Nagoya Day 15 Highlights

The final day of sumo saw an unthinkable flurry of special prizes awarded, along with a first time yusho winner. We will have a new Ozeki in September, as Hoshoryu takes the cup and the promotion while the other two hopefuls fail to reach double digit scores, and must start over in September.

Early on day 15, Hiradoumi dropped out, giving Kotoshoho a free win on the final day. On to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Daishoho defeats Roga – Daishoho wins his exchange match, and if it works out as lksumo predicts, stay in the top division for September. The fight itself was remarkably straightforward, Roga went chest to chest with Daishoho, Daishoho moved him back and slapped him down. Daishoho ends Nagoya 6-9.

Takarafuji defeats Tsurugisho – One last loss for Tsurugisho to send him to double digits. He had little ability to hold up to forward pressure head on, and I hope he can heal up or at least improve for September. Takarafuji gingerly walks him around until he can get directly in front of him, then shoves him out. Takarafuji ends Nagoya 9-6, Tsurugisho 5-10.

Shonannoumi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu plows straight ahead into Shonannoumi, who puts his neck under his right arm and slams Myogiryu to the clay. Simple and effective. Myogiryu finishes Nagoya 6-9, Shonannoumi reaches double digits at 10-5, and a Fighting Spirit special prize.

Endo defeats Nishikifuji – Nishikifuji works hard to keep Endo from touching his mawashi for most of the match with good reason. As soon as Endo does manage to latch on, Nishikifuji is out three steps later by yorikiri. Nishikifuji finishes Nagoya 5-10, Endo with double digit wins at 10-5.

Aoiyama defeats Sadanoumi – Aoiyama closes out with 7 straight wins after a rocky start of 2-6. I thought he was a goner from the top division for sure. Sadanoumi put up a solid defense today, but once Big Dan got his meaty hands around Sadanoumi’s neck, the hatakikomi was on its way. Sadanoumi has a final score of 5-10, Aoiyama finishes with 9-6.

Gonoyama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi sets up his favored face attack from the second step, and Gonoyama looks overwhelmed. But he manages to consolidate his sumo, and finds Tamawashi’s chest open for thrusting attacks. Tamawashi attempts to counter with a pull, but Gonoyama has his target, and won’t relent. He drives Tamawashi from the ring by oshidashi for a final day win. Tamawashi finishes 8-7, Gonoyama 10-5 with a Fighting Spirit special prize.

Takayasu defeats Chiyoshoma – Takayasu manages to gather up enough sumo power on the final day for one last win, pushing Chiyoshoma back and out in direct and rapid fashion. Chiyoshoma’s final score for Nagoya is 6-9, Takayasu 7-8.

Oho defeats Bushozan – Bushozan has one moment where he is attacking, it lasts until Oho can get his hands under Bushozan’s arms and begin to lift and push Bushozan back. Unable to do much to stop Oho’s advance, Bushozan is out quickly by yorikiri. Final score for Bushozan is 3-12, for Oho 6-9.

Meisei defeats Kinbozan – The only Darwin match of the basho, Kinbozan lets his feet get into poor position while he is distracted by a tsuki/oshi fight with Meisei. A quick tsukiotoshi while Kinbozan is off balance, and it’s Meisei’s win. He’s kachi-koshi on the final day at 8-7, Meisei make-koshi at 7-8.

Midorifuji defeats Hokuseiho – No official special prize for Midorifuji throwing the enormous Hokuseiho by shitatenage to win the match, but you have to know every sumo fan looked at that and said “Wow!”. Both with double digit losses at Nagoya, Hokuseiho at 5-10, Midorifuji at 4-11.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Mitakeumi proves his sumo is still around, even if he is not actually using it this tournament. He handily brackets and constrains Onosho, engaging him in a yotsu-zumo fight that favors Mitakeumi if he wants to fight. The match was not spectacular, but gave Mitakeumi a final day win to finish at 3-12, while Onosho ends the tournament with 6-9.

Ura defeats Shodai – Ura showed up to compete today, Shodai did not. Ura got a double inside body grip on Shodai, and ran him for the east side before the former ozeki could set his feet up to defend. Ura finishes Nagoya 7-8, Shodai 6-9.

