Aki Day 9 Highlights

Only one rikishi in the leader group (Takayasu) lost today, so we have six (6!) men headed into day 10 in contention for the yusho. This is going to be a wild run to the weekend, I do predict. It’s easy to favor Takakeisho in the yusho run, but his sumo is still very narrow, and I expect he will struggle with Shodai and Asanoyama. I have to like the chances of Terunofuji. Holding a Maegashira 1 slot, he’s already fought both Ozeki and all 3 Sekiwake. The rest of his schedule are people lower down the banzuke, and he is really fighting well. Stay tuned, sumo fans.

Highlight Matches

Kotonowaka defeats Shimanoumi – Kotonowaka is now one win away from a kachi-koshi, and a likely return to the top division. A couple of times he tried to pull against Shimanoumi, but Shimanoumi was not prepared to respond.

Shohozan defeats Ishiura – Shohozan picks up a very welcome first win against the injured Ishiura. Furthermore, Ishiura demonstrated why his return is such a gamble. Ishiura’s twisting fall from Shohozan’s hatakikomi rolled the dice on compounding that injured ankle. Ishiura now make-koshi.

Tobizaru defeats Meisei – Tobizaru stays in the leader group with this wild roaming brawl. Lots of hit high / hit low / pull me / push you exchanges in this match. If you want to see a pair or rikishi really mix it up, this is your match.

Kaisei defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu discovers first hand just how massive Kaisei truly is. Hoshoryu got a right hand inside with a solid grip, but then could do nothing with it. Sometimes, being enormous is a sumo strategy. Both finish day 9 at 4-5.

Onosho defeats Kotoshoho – Great work by Kotoshoho, wrapping up Onosho. The only knock was that pull attempt just following the tachiai. But with Onosho’s known balance issues, it had possibilities. But Onosho got is hands into Kotoshoho’s armpits, and that was the end of Kotoshoho’s offense. Onosho remains with the leader group.

Enho defeats Ichinojo – This match was as awkward as a couple of 13 year olds at their first school dance. But at least Enho staved off make-koshi for another day.

Tokushoryu defeats Kotoshogiku – You can visibly see the strain on Kotoshogiku’s knees as Tokushoryu presses ahead against Tokushoryu. But of course Tokushoryu spins up his near magical tsukiotoshi, but the result is a slow motion collapse as Kotoshogiku goes down. Both end the day at 2-7.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not find enough energy to really move Aoiyama back, and the match became a battle of shoving that Aoiyama was bound to win. Both exit day 9 with 5-4.

Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – Ryuden tried for a right hand frontal grip at the tachiai and missed. As a result Kotoeko got a left hand inside, and his right hand looped around Ryuden’s left. This was a perfect pivot point and the resulting kotenage took only a few steps to develop. Solid sumo today from Kotoeko.

Sadanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Standard Kagayaki oshi-fare, but Sadanoumi was expertly working thrust-and-shift. This kept Kagayaki working to react, and it paid off for Sadanoumi, when Kagayaki lost his balance and opened the door for Sadanoumi to rush forward and push Kagayaki out from the side.

Wakatakakage defeats Takayasu – It’s a new day indeed when you can see Wakatakakage overpower Takayasu. For a moment it’s a straight up power struggle, and… Wakatakakage gets the advantage? Takayasu attempts to break contact, and Wakatakakage catches him from the side and plows ahead. Wakatakakage stays with the leader group.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – This match went to beans for Takarafuji when he attempted to reach for Tamawashi’s belt, lost his balance and Tamawashi expertly let him continue the fall. Really amazing reaction speed from Tamawashi here.

Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – The tachiai between these two seems to be an equal exchange. Terunofuji gets his hands low, and Hokutofuji gets his hands in Terunofuji’s arm pits. In a typical match, the armpit hold would degrade the opponent’s offense and raise them up. But it seems Terunofuji has been spending nights and weekends having his tsukebito poke him in the armpits while on the bench press. Seemingly immune to Hokutofuji’s hazuoshi pushes Hokutofuji around, and then releases pressure, bringing Hokutofuji to the clay. Terunofuji stays with the leader group.

Takanosho defeats Endo – Endo seemingly blows the tachiai, ricocheting to his right, and Takanosho follows and pushes him away and down. I am sure Endo wishes he could have a do-over on this one.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Okinoumi – Well, this restores my faith that Terutsuyoshi has not turned into a complete goon, as he shows solid, attack-forward sumo today. Okinoumi tried a pull down, and that was all the advantage Terutsuyoshi needed to take over offense, which Okinoumi was unable to recover. Both end the day at 3-6.

Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Mitakeumi remembers his massive body, and decides to use it to move forward today. And guess what? He wins. Maybe Mitakeumi can forego his week 2 fade, having pre-faded in week one.

