With 7 days of competition left in this basho, the question is – who can put dirt on the Yokozuna? Short of a challenge being able to take a win over Terunouji, he will take the cup. With zero losses, he is one win ahead of Maegashira 10 Myogiryu, and 2 wins ahead of any credible challenger. The most eligible rikishi is none other than Sekiwake 1E, Mitakeumi. But a quick look across their match history shows just one win for Mitakeumi in 7 attempts during the current Terunofuji era. Shodai does not fare any better, with a 1-4 record since Terunofuji’s return. But Takakeisho, it’s an even 3-3 record. If everything goes according to convention, he should face Takakeisho on day 14. But Takakeisho of Aki 2020 is not operating at full power today, let alone on day 14 or 13. Then there is Takayasu, at 4-2. Yes, a distinct winning record over Terunofuji. This is probably the match with the greatest potential to bring a first loss to the Yokozuna, and put some spice into the yusho race.
Lastly, its time to talk about “The Funnel”. It a pattern that has shown up as of late, given that the broad field of competition in the top division seems to have even less differentiation than usual. At times its like Juryo plus with named ranks thrown in for flavor. In light of that, the crew that make up the torikumi (fight cards) have decided to treat them like they do rikishi in the lower divisions. They try to get as many of them as possible to 7-7 records on day 15, and let them fight it out for kachi-koshi. This is that I call “The Funnel”. Once you are in it, the only way out is to accept make-koshi and demotion. It’s one of the more brutal aspects of sumo, and it’s fascinating to watch.
Right now, it looks like Terunofuji’s cup.
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Onosho, Okinoumi, Endo, Chiyonokuni
7 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Chiyonokuni vs Tokushoryu – I am going to mark this as a likely Chiyonokuni win. His power and agility tend to overwhelm Tokushoryu. He holds a 9-2 career advantage over Tokushoryu, and Chiyonokuni continues to fight really well.
Kagayaki vs Kaisei – I would say that both of these rikishi are likely to be driven into the funnel starting tomorrow. Kagayaki at 4-4 is right on the make/kachi-koshi line, and a loss today to Kaisei would leave them both at 4-5, which is prime for punishment in the last week.
Chiyonoo vs Tochinoshin – The best that Chiyonoo can hope for right now is to pick up a win today against the diminished Tochinoshin. That would leave him with a 4-5 record, too, and put him at the top of the funnel.
Tsurugisho vs Kotoeko – I don’t know what kind of injury or problem has taken Kotoeko’s sumo and turned it down to little bo peep land, but its brutal to watch. This guy should be knocking heads at this rank. Instead he has a paltry 2 wins, and may be on track for double digit losses once more.
Endo vs Ichiyamamoto – A high interest match next, this is their first time head to head. While Endo has a big advantage, I want to see what kind of sumo Ichiyamamoto is going to try. I am sure he is going to have some defense to the mawashi grip at the tachiai, maybe something creative?
Chiyomaru vs Hidenoumi – If we get a Hidenoumi win today, both of them will enter the top of the funnel on day 10. Their career record is an even 5-6, but Chiyomaru is clearly stronger this September.
Okinoumi vs Tobizaru – I look at Tobizaru’s 4-4 record, and I think about how he needs to win at least 4 of the last 7, and while he has a career lead over Okinoumi at 3-1, Okinoumi has been fighting better this September, and I think comes into today’s match with an edge.
Yutakayama vs Terutsuyoshi – I am hoping we get something along the lines of a tottari from Terutsuyoshi today, his sumo has been rather mild, and he has lost 3 of the last 4. Time to rally sir! You need 5 of the last 7 to get your kachi-koshi.
Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama is fighting well enough, but he is not quite as genki as we recall from a few years ago. This happens, the fade from too many injuries not completely healed. At 4-4 he is a prime funnel candidate, but if Shimanoumi can manage to win, well they both go into the funnel starting tomorrow.
Myogiryu vs Onosho – Its time to see if Myogiryu can be knocked back for a win. He has a 3-8 career record against Onosho, who is having a good tournament. My money is on the tadpole!
Ura vs Chiyotairyu – Both of them are 4-4, both are them are headed for the funnel. Ura lost their only prior match, and his sumo has gotten increasingly odd. He still wins with it, but it’s a style all of its own.
Takarafuji vs Kotonowaka – Takarafuji is almost always in the funnel each basho. He straddles the make/kachi-koshi line nearly every time. He has yet to win one over Kotonowaka in 2 tries, and a Kotonowaka win today sends them both into the funnel tomorrow.
Hoshoryu vs Wakatakakage – At this point, Hoshoryu is working to rack enough wins to cushion the fall down the banzuke. The role of M1E is really a tough billet, and I think that he has done well enough. If he can get his body back in good form for November, we could see him do a lot of great sumo.
Takanosho vs Ichinojo – Takanosho needs to try like hell to win this one. He has a decent chance to get out of the funnel, as he has his “easy” week ahead of him. I think 2 wins with 0 losses in the middle would make it happen. Ichinojo is on the wrong side of the funnel, but he too faces an easier schedule than he had week 1.
Tamawashi vs Meisei – Winner gets to join the funnel, loser gets kicked a fair part of the way to make-koshi. I would think that Meisei holds a slight edge today, as Tamawashi is finding himself about 15% down in power from his peak.
Mitakeumi vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama has shown himself to be a real challenger this tournament. He has a slight edge in career record over Mitakeumi, and the original tadpole is going to need to be careful to not let him drag the match on. Stamina is not one of Mitakeumi’s strengths.
Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Career record comes up an ever 7-7 between these two. Both of them are very much hit-or-miss this September. There is nothing more sad than a kadoban Ozeki in the funnel, but I fear that is the best possible case for Takakeisho now.
Career Record (7-7) :
Shodai vs Chiyoshoma – Shodai’s soft tachiai is an excellent defense against a henka, so I don’t think we will see Chiyoshoma unleash one today. He’s going to need to find a way to overcome Shodai’s new “wall of daikon” offense if he wants to score his first ever win against the Ozeki. Nope… don’t think he will.
Daieisho vs Terunofuji – Hey, Daieisho – good luck against the Kaiju. He’s really something else to watch these days, and you will get the best view of all the action. Enjoy.