Tobizaru defeats Kotoeko – We guessed this might be a wild, fast and dynamic match, and it was. Both men were at close to full throttle, and the finishing okuridashi had Kotoeko deep in the zabuton interacting with the fans. Both end the tournament kachi-koshi, with Kotoeko at 8-7, Tobizaru 9-6.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s early attempt at a pull gets him horribly off balance, with his feet aligned to boot. Hokutofuji says, “Thank you very much” and puts him on the clay. Nishikigi ends Nagoya with a respectable 10-5, and the Outstanding Performance special prize. Hokutofuji advances to a yusho playoff at 12-3, with a Fighting Spirit special prize.

Kotonowaka defeats Ryuden – Ryuden was not match for Kotonowaka’s yotsu today. He grabs a hold but finds Kotonowaka putting much more power forward. A quick walk back and a win by yorikiri. Ryuden’s final score 10-5, Kotonowaka 11-4 with yet another Fighting Spirit special prize.

Asanoyama defeats Wakamotoharu – Wakamotoharu fails to reach double digits, resetting any hoped for Ozeki run back to the start. Asanoyama’s makikae gave him perfect hand placement to deliver the power to Wakamotoharu’s chest, setting up the yorikiri. Wakamotoharu finishes Nagoya 9-6, Asanoyama kachi-koshi at 8-7 after coming back from kyujo.

Takanosho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho resorts to his preferred “mega-thrust” sumo with all power forward. If you can endure the initial hits, its quite easy to set up a step to the side and a match winning hikiotoshi against him, which is just what Takanosho does. Daieisho also fails to reach double digits, his Ozeki bid is likewise reset, and he will have to try again. Final scores for Nagoya, Daieisho at 9-6, Takanosho at 8-7 and kachi-koshi on the final day.

Hoshoryu defeats Hakuoho – It was over in a flash, as Hoshoryu expertly set up the uwatenage at the first step and took Hakuoho down before the rookie could counter. Hoshoryu ties for the yusho with Hokutofuji, and advances to the playoff match. Hakuoho finishes the basho with an impressive 11-4 after facing some of the top men in the sport from the bottom of the banzuke, and beating them. This earned him the Technique special prize and the Fighting Spirit special prize. Hoshoryu at 12-3 also picks up a Fighting Spirit special prize.

Abi defeats Kirishima – With his bid to remain out of kadoban ended, Kirishima suffers a final day loss to already make-koshi Abi. This might be the first time this week we have seen Abi-zumo really work at full power, and he uses it to eject the lone Ozeki from the ring. Final scores for Nagoya, Abi at 6-9, Kirishima at 6-9.

Yusho Playoff

Hoshoryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji had his sumo running well, but for some reason decided to pull against Hoshoryu. That lost him the match to be certain, as Hoshoryu ran him out like a bad batch of curry. Hoshoryu wins his first Emperor’s Cup, secures an Ozeki promotion, and finally smiles for the first time in 2023.

Congratulations to yusho winner Hoshoryu, enjoy your moment of victory!

To the readers of Tachiai, this ends our regular basho coverage. I am sure we will continue posting during the run up to Hoshoryu’s Ozeki promotion in the coming week. Thank you and see you again in September for the Aki basho.

Nagoya Day 15 Preview

With most of the story lines resolved, we are down to two things to follow: Who will take the yusho, and can Hoshoryu make it to 33 wins?

On the yusho front, we have 3 contenders fighting across 2 matches:

Hokutofuji – I sort of expect him to beat Nishikigi today. I worry that Nishikigi has reached an ebb point in his stamina, and can’t quite bring the same level of power on the final day that he could for most of the basho. Hokutofuji in contrast seems as sharp now as he has on any day this tournament. His job will be to stay mobile and avoid Nishikigi’s battle-hug.

Hakuoho – Win or not, he has announced his presence in the top division in a massive way. It is rare when a new debutant in Makuuchi can compete for the on the final day of the tournament. Part of that may be due to the state of the Yokozuna / Ozeki corps, but you can only fight who shows up. I think that he will be at a distinct disadvantage to Hoshoryu today, who has a greater depth of experience to draw from.

Hoshoryu – I think the most likely person to take the cup. He has the power and speed to take down Hakuoho, though he has already lost Hokutofuji once this month, I don’t think he would again. A yusho would certainly cement his Ozeki bid with a massive punctuation mark that would make it nearly impossible for the NSK to put him off for September.

