Hatsu Day 13 Highlights

Friday has come and gone, and we have no change in the leaderboard for Hatsu. The schedulers have made sure that Saturday will have something to say about that, they are putting both 12-1 rikishi, Tokushoryu and Shodai, head to head. More about that later today. Today’s matches were mostly about continuing to sort make-koshi and kachi-koshi rikishi. The good news is it does seem that there will several 7-7 rikishi for day 15 “Darwin” matches, which are always painful to watch. On to the highlights!

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho still really can’t generate any effective forward pressure with that banged up left knee. Azumaryu quickly settles in on a a grip and gives big Tsurugisho roll to the clay for the win.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – Chiyotairyu, sumo’s thunder spirit, is on a 3 match winning streak, and maybe just might be able to find 2 more wins to finish with 8. Tochiozan’s high efficiency mode may have cost him a win today, as Chiyotairyu was able to effectively use movement and attack to overwhelm Tochiozan’s defense.

Kiribayama defeats Ishiura – Excellent Harumafuji style mini-henka today from Kiribayama. It was so well done that I had to watch it a few times just to enjoy how smoothly it flowed. To underscore the technique, Kiribayama did not so much dodge the tachiai as he dodged Ishiura’s impact, and guided his energy out of his way.

Kaisei defeats Sadanoumi – Kaisei is able to latch onto Sadanoumi at the tachiai, and once you take away Sadanoumi’s speedy footwork, he’s little more than ballast for Kaisei’s sumo.

Tokushoryu defeats Yutakayama – Readers know I am looking for big things this year from Yutakayama, but today he was Tokushoryu’s snack. Yutakayama opened strong, and was attacking when Tokushoryu pushed him aside as Yutakayama lunged forward to finish the match. Win #12 for Tokushoryu.

Chiyomaru defeats Takanosho – Takanosho failed to shut down Chiyomaru’s sumo in the opening seconds, and ended up being battered mercilessly.

Ryuden defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi had the advantage at the tachiai, but as was common in several matches today, was too far forward, too committed to pressing ahead and Ryuden shunted him to the side and down.

Ikioi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama makes a bad turn and ends up facing away from Ikioi, and off balance. A quick shove from Ikioi and somehow he is at 6-7. If he manages to survive Hatsu, it will mark a miraculous come back from a 0-4 start.

Onosho defeats Kotoeko – Its a matta festival this match, as the two cannot seem to launch correctly. Kotoeko takes a nodowa at the tachiai, and is on the run for the rest of the match. Onosho now just one more win from kachi-koshi. Somehow.

Shodai defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki goes high at the tachiai, and at this level of genki, Shodai makes him pay almost at once by getting morozashi and backing Kagayaki to the bales. Mr Fundamentals quickly realizes that he is completely out-classed and boxed in as Shodai muscles him over the tawara for win #12.

Shimanoumi defeats Tamawashi – How does Tamawashi have 10 losses when he owns the opening 10 seconds of nearly every match? Well if today is any indicator, his balance is off due to some injury. After smashing Shimanoumi around the dohyo, suddenly Shimanoumi rallies and slaps him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi looked to be trying to set up some kind of pull down, with his right hand searching for the back of Hokutofuji’s neck. While he was fumbling around with that, his chest was wide open and Hokutofuji was in the process of forcing him out. Too late Mitakeumi realized he was not going to get his hand placed, and tried to fight back. 10 wins for Hokutofuji now, wow.

Kotoshogiku defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu attempts an arm grab, but loses balance and falls backward. Its good that he was not injured, as a head-first fall from the dohyo has caused problems already this basho.

Endo defeats Okinoumi – Endo finally gets his 8th win. The judges gave him a winning move of shitatehineri, but to my eye it looks more like Okinoumi just fell down. Either way, it’s a kachi-koshi for Endo, and the bidding for san’yaku slots is open. I expect lksumo is going to be puzzling this one out for some time.

