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.

Aki Day 15 Preview


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After many twists and turns, we have reached the final day of the 2017 Aki basho. I would like to thank our readers for joining us for the ride, and we are grateful for each of you taking the time to read our musings for the past 15 days. The fall out from Aki is likely to be quite dramatic. The old guard re-asserted their dominance in the second week, but the trend is clear that the younger rikishi are coming into their own. But first day 15 – it comes down to the rikishi still struggling for kachi-koshi, and the final act of the yusho race.

Going into day 15, there are 5 rikishi who will decide their kachi-koshi in their final match. Two of them are San’yaku! The list is: Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Ichinojo, Chiyoshoma, Okinoumi. Mitakeumi in particular is a tight spot, as he faces Yoshikaze. But the 3 Maegashira who are on the bubble all have relatively easy draws for the final day.

The yusho race was narrowed to a simple contest between Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Goeido. The final match, of the final day. If Goeido wins, he is champion. If he loses, there is an immediate tie-breaker match between them again to determine the winner. For the scheduling team, this is a remarkable triumph in the face of absolutely miserable conditions. Ideally the yusho will come down to a high-stakes match on the final day. This draws viewers and fans, and creates overwhelming excitement. So my congratulations to that team for succeeding in spite of a difficult situation.

Please note, the Tachiai Yusho Drinking Game is still valid for day 15, if readers choose to participate.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Okinoumi vs. Sadanoumi – Okinoumi is battling for kachi-koshi but lksumo has him safe at the bottom of Makuuchi regardless. Sadanoumi seem to have found his sumo, and has won the two prior days. He is certainly returning to Juryo, but with any luck his injuries will be healed enough that he won’t be there long.

Kaisei vs. Arawashi – Kaisei test match, going up against the higher ranked Arawashi. Kaisei looks lighter, faster and generally in much better condition than any prior 2017 appearance, and I am delighted to see him back in form. With any luck he will continue his improvements and be fordable in Kyushu. Arawashi has been eating his Wheaties, and is generally doing awesomely this basho.

Chiyoshoma vs. Yutakayama – Scheduling throws Maegashira 8 Chiyoshoma a bone by making him face Maegashira 15 Yutakayama for his kachi-koshi on the final day.

Ichinojo vs. Daieisho – Another gift from scheduling, Maegashira 6 Ichinojo faces Maegashira 11 Daieisho for his kachi-koshi deciding match. A win will likely put Ichinojo in the joi-jin for Kyushu. We hope he can find some of his old energy and vigor.

Shodai vs. Endo – Another Endo test match, these are likely helping the banzuke team figure out just how healed up Endo is, and how high they can safely rank him for Kyushu. With Ura and possibly a few others out for a while, they need more kanban rikishi in the public eye to keep sumo compelling.

Asanoyama vs. Chiyotairyu – Likely a test match for Asanoyama, to help judge where to rank him for Kyushu. I am sure sumo-Elvis Chiyotairyu will dismantle him, but it’s important to see how Asanoyama holds up.

Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho – Komusubi Tamawashi needs a win to keep his San’yaku rank alive, and he’s going to have a tough time taking a win from Takakeisho. I have no doubt that Takakeisho is eager to rejoin the joi-jin and revisit his experience with Yokozuna Hakuho.

Mitakeumi vs. Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze has been very docile the past two days, and one has to wonder if he is injured or just throttled back for now. Mitakeumi needs to hope that he’s off his sumo on day 15, or the future Ozeki will lose his coveted Sekiwake rank. Yoshikaze holds a 3-1 advantage in their career statistics.

Goeido vs. Harumafuji – The ultimate match to end the basho, the yusho is on the line, and it’s Japan vs Mongolia. It’s the unreliable Ozeki against a battle scared war machine Yokozuna who never gives up. Harumafuji holds a 31-11 career advantage. If the same Goeido shows up that was on the dohyo day 14, this will be one for the highlight reels.

Aki Day 13 Preview


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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.

Aki Day 11 Preview


 

goeido-21Let The Third Act Begin!

With the advent of day 11, the third and closing act of the Aki basho is upon us. This is where we crown the champion, and dreams get crushed. Already the dreams of many an eager tadpole who had yusho stars in their eyes have had a trip down reality lane. High performance is very difficult to maintain over the course of 15 days, and while some of the genki youngsters have had a jolly good time of it, Goeido seems to have this one under his command. There are a few chances to still derail his yusho march, but with each passing day the odds are growing longer. Even with a single loss, only Chiyotairyu has enough wins to challenge him. Goeido beat him on day 5….