My expectation – Hokutofuji vs Hoshoryu in a play-off with Hoshoryu winning the yusho, and securing an Ozeki promotion.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Daishoho (5-9) vs Roga (8-6) – Roga comes to visit the top division in what may be a preview of Aki, when we will finally get to see him ranked in Makuuchi. He has never won against Daishoho, who is Juryo-bound and already has his gear stored upon the Juryo barge of the damned. Their last match was 6 months ago on day 8 of Kyushu, time to see if Roga has managed to make improvements since then.

Takarafuji (8-6) vs Tsurugisho (5-9) – Possibly the decider for Tsurugisho remaining in the top division. He’s up against already kachi-koshi Takarafuji, so I would not be surprised to see Taka step off the gas and let Tsurugisho have this one. They have a 3-4 career record.

Shonannoumi (9-5) vs Myogiryu (6-8) – First ever match, this one rings of “he has to fight someone…” Myogiryu already make-koshi, but will remain in the top division. Shonannoumi has had a pretty good run for his first tournament with the “bigs”, a win today would put him at double digits, and maybe consideration for a special prize.

Endo (9-5) vs Nishikifuji (5-9) – Another “may as well…” fight, with Endo trying to overcome a 0-2 career deficit to get to 10 wins against already make-koshi Nishikifuji.

Sadanoumi (5-9) vs Aoiyama (8-6) – Sure, lets keep that theme with already make-koshi Sadanoumi trying for a final win against a surprisingly resurgent Aoiyama, who somehow managed to rescue himself with 6 straight wins to reach kachi-koshi on day 14. They share an even 11-11 career record.

Gonoyama (9-5) vs Tamawashi (8-6) – First ever match, and I think this one may be the first match of the day with real spice to it. Gonoyama would like to hit double digits on his first top division basho. But he’s going to get past Tamawashi, who loves showing new guys how hard he can hit. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this one is just for points.

Takayasu (6-8) vs Chiyoshoma (6-8) – I would predict this one is all Chiyoshoma, due to Takayasu being hurt and unable to really power forward at all. So all Chiyoshoma needs to do is get a hold of Takayasu, and drive ahead for three steps. Both are already make-koshi.

Bushozan (3-11) vs Oho (5-9) – Bushozan is deeply make-koshi, and has his spot already picked out on the barge back to Juryo. The open question around today’s match is: can he pull out one more win to send Oho to a double digit loss? Sure, why not? Think of it as a going away present.

Hiradoumi (5-9) vs Kotoshoho (6-8) – Another make-koshi pairing, and both would like that final win to ease their slide down the Aki banzuke. They have had 3 matches before today, with Hiradoumi taking 2 of them.

Kinbozan (7-7) vs Meisei (7-7) – Much to my disappointment, the only Darwin match of Nagoya 2023. Winner is kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.

Midorifuji (3-11) vs Hokuseiho (5-9) – Another make-koshi pair up, I will be interested to see what direction Hokuseiho takes following this tournament. The primary body part involved in high ranking sumo is that 7 pound analog computer sitting in a person’s skull. Up to this point, Hokuseiho has been more or less rolling along with whatever he felt like doing, winning enough to advance. That’s over now, he’s got a losing record, and the best way to reverse that is to upgrade the wetware in that computer. He’s got one of the greatest ever as his teacher, I encourage him to apply himself.

Onosho (6-8) vs Mitakeumi (2-12) – These two have 16 prior matches, with Mitakeumi taking 11 of them. But clearly Mitakeumi could care less right now. Given his circumstance, I do not blame him. He’s going to take a massive slide down the banzuke for September, but if he can get his mind right, he could really clean up from the bottom third of the roster.

Shodai (6-8) vs Ura (6-8) – Another make-koshi pairing, each looking for a final win to finish 7-8. I honestly think that Ura wants it more, as Shodai seems to be going through the motions yet again. I wish we could resolve whatever broke him. I miss the “good” Shodai now.

Kotoeko (8-6) vs Tobizaru (8-6) – Both are kachi-koshi, and will fight it out to see who can get to 9 wins on the final day. Tobizaru leads their career series 7-3, and has been fighting quite well. Kotoeko’s strategy will likely include something to cut down on Tobizaru’s extreme mobility.

Nishikigi (10-4) vs Hokutofuji (11-3) – The match we were all hoping for earlier in the week, when the two were the sole leaders of the yusho race. But this should be a good, and maybe great, match. They have an even 5-5 record on the clay, with each winning one so far this year. A Nishikigi win would torpedo Hokutofuji’s chance at the cup.