Daieisho defeats Shohozan – After Daieisho tried a couple of attempts at a slap down, he focuses center-mass and starts to really move Shohozan back. Shohozan counters by going chest to chest with a left hand inside, and the two lock up and lean in for an extended period. Eventually Daieisho advances and yorikiris Shohozan out, but it was quite the long match.

Enho defeats Abi – Enho’s leg pick against Abi’s injured knee causes a leap of surprise or pain. Following that jump, Abi is easy meat and takes his 8th loss to likely drop out of San’yaku for March. Enho kachi-koshi, and who knows where he is headed.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – I dare say these two really enjoyed this one. Asanoyama because he had a solid yotsu battle with someone who is good at it, and Takarafuji because he was able to get somewhere with his defend and extend sumo. Sadly Takarafuji is also now make-koshi, in spite of fighting quite well for Hatsu. Asanoyama picks up his 8th win and will stay Sekiwake 1 East for March. But I am going to guess any talk of an Ozeki bid is now on hold pending better results.

Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is probably having knee problems again, as he immediately tries to pull, twice, from the tachiai. With no forward pressure to combat Goeido’s advance, the soon to be Ozeki relic makes short work of the relic of Tochinoshin.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu delivers a forearm smash to Takakeisho’s face at the tachiai, and that really set the tone for the match. Takayasu throws the kitchen sink at the lone surviving Ozeki: pull down, face slap, nodowa but Takakiesho remains upright, but on defense. Takakeisho finally gets enough distance from Takayasu to fire up the trusting machine, and he fights back with energy. Takakeisho ends up not only pushing Takayasu out, but into the 2nd row of zabuton. Takakeisho continues to show surprising skill expansion and versatility, and picks up his 11th win. His reward, a split upper lip and a mountain of kensho.

Hatsu Day 13 Preview

Unless something very odd happens, the yusho will be taken by Shodai, Tokushoryu or Takakeisho. Let that sink in. One of them is a fairly green Ozeki, who has already won more championships than Takayasu ever did (hey, I am a Takayasu fan!). One is the last man on the banzuke, and the final one (Shodai) is almost unlikely as Tokushoryu. We live in strange and fantastic times as sumo fans, and I think the unpredictability and excitement that this brings is a refreshing change from the past 10 years. Oh I do miss Harumafuji and a healthy Kisenosato, but this will mark the 4th time in the past year that the cup will go home with someone other than a Mongolian Yokozuna.

If somehow Takakeisho takes his second cup, it could very well mark a potential for a new Yokozuna in 2020. Not that I think Takakeisho is ready, but the lack of active Yokozuna coupled with a rikishi who can predictably take the yusho amidst depleted senior ranks would be grounds to give him the rope. I would even go so far as to guess that should he manage to get the Yusho for Hatsu, it would be in the best interest of sumo to encourage the last two relic Yokozuna to rest until May. A free pass to come back healthy and test the new rope-holder would be a solid outcome for the sport, and allow Hakuho and Kakuryu to gracefully exit, having passed the torch on to the Reiwa generation.

But that requires someone – anyone – to stop the two leaders, and both of them seem to be up to any challengers thus far. I note that Shodai beat Takakeisho on day 9, and even a playoff would be a severe test for Takakeisho, who I am convinced is not back to 100% with that pectoral muscle. That may account for the fact that he has gone chest to chest a few times, and we have not yet seen the wave action tsuppari this basho.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leaders: Shodai, Tokushoryu
: Takakeisho
Hunt Group: Hokutofuji, Yutakayama, Kagayaki

3 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Tsurugisho vs Azumaryu – Tsurugisho actually stands a chance of winning today, in spite of his injuries. He holds an 11-3 career advantage over Azumaryu, so it seems he has a recipe for grabbing Azumaryu and escorting him out. A loss today would give Azumaryu a make-koshi, and nominate him to the ever looming Juryo demotion queue.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochiozan – A genki Tochiozan can keep the thunder spirit that sometimes visits Chiyotairyu in the box. In spite of a 6-3 career lead over Tochiozan, Chiyotairyu is not in good condition right now, and is probably just looking to make sure he’s not demoted. A loss today for Chiyotairyu would be make-koshi.

