt group or chasers loses a match
Someone suffers a mawashi oriented wardrobe malfunction.
A combatant collides with a gyoji, seated or standing
A combatant lands on one of the shimpan
A combatant deploys a henka
A combatant lands on an elderly lady ringside, who seems far too pleased by the event.
These events requires you to drain the sake bottle in one go:
Tochiozan bursts into flames
Someone gets carted off in the big wheelchair
Hakuho suddenly re-enters the basho just to give Goeido a swirly
Kisenosato’s uninjured right leg appears, grafted to Takayasu’s body and begins to do shiko in the hanamichi
Goeido wins the yusho
What We Are Watching Day 14
Okinoumi vs. Takekaze – Loser of the match gets make-koshi. With Okinoumi at M14w, he could end up in Juryo for November.
Chiyonokuni vs. Kaisei – Our favorite badger, Chiyonokuni, goes against a surprisingly and delightfully resurgent Kaisei, who already has his kachi-koshi. Chiyonokuni picks up his kachi-koshi with a win.
Shohozan vs. Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” vs the ever bulbous Chiyomaru, with Shohozan looking to take a win from the lower ranked, higher mass Chiyomaru. A win for Shohozan is his kachi-koshi, but a win for Chiyomaru keeps him in the group 2 losses behind Goeido.
Onosho vs. Asanoyama – You know they are trying to break up Asanoyama’s bid to compete for a possibly yusho match when they match him (Maegashira 16) with Onosho (Maegashira 3). I do know that whatever the outcome, Asanoyama will think he is the luckiest man in the Kokugikan for just getting a chance to compete.
Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Maegashira 14 vs Maegashira 3… Well the M14 is Endo, but this shows just how far the schedulers are going to try and trim that block of 13 (15 total if you count Harumafuji and Asanoyama) down to something smaller. I sure they are worried about nightmare scenarios that would require an 16 rikishi mini-tournament.
Tochinoshin vs. Ishiura – File this one under “The Gurney Is The Reward”, both of these guys need medical attention, and are really in no condition to compete. They both have matching horrible 3-10 records.
Daieisho vs. Kotoshogiku – At this point I want to see Ojisan Kotoshogiku in the big basho barnyard brawl. If you are in the twilight of a pretty interesting career, what better way to spend one of your remaining basho? Another M1 to M11 giant gap “weeding” match. Bottom of the banzuke guys are taking it in the onions today.
Takakeisho vs. Tochiozan – After today’s match between Takakeisho and Goeido, I have no idea what is going to happen to Tochiozan, but I fear possible spontaneous human combustion. Checking sumodb, there are no matches I can find that have ended with that kimarite, but I am sure they would have just called it “hatakikomi” instead.
Arawashi vs. Yoshikaze – Another “weeding” match, this one featuring an 11 rank gap. I am sure both these guys will apply themselves, and this could actually be a really good match. But I am going to guess that Yoshikaze puts the doom on this guy, and keeps pushing for double digit wins.
Takanoiwa vs. Goeido – THE pivotal match. Demon Hunter Takanoiwa, secure in his kachi-koshi, has the yusho race run through his match today. Win, and Takanoiwa has a chance to participate in the big basho barnyard brawl. Lose and he sets up a possible Goeido finish should Harumafuji lose the match following. We have no idea what version of GoeidoOS will boot up on Saturday, but I am guessing his software crew is patching like mad given today’s software faults on the mobility platform.
Mitakeumi vs. Harumafuji – Mitakeumi is still struggling to find the wins to hang onto his Sekiwake position. He might be able to take one from Harumfuji, but it’s clear the Yokozuna has caught the scent of the sake dried to the inside of the Emperor’s cup, and today I saw a fire in his eyes that replaced the weary gloom from earlier this basho. Mitakeumi has it within him to win this one, but he has struggled to tap the fountain of strength and energy that has visited him so easily in past tournaments.
Time to crank up the final weekend for the Aki basho, and what a weekend it is likely to be. Yes, there are two paths (you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on) to the finish line. One is likely and it involves Goeido staying in charge and holding course until Day 15, when it won’t matter what happens when he faces Harumafuji. The other, more interesting and unlikely path involves some brave soul (Takakeisho?) finding a way to defeat the lone surviving Ozeki, and forcing the option of a Senshuraku Showdown. Then it all comes down to Harumafuji, and a win would force the barnyard brawl that we know would light the sumo world on fire. While the 10 rikishi who are 2 wins behind Goeido will likely thin quite a bit before Sunday, a multi-way battle for the cup would be a fitting end to Wacky Aki.