Kotonowaka (10-4) vs Ryuden (10-4) – Both men with impressive 10-4 scores to start day 15, they have an even 2-2 career record, and it will be a tough and even fight. Ryuden really showed the sumo world what he is capable of when his body is healthy, and the results are excellent.

Asanoyama (7-4-3) vs Wakamotoharu (9-5) – Asanoyama need a win today for kachi-koshi. Wakamotoharu needs a win today to keep an Ozeki run on warm standby. I dare say we won’t see a Wakamotoharu lame-ass henka attempt today. Strangely enough, this is their first ever match.

Takanosho (7-7) vs Daieisho (9-5) – Repeating the theme, Takanosho needs a win to be kachi-koshi, Daieisho needs a win to keep his Ozeki run alive. Hopefully no lame-ass henka attempt today from Daieisho. They have an even 7-7 career record.

Hoshoryu (11-3) vs Hakuoho (11-3) – Possibly the decider. Will to be “Mr Attitude” Hoshoryu to take the cup, or will it be injured rookie Hakuoho? This is their first ever match, so I would think that Hakuoho may have a slight edge, as Hoshoryu may underestimate just how potent the rookie is. Should Hokutofuji fall to Nishikigi, this one will decide the cup.

Abi (5-9) vs Kirishima (6-6-2) – An anti-climatic finale, as these matches sometimes are, it’s already make-koshi Abi against make-koshi and soon to be kadoban Kirishima. Good luck to both.

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Day 14 was a tumultuous day of sumo, with many story lines tied up by the time they gave out the final stack of kensho. There will be three men who vie for the Emperor’s Cup on Sunday, and surprisingly enough, only a single Darwin match, as nearly all of the rikishi who could have ended day 14 with 7-7 scores are make-koshi instead.

Much of the sumo today was very work-a-day, which maybe should not have been a surprise. These guys ha ve been going full throttle for two weeks in an uncomfortably hot and humid setting, and frankly may be tired out, and just ready to get it over with. I am especially disappointed that two of the three Sekiwake chose to employ a henka today. What kind of poor excuse for fighting is that?

But day 14 had it where it counted, and the stage is set to finish things off in grand style tomorrow.

Highlight Matches

Tamashoho defeats Bushozan – Juryo visitor Tamashoho dispatches Bushozan with a fast tsukiotoshi on the second step. If you blink, you will miss it. Tamashoho now 9-5.

Kotoshoho defeats Takarafuji – I like how immobile Takarafuji was against Kotoshoho’s opening attacks, it was if here were fighting one of his children. Kotoshoho’s yotsu attacks had much more success, and Takarafuji found himself needing to actively counter each of the times Kotoshoho rallied. Kotoshoho was able to consolidate his grip, walking Takarafuji over the bales for a yorikiri, improving his score to 6-8.

Kinbozan defeats Shonannoumi – A very evenly balanced fight, where the two spent mosts of the match locked chest to chest with a right hand inside grip. Shonannoumi surged forward to try and break the stalemate, providing the weight shift that Kinbozan needed to power the pivot into a shitatenage, winning the match. Kinbozan advances to 7-7.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – Endo focuses his initial attacks center mass, and is able to move Myogiryu back, where a brief body hold is enough for the yorikiri. Endo now 9-5, Myogiryu make-koshi at 6-8.

Gonoyama defeats Takanosho – Gonoyama’s approach was to stand Takanosho up, keep him from attacking, and eventually swat him down. It took three tries, but the tsukiotoshi eventually found its mark, bringing Takanosho down. Gonoyama now 9-5.

Hakuoho defeats Hokutofuji – At last, some sizzle! Hokutofuji looks like he chose a yotsu battle, left hand inside and Hakuoho followed. This is the same configuration that took care of Nishikigi on day 13, so I was concerned from the start. Again Hakuoho left himself wide open for a throw by keeping is hips square and his feet aligned, but Hokutofuji made no move to try and capitalize on that. Hokutofuji was able to withstand the uchigake attempt, and waited Hakuoho out. Shortly after that, Hakuoho broke contact to try and set up a throw, and Hokutofuji was on the attack. He had excellent hand placement, his feet were solid, and Hakuoho was going out. But true genius is revealed when such things happen. With no space to execute, Hakuoho finds the ability to step to his right, pivot and thrust Hokutofuji forward and down, impossibly keeping one foot on the tawara while the other has completely left the clay. Hokutofuji rolls into the salt basket, as Hakuoho improves to 11-3, and will vie for the Emperor’s Cup on Sunday.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikifuji – Aoiyama reaches kachi-koshi with a traditional “stand him up, pull him down” combo. After an ice-cold start, Aoiyama won 6 in a row to rescue himself from the bottom of the banzuke and near certain demotion to Juryo. Well done! He is 8-6.