Shodai defeats Daieisho – The first match ended with both men exiting the ring together, and a rematch was called. The second try was an 80% re-hash of the first, but this time Daieisho really took his frustrations out on Shodai’s face and neck. Shodai, to his credit, kept his cool and waited for his moment. It came when Daieisho reached in with his left and lost balance. Shodai stays with the leader group.

Takakeisho defeats Kiribayama – Sadly, Kiribayama did not seem to get the memo that Takakeisho’s on-off switch is located on his mawashi. Instead Kiribayama decides he is going to engage the grand tadpole in a pushing match, and there are few things on planet Earth that Takakeisho enjoys more than a good game of Pengo. Takakeisho stays with the leader group.

Asanoyama defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin, that stuff was beyond it’s expiration date yesterday. I am not surprised that Asanoyama was ready. With the crummy henka a disaster, Tochinoshin tries for, and gets his left hand outside grip, but can do absolutely nothing with it. Asanoyama gives him a hearty uwatenage, and sends him home.

Aki Day 9 Preview

This is why we can’t have nice things. Look at what happened day 8! The entirety of the leaderboard hit the clay, and now Bruce gets his wish. A giant drunken barnyard brawl where half the banzuke is in contention for the cup at the start of week 2. I am sure the scheduling team is oscillating between giddy excitement and horrified concern about how they are going to bring this unruly cloud of rikishi together to determine a winner by Sunday.

Its clear to me, at least, that should either Ozeki pick up the yusho, there really should not be any talk about a Yokozuna promotion. Both of them are looking shaky, and that’s the last thing you need from a Yokozuna. I think both of them are still able to get 8, and maybe even 10. But total dominance on the dohyo is the sign of a Yokozuna, and neither of our current Ozeki have reached that level of performance yet. Furthermore, I think their path to get to that level of performance may have been damaged by COVID-19. With the shut down of join / inter-stable training, neither of the Ozeki has a chance to forge their technique to the level needed to become a Yokozuna. It takes a hard and hardy substance to forge strong metal. It’s no different in athletes. Without worthy competition to train against, frequently, the skills stagnate or worse yet, atrophy. With the 2 surviving Yokozuna injured and fading out, the future Yokozuna for a post-Hakuho era may be significantly handicapped.

I do think sumo will survive, and new champions will rise. But until the NSA opens up training rules, the best we can hope for is what 2 week 2 promised to be. Its going to be massive fun to watch, but for fans who long for the next Ozeki and Yokozuna – not happening any time soon.

Aki Leaderboard

Well, jump ball everyone!

Leaders – Takakeisho, Shodai, Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Takayasu, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Kotoshoho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Asanoyama, Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Chiyotairyu, Meisei, Ichinojo
Hunt GroupMitakeumi, Takanosho, Tochinoshin, Aoiyama, Kotoeko, Shimanoumi, Hoshoryu

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Shimanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka comes to visit from Jury to fill the Yutakayama gap, and he is looking like a good bet to return in November. He is 2 wins away from his kachi-koshi at Juryo 2, so just a few more wins will put him into a promotable spot.

Shohozan vs Ishiura – Ishiura was able to overcome whatever doom is in his ankle to take his first win of Aki. Now he is against the paper-mache version of the formerly fearsome Shohozan. With any luck, lksumo might chime in with his idea of just how many wins Ishiura must gather in to maintain some toe hold on the top division.

Meisei vs Tobizaru – Co-co-co leader Tobizaru has yet to take a match from Meisei (3 tries), but he has been showing the best sumo of his career this September, and I would think that day 9 may be his time.

Hoshoryu vs Kaisei – Readers have noted that I have suggested that in matches where Kaisei can move and stay in control, he can win. Today, I think his enormity may be enough to confound Hoshoryu, who has never fought against Kaisei before.

Kotoshoho vs Onosho – A head to head battled between Co-co-co leaders, this will (thankfully) narrow the field. This is also a first time match between the lagging tadpole Onosho, and the young, fresh Kotoshoho. This will come down to who gets their hands inside at the tachiai, and if Onosho can keep his balance over his feet.

Enho vs Ichinojo – Good lord! He, schedulers – we know this is a quintessential big man / little man match. But its becoming aparent that Enho is not quite right. Lets not feed him to the monster just yet. Oh, it’s sumo and the monster needs to eat? Well then, in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, please don’t make him wear a pony costume today.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoshogiku – You would thing, “hey, to long-serving grizzled vets. They probably have like 218 matches between them”. But no, this is only their second ever match. Both of them are late in their careers, and running on what little sinew and gristle is left in their bodies.

Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Now THIS is a match. To heavyweights in a clash of styles. Aoiyama loves to swat and bash his opponent into submissions. Chiyotairyu plays human wrecking ball and relies on his mass and lower body to provider his offense. Someone is going to hit the clay today.