Aki Leader board
Goeido is 2 ahead of an army of 10 chasers, which is everyone who is kachi-koshi as of day 12. Amusingly enough, that means even Endo and Asanoyama!
Nishikigi vs. Sadanoumi – Nishikigi is one loss away from make-koshi, and he faces Sadanoumi who is headed southbound in a big way. Nishikigi has a series advantage for 7-4, but both rikishi are struggling this tournament.
Daishomaru vs. Arawashi – Daishomaru working to close out his winning record against a strong and fierce Arawashi. Arawashi has faded a bit in week 2, but not as severely as Daishomaru. The two have split the previous matches 4-3, favoring Daishomaru.
Takanoiwa vs. Chiyomaru – Former leader board occupant Chiyomaru is hosting to finish out his kachi-koshi today as well, but he has to overcome Takanoiwa to get there. I am going to assume this match will come down to a pulling / thrust down kimarite, as both of these men are hoping to avoid a protracted battle.
Endo vs. Takarafuji – Clearly at test match for Endo, with the question being “how well has he healed up?”. Takarafuji has been fighting well, and a win here will give him his kachi-koshi. Takarafuji also holds a series lead of 5-2 over Endo.
Chiyonokuni vs. Kotoshogiku – This match has real potential, as the grumpy badger Chiyonokuni tests his mettle against the Kyushu Bulldozer Kotoshogiku. Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins to lock down a winning record, but I don’t think that Kotoshogiku is going to cut him any slack. The real question is if the match is going to be Kotoshogiku wrapping up Chiyonokuni from the tachiai, and applying the yori-gabori, or if Chiyonokuni is going to stay mobile (not Kotoshogiku’s strong suit in spite of recent improvements) and force it to be a battle of footwork and balance. I can’t wait to watch this one.
Tamawashi vs. Aoiyama – The man-mountain Aoiyama seems to have gotten in step with his sumo now, and he is using his enormous reach and huge strength to manhandle his opponents. Tamawashi is one loss away from make-koshi and a his first demotion out of San’yaku in about a year, so I expect him to fight like it’s his last stand. Also another match with huge potential, as it could come down to Tamawashi’s blistering speed vs Aoiyama’s enormous strength. Also of note, Tamawashi has a habit of false and shaky starts to his matches, and he could employ that to throw of Aoiyama’s timing.
Mitakeumi vs. Ichinojo – Both rikishi come into today’s match 6-6, and can only drop one more match to have a hope of a winning record at the end of the day Sunday. Big Ichinojo has been hit or miss this basho, but in the past week has been more hit than miss. Mitakeumi seems to be at about 80% of his typical power, so it’s tough to know how this match is going end. Ichinojo won their only prior meeting.
Takakeisho vs. Goeido – This is a pivotal match, and Goeido has a complex problem to solve. Takakeisho has an impressively low center or gravity, he holds a great deal of mass below his belly button. This makes him quite stable as long as he can keep his balance. This is one case where it may be critical that Goeido be able to employ a solid henka. Goeido really needs to sell it, and get the relatively inexperienced Takakeisho to push off the tachiai with full force. Even a hit and shift could work in this case. For Takakeisho, Goeido’s best attack is to likely try and do a torpedo tachiai and blast him from from the dohyo before Takakeisho can set up his “Wave Action Tsuppari”. So actually, Takakeisho either needs to just stand up at the tachiai, or henka himself. For Goeido, this is a “must win” match if he wants to put the cup out of reach of the chasers.
Yoshikaze vs. Harumafuji – There was a match between these two in Nagoya in 2016 that turned into a bloody street fight that sent Yoshikaze to the hospital to get his face rebuilt. Since then these two have been strictly business when it comes to their bouts. Yoshikaze is now safe in his Sekiwake slot, so the question comes down to how high does he want to try and run up the score? Harumafuji is kachi-koshi as well, but Yokozuna have a higher bar, and anything less than double digit wins may be seen as sub standard performance. These two are evenly matched 9-9 in their prior bouts.