Daishoho defeats Takayasu – A clearly injured Takayasu struggles to endure much of any forward pressure that is not coming from straight ahead, he goes soft and steps across the tawara under gentle guidance from Daishoho, Takayasu make-koshi at 6-8, Daishoho improves to 5-9.

Kotoeko defeats Tamawashi – Kotoeko wanted a belt grip, and battled forward to re-establish it even after Tamawashi broke contact and delivered a potent face slap. The second grab of the belt worked, allowing Kotoeko to carry Tamawashi out at an angle, giving Kotoeko his 8th win and kachi-koshi for July at 8-6.

Tsurugisho defeats Midorifuji – To me it looked like Midorifuji got himself in a tight spot, getting a double inside grip on Tsurugisho, but then finding that Tsurugisho’s double arm lock kept him from doing much other than being a practice weight. Tsurugisho was able to lift Midorifuji, and almost had a kimidashi, but had to settle for okuridashi instead after Midorifuji partially escaped. Tsurugisho improves to 5-9.

Meisei defeats Hokuseiho – With any luck, Hokuseiho’s first professional sumo make-koshi will come to motivate him to hone his sumo skill. Guys who are big and sort of naturally can best their opponents through sheer size seem to have atrophied skills – a great example would be Ichinojo. Hopefully Hokuseiho can instead be huge, and skilled. We get to see Hokuseiho set up his traditional over the shoulder “Samsonite” grip on Meisei, but it does not seem to discourage Meisei one bit. They stand around chest to chest for a time, then Meisei throws just about anything he can think of into the mix to get Hokuseiho off balance, moving and then out by yorikiri. Meisei advances to 7-7.

Shodai defeats Oho – Oho was the attacker for nearly all of this match, but by the time he got around to trying to bring Shodai down, he was at least two steps out of the ring. Not sure how he lost track of that. Shodai picks up the win and is now 6-8.

Sadanoumi defeats Mitakeumi – Everyone is scoring wins on Mitakeumi this month. His sumo is lacking any power, and seemingly composed of random moves cobbled together. It’s really quite sad, which is probably Mitakeumi’s frame of mind. Sadanoumi scores a much needed win, and is 5-9.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s yotsu-zumo remains potent, but the finishing move was off balance, causing him to hit the clay first. The loss eliminates Nishikigi from the yusho race, which is a tremendous shame. Both end the day 10-4.

Tobizaru defeats Chiyoshoma – Ha! The super defensive tachiai from both of them underscores that they worried the other was about to throw a henka. They clashed after that, and it was rapid fire combo after combo from both rikishi. Once they locked up with Chiyoshoma getting a left hand inside grip, they jostled for any advantage, circling each other throwing kicks and pulls back and forth. Chiyoshoma’s loose mawashi prompted a halt, which I think probably ruined an otherwise awesome match, and once again we see a gyoji struggle to adjust a mawashi knot. When they resumed, Tobizaru immediately went on the attack, driving Chiyoshoma out. That’s an 8th loss for Chiyoshoma, and make-koshi, but an 8th win at 8-6 for Tobizaru, and kachi-koshi for July.

Kotonowaka defeats Ura – Ura finds himself too low, and his arms captured by Kotonowaka. Unable to produce much of any offense from that position, he works out a way to break contact. But Kotonowaka is ready, and rushes Ura out as he is trying to regain his footing. Make-koshi loss for Ura at 6-8, double digits for Kotonowaka at 10-4.

Abi defeats Hiradoumi – Abi executes a volley of double arm thrusts, into a pull down combo, dropping Hiradoumi by hatakikomi. Both end the day 5-9.

