Kyushu Day 15 Highlights

You may have doubted my story about a mischievous kami inhabiting the dohyo this tournament…

From Atamifuji remembering his sumo, to the Daieisho-Onosho photo finish that did not get a review, to the “Kitchen Sink” match between Tochinoshin and Tamawashi, it was a wild day of sumo. The yusho went down to a playoff, the the results… well, read on.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Okinoumi – Aoiyama made contact with his meaty right hand at the tachiai, and rode that contact all the way to a win. Okinoumi was pushed back, and was unable to break contact. Aoiyama finishes 7-8.

Atamifuji defeats Takanosho – Dear Atamifuji – where were you hiding that for the last week and change? When you come back to the top division, please fight more like that each and every day. Atamifuji’s left hand over arm grip does all the work and the uwatenage gives Takanosho his make-koshi at 7-8, while Atamifuji picks up his final match to return to Juryo with a 4-1 make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – If you are a fan of slow motion sumo, this is a match for you. I don’t recall a slower, more plodding forward push, especially against an injured man. Its slow enough that Takarafuji can plan out his response, execute it, and turn to watch the results. Takarafuji wins his final by okuridashi, and ends Kyushu with a 3-12.

Myogiryu defeats Azumaryu – Our first Darwin match, and it’s a bit of a heart breaker. He has no defense against Myogiryu’s tachiai, and is quickly walked out. This guy has never had a kachi-koshi in the top division, and was at the threshold, then lost his last 3 in a row to end with a 7-8 make-koshi. Myogiryu is kachi-koshi at 8-7.

Chiyoshoma defeats Endo – Endo as a bit of power at the start, but that fades as soon as Chiyoshoma counter attacks. It’s a fast walk forward to the bales, and an immediate oshidashi to send Endo off the dohyo. Chiyoshoma finishes 7-8.

Nishikigi defeats Kotoeko – The second Darwin match saw Kotoeko eager to attack, and gain an initial advantage. Nishikigi had enough space and ring sense to set his feet, which shut down Kotoeko’s attack. A surge forward payed off for Nishikigi, and he pressed the attack all the way to the point that Kotoeko stepped out. 8-7 kachi-koshi for Nishikigi, 7-8 make-koshi for Kotoeko.

Sadanoumi defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto put all of his hopes on a pulling attack that only served to hasten his exit from the ring. He leapt from the dohyo and landed stiff legged, injuring himself. Out comes the wheelchair as Sadanoumi accepts the win. Sadanoumi finishes Kyushu 8-7 and kachi-koshi, Ichiyamamoto off to get x-rays and is make-koshi at 7-8.

Wakamotoharu defeats Oho – Oho with all the initial power, he knocks Wakamotoharu upright, but does not prevent him from setting up a left hand grip. Oho realizes this is trouble, and breaks Wakamotoharu’s grip, and resorts to a close range attack. He has Wakamotoharu at the bales, but does not protect against the sukuinage that wins the match for Wakamotoharu. Both end the basho with 10-5, and have fought very well this November.

Midorifuji defeats Kotoshoho – The final Darwin match of the year. Kotoshoho immediately tries a pull at the tachiai, and it fails miserably. Midorifuji surges forward and drives Kotoshoho out by oshidashi. Kotoshoho make-koshi at 7-8, Midorifuji kachi-koshi at 8-7.

Ichinojo defeats Terutsuyoshi – Dear readers, we have witnessed history. The last time a top division rikishi turned in a zero win record on the clay was 1991. So this is the first time in 31 years that a rikishi was unable to win a single match in 15 attempts in the top division. Call it the Hattorizakura prize, or even its proper name – zenpai.

Meisei defeats Hiradoumi – Hiradoumi fought well, but was maybe a bit too eager. That arm tug may have seemed like a good idea at the moment, but helped Meisei move forward. The resulting thrust stemmed from that pull, and so Hiradoumi set up the kimarite. Meisei finishes Kyushu 9-6.

Kotonowaka defeats Ryuden – Excellent defensive sumo from Kotonowaka today. He let Ryuden do most of the work, and focuses on keeping his feet set, and breaking apart Ryuden’s grip, and then his balance. Both end Kyushu 9-6.

