Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


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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.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

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.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

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.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

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.

Mid-Maegashira

M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

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.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

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.

Well, that was unexpected


A little introduction…

Hello! You might have seen me posting on here as “Fluffiest” or on reddit as “acheiropoieton”, but I’ll stick to “pinkmawashi” for the sumo commentary (yes, I am an Ura fan, but mostly I’m just very fond of the colour pink).

As a relative newcomer to sumo, I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the Tachiai blog. I don’t intend to post a great deal – I’m mostly here to proof-read and to chip in when another perspective is wanted. Now, on to what this post is about:

A retrospective on the Wacky Aki

From a certain perspective, there was nothing wacky about it. We started out with “anyone can win this basho” and ended up with the yusho going to the one Yokozuna and the jun-yusho to the one Ozeki. But the road we took to get there was a rollercoaster.

There were worries from the very start. It transpired early on that Kakuryu would not be competing, and shortly afterwards that first Kisenosato and then Hakuho were out as well; and everybody knew that Harumafuji would be struggling with persistent injuries. Further down the banzuke, Aoiyama – the previous year’s jun-yusho winner – dropped out, as did Sadanoumi. With crowd favourites Endo and Ura also both recovering slowly from past damage but competing anyway, injuries were on everyone’s mind.

Day five

A third of the way in, and the injuries had become a plague, the win-loss pattern appeared totally unpredictable, and the “wacky Aki” nickname seemed very apt. Two of the Ozeki corps who were expected to do the heavy lifting in the absence of three Yokozuna – Takayasu and Terunofuji – had dropped out due to injury, as had Ura who should really not have been competing in the first place. Ozeki Goeido lost his first bout to a henka, then won two more matches with henkas of his own, earning the disapproval of the crowd. Harumafuji seemed to be in a bit of a poor state, looking dreadfully nervous before his match with Tochiozan, only 2-3 at this early stage and looking more tired by the day (at around this point, talk of intai bubbled up from the internet like gas from a swamp). The lower San’yaku were doing no better, with Yoshikaze and Tochiozan only able to pick up their first wins on day five, and Mitakeumi suffering lightning-fast slap-downs on the first two days and struggling to reach 2-3 by way of an injured Tochinoshin. Tamawashi was also on 2-3 but at least looking like he was putting in the effort (having suffered one loss due to a slip, one to his nemesis Shohozan aganst whom he has a dismal 1-12 record, and another due largely to a nagging twisted ankle after the previous day’s victory over Takayasu). Meanwhile, the unlikeliest of candidates were doing splendidly: Onosho, ranked high enough to face San’yaku competition for the first time, was undefeated (something of a rarity – a new rikishi’s first encounter with the San’yaku is usually a series of demoralizing defeats and a trip back down the banzuke to regroup). Chiyotairyu found his relatively simple and direct style served him nicely, delivering four quick, decisive wins. Kotoshogiku had apparently decided to prove he’s not ready to retire yet and also picked up four wins (admittedly, one from a henka and one from Harumafuji thinking the bout was a matta). Will we see a yusho from an unexpected quarter? Will the San’yaku ranks be thrown into complete disarray? Will Harumafuji even make it to the end of the tournament? Perhaps more to the point, will the field thin even further from injuries?

Day ten

Fast-forward another five days, and the picture is quite different. Goeido leads in the yusho race (with only him and Chiyotairyu having managed their kachi-koshi!), and despite employing very reactive, backward-moving sumo in the tournament’s first half – to much disapproval – he seems to have gotten into the swing of things and become the unstoppable force who we love to watch. And yet, the spectre of those two henkas hangs in the air, and a yusho victory would feel tainted by a performance that many say is unbecoming of an Ozeki. And what about the triumphant young ‘tadpoles’? Well, Chiyotairyu looks dominant at this point. That simple and direct style has won bouts against rikishi with far more apparent versatility, just because Chiyotairyu executes it with such speed, power, and instinct. It even flattened Onosho in a very one-sided bout, the first of a series of three losses that would see the enthusiastic red-mawashi-clad youngster drop from contention in the yusho race. Aside from these two, the rest of the Yusho chase group consists of M8 and lower wrestlers (who, while well on the way to a satisfying and rewarding kachi-koshi, seem unlikely to claim the Emperor’s Cup as they are sure to be matched up against tougher and tougher opposition if they keep winning). The yusho is Goeido’s to lose – although everyone knows he’ll face Harumafuji on the last day, and Onosho and Chiyotairyu continue to look like convincing competition. Harumafuji has picked up a little after a rocky start, Mitakeumi is in peril since he needs three more wins and hasn’t faced anyone above Komusubi yet, and Yoshikaze has had a startling return to form and not dropped a single bout since his initial run of four losses. But for now, the spotlight is on Goeido.