The real story now for many rikishi is survival, there is a a growing make-koshi list, and some well recognized names may end up with double digit losses, and a handful will disappear from Makuuchi for the November tournament. On the subject of November, there are a large number of questions that have been pushed to the side, in order to focus all of sumo-dom on the basho. We have 3 Yokozuna out, one left who is at maybe 75%, and he competes through sheer force of will. We have one Ozeki demoted to Ozekiwake, and another (fairly new) Ozeki who may have corked up one of his enormous legs. While starting in the second act of Aki, the old guard battled back, it’s clear the sunset days for many well know and respected rikishi is now approaching. While young rikishi like Onosho have taken themselves out of the yusho race for now, their day is coming.

Should this come to pass, we will go through an amazing period where there is a Ozeki and Yokozuna replacement cycle. Once the top end retires from the sumo pyramid, there will be a mad scramble for promotion. This will make for some absolutely amazing and bonkers sumo for a good period of time.

Aki Leader board

Goeido’s yusho is becoming mathematically more likely. Only Chiyotairyu presents an effective challenge, provided someone can hand the lone surviving Ozeki a loss.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Chiyotairyu
Hunt Group – Onosho, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daishomaru, Asanoyama

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Asanoyama vs. Kaisei – Asanoyama claims his kachi-koshi with a win here today. I would note that Kaisei is not doing poorly at all the basho. Granted he’s at the bottom of Makuuchi, but I have hope that he can continue to decrease mass and increase strength before Kyushu. Their only prior match was won by Kaisei

Daieisho vs. Tokushoryu – Daieisho has dropped well back of the leader group now, but he’s still got to work on his 8 wins. Tokushoryu has shown some signs of life in the past two matches, so maybe he is ready to stage a comeback and limit his demotion level. Historically, Daieisho holds a 6-3 advantage.

Endo vs. Arawashi – Arawashi looking for win #8 to secure his kachi-koshi on day 11, but he’s got to best Endo to get it. Endo was impressive on day 10, putting weight on his injured ankle during his match with Tokushoryu. Arawashi has a 1-3 career record disadvantage against Endo, but with Arawashi looking genki, and Endo recovering, this is wide open.

Takanoiwa vs. Daishomaru – Winner gets their kachi-koshi. Both rikishi are having a great tournament thus far, and their 3-2 career record shows that they are evenly matched. I would give Takanoiwa a slight edge in this one, as he seems to be very aggressive this basho, and looking to win at all costs.

Takarafuji vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho won their only prior match, but Takarafuji is really got his sumo together this basho. I continue to be impressed at his methodical and calculated approach to each match, and how he goes about winning by executing his battle plan. Of course Takakeisho is fresh off of a kinboshi, and is likely feeling quite genki indeed.

Shohozan vs. Ikioi – This one has huge potential. Both of them are brawlers, both are big and both are looking to get 3 more wins with only 5 matches left. Ikioi tends to win their match ups, but this one might be a battle to behold.

Hokutofuji vs. Kotoshogiku – Hokutofuji has been looking shattered the last two days, and I am guessing he is nursing that injured hand. Kotoshogiku, on the other hand, is looking more dialed into his sumo than he has in a good long while. While the risk of the much feared “Kotoshogiku Day” is not longer keeping the Tachiai crew awake at night, I can see him getting to 8 wins in Aki. Hokutofuji has a much tougher road, and needs 4 of his final 5 matches to be in his win column.

Onosho vs. Tochiozan – A Tochiozan loss puts him at make-koshi, and an Onosho win secures kachi-koshi for him. Onosho won their only prior meeting, and Tochiozan is very much day by day in terms of power this basho. Like many long term veterans of the upper division, he has many injuries known and unpublished that can impact his performance on any given day.

Tamawashi vs. Chiyotairyu – The lone viable challenger faces the rather aggressive Tamawashi on day 11. Chiyotairyu’s bulked up frame has genuinely benefited him this tournament, and his blistering tachiai is tough to endure. He holds a 6-2 advantage over Tamawashi, but there is the background distraction to Chiyotairyu of his second place position. It’s either over in 3 seconds or most likely Chiyotairyu gets defeat #3.