Kiribayama vs Ishiura – A first time match, the already kachi-koshi Kiribayama will face off against a resurgent Ishiura, who lost 6 of his first 8. Since then he has won 4 in a row by switching up his sumo, and reverting back to straight ahead grab and tug techniques that he sometimes executes better than Enho.

Sadanoumi vs Kaisei – Both men come in 6-6, needing to win 2 of their last 3 to reach kachi-koshi. Kaisei will bring size and power against Sadanoumi’s speed and agility.

Tokushoryu vs Yutakayama – This is meant to be a tough match for Tokushoryu, and I firmly believe that it will live up to that expectation. Both men are already kachi-koshi, and they are evenly matched, 2-3 over their career. A loss today can knock Tokushoryu out of the leader group. A win today will give Yutakayama double digits, and a kick into the joi-jin for March.

Takanosho vs Chiyomaru – Takanosho needs 2 wins by the end of Sunday to mark his 4th consecutive kachi-koshi. He is evenly split (2-2) with Chiyomaru, who will try to slap him down immediately at the tachiai. If Takanosho can take the match longer than about 10 seconds, he gains the upper hand, as Chiyomaru tends to run out of stamina quickly.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ryuden – Matching 8-4 records, evenly matched 2-2 over their careers. This is a match of roughly equal potential on both sides, and it will be a question of who gets inside early and can push. Terutsuyoshi has only won 2 of his last 5, so he may be ready for a rally.

Aoiyama vs Ikioi – With a loss today, Ikioi will be make-koshi, and have to possibly find his seat on the Juryo barge. He holds a slight (14-10) edge over Aoiyama over the 24 match career history. After opening with a dark streak of black stars, Ikioi has won 3 out of the last 4, and is on a bit of a recovery streak going into today’s match. Can he “win out” and make his 8?

Kotoeko vs Onosho – Kotoeko is doing quite poorly now, and I am assuming lksumo may spell out just how many losses he would need before he joins the Juryo queue [he is already ticketed for the second division. -lksumo]. Against all expectations, Onosho has won 6 of the last 8 after an 0-4 start to Hatsu. He still needs 2 more to reach 8, but maybe he can do it.

Kagayaki vs Shodai – As much as I am a Kagayaki booster, I doubt he’s got enough sumo right now to really challenge Shodai. His 1-4 career record against the yusho race co-leader backs that up, but Kagayaki’s sumo is solid enough that he might just get lucky.

Tamawashi vs Shimanoumi – Another first-time matchup sees already make-koshi Tamawashi up against 7 loss Shimanoumi, who needs to win out to reach 8. Given that Shimanoumi tends to win by grabbing a hold of his opponents, he will first have to get past Tamawashi’s offense, which is based on hitting people and moving rapidly.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – Although neither of them has any shot at the yusho, this is a high interest match. These two tend to bash each other mercilessly when they fight, and Mitakeumi really needs another win to begin to slowly work his way back to the upper ranks. Hokutofuji has been on fire this basho, and I am expecting him to reach double digits before they toss the gyoji Sunday evening.

Kotoshogiku vs Myogiryu – Battle of sadness; both are make-koshi, both are grizzled veterans who are feeling father time grinding down their bodies. They are tied 12-12 over their long careers, so it will come down to which one can muster enough strength to win. Brutal, ugly match.

Endo vs Okinoumi – Sure, let’s have a mini-Darwin match between the fading Endo and the seemingly timeless Okinoumi. Both come in looking for 1 more win to reach kachi-koshi, and both of them can be counted on to go for the mawashi at the tachiai.

