It had to happen…
Day 12 seems to be the day the schedulers have decided to start combining the most volatile components in attempts to induce a big, smoke and fire producing reaction in the laboratory that is Nagoya. As is typical with every basho, once we get to act 3, the normal formula for matches gives way to a series of “Hey that’s neat” matches, which frequently feature huge banzuke gaps to bring rikishi with similar styles, records or fierce rivalries together.
At the end of day 11, Mitakeumi needed to reach at least 14 wins to mathematically eliminate his closest rivals, Asanoyama and Tochiozan who could reach (in theory) 13 wins by Sunday. So Mitakeumi needs to face the remaining Ozeki, no matter how banged up they are, to see if he has what it takes to beat all opponents. In parallel, Tochiozan and Asanoyama need stiffer challenges. Ideally they can bring everyone in this group to 3 losses by Sunday, opening the possibility of a broader competition with the remaining stragglers in the peloton.
Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
Hunters – Asanoyama, Tochiozan
Peloton – Goeido, Endo, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji
4 Matches Remain.
What We Are Watching Day 12
Kotoeko vs Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa comes to Makuuchi to fill in the gap left by Kotoshogiku, and for orientation for his return to Makuuchi. He can wave at poor Kotoeko who is likely to be headed back to Juryo for additional seasoning and ripening.
Aoiyama vs Ryuden – First time meeting between to 6-5 rikishi, who are still very much in the hunt for a kachi-koshi. For Ryuden, wins now are a must. Aoiyama may already be safe.
Myogiryu vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan is holding fast to his spot 2 wins behind Mitakeumi, hoping that King Tadpole can lose at least 2 matches. In the mean time I expect he will continue to execute his high-efficiency sumo. These two are evenly matched over their career at 11-12, and Myogiryu needs one more win to secure kachi-koshi.
Hokutofuji vs Yutakayama – Though it is toward the bottom of the banzuke, this one might just be the most anticipated match of the day. Both are already kachi-koshi, both are still in the peloton group, and both are fighting in fantastic form right now. Hokutofuji has been able to overpower some of his opponents, but I am going to guess Yutakayama won’t be so easily dispatched.
Arawashi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei tries once again to stave of make-koshi after taking a win from hapless Yoshikaze. Arawashi is already make-koshi, but he’s likely to continue to driver for wins to try and soften his demotion.
Meisei vs Daieisho – Maegashira 16 vs Maegashira 7, and the loser gets make-koshi. Their first ever match.
Kaisei vs Asanoyama – With Asanoyama 2 wins behind Mitakeumi, the schedulers decided it was time he played with some bigger men. Enter one of the largest available, the enormous Kaisei. Fresh from a loss to yusho leader Mitakeumi, the big Brazilian needs one more win to secure kachi-koshi.
Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Another “Winner kachi-koshi” match, this time against the enormous Chiyotairyu and the highly rhythmic Takakeisho. I will be very interested to see Takakeisho tries his “wave action” again today after Endo shut him down on day 11.
Ikioi vs Takarafuji – Even match up in skill, but Ikioi seems to be at full strength while Takarafuji seems to just be working to survive. Takarafuji leads their career series 11-9, but I am looking for Ikioi to bring a win to his column.
Shodai vs Daishomaru – Both 3-8, both make-koshi and both of them in dire need of a return to Tokyo to regroup and rest up. Daishomaru tends to dominate Shodai, which is sad news as I think Shodai has been dominated enough already this basho.
Tamawashi vs Chiyonokuni – Both favor a run-and-gun style of sumo, so I am looking for a highly mobile, highly kinetic, and possibly violet match between these two. Tamawashi holds a 3-1 career advantage, but Chiyonokuni seems terribly genki in the Nagoya heat.
Abi vs Shohozan – Clearly Abi is having an extra crummy basho, but how can we make it worse? Oh yes, lets feed him to “Big Guns” Shohozan to tenderize a bit more. Both of them are make-koshi, so this match is to help gauge how big a drop each of them face for Aki.
Ichinojo vs Kagayaki – I favor Kagayaki in this one, if for no other reason than I have not seen Ichinojo be motivated and aggressive two days in a row this tournament. He certainly was aggressive against Takayasu, but I think that his 6-1 career advantage over Kagayaki may not play much of a factor day 12.
Goeido vs Endo – This match had to happen, if for no other reason than to showcase these two rikishi, and to test Endo to see how he might fare in the joi for Aki. Both rikishi are kachi-koshi now, so this match is more of a test, and about racking up the wins. Their career history is 4-4, so it will likely come down to if Goeido is running the right version of GoeiDOS on day 12.
Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – It’s time for the yusho leader to prove his mettle. Takayasu is not well, but is still a fierce opponent. A loss today would give Takayasu his kachi-koshi, release his kadoban status, and bring Mitakeumi within range of the hunt group. But fans would be right to suspect that Mitakeumi may use the same cold, rapid and effective sumo we say day 11 against Kaisei.