Ryuden vs Kotoeko – Both of these rikishi are close to the make-koshi trend line, with Ryuden the more likely bet. His size will give him an advantage today, but only if Kotoeko agrees to stay in one spot long enough to get caught. Career record of 5-2 favors Ryuden.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Odd as it may seem, Kagayaki is 1 loss behind the yusho leaders now, and could conceivably contend for the cup. He may hav a slightly easier than normal time with Sadanoumi today, as it seems that taped shoulder continues to bother him a bit more each day.

Takayasu vs Wakatakakage – The only prior match featured a hearty tsukiotoshi sending Takayasu to the clay (July), Takayasu, who is a co-co-co-leader, is fighting better this tournament, and I give him a good chance to even the score.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – This Aki is the best I have seen Takarafuji look in at least a year. So I am going to give him a clear advantage over Tamawashi on day 9. I have to wonder if having a resurgent Terunofuji to train against has helped to greatly improve Takarafuji’s sumo.

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Speak of the kaiju! This match is a real bell-weather, as Terunofuji has lost to Hokutofuji in all 3 prior meetings. The last one was November of 2017 (my how time flies), that featured a freshly de-frocked Ozeki Terunofuji unable to generate any effective offense.

Takanosho vs Endo – I admire Endo’s ability, and I keep hoping that “today” will be the day where it clicks for him and he fights like the bad-ass sumo assassin we all know he can be. He won the only 2 prior matches against Endo, so maybe he can at rack up a much needed white star.

Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Its sad that I look at this match and immediately wonder what kind of punk nonsense Terutsuyoshi might try today. I think Okinoumi has seen it all at this point, so I would urge Terutsuyoshi to fight a solid, fundamentals based match. It’s his best chance against a master technician like Okinoumi.

Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – A sad thing seems to have happened in some parts of the US, or maybe it’s just the Dallas, TX area. I am having a tough time finding anything other than really poor grade or super high end sake right now. It could be global supply chain disruption due to COVID-19, or it could be the legions of Mitakeumi fans trying to drink their way through this basho. I would like to say that Mitakeumi is a clear favorite, but couple the 4-4 career record, and the fact that Mitakeumi has taken to sumo in reverse-gear, it’s anyone’s guess who has advantage here.

Shodai vs Daieisho – Shodai finds him back in the lead of this basho (along with 8 other really large men), but this may in fact energize him and drive him to higher performance. The 3-5 career record favors Daieisho – with Shodai losing 3 of the last 4! If prior matches are a guide, it will come down to Shodai’s right hand, and Daieisho’s ability to block Shodai’s primary weapon.

Kiribayama vs Takakeisho – Kiribayama won their only prior match. and I do hope that he keeps his eyes on Kiribayama during the tachiai. Both of these rikishi hold a share of the lead, so only one will remain at the end of this match.

Asanoyama vs Tochinoshin – Asanoyama should invite Tochinoshin to a hearty contest of strength today. I am fairly sure that bandaged knee could not maintain pressure against Asanoyama’s classic yotsu style. No tricks, no hopping about, just see if Tochinoshin still has the body for a straight up contest.

Aki Day 8 Highlights

The Landscape

This was meant to be the day I’d start checking off people on my Kachi-Koshi Bingo entry. But noooo… Apparently everyone likes rolling around in the clay so much. There’s clearly not enough Kawaigari with this degeiko ban. Well, at least Kotoshogiku’s back, for now. I guess he’s still technically got a chance for a miracle and that spot on my card’s no longer dead — even if I’ve got him, Shohozan and Enho along the diagonal. Yutakayama’s now blocking my top row. Wow.

And look! Ishiura’s back after taking the first week off! He’s still technically got a chance. With the yokozunae out, none of the other leaders want to win this thing, though I’d put my money on Takayasu. His eyes must be as big as saucers right now. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Let’s get to the action…

Highlights

Meisei (5-3) defeated Shohozan (0-8): Solid tachiai and a quick oshizumo bout. Meisei wins with…a pull. Who better to Meisei’s win assured Shohozan’s makekoshi record. Let’s move on, shall we? Oshidashi.

Ishiura (1-0-7) defeated Shimanoumi (4-4): No Juryo visitor today because Ishiura’s back. As Bruce mentioned, this would be a fresh hell for us mortals. However, rikishi age – and therefore heal – at a rate 10 times faster than us because of their sacred keiko. After the tachiai, Ishiura clawed at Shimanoumi with his left hand until he secured a solid grip. Once he achieved that grip, a quick yank on the mawashi rolled Shimanoumi down. Shitatedashinage

Ichinojo (5-3) defeated Kotoshoho (6-2): Kotoshoho had a quick, strong tachiai against Ichinojo and he backed the giant to the tawara. But Ichinojo reached around and grabbed the young colt. He had a solid left-hand grip on Kotoshoho’s mawashi and executed a nice throw. “Just like tossing ponies back home.” Uwatenage.