Abi defeats Takayasu – The big match was all about balance, as expected. There was only a brief moment where Takayasu was in a proper defensive stance, and Abi kept the pressure up to never let him stabilize. Perfect Abi-zumo form against a rikishi who should have focused on the other brand of sumo he was once known for. Both are 12-3, and the playoff for the yusho is on.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – We expected big thrusting power in this match, and we got it. The ending, not so sure about that. The gumbai went to Daieisho, but replays showed them touching down together. Maybe they wanted to make sure they had enough time in their broadcast slot to get that playoff in. Daieisho finishes Kyusho 7-8.

Tobizaru defeats Ura – Ura has Tobizaru captured, and holds fast. But for whatever reason tries a pull when Tobizaru is at his most stable. The release of forward pressure enables Tobizaru to rush forward and finish Ura with an oshidashi. Tobizaru with a final score for Kyushu of 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – What a brawl! Combos, pushing, captures and escapes, left hand, right hand, inside, outside! It was a “kitchen sink” match as they threw everything they could at each other. But it was Tamawashi who took the win with an uwatenage at the bales. Both finish Kyushu at 6-9.

Nishikifuji defeats Mitakeumi – Why Mitakeumi allowed Nishikifuji to set up his left hand grip is beyond me. Mitakeumi looked almost passive today, offering only token resistance. He ends the basho 6-9, and I would guess is out of san’yaku all together. Nishikifuji finishes at 9-6.

Hoshoryu defeats Kiribayama – This match demonstrated just how even their sumo power and technique is. Each tried to employ some of their favorite moves, only to be countered by the other. With neither man able to out maneuver the other, it came down to strength and determination. A Hoshoryu lift and carry finished the fight, and Hoshoryu’s final score is 11-4, with the technique prize added as a special bonus.

Hokutofuji defeats Shodai – A fitting end to Shodai’s questionable Ozeki career, he loses to the man with “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”. It was traditional Hokutofuji sumo; handshake tachiai, nodowa, hazu-oshi and a quick run to the bales. Shodai was unable to do much more than hold on and try to keep his feet. Hokutofuji improves to finish Kyushu 7-8.

Takakeisho defeats Wakatakakage – Takakeisho wants a piece of that yusho playoff, and Wakatakakage is his only obstacle. Stand out move, that big left cross from Takakeisho that discombobulated Wakatakakage long enough that the hatakikomi could land. Takakeisho joins the 12-3 team, and heads for the playoffs.

Yusho Playoff

Playoff Match 1 Takayasu vs Abi Abi henka. Who did not see it coming? Clearly not Takayasu. Furthermore Takayasu is hurt. Not sure what was injured, but that was a possibly the worst possible outcome here.

Playoff Match 2Takakeisho vs Abi Abi catches Takakeisho center-mass and gives it everything he can muster. It’s enough to get Takakeisho back with his heels on the bales. A follow up push into Takakeisho’s chest steps him out, and it’s an Abi-zumo yusho.

Congratulations to Abi on your first yusho. What a fitting end to the 2022 sumo season, and I hope that we can find a better path in the new year.

To you, dear readers, thank you for coming along with Team Tachiai for the Kyushu basho. We loved bringing you are daily coverage, and we hope you enjoyed reading it.

Kyushu Day 15 Preview

So we come to it at last, the final day of the final basho of 2022. What a year it has been, and we have much to enjoy on this final day. Darwin matches, the final battle for the cup, the special prizes and some lucky rikishi is going to get an awkward yusho interview.

2022 will be recorded as a year where 6 different rikishi won the yusho, no man taking the cup twice. This underscores that there is no one strong enough to dominate this group, and that the sumo world waits for the next champion to arise. Further evidence is provided by the spate of Darwin matches today, where two 7-7 rikishi face of in a single match elimination. The winner gets the winning record, and the loser goes hope with a demotion.

Kyushu Leaderboard

Takayasu controls the outcome. Stay in the ring, stay off the clay and you take home that cup at long last. As I have said since week 1, watch for Takakeisho, who if he gets the chance will be tough to stop. It will be up to Abi to put dirt on Takayasu, a feat he has accomplished several times.