Hoshoryu defeats Wakamotoharu – Oh, Wakamotoharu. It was painfully obvious you are not the kind of rikishi who should be using a henka. You more or less threw that match away. A counter note, please someone help Hoshoryu reign in that attitude. Wakamotoharu’s failed henka robs him of any offense or defensive sumo, and Hoshoryu finishes him with a quickly assembled kotenage to improve to 11-3, giving him a share of the lead going into the final day.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Another Sekiwake tries a henka, and I am genuinely unhappy. What should have been a maximum power of the big thrusters is not to be. Take your 9-5 and go back to the heya, Daieisho.

Asanoyama defeats Kirishima – The cherry on top of today was the brutal elimination match. Either former Ozeki Asanoyama was going to be make-koshi, or shin-Ozeki Kirishima was going to be make-koshi and kadoban for September. Kirishima got the first combo in, but a choice to break contact and shift right probably cost him the match, as it opened up his left side for Asanoyama to find a grip. Asanoyama’s right landed a moment later, and he had both the body position and the grip for an immediate sukuinage. With a thunderous pivot he hurled Kirishima to the clay. Kirishima make-koshi, Asanoyama improves to 7-7.

Nagoya Day 14 Preview

This is without a doubt one of the most brutal fight cards I have ever seen in my years as a sumo fan. Match after match are rikishi whose best possible outcome is a 7-7 score and a ticket to a Darwin match on Sunday. Fans, do not expect the matches for Sunday to be announced during the day today, they are going to wait and see who finishes where to pair them up. This is especially true of the yusho race, where the tantalizing possibility of a multi-way barnyard brawl for the cup is starting to take shape, with none other than the last man on the banzuke, red-hot Hakuoho in the mix.

Nagoya Leaderboard

In reality the hunt group is out of contention, unless something very unlikely happens. The winning score will be no higher than 13-2 this tournament, though I think 12-3 is far more likely. The top 4 men in this race are all deserving of special prizes, and please NSK, don’t stiff these guys. I suspect that we will come down to a playoff on Sunday, and that Hakuoho will be in the mix.

Leader: Hokutofuji
Chasers: Hoshoryu, Nishikigi, Hakuoho
Hunt Group: Wakamotoharu, Kotonowaka, Shonannoumi, Ryuden

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Tamashoho (8-5) vs Bushozan (3-10) – Today’s Juryo visitor is the already kachi-koshi Tamashoho who is coming to apply some additional doom to the already heavily make-koshi Bushozan. Tamashoho won their only prior match, Bushozan is hurt, and this is not going to be much of a fight, I would think.

Takarafuji (8-5) vs Kotoshoho (5-8) – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, Kotoshoho already make-koshi, but it’s a good day to figure out how far down the banzuke Kotoshoho will drop. Takarafuji won 4 of their 5 prior matches, although Kotoshoho’s win is the most recent bout.

Kinbozan (6-7) vs Shonannoumi (9-4) – The best Kinbozan can hope for right now is to somehow find a win against red hot Shonannoumi, who is reaching for double digits in his first top division basho. That win would put Kinbozan at 7-7 and shunt him into a Darwin match on Sunday – oof. A loss is make-koshi.

Endo (8-5) vs Myogiryu (6-7) – Likewise, Myogiryu needs to find a win against already kachi-koshi Endo to secure a Darwin match tomorrow, or eat his make-koshi at the end of his fight today. He’s got a 10-8 score against Endo over his career, so it’s not out of the questions.

Takanosho (7-6) vs Gonoyama (8-5) – Takanosho can avoid his Darwin match by winning his first ever match against shin-Goeido, AKA Gonoyama. Gonoyama is already kahci-koshi, but I am certain he would love to run up the score.

Hakuoho (10-3) vs Hokutofuji (11-2) – A surprisingly early slot for such a consequential match. Sole yusho race leader, Hokutofuji, is up against the increasingly genki (even while injured) Hakuoho, who is just won win behind him. A Hakuoho win today would blow the yusho race wide open, and open the door for Hakuho’s protege to vie for the cup on Sunday. Wow.

Aoiyama (7-6) vs Nishikifuji (5-8) – A win today for Aoiyama would be seven in a row, and secure a come from behind kachi-koshi in a basho that I thought might be his last in the top division. That guy is as tough as iron, in my book. He won his only prior match against Nishikifuji on day 6 of Osaka this year.