Aoiyama vs. Yoshikaze – Given Aoiyama’s preference to attack with a rain of tsuppari, I am guessing Yoshikaze’s face wound is open within the first few seconds. If Yoshikaze can get inside and get a hold of the man-mountain, he’s likely going to prevail. But Aoiyama can stop a wildebeest with one of those blows, so we shall see.

Mitakeumi vs. Goeido – We would all like to think that Future Ozeki Mitakeumi could put a stop to the Goeido train, but Mitakeumi is not looking at all genki right now. So my guess is that Goeido puts him away with some relative ease. But it would be wonderful too see Mitakeumi rally and apply some Toyo University love to Goeido.

Ichinojo vs. Harumafuji – Much like spotting a parrot at the North Pole, this rare encounter was first predicted by our very on lksumo. This match up is going to be an interesting one, as Ichinojo’s primary weapon, his giant body, will force Yokozuna Harumafuji to take a more frontal attack. Ichinojo has been randomly hot and cold, so the interest level in this match comes down to which form of Ichinojo shows up.

Aki Day 10 Highlights


Goeido-Salt

Goeido Pulling Away From Pursuit

Today closed out the second act of the Aki basho in a manner befitting this “Wacky Aki”. Yusho race leader Goeido won his match against Tochiozan to remain alone at the top of the pack, while all but one of his pursuers lost. This narrows the conditions that the yusho would come into contention again significantly, and it’s increasingly probable that Goeido will be this basho’s winner. Today he looked strong, confident went on offense immediately, and never looked back.

Harumafuji did not fare as well against Takakeisho, who successfully employed the attack and retreat strategy that got him mocked in Nagoya by Yokozuna Hakuho. This time he was able to keep Harumafuji reacting, and eventually off balance. I blame the Yokozuna for not just blasting him from the dohyo, which I am sure was his original plan. Congrats to Takakeisho for scoring yet another kinboshi.

With the end of the second act, we have a very clear picture of who is going to do well, and who is struggling to just survive. Sadly, Ishiura and Tokushoryu went into in the make-koshi bin today. Clearly Ishiura is a fraction of his Kyushu self, and I can only hope that someone can repair whatever has gone wrong and get him back to awesome.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu now make-koshi, and Endo looked really solid putting him there. Granted he is fighting the lower end of Makuuchi, but it seems that Endo is probably on an upward path after his ankle surgery. Fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Mr Sunshine gives it a text book run, and bests Nishikigi who is treading dangerously close to make-koshi himself. Asanoyama has really adapted well to the upper division, and hopefully can continue to excel.

Arawashi defeats Yutakayama – The match started with a matta, but Arawashi owned this from the tachiai. Yutakayama has been really hit-or-miss, but Arawashi is having a great run this Aki.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru falls to 2 off Goeido’s leaders pace with his loss to Chiyoshoma. Oddly, Daishomaru did not even really look like he was ready, and Chiyoshoma dispatched him easily.

Takarafuji defeats Ishiura – Wild and crazy match that Ishiura could have won at least twice. For a while, Ishiura was able to get behind Takarafuji, but could not finish him off. Takarafuji just seems very calm, methodical, and keeps working his plan. Great come back for the man with no neck.

Ikioi defeats Takekaze – It was clear that Ikioi was looking for the henka, but Takekaze was going to meet him head on. Ikioi got the best of a rather slow tachiai, and quickly got Takekaze off balance and rolling. Takekaze is now one loss from maki-kochi.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Another of Goeido’s contenders hits the clay, as Ichinojo hands Takanoiwa his third loss. When Ichinojo can get you in a throwing grip, there is little that anyone can do. With his size and strength, you are going for a ride. We tease about Ichinojo quite a bit, and that is mostly because he is a shadow of his former self in many ways. I think the other rikishi sometimes assume that he’s not a serious contender now, and on many days he’s not. But today he made quick work of Takanoiwa.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Sadly this is not a wonderful victory of the struggling rikishi overcoming a strong and healthy veteran via an epic struggle. Instead Shohozan slipped on the clay and fell. Kintamayama calls these “Slippiotoshi” wins.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really is in bad, banged up shape. He put up a valiant fight against Chiyotairyu, but Chiyotairyu seems to really be dialed in for now. He remains the only one in range to challenge Goeido.