Leader: Takayasu
Chasers: Takakeisho, Abi

1 match remains

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aoiyama vs Okinoumi – Their fates have already been decided, with Aoiyama make-koshi, and Okinoumi kachi-koshi. This fight is all about the size of promotion and demotion. Okinoumi likes to stay around the middle of the top division banzuke, and a 9-6 finishing record would come close to that. They a 32 match career history that favors Okinoumi 19-13.

Takanosho vs Atamifuji – I feel a bit disappointed that Takanosho does not get a Darwin match, in spite of his 7-7 qualifying score. Instead he gets flagging Atamifuji, who comes in at a depressing 3-11. A win by Takanosho (which seems certain) would mean kachi-koshi for him. Atamifuji is already assigned a berth on the Juryo barge of the damned for the slow float back to Tokyo.

Takarafuji vs Kagayaki – Sure, why not give Kagayaki a freebee. He’s 9-5, and yeah, double digits will put him far enough up the banzuke that he can survive for a while with make-koshi results. I would rather see Takarafuji pick up his 3rd win instead.

Azumaryu vs Myogiryu – Our first Darwin match, and what a heartbreaker. Azumaryu has never been able to achieve a kachi-koshi in the top division, and has tried 4 times. Will this be the basho where he can finally get his 8? Both start this day 7-7.

Endo vs Chiyoshoma – A battle of the make-koshi, both are 6-8, and frankly have really struggled in 2022. This will be Endo’s 5th make-koshi of the year, and Chiyoshoma’s 4th.

Nishikigi vs Kotoeko – Our second glorious Darwin match, with both men quite eager to fight this one out chest-to-chest. Kotoeko comes in with a 2 match losing streak, and Nishikigi a 2 match winning streak.

Ichiyamamoto vs Sadanoumi – Our third Darwin match, this is a good clash of styles. Ichiyamamoto’s long arms and double-barreled thrusting offense vs Sadanoumi’s quickness and agility. Ichiyamamoto has won both of their prior matches.

Wakamotoharu vs Oho – Wakamotoharu has beaten Oho 3 out of their 4 previous matches, including both in the past year. I think Oho is not ready to fight rikishi at this level, and these “test matches” bear that out.

Kotoshoho vs Midorifuji – Our 4th and final Darwin match. Both have lost 2 of the last 3, and seem to be running low on sumo power right about now. Kotoshoho has won all of their 5 prior matches, so should hold a strong advantage today.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ichinojo – This match is nearly as momentous as the yusho decider later in the day. We have not had a zenpai in the top division since Nagoya 1991, when Maegashira 14E Itai went a solid 0-15 on the clay. I know Ichinojo is hurt, but whatever you do, sir, don’t let Terutsuyoshi win. We need history to be made tonight!

Meisei vs Hiradoumi – This bout is a test match for Hiradoumi – how high up the banzuke can he fight and still win a match? After at 7-8 make-koshi in September, he’s really been on fire and could finish with a 11-4 record if he can find a way to beat a man 14 whole ranks above him.

Ryuden vs Kotonowaka – Both are kachi-koshi, and 9-5 Ryuden has a chance to hit double digits against 8-6 Kotonowaka. Ryuden has won both their prior matches, and given that Kotonowaka has been under performing a bit this November, Ryuden stands a good chance of picking up a final win today.

Takayasu vs Abi – The big match of the day, the one that decides if Takayasu will finally take the cup. They have an even 4-4 match history, with Abi winning both prior matches this year. Takayasu tends to put so much power into his upper body motions that he loses his balance, which we can see when he gets on one leg. This will doom him against a disruptor like Abi. He must revert to the form that got him to Ozeki in my opinion. Stable, patient. Grab that guy, wear him down, crush what is left into the clay.

Onosho vs Daieisho – Two mega-thrust rikishi up next, with Onosho already kachi-koshi at 9-5, and Daieisho make-koshi at 6-8. Given Onosho’s 11-9 career history against Daieisho, I give him a fair chance at picking up his 10th and final win today.