Shohozan vs Daieisho – Speaking of grizzled veterans, Shohozan needs 2 more wins for kachi-koshi, and he’s against Daieisho, who is already at 8 losses. Shohozan dominates Daieisho, leading their career matches 4-1.

Abi vs Enho – Yet another first time match, and a huge clash of sumo styles. Abi always wants to go double arm against his opponent’s neck and chest, but I am personally unsure if he can reach that low. Enho will evade, and try to grab and pull one of Abi’s long arms. Abi’s balance challenges will be front and center in this match, but if the Komusubi can catch Enho with those thrusts even once, the power pixie might get airborne.

Asanoyama vs Takarafuji – Another somewhat ugly match, Asanoyama holds a 5-1 advantage over Takarafuji, who needs 3 wins to finish with 8. His next loss and he is make-koshi. Asanoyama needs 1 more win to hold onto Sekiwake 1 East, which is a good rank for him right now.

Tochinoshin vs Goeido – Sure, let’s take these two fading Heisei legends and have them fight each other. 28-match history favors Goeido 18-10. The next loss will be make-koshi for Tochinoshin, and down the banzuke he goes for March.

Takakeisho vs Takayasu – Takakeisho really needs this win, and I expect that Takayasu is in no condition to put up too much of a fight. His left arm was questionable at the start of the basho, and after 12 days of opponents going hard after his injured elbow, it’s a wonder that thing is still attached.

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

With his loss today, Goeido will vacate his Ozeki rank in March, and assume Takayasu’s Sekiwake slot with a single chance to return to Ozeki with 10 wins. Takayasu likewise lost today to Enho and will vacate the Sekiwake slot for Goeido as he is following Tochinoshin down the banzuke. Sumo’s transitional era has cleaned out the last of the Heisei era Ozeki, leaving only the Yokozuna to consume. Given their ability to withdraw from tournaments at will, it may be most of this year before they too are consumed by the force that is refreshing the sumo ranks. For people who are not happy with changes, or have sentimental feelings to the unique period of sumo that was the last 10 years, it is somewhat disturbing to watch.

But the fastest way to make more Ozeki and then more Yokozuna is to have them step away. Right now the replacements lack consistency to make it to these special ranks. That consistency will come shortly, I believe. But as discussed in last night commentary, we must not expect them to be as dominating or as long-serving as Hakuho has been. I think I am urging sumo fans to accept that the new normal in sumo is likely to be more unpredictable, with a field of more evenly matched competitors.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Azumaryu – Ikioi staves off make-koshi another day by getting Azumaryu turned around and shoved out from behind. I really would love to see Ikioi eek out a kachi-koshi, but he has to win them all for the last 3 days.

Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tries a oblique submarine tachiai, but Shimanoumi’s wide-arm launch catches him, and its a simple pivot and thrust to bring him to the clay. Valid opening gambit from Terutsuyoshi, but Shimanoumi had the perfect response.

Tsurugisho defeats Kotoeko – Somehow, the injured Tsurugisho scored a win against the hapless double-digit loss Kotoeko. Kotoeko is a better rikishi than this, so I am going to assume he in injured.

Tokushoryu defeats Kagayaki – Yusho co-leader Tokushoryu takes on from Mr Fundamentals in fairly impressive style. Kagayaki long arms give him the reach to get to Tokushoryu’s mawashi, but Tokushoryu body ensures that in doing so, Kagayaki’s hips are too high. His fundamentals tell him he is wrong, and he tries to modify his stance and his grip to compensate. All the while Tokushoryu is pushing forward and consolidating his position. This is experience at work, and by the time Kagayaki advances to resume the attack, Tokushoryu rolls him into a throw. Great sumo from Tokushoryu today, perfectly played.

Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Kiribayama wisely shuts down Sadanoumi’s blitzkrieg offense at the tachiai, and never gives him a moment to set up any offense. Kiribayama kachi-koshi.