On a more subdued note, Aoiyama and Sadanoumi have returned to the competition, although by this stage both are make-koshi, with Aoiyama managing a single win and Sadanoumi none. Aoiyama might have done better if he hadn’t been fed to Harumafuji and Goeido straight off the bat, but he is in the Joi according to his ranking and would be expected to face them both at some point.

The conclusion

By day twelve, the banzuke looks… well, rather odd. In the lead: Goeido. In pursuit: Ten other rikishi. Three days to go, and either you do not have your kachi-koshi yet, or you are in contention for the yusho. Amongst that hallowed chase group: Kotoshogiku, who many people said should retire last basho. Harumafuji, who some people said should retire last week. Endo, proud owner of one working ankle. Onosho, newcomer to the Joi. Asanoyama, newcomer to Maegashira 16. I start to wonder what kind of parallel sumo world I’m looking at. It’s a far cry from Nagoya, that’s for sure.

Something astonishing happens on day thirteen. Every single person in the chase group, except Harumafuji and Asanoyama, loses their bout. And since their opponents (Yoshikaze and Daiesho respectively) were also in the chase group, there could be no worse outcome. Luckily for keeping things interesting, Goeido blew it too. This match is one to remember – for a while, it seemed Goeido had left the early basho’s reactive, retreating sumo behind, but here he seems unwilling to charge into Takakeisho, preferring to circle around with deft sidesteps. And then he slips on the clay. It’s not an unforced error, and Takakeisho absolutely deserves credit for pushing the Ozeki onto the defensive (he got that credit in the form of the shukun-sho), but that slip changed the course of the basho. And after that rocky start, the lone Yokozuna is suddenly back in the spotlight.

On day fourteen, there are – technically – sixteen rikishi with a chance of winning the Yusho in a kind of absurd thirteen-way playoff, although that would require Goeido to lose to Takanoiwa and Harumafuji to lose to Mitakeumi. Lovers of chaos cross their fingers.

You know how this ends (and if you don’t, go and watch the matches rather than reading about them). On day 14, Asanoyama finds that he simply can’t deal with Onosho’s onslaught. Goeido stays cool and collected through two mattas, goes on the attack for the whole bout against a Takanoiwa who seems determined to play the dodging, retreating, pull-down defensive role that Goeido himself took earlier in the tournament, and scores a win despite teetering on the edge of a fall several times. Mitakeumi and Harumafuji meet in a cracking tachi-ai, Mitakeumi gets both his hands to a powerful inside grip and converts it into a perfect mori-zashi. The crowd’s intake of breath is audible to the cameras. They lock up for a while, Mitakeumi seemingly wondering just what to do now that he has such a commanding grip… and then Harumafuji somehow borrows the strength of the three absent Yokozuna and carries him out of the ring.

On the final day, it comes down to those two. I, personally, would not begrudge Goeido the yusho, despite those henkas on days three and four. He has exhibited excellent sumo and been a joy to watch at other times. His losses came from one henka, one slip, and Shohozan (who is a force of nature at times). But Harumafuji has without question been the more aggressive rikishi, and between that and little moments of grace – like catching Tochiozan’s head for safety at the conclusion of their first bout, or ensuring Shohozan didn’t fall from the edge of the dohyo – have me (and probably everyone else) cheering for the Yokozuna. He’s clearly not at 100% – there was a very real chance he’d skip the basho entirely, were it not for the absence of the other three Yokozuna – and he’s already shown he can make mistakes. He needs to win twice, while Goeido only needs to win once. And he only goes and does it.

So, yes, in the end, the only Yokozuna in the competition took the yusho, and the only Ozeki took the jun-yusho. But what a road we took to get there!

Behold, The Giant Macaroon Of Victory!


Macaroon

Among the yusho prizes is this giant macaroon (macaron) which is awarded to the victor.  On this auspicious occasion, it is green.  I imagine you saying “But Bruce, surely that is just a plastic model!”. But I have it on good authority, that the ones awarded to Kisenosato were eaten before the yusho parade.