Tobizaru vs Ura – Two master of frantic sumo, except Ura is in no condition to give Tobizaru a good fight. So I think this is a “donor” match where Ura helps mitigate Tobizaru’s drop down the banzuke due to his make-koshi record, which reads as 6-8 at the start of the day.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – An incredible 36 career match history between these two, with Tochinoshin holding a distinct 22-14 lead in the series. Both of them are already make-koshi, so this is more or less for points to finish the year.

Nishikifuji vs Mitakeumi – This may seem like a throw away match. It’s a first ever head to head between these two, with Nishikifuji already kachi-koshi at 8-6, and Mitakeumi make-koshi at 6-8. But a Mitakeumi win today could be enough to keep him in the named ranks for January, and give him some shred of hope to hold onto.

Kiribayama vs Hoshoryu – Both are kachi-koshi, both have shown that they are now part of the named ranked mainstays for the year to come. This makes me fairly happy, as long as Hoshoryu can keep his attitude in check. A little humility can indeed go a long way.

Hokutofuji vs Shodai – The history of Shodai getting creampuff senshuraku matches continues. I suppose there may not have been anyone left to fight, but an already make-koshi Maegashira 5 is not really worthy for an Ozeki, even one that is about to lose his rank. Does Shodai even know that he’s been made a joke? At times I truly feel sorry for this guy.

Takakeisho vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage actually has quite a bit on the line. He’d like to get to 9 wins and save some credibility as a future Ozeki contender. He may also wish to impact the yusho race that he can only dream of being a part of. If Abi loses, Takakeisho has not real motivation to win other than to send Wakatakakage into the stands for some fan service. But if Abi wins, the door is open for him to take the cup, and I would expect to see Wakatakakage get a rough ride. They share a 5-5 career record.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights

Ah, day 14 – you did your job well. As we previewed last night, there were so many great things queued up for today. While only some of them played out, the drama of today’s competition was enhanced. First on the list, the large and wonderful clade of Darwin rikishi. While there could have been as many at 14, we will happily take the 9 who earned a 7-7 record at the end of day 14. Congrats boys, you get to show the world that sumo is a zero-sum sport. There will be four Darwin matches on day 15, with Takanosho lucking out and drawing 3-11 Atamifuji instead.

The matter of Mitakeumi has been further clarified, as Shodai dispatched him with a bit of trouble. Now make-koshi, he will step out of the Sekiwake rank created for him, only to turn it over to Shodai. This match served as a symbolic and perverse passing of some kind of “loser lottery” torch. I feel bad for Mitakeumi, he has not been genki since March, and goes on record has having one of the shortest Ozeki reigns in history.

But we can’t forego the yusho race. Takayasu took care of Kagayaki, but looked like hell on toast doing it. He was off balance, out of control, but managed to get a win, and that what counts. Oho proved no match for the only real Ozeki left on the banzuke, and Abi exploited Hoshoryu’s rushed attack plan. The cup is Takayasu’s tomorrow if he can beat Abi, otherwise its going to be a playoff with as many as 3 men fighting it out for the yusho.

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Okinoumi grabs Chiyoshoma with a left hand outside grip, and waits. And waits. Then decides… to wait some more. Chiyoshoma keeps trying to get something offensive going, while Okinoumi convinces him to.. wait. When he has had enough waiting, and Chiyoshoma has worn himself down, Okinoumi advances and wins. That’s his 8th and he is kachi-koshi at 8-6, while Chiyoshoma picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi for November.

Takanosho defeats Azumaryu – These “Darwin qualifiers” really worked out well. Takanosho is able to keep Azumuaryu centered and ahead, and powers forward for the win. Both end the day at 7-7, and qualify for a Darwin match tomorrow.

Kotoshoho defeats Myogiryu – A hybrid match, started oshi and finished yotsu. Compliments to Kotoshoho for keeping his cool and keeping his feet under Myogiryu’s thrusting attacks. Both end the day at 7-7, and qualify for a Darwin match tomorrow.

Nishikigi defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto opens with a strong thrusting attack, but Nishikigi is able to capture him by the third volley, and they lock up chest to chest. Twice Ichiyamamoto rallied and drive forward, and Nishikigi shut it down the first time, and walked Ichiyamamoto out the second time. Both end the day at 7-7, and qualify for a Darwin match tomorrow.