Ishiura defeats Kaisei – Ishiura’s “hop” tachiai superbly disrupts Kaisei’s tachiai, and leaves Ishiura with momentary control of the tone of the match. Ishiura uses his superior mobility to never stay in front of Kaisei for more than a moment, and is constantly hitting and moving. Its very effective against a big man like Kaisei, and suddenly an Ishiura kachi-koshi does not look impossible.

Takanosho defeats Kotoshogiku – Continuing the theme of Heisei legends fading away, Kotoshogiku is make-koshi with today’s loss to Takanosho. Takanosho gets the drop on the Kyushu bulldozer, being able to get both hands inside at the tachiai. Kotoshogiku knows at once he is in trouble, and never recovers.

Tochiozan defeats Yutakayama – But not all of the Heisei legends are ready to fade, Tochiozan switches to a much higher mobility mode, and really gives Yutakayama a fight. Kachi-koshi for Tochiozan, and really and impressive effort for Hatsu. I am expecting Yutakayama to score at least 1 more win and hopefully join the joi-jin for March.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – Day 12’s battle of the mega-fauna goes sumo’s own thunder-spirit, Chiyotairyu. He beats Aoiyama at his own sumo, grabbing a bit of neck, applying a loose kotenage and pulling Big Dan to the clay. Aoiyama now make-koshi, and Chiyotairyu survives to fight another day. I admire the way thunder-spirit Chiyotairyu is hanging tough following that arm-breaker throw from Ryuden.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden kachi-koshi as he asserts man’s dominance over nature by defeating nature’s perfect shape, Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru starts strong, but he’s easy to side step if your timing is good, and Ryuden’s seems to be just right, and Chiyomaru gets a face full of clay.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – This match surprised me, as I expected Tamawashi to completely dominate this battle. Tamawashi’s opening volley was hugely effective, but Onosho was surprisingly fast to recover and respond. He worked a natural recovery gap in Tamawashi’s oshi attacks to grab the former Sekiwake and pull him down. I know some readers wonder what potential I see in Onosho, but here it was on display. You fight him on a good day, you may end up with a bloody stump. His problem – consistency.

Shohozan defeats Mitakeumi – Traditional week 2 Mitakeumi, he can’t quite seem to output the extra 15% power needed to overcome Shohozan, who decided rather than trade blows with Mitakeumi, he was going for the belt. With his heels on the tawara, and unable to push Shohozan back, Mitakeumi pivots for a throw, but Shohozan widens his stance and collapses Mitakeumi’s pivot for the win.

Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Have we guessed today’s theme? Consistency. Endo’s brilliant sumo lacks consistency, and that’s why we don’t have Ozeki Endo. Endo rocks Hokutofuji back at the tachiai, but that is simply flirtation to a rikishi like Hokutofuji, and he roars forward, with his left hand firmly on Endo’s neck (see, not the right hand this time, the man can change it up). Hokutofuji’s lower body is always in it to win it, and he advances with Endo at arm’s length like a father rushing his toddler to the nearest changing table.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu was very effective in stalemating Okinoumi, preventing him from really generating enough leverage to do more than lean against Myogiryu, looking for a hand hold. But every exchange, Myogiryu improved his hold just a bit, until he was morozashi and backing Okinoumi over the bales. No kachi-koshi for Okinoumi today.

Shodai defeats Abi – Yusho co-leader retains his lead by overcoming one of better displays of Abi-zumo in a while. When I talk about Shodai having almost cartoon like physics around him, this is a fantastic example. Abi is pounding away, and Shodai is taking it as best he can, then a lucky move brings Abi’s head into contact with Shodai’s face, and Abi loses balance as Shodai thrusts him down. Time and again, you see something happen in a match with Shodai where you wonder, “was that luck, was that skill? What the hell was that?”

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji takes his 7th loss and is painfully close to make-koshi for a rikishi who has fought so well this January. Much respect to Daieisho for attacking Takarafuji’s non-existent neck, and somehow making it work.