Kaisei (3-5) defeated Chiyotairyu (5-3): Kaisei powered through Chiyotairyu’s thrusts to force a yotsu belt battle. He quickly secured a morozashi and, with all his might, heaved Chiyotairyu back to the bales. The tawara helped Chiyotairyu offer some resistance but Kaisei’s solid gaburi worked Chiyotairyu over and out. Yorikiri.

Hoshoryu (4-4) defeated Kotoshogiku (2-3-3): Speaking of gaburi, Kotoshogiku is in no condition to even attempt his signature technique. Once Hoshoryu had a both hands latched on to Giku’s belt with a left-hand inside belt grip, Kotoshogiku was toast. As Hoshoryu eased the injured veteran back and out, Kotoshogiku regaled him with tales of, “That One Time I Beat Your Uncle.” “Listen here, sonny, and I’ll tell you of that time your uncle couldn’t throw me.” Yorikiri.

Sadanoumi (3-5) defeated Tobizaru (6-2): Tobizaru was desperate to keep Sadanoumi off his belt. When Sadanoumi got a grip with his right hand, Tobizaru spun around to force him to release it. Tobizaru tried a kick but Sadanoumi followed with a decisive shove. Tsukiotoshi

Kotoeko (4-4) defeated Tokushoryu (1-7): Tokushoryu did look tired as he brawled with Kotoeko. Each seemed to drain him. Once inside, Kotoeko pivoted and ushered Tokushoryu over the edge and into the salt box. Oshidashi.

Onosho (6-2) defeated Ryuden (3-5): Both men made an attempt to rearrange the face of their opponent, thrusting their hands at their opponent’s chin. But, oh, wow. Onosho’s nodowa was fatal. That right hand into Ryuden’s throat forced Ryuden to fall over backwards, hard. Oshitaoshi.

Aoiyama (4-4) defeated Enho (1-7): Aoiyama did not charge ahead at the tachiai. Instead, he stood up and shoved out to keep Enho off his belt. A few thrusts with that V-Twin Turbo launched Enho off-balance and off the dohyo. Tsukidashi.

Kiribayama (6-2) defeated Kagayaki (5-3): Kiribayama tried a pull. Kagayaki recovered well but as he brought his arms up to start beating Kiribayama for his insolence, Kiribayama used all his might to blast Kagayaki’s arms away. Now with Kagayaki off-balance and deep in Kiribayama’s side of the dohyo, Kiribayama drove forcefully into Kagayaki, forcing him back that last step and out. Oshidashi.

Halftime

Wakatakakage (6-2) defeated Takarafuji (5-3): Wakatakakage tried an HNH but Takarafuji adapted well. “Son, I know a guy who did that better than you.” He kept driving his left elbow into Wakatakakage’s chin. Wakatakakage had enough of that and worked his way inside with both hands wrapped around Takarafuji. From this position, he forced Takarafuji up and charged forward. Takarafuji tried a last gasp throw at the edge but Wakatakakage forced him out. Yorikiri.

Takayasu (6-2) defeated Terutsuyoshi (2-6): Baloneium contained, for now. Terutsuyoshi knew that left hand would be dangerous so as Takayasu’s fingers wormed their way in, he just tried to take the whole arm. Takayasu then opted for an oshi battle and was going to make. He’s pretty good at those, too. He tried to smush Terutsuyoshi’s face and this propped Terutsuyoshi up, and then Takayasu tipped him forward onto his hands. Terutsuyoshi may have twisted his ankle. He limped back down to the shitakubeya. Hatakikomi.

Terunofuji (6-2) defeated Tamawashi (3-5): Terunofuji’s footwork in this bout was excellent. At the tachiai, he kept Tamawashi in front of him and weathered the storm as he advanced. At the bales, Tamawashi escapted to the left but Terunofuji pursued close behind. A few times Terunofuji came close to a belt grip. Not many can assert a yotsu position against Tamawashi. But Terunofuji powered through Tamawashi’s assault and shoved Tamawashi out. “I don’t need the belt, I’ll just grab your whole trunk.” Yorikiri.

Sanyaku

Okinoumi (3-5) defeated Takanosho (4-4): Okinoumi is another of those guys who doesn’t need the belt to get a solid hold of his opponent and do his sumo. In a manner reminiscent of how he defeated Shodai, Okinoumi enveloped Takanosho with his arms and twisted to the right, forcing Takanosho down. Tsukiotoshi.

Hokutofuji (3-5) defeated Endo (3-5): Someone had to win, right? Hokutofuji was rather determined not to let Endo get a belt grip, pushing, time