Hiradoumi defeats Nishikifuji – Hiradoumi’s first win in 5 attempts against Nishikifuji. He came off the shikiri-sen at full power, and never backed off for a moment. A double inside grip, and a leaping forward charge, it was all Nishikifuji could do to keep his feet. Hiradoumi improves to 10-4 from the bottom of the banzuke.

Wakamotoharu defeats Kotoeko – The two go chest to chest at the tachiai, and Kotoeko is completely out-classed. It’s a fast walk for Wakamotoharu to send Kotoeko out by oshidashi, and improve to 9-5. Kotoeko finishes the day at 7-7 and joins the Darwin group.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin starts strong, but tries a pull early on. Sadanoumi is ready for that release of forward pressure and runs Tochinoshin out, dropping him to 6-8 while Sadanoumi is up to 7-7 and joins the Darwin group.

Ura defeats Terutsuyoshi – The zenpai run remains intact, with just one more loss needed to secure the rare perfect losing record. Today Terutsuyoshi put a lot into this match, but is just too hurt even to overcome the injured Ura. Ura eventually tosses him out the West side, improving to 4-10. In true Ura style, the moment after he launches Terutsuyoshi, Ura is alarmed at his actions, and concerned for his opponent.

Midorifuji defeats Endo – Midorifuji makes this a direct and simple match. He grabs Endo, and walks him back. Endo tries to pivot away, Midorifuji thrusts him down. Endo is now make-koshi at 6-8, Midorifuji joins the Darwin group at 7-7.

Ichinojo defeats Atamifuji – Atamifuji successfully captures Ichinojo at the tachiai, then realizes the problems is; he has captured Ichinojo. It’s a bit like hugging a bus. Congratulations, now what? Atamifuji takes a few minutes to think it through as he and Ichinojo are locked up in the center of the dohyo. Eventually even a bus has to move, and I am going to guess Ichinojo needs to be somewhere in an hour, so he puts his massive body in forward gear, and Atamifuji gets a lesson in physics. Both end the day 3-11.

Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – The big match of the day, I give my compliments to Kagayaki for putting up a surprisingly strong fight. In fact, he had Takayasu on the run when Takayasu applied the hatakikomi that won the match. Never good to win a match moving backward, but Takayasu made it work today. He remains the sole leader at 12-2.

Meisei defeats Kotonowaka – If Kotonowaka had fought a bit better, we could have had Meisei join the Darwin group, but instead Kotonowaka attempted a pull, giving up any defense at a flimsy chance to gain advantage. Meisei converted this to his advantage and set up the yorikiri that won the match. Meisei gets his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for November.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji kept trying to get any kind of hold on Tamawashi, but was keeping his balance and staying in the match. At least until he caught a big left hand push to the middle of his chest from Tamawashi, and went staggering back and out. Tamawashi improves to 5-9.

Ryuden defeats Daieisho – Magnificent ballet from an enormous man. Daieisho gets a good thrusting attack going, disrupts Ryuden’s balance, and he nearly tumbles down. Daieisho lunges in to finish him, but Ryuden maintains his footing. Amazing. Ryuden gets a right hand outside grip, and after a brief struggle, walks Daieisho out, to improve to 9-5.

Tobizaru defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama fails to join the Darwin crew, and picks up his make-koshi. Tobizaru absorbed the initial Aoiyama thrusting attack, was able to get him chest to chest, and gradually worked his way into shitatenage. Both end the day 6-8.

Onosho defeats Kiribayama – Solid choice of tactics from Kiribayama, and it was working well until the moment he let Onosho slip just a half step to the side. This came with an immediate tsukiotoshi that caught Kiribayama off balance. Kiribayama drops to all fours, and Onosho improves to 9-5.

Wakatakakage defeats Hokutofuji – The last of the Darwin qualifier matches did not result in a pair of 7-7 scores. Hokutofuji went into an arm-bar hold against Wakatakakage’s right, and found that to be a dead end about the moment that Wakatakakage pushed him back with the right. A second combo a moment later, and Hokutofuji was out, earning him, yet again, “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo!”. Wakatakakage improves to 8-6, and is kachi-koshi for Kyushu.