Enho defeats Takayasu – With today’s loss, Takayasu will be vacating his Sekiwake slot to make room for Goeido in March. Enho’s grab and pull sumo completely disrupts Takayasu’s offense, and the best he can do is try to stalemate him. Enho is small enough that even when you have a hold on him, he is probably not immobilized (unless you pick him up like Tochinoshin did). Thanks for 2½ years of great Ozeki sumo, Takayasu.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Again we see Takakeisho go chest to chest and win with a throw. Takakeisho now at double digit wins. What did I just see?

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Asanoyama has showed a lack of consistent sumo this January, but to be honest this is his highest ever rank, and even a rikishi with as much potential as he has will take a bit of time to settle into being a San’yaku regular. Today’s defeat of Goeido was a fine yotsu battle that Goeido really could not find a way to win. Thanks for over 5 years of Ozeki sumo, Goeido.

Hatsu Day 12 Preview

Sumo fans love to speculate about who will be the next Ozeki or the next Yokozuna. This is typically great fun, and we all bring our enthusiasm out and parade them for entertainment. But there is a very situation coming this year to sumo. There will need to be at least 1 new Ozeki and probably 1 new Yokozuna minted this year to replace the ones that we expect to vacate their rank. At the moment, none of our rikishi, even the ones we really love, are really ready for those ranks. It’s all because of Hakuho.

What? Hakuho? He’s out hurt, he’s still amazing, but he’s headed for the sunset of his career.

But truth be told, we have witnessed the greatest rikishi of any age, and possibly for the foreseeable future. What we consider Yokozuna class performance is an amazing abnormality, and we are unlikely to see it’s equal. But as humans, we can’t help but take a look at any rikishi competing in Hatsu and measure them against Hakuho wether we recognize it or not. But for many fans, we are on the exit side of some kind of Grand Sumo Maximum, and the Ozeki and Yokozuna of the near future may be less dominant than what we have come to expect.

Today when the topic of new Ozeki and Yokozuna come up, you rightly hear skeptical sumo fans declare that no one in contention is worthy. But if we assume Goeido is eliminated from Ozeki by July, and both Hakuho and Kakuryu retire before Hatsu 2021, we will likely see new rikishi reach these hallowed ranks before Christmas. I don’t care to speculate who it will be just yet. But we live in a most interesting period of sumo, and 2020 should be a year of revelations.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leaders: Shodai, Tokushoryu
Chasers: Takakeisho, Yutakayama, Kagayaki
Hunt Group: Hokutofuji, Terutsuyoshi

4 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Azumaryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi needs to win all 4 remaining matches to avoid make-koshi. Azumaryu has yet to win a single match against him, but in Ikioi’s depleted state, the first match of the top division may set the tone.

Terutsuyoshi vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi has an even 4-4 record against Terutsuyoshi, and he too must win all remaining matches to avoid make-koshi. Shimanoumi has won the last 3 in a row, so maybe he can keep his hopes of a winning record going for another day.

Tsurugisho vs Kotoeko – Why is Tsurugisho still fighting? Is he hoping by showing a brave front the banzuke committee will take mercy on him and not send his injured bum back to Juryo? Dream on.

Tokushoryu vs Kagayaki – Tokushoryu has a 4-1 career advantage over Mr. Fundamentals, Kagayaki. They are both likely to try for a thrusting match, so I expect Kagayaki. whose hips are naturally fairly high, to struggle with the absurd body shape and low center of gravity Tokushoryu brings to this match.

Sadanoumi vs Kiribayama – First time match with a Kiribayama win giving him a kachi-koshi for January. But I am looking for Sadanoumi’s lightning quick transition from stalemate to attack to be a big factor in this match.

Kaisei vs Ishiura – Kaisei has lost his last 2 in a row, and i am starting to worry he might be hurt. Ishiura is back to trying to perform actual sumo again, so this could be a solid big man / little man match.