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – The Kyushu Bulldozer dispatches Onosho, who many were counting on to challenge Goeido for the yusho. While still mathematically possible, it is increasingly unlikely. This is not uncommon with fast rising young rikishi, they hit a snag in the second week, and finish strong, but not strong enough to challenge. Onosho will be back, and better than ever. We are going to enjoy this guy and his crazy high amplitude sumo for years to come. Kotoshogiku has not looked this solid in a while.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seemed to have a really bad case of the nerves, as he jumped early twice. Tamawashi quickly had him on defense and dominated the match. I expect that whatever strategy Hokutofuji may have had going in was so shattered by his two false starts that once the match got underway he was easy prey.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Man Mountain Aoiyama finally wins one after his return to the basho mid-way through. This time, Aoiyama did use the “Stand and Deliver” strategy, and Mitakeumi bought it. The future Ozeki needs to think through this one, as it’s not the first time someone has used it on him.

Yoshikaze defeats Shodai – Yoshikaze made really quick work of Shodai, he managed to keep his face from bleeding today! Shodai needs a new transmission and possibly a valve job, as he’s failing hard. From the look on his face, Shodai is getting very frustrated with his performance.

Goeido defeats Tochiozan – This is what we expect to see from Goeido. He took command from the tachiai and never let Tochiozan set up any kind of offense. Now that he has his kachi-koshi, I am hoping that we see this Goeido for the rest of the basho.

Takakeisho defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji drops another kinboshi, and Takakeisho could not be happier. Takakeisho was able to keep Harumafuji from getting inside and taking control, so this loss is really on him. He let Takakeisho set the tempo and style of the match, and Harumafuji payed the price.

Aki Day 10 Preview


Yumitori-shiki

Day 9 stripped the leader group down to the lone Ozeki, Goeido. He claimed his kachi-koshi with his win over Aoiyama, and for the 6th time in his career, removed a kadoban mark next to his name. While he is the current leader, the Aki basho has been unpredictable, and I would caution any Goeido fans to prepare for a fight right up till the end.

For fans and readers worrying about Yoshikaze, and his daily blood facial, this is not uncommon for “The Berserker”. It’s sad, it’s ugly, it likely hurts and it’s probably further damaging that guy’s face, but in many past basho, Yoshikaze has gotten a cut on his face, and every subsequent day, his opponents make a point to re-open that wound.

Both Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi have a decent chance to hang onto their Sekiwake ranks for Kyushu, and if that is the case, they will be joined by Ozekiwake Terunofuji, provided he is healed enough to compete. This will create a 3 Sekiwake situation we last saw with Kotoshogiku. This is referred to as a “haridashi” or “overhang”. During the Kotoshogiku Ozekiwake era, the promotion lanes were full, and nobody had a chance to move into the San’yaku for several tournaments, with Takayasu and Tamawashi holding down the standard Sekiwake slots, and Kotoshogiku holding down the overhang.

Aki Leader board

Goeido is now in sole possession of the lead for the Aki yusho. But 4 rikishi are chasing him, the most interesting (to me) is Takanoiwa. A Takanoiwa / Goeido match is unlikely in the next few days, but would resolve many questions.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Daishomaru
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takarafuji, Arawashi, Daieisho, Asanoyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Endo vs. Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu is headed back to Juryo, short of some kind of miracle. Endo has a chance to deal him a make-koshi on day 10, and seal his doom. Of their 6 prior matches, Endo has won them all.

Nishikigi vs. Asanoyama – Mr Happy is looking to continue his 3 match wining streak, and Nishikigi is really feeling the heat to push for wins to stave off a return to Juryo. In their only prior match, Nishikigi prevailed.

Yutakayama vs. Arawashi – Arawashi is performing very well this basho, and his sumo seems to be dialed in. This should be a fairly easy match against a struggling Yutakayama.

Chiyoshoma vs. Daishomaru – Daishomaru needs to best Chiyoshoma to maintain his distance one behind Goeido, and hope for a chance to compete for the Emperor’s cup. But Chiyoshoma has a 3-2 lead in their career match-ups.

Ishiura vs. Takarafuji – Ishiura looks injured or demotivated, or both. He has not been fighting well, and the overwhelming sumo that he displayed when the blasted his way in the Makuuchi is nowhere to be found. This is sad because I really liked that guy. Takarafuji continues to methodically, quietly keep winning his matches.

Chiyonokuni vs. Daieisho – Chiyonokuni fights harder than any other losing rikishi I have seen in quite some time. His day 9 loss was another heartbreaker for him, and now he gets a turn with former co-leader Daieisho. Chiyonokuni holds a career lead of 3-1 over Daieisho. I am expecting another wild pushme-pullyou war that rages across the dohyo 3-4 times.