Abi defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu took the attack to Abi, seeking to disrupt his double arm thrusting sumo. This mostly worked, but left Hoshoryu too far forward. Abi stepped to the side and slapped Hoshoryu down to improve to 11-3, remaining one behind Takayasu.

Takakeisho defeats Oho – It was great to see Oho fight an Ozeki, he has earned respect for actually giving Takakeisho a decent fight. But it’s early days for him, and he’s not close to ready to compete at this left – yet. Takakeisho uses a fair amount of mobility, and a lot of forward power to turn Oho, then push him out of the ring. Takakeisho now 11-3, and joins Abi one behind Takayasu.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – In the perfect musubi-no-ichiban for day 14 of this tournament, we saw Shodai summon enough sumo to dispatch an underperforming Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi had one good forward surge, but Shodai rallied and ran him out. Mitakeumi now make-koshi and will vacate the Sekiwake slot for Shodai to occupy in January. Both end the day 6-8.

Kyushu Day 14 Preview

It’s time to kick off the final weekend of this last basho of the year. In spite of some high profile dud performances, we manage to find ourselves with some great themes for the last two days. First off is the yusho race, which is far from decided. Takayasu has solo possession of the lead, but absent any surprise developments, needs to win his last 2 to ensure claiming his first yusho. There are 4 rikishi one win behind him, eager to try and grab the cup for themselves, if somehow someone can put dirt on Takayasu.

We have the unresolved question of Wakatakakage, who is not going to get his double digit score, and probably needs to restart his Ozeki run in January. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi, so his disposition is still undecided. He should be able to get that 8th win today, but with this crowd, never assume things will go the direction they were pointed in.

And gloriously, we have what could be an overflowing vessel of Darwin matches. There could be as many as 8 of those things on the final day, if the stars align. Given how middling everyone’s scores have been all year, it’s a fitting tribute to 2022 to have the whole thing end with a flurry of 7-7 matches competing for survival.

Up for a try at kachi-koshi today: Wakatakakage, Meisei, Myogiryu, Kotoeko, Okinoumi, Ichiyamamoto, Azumaryu

Kyushu Leaderboard

Takayasu controls the outcome. Stay in the ring, stay off the clay and you take home that cup at long last. As I have said since week 1, watch for Takakeisho, who if he gets the chance will be tough to stop.

Leader: Takayasu
Chasers: Takakeisho, Hoshoryu, Abi, Oho
Hunt Group: Kagayaki, Hiradoumi

2 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

We will see this all day, a 6-7 vs a 7-6. Call it a “Darwin Qualifier”, either both men end the day 7-7, or one is kachi-koshi and the other make-koshi.

Okinoumi vs Chiyoshoma – Darwin qualifier match, we have Chiyoshoma with a narrow lead, and 6 wins looking to stay in the hunt for kachi-koshi. Okinoumi has won 3 of the last 4, so I am looking for.. dare I say it… a henka?

Takanosho vs Azumaryu – Another Darwin qualifier. An Azumaryu win would be his first kachi-koshi in the top division, after 3 failed attempts. He’s got Takanosho who has been surprisingly lack-luster this November.

Kotoshoho vs Myogiryu – A third Darwin qualifier, Kotoshoho has never beaten Myogiryu, but he needs to today if he wants to try for his kachi-koshi on day 15. Myogiryu broke a 3 match losing streak yesterday with his win over Kotoshoho’s stable mate, Kotoeko.

Nishikigi vs Ichiyamamoto – The fourth and final Darwin qualifier match of the first group, it’s Nishikigi trying for his 7th win against Ichiyamamoto looking for his kachi-koshi. Ichiyamamoto has had a bit of a week 2 fade, having lost 3 of his last 4 matches.

Hiradoumi vs Nishikifuji – We take a bit of a break from Darwin qualifiers for a Hiradoumi test match. The banzuke gap between these two is 10 full ranks. Hiradoumi (9-4) have never won a match against Nishikifuji (8-5), with four prior attempts.