Takayasu (6-7) vs Daishoho (4-9) – The best outcome Takayasu can hope for now, like many of the others earlier in the fight card, is a day 15 Darwin match. he would need to win today against Daishoho, which is entirely possible. They have never fought before, but Daishoho’s sumo is in shambles right now, worse than Takayasu.

Kotoeko (7-6) vs Tamawashi (8-5) – Kotoeko can avoid a Darwin match by winning against Tamawashi, something he has only been able to do once in 7 tries. Tamawashi is already kachi-koshi, so he may not be as willing to put his sumo up to full power.

Midorifuji (3-10) vs Tsurugisho (4-9) – Both are deeply make-koshi, but I think that both of them are safe from demotion at this point (lksumo’s analysis would trump my ideas here). Midorifuji has a 5-1 career lead in their matches, and Tsurugisho can’t withstand much forward pressure, so I would give an odd advantage to Midorifuji in spite of a nearly 80kg difference.

Hokuseiho (5-8) vs Meisei (6-7) – Another match where the best one of the competitors can hope for is a day 15 Darwin match. Meisei must overcome the enormity that is Hokuseiho to get to 7-7, or accept make-koshi. Hokuseiho already has his 8th loss, and is in new territory for him. He has been able to leverage his size and marginal sumo skills to carry him through every tournament up to this point, and now he faces the challenge of needing to grind out improvements to his technique going forward. Hokuseiho won their only prior match.

Shodai (5-8) vs Oho (5-8) – Both men come in with 5-8 make-koshi records, and are surprisingly similar in their sumo right now. I would label it as: vague, sometimes effective, and uninspiring. This is their first ever match, and I am suspecting Oho has a bit of an advantage as Shodai really seems to not muster much fighting spirit right now.

Sadanoumi (4-9) vs Mitakeumi (2-11) – Both make-koshi, both fighting well below their best, and both in dire need of rest, recovery and re-grouping. Mitakeumi has won 4 of their 6 prior matches.

Nishikigi (10-3) vs Ryuden (9-4) – Nishikigi was knocked out of the lead yesterday by Hakuoho, and he has a chance to re-enter the battle for the cup should Hakuoho score a white star against Hokutofuji earlier on day 14. But he will need to beat Ryuden, who is in better form than I have seen from him in some time. They have a fairly even 4-5 career record, so this one is a gut check for Nishikigi. I don’t think the kami who has taken a hold of him is done yet.

Chiyoshoma (6-7) vs Tobizaru (7-6) – Call this one a “mini Darwin”. We either get one make-koshi and one kachi-koshi out of this, or we get two men primed for a day 15 Darwin match. Tobizaru has won 7 of their prior 8 matches. Maybe today it’s finally time for a henka. Really, Chiyoshoma, it’s time.

Kotonowaka (9-4) vs Ura (6-7) – Yet again, we see a match set up where a rikishi can win today to get to 7-7, and face a Darwin match on day 15. They have had 3 prior matches, and Ura has only won one of them. He’s got to find a way to break through Kotonowaka’s massive defense and overcome a 30kg size advantage. Not easy for him, but possible.

Hiradoumi (5-8) vs Abi (4-9) – Both are make-koshi, so we may as well sort folks out for the September banzuke. I am not sure what happened to Abi this basho, but he’s not fighting well at all. He won their only prior match, but I suspect Hiradoumi has the stronger sumo today.

Hoshoryu (10-3) vs Wakamotoharu (9-4) – Wakamotoharu already shared the gift of “No promotion for you!” with Daieisho, now he can do the same with the one man with any chance of reaching 33, Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu has won 6 of their 9 prior matches, so Wakamotoharu has a tough hill to climb here today. A Wakamotoharu win today would also toss Hoshoryu out of contention for the cup, in most instances.

Onosho (6-7) vs Daieisho (8-5) – We see the pattern yet again – one rikishi needs a win to get to a Darwin score, or accept his make-koshi today. He’s up against a tough peer or superior opponent and needs to find a way to come up with some potent sumo after 2 weeks in the heat of Nagoya. Daieisho can’t be happy that his Ozeki bid for this month has run around, but to keep his hopes alive he needs 2 more wins.

Asanoyama (6-4-3) vs Kirishima (6-5-2) – If the rest of the day were not brutal enough, here we have it. A current Ozeki and a former Ozeki with matching 6-7 scores. One will be make-koshi today, one will improve to 7-7 and face a Darwin match tomorrow. Should Kirishima lose, it would be kadoban for him in September.