Takanosho vs Kotoshogiku – Another first time match, a Kotoshogiku loss today would be 5th consecutive make-koshi as the once powerful former Ozeki continues to fade as his lower body crumbles.

Tochiozan vs Yutakayama – Will Yutakayama hit double digits this January? It’s a fairly good chance that he will take 1 more out of the last 4 matches. I am interested to see what Yutakayama’s sumo looks like against Tochiozan’s minimalist technique. Yutakayama holds a 4-1 career advantage. A Tochiozan win would be his 8th.

Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – Oversized oshi-zumo practicioners face off, with the loser taking home a make-koshi. Chiyotairyu is going to charge ahead strong, and i have to expect that Big Dan is going to aim for an immediate slap down. The barrier will be Chiyotairyu’s overwhelming forward power.

Chiyomaru vs Ryuden – Ryuden holds a 5-1 career advantage over the bulbous Chiyomaru. In the 4 times he actually won against him (+1 fusensho) its almost always yorikiri. This is quite a tall order given Chiyomaru’s impressive girth. A Ryuden win today would be kachi-koshi.

Tamawashi vs Onosho – Onosho needs to win 3 of the next 4 to reach his 8, and his biggest worry today has to be Tamawashi’s excellent balance, agility and power. Tamawashi tends to hit and circle repeatedly, forcing his opponent to keep shifting to ensure Tamawashi’s is in their front quarter. This robs them of any chance to really produce much offense, and many times Tamawashi’s opponents just jump around getting pounded on. Enter Onosho who will likely try to pin Tamawashi with the same nodowa he shoved in Kaisei’s face on day 11. He has a chance if he can keep his feet.

Shohozan vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi comes into today’s match looking for win #8 against Shohozan who has lost his last 2 matches. To me that simply means he’s going to be fired up and we may see some fireworks from these two blasting each other. Slight 5-4 career advantage to Mitakeumi.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Endo is likewise looking for #8, and he’s got a 7-3 career advantage over Hokutofuji. Endo wants a shallow grip at the tachiai, and Hokutofuji is going to want to get a hand on Endo’s neck or an armpit. Even if Endo can land a grip, its going to be a wild ride as Hokutofuji’s lower body may still try to win, even if Endo has already defeated him from the waist up.

Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Okinoumi could go kachi-koshi today with a win over Myogiryu. These two have 23 career matches, with Myogiryu taking 11 to Okinoumi’s 12. Myogiryu is already make-koshi, so I am not sure how hard he will push this match.

Abi vs Shodai – What has to be the big match of the day, yusho co-leader Shodai faces his last named-rank opponent in Abi. They have an even split 4-4 record of their 8 career matches. Abi-zumo is ultimately predictable, but what kind of cartoon physics Shodai will unleash is the big question. When Shodai gets in trouble he seems to unleash random, high energy moves that more frequently than not completely shuts down his opponents.

Takarafuji vs Daieisho – Takarafuji needs to take 3 of the last 4 to secure 8 wins. So I am going to predict he will once again work the “Defend and Extend” strategy against Daieisho, against whom he is a nearly even match (4-5).

Enho vs Takayasu – Takayasu is one loss away from vacating his Sekiwake slot, probably to make room for Goeido in March. A rescue is quite unlikely given that he needs to win all 4 from here on out to survive. He has never faced Enho before, and I think he may struggle with small-man high energy grab and tug sumo.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho holds a 7-2 career lead over Tochinoshin, as he tends to connect to that broad chest with a double arm tsuppari blast that sends the big Georgian away and off balance. With Tochinoshin fighting with a damaged knee, his ability to produce forward pressure to counter Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks will be iffy at best.

Asanoyama vs Goeido – Asanoyama seems to have faded in week 2, so it is quite possible that Goeido will stave off make-koshi for another day. Many folks consider Asanoyama a strong candidate for Ozeki in 2020, so this may be his best chance to take an Ozeki win for quite some time. Asanoyama holds a 3-1 lead in the series.