Wakamotoharu vs Kotoeko – With an odd number of Darwin candidates, someone had to fight outside of that group, and the schedulers picked Kotoeko (7-6) to take on Wakamotoharu (8-5). I like this match because both have strong yotsu-zumo abilities, and Kotoeko loves a good fight. I like that Wakamotoharu has a 3 match winning streak going, which includes his day 12 win over Tobizaru.

Tochinoshin vs Sadanoumi – This match is “Darwin or make-koshi”. Both men are 6-7, so whomever loses will end the tournament with a losing record. The winner gets a day 15 Darwin match. Tochinoshin holds a 7-5 career lead.

Ura vs Terutsuyoshi – A sad match, both are double-digit make-koshi this November, with Terutsuyoshi still in the hunt for the rarely seen zenpai. Given how he has been fighting, I don’t give Terutsuyoshi any chance of winning today.

Endo vs Midorifuji – Another “Darwin or make-koshi” match, call it a “Mini-Darwin” if you want, the winner is rewarded with a Darwin match tomorrow, and the loser a make-koshi. First time match between these two.

Atamifuji vs Ichinojo – Another double-digit make-koshi fight, with both men fighting well below their capabilities. I would actually give 3-10 Atamifuji a slight edge over 2-11 Ichinojo in this, their first ever match.

Takayasu vs Kagayaki – Takayasu, having run out of high rankers to beat on, is pretty far down the banzuke to take on Kagayaki, who is 2 wins behind Takayasu. Of course the outcome that everyone is looking for is a Takayasu win, and Kagayaki’s removal from the hunt group. But I would like to think that maybe he has a chance. A slim one, but a chance. He has only beaten Takayasu once in 4 attempts, in September of 2020 when Takayasu was struggling to recover from injury.

Meisei vs Kotonowaka – Meisei at 7-6 needs a win today over 8-5 Kotonowaka to avoid a Darwin match on day 15. He holds a 3-1 career lead, but Kotonowaka is on a bit of a hot streak, having one 3 of his last 4.

Tamawashi vs Takarafuji – Another battle of the make-koshi, its 4-9 Tamawashi, hoping to avoid double digit losses, against 2-11 Takarafuji, who has already embraced his growing doom.

Ryuden vs Daieisho – The schedulers are trying hard to get Daieisho (6-7) one more win to put him into the Darwin pool. He’s up against 8-5 Ryuden, who at 8-5 is already kachi-koshi. Daieisho has an 8-4 career advantage.

Tobizaru vs Aoiyama – Ah, Tobizaru. You had a strong start to this basho, but now at 5-8 you are looking less formidable. You have the man-mountain that is Aoiyama today (6-7) who will either win and go on to a Darwin match tomorrow, or lose and be make-koshi for November.

Onosho vs Kiribayama – Both men are 8-5 kachi-koshi to start today, so this fight is really all about rank. They have split their six prior matches 3-3, so maybe a big fight here.

Wakatakakage vs Hokutofuji – Last of the Darwin qualifiers, and you could not ask for two better candidates to end the series. We have former Ozeki hopeful Wakatakakage up against Hokutofuji, owner of “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo” title. Wakatakakage needs a win to avoid a day 15 Darwin match, and further deflation of his once grand aspirations.

Abi vs Hoshoryu – With the preliminaries out of the way, it’s time to make all of the 10-3 guys fight each other, starting with these two. This match set will ensure only 2 rikishi remain in the hunt for the cup should Takayasu lose a match. Hoshoryu has never lost to Abi, with 4 prior fights. Abi is looking better than he has in some time, but his sumo is so one dimensional, if Hoshoryu has a formula for shutting him down, it may be certain that Abi will lose.

Takakeisho vs Oho – I can’t see this first time battle being much more than a rapid, short flight down range for Oho once he catches a full blast. I am certain he will try for a mawashi grab as a route to upset the Ozeki, but the chances of him getting there are remote.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – What could be more “Sumo 2022” than ending the day with these two head to head? Shodai, I present you with your future. The best Mitakeumi can hope for right now is to beat Shodai and qualify for a Darwin match tomorrow. He has a 13-16 career deficit against booger-boy, but maybe Shodai is ready to throw in the towel.