Harumafuji Wins Aki Basho


Harumafuji Yusho

In the final match of the final day, the championship of the Aki basho was decided in a pair of exciting contests between the lone surviving Yokozuna, Harumafuji and the lone surviving Ozeki, Goeido.

Harumafuji took the initiative early in the match and quickly drove Goeido from the ring, setting up a playoff to decide the champion. Both rikishi retired to the dressing rooms to prepare for the final, deciding match. In a strange outcome of the rules, Harumafuji (being higher ranked) would enter from the East and Goeido from the West. This was the opposite of their final match of regular play. So fans were treated to video of both Team Goeido and Team Harumafuji passing each other in the hall.

Before returning to the dohyo, Yokozuna Harumafuji was seen practicing a tachiai with Juryo rikishi Terutsuyoshi. This was critical as he was working out hand placement that moments later use against Goeido.

The final and deciding match was over at lighting speed, as Harumafuji blasted Goeido over the tawara, using the same body grip he practiced on Terutsuyoshi. Harumafuji picks up his 9th tournament win, and his yusho parade featured “Uncle Sumo” Aminishiki carrying the victory banner.

Tachiai congratulates both Harumafuji and Goeido for going the distance and competing with everything they could muster in this strange and chaotic basho. You guys stuck it out, and in the end made it worth watching.

Aki Day 14 Preview


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Recommended Toolkit For Day 14

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.

Leader – Goeido
Hunt Group – (2) Harumafuji, Asanoyama
Chasers – (13) Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takakeisho, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei, Endo

2 Matches Remain

URGENT NOTIFICATION TO TACHIAI READERS

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:

  1. Get a 330 ml or 750 ml of drinkable sake. I will be using a fine Hakkaisan, myself.
  2. Pour a standard sized cup, if you are in Japan, have someone pour it for you.
  3. These events require a sip from your sake cup:
    1. a matta
    2. a monii
    3. a match with more than 1 wave of banners
    4. Yoshikaze bleeds for any reason
    5. Someone secures their kachi-koshi
  4. These events require you to drain and refill your cup:
    1. a member of the hunt group or chasers loses a match
    2. Someone suffers a mawashi oriented wardrobe malfunction.
    3. A combatant collides with a gyoji, seated or standing
    4. A combatant lands on one of the shimpan
    5. A combatant deploys a henka
    6. A combatant lands on an elderly lady ringside, who seems far too pleased by the event.
  5. These events requires you to drain the sake bottle in one go:
    1. Tochiozan bursts into flames
    2. Someone gets carted off in the big wheelchair
    3. Hakuho suddenly re-enters the basho just to give Goeido a swirly
    4. Kisenosato’s uninjured right leg appears, grafted to Takayasu’s body and begins to do shiko in the hanamichi
    5. 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.

Additional Thoughts On Aki Day 13


asanoyama

Day 13 is in the record books, and once again this Wacky Aki rose to the challenge of giving us a defining WTF day of sumo. First and foremost, Goeido lost to Takakeisho. Not in some grand epic battle, he seems to have fallen down. Then there was the rather impressive cluster of rikishi 2 wins behind Goeido. 10 of them actually. All but 2 of them lost their day 13 matches. That’s 8 rikishi who had a chance to claim the yusho, done and out in one day.

But because Goeido lost and Harumafuji won, we move yet closer to the enticing Senshuraku Showdown, as Harumafuji will face Goeido on the final match of the final day. There are still plenty of strange things that can happen tomorrow, day 14, but for now it looks like the yusho may be decided by the outcome of that match.

Or will it? Who’s that over in the corner looking happy and doing shiko while humming a jaunty tune in his head? It’s none other than the happy rikishi, Asanoyama. You see, he also won his match today, and he is also one behind Goeido now. Should he win again on Saturday, he is a yusho contender for the final day should Harumafuji defeat Goeido. Quite unlikely I would say, but what kind of sumo magic would it be if this young rikishi at the very bottom of the banzuke (M16e) could take the Emperor’s Cup in his first Makuuchi basho? The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan would smile for sure.

Below is video via Twitter of Goeido suffering his catastrophic Slippiotoshi

 

Aki Day 13 Preview


Goeido-Mug

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!

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Harumafuji, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho, Endo, Asanoyama

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

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.