Ichinojo vs. Takanoiwa – This is going to seem odd, but I think Demon Hunter Takanoiwa represents an interesting threat to Goeido in the days to come, but we shall see if the schedulers give him a shot. Ichinojo is back to seeming vague and uncertain, which is not where he does his best sumo. Ichinojo leads the series 3-1.

Shohozan vs. Kagayaki – Kagayaki can’t buy a win. So he should just own that, go out and have some fun. Take a page from Asanoyama’s book. Treat this like the greatest day to do sumo in your whole life. Lift Shohozan by the mawashi butt-strap and give the knot a tug. Sure it will stop the match, but the fans will remember that moment forever, while 100,000 little old ladies in Tottori Prefecture alone will all be madly mashing the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on their DVR.

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyotairyu – Speaking of a rikishi who is unfortunately doomed, the bell tolls for thee, Tochinoshin. Now that you are maki-koshi, why not see if you can get Chiyotairyu to fall and put a dent in the dohyo? Hell, in Nagoya some bout resulted in a portion cracking and falling away. Though Tochinoshin leads the series 2-1, it’s clear Tochinoshin is pretty banged up, and needs to regenerate some knee tissue.

Onosho vs. Kotoshogiku – You know what Kotoshogiku has shown the last few days? Lateral movement! Go back and watch the matches. I have to think that either he has a better tap job on his knees, or he found some way to get the old patella stable. This is the first match between these two, and I am going to be very curious if Onosho can avoid the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Mitakeumi vs Aoiyama – I think today Aoiyama will decide to use the “stand and deliver” strategy that could have served him with Goiedo. They have split their prior 2 matches, but I would give an edge to Mitakeumi, as I think Aoiyama is still not at 100%

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will bleed some more, Shodai will struggle a bit and go out for a nice yorikiri.

Tochiozan vs Goeido – Don’t dismiss this bout. Tochiozan is a volatile substance, and it’s tough to predict what he will do or how it will turn out. Clearly he is not at 100%, but a veteran like him with a 35 match history with Goeido has to know a lot about how the Ozeki will pursue this match. Goeido wants to preserve his lead, and he’s not going to let Tochiozan near his mawashi. Goeido leads their career totals 22-13.

Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji will probably give Takakeisho a lesson in maneuverability. I don’t see Takakeisho having a big opportunity against the Yokozuna here, but he has explosive strength, if he can line up his attack.

Aki Day 9 Preview


Goeido

With the activities on day 8, the yusho hunt has narrowed, due to several rikishi losing their matches. But exiting the middle weekend, we are still considering 7 sekitori in serious yusho contention. As mentioned in an earlier posting, this seems a bit more like some recent Juryo basho than how we typically see Makuuchi play out. If the lead and chase groups can keep mostly intact, the final weekend is going to be a wild, boiling ride to the end. Two of the leaders headed into day 9 have already faced each other (Onosho, Goeido) so there is no chance to schedule a single elimination bout to resolve their deadlock. We can expect to see some torikumi elevation starting soon to help some of three 2 loss and 1 loss rikishi test their mettle against higher ranked opponents.

I also think that Aki may have one more crazed / chaotic day before next Sunday. Keep in mind that the third act, which starts Wednesday, is all about finishing out the yusho race, and most scheduling is ad-hoc to help drive the final day. My compliments to Yokozuna Harumafuji, who is clearly in pain every day, but gets on the dohyo and delivers. My sincere hope is that he can keep winning, and possibly help pick off some of the yusho contenders this week.

Monday’s matches feature many pairings that are up to 5 ranks different across the banzuke. This may seem a bit lop-sided, but I am sure the schedulers are up against the wall now with the thin ranks, and the out-sized bulge of contenders from the lower end of the banzuke.

Aki Leader board

Leaders – Goeido, Onosho, Daishomaru
Chasers – Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daieisho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji, Endo, Asanoyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Nishikigi vs. Okinoumi – Okinoumi seemed to show a bit of sumo on day 8. He is pretty much day-by-day given his chronic injury. Nishikigi is pushing hard to keep in kachi-koshi territory, as he does not want a return ticket to Juryo. But Nishikigi has not really be lighting up the dohyo with his sumo, either.

Asanoyama vs. Chiyomaru – Mr Happy goes up Chiyomaru, and he will likely have his hands full. Chiyomaru is a very large, round fellow who operates via osha-sumo, so if Chiyomaru gets cranked up, it will be tough to over come his attack. This may be a great time to employ a henka.

Daieisho vs. Yutakayama – Though he is now 1 off the leader’s pace, Daieisho is still turning in a fantastic basho. His match against Yutakayama today will be their second meeting. Yutakayama won their first, but I get the impression that will be resolved at the end of Monday.

Takanoiwa vs. Endo – This has the potential to be a highlight match for day 9. Takanoiwa is back to operating in “Demon Hunter” mode, and he has been quite effective at Aki. Endo is actually improving his sumo with each day at the basho, though he is still not operating consistently at mid-Maegashira levels yet. Career totals favor Endo 4-3.

Daishomaru vs. Takarafuji – Daishomaru is part of the leader group, but now faces a solid rikishi 4 levels up the banzuke. Takarafuji lost day 8 against Ichinojo, but he has shown solid sumo, and has dismantled his opponents with patience and skill. If Daishomaru wants to maintain his bid on the lead, he will need to gamberize.

Arawashi vs. Ikioi – Arawashi has been delightful surprise this basho. He has had rather weak performances of late, and it’s fantastic to see him really succeed. Ikioi, however, is doing poorly, and is getting dangerously close to make-koshi territory. Give that both of them love the pushing game, there may be some brutal action.

Chiyonokuni vs. Takekaze – Also in the make-koshi warning lane is veteran Takekaze. Usually he is able to find ways to win, but this basho many of his great strategies are not paying off. Day 9 he is against a somewhat possessed Chiyonokuni who has been fighting well past the end of the match the last two days. Prior record is 3-2 favoring Takekaze.

Shohozan vs. Ichinojo – Coming off the street fight with Yoshikaze, Shohozan has a radically different foe day 9. He’s big, he’s deliberate and he’s not going to care if you hit him a few times. In fact, I would imagine one solid blow from Ichinojo might launch Shohozan a good distance. I will expect the very maneuverable and excessively strong Shohozan to stay mobile and keep Ichinojo reactive. Ichinojo leads their prior matches 3-2.

Onosho vs. Chiyotairyu – I may actually stay up tonight, just to watch this bout. I will rather be over in a moment via a slap down or henka, or it’s going to be a raging war between spheroids. Chiyotairyu has bulked up this basho, and he is using that extra mass to plow his way through everyone, including fans, shimpan, a gyoji and most of his opponents. Onosho on the other hand seems to be studying footage of the rikishi he is facing, and I am eager to see what his strategy will be. I expect Chiyotairyu to try to blast him straight from the tachiai. Their record is tied at 2-2.

Tamawashi vs. Yoshikaze – Long term fans of the berserker know he tends to get his face beat up in any given basho, and it seems that day 8 was his day to bleed. Now he is facing Tamawashi, who wants his sekiwake slot back. Tamawashi comes off the line hard and strong, and Yoshikaze tends to catch that with his head. So more blood on the dohyo I would guess. Yoshikaze is favored 10-8 in career totals.

Mitakeumi vs. Takakeisho – Mitakeumi, it’s time to consider if you are going to stay sekiwake. You want to evolve to Ozeki form? This is the time to gamberize. Takakeisho showed day 8 that he does not give up and fights through no matter what. It carried the day for him Sunday, can he overwhelm Lord Tadpole Mitakeumi? Takakeisho won their only prior match, which was this past Nagoya basho.

Aoiyama vs. Goeido – This unlikely match has Goeido written all over it. But perhaps the big Bulgarian may find a way to overcome Goeido. The Ozeki may revert back to his defensive “anything but attack” mode from last week, which would be a shame. I look for Aoiyama to try and plant his feet firmly and use his superior reach and massive strength to take control of the match. Goeido will likely try to blast him from dohyo at the tachiai. Advice to the man-mountain Aoiyama, just keep your feet solid, stand up and bring that massive right hand across Goeido’s face. Statistics favor Goeido 18-3, so if Aoiyama can produce anything against the lone surviving Ozeki, will be a significant accomplishment.

Shodai vs. Harumafuji – It’s like Godzilla vs Bambi. Somewhere inside Shodai there is a really great sumotori that peeks out once in a while. What does it take to trigger him? Is it like The Incredible Hulk? Does it take the right kind of Chanko? Unless “Beast Mode” Shodai makes an appearance, Harumafuji will move closer to his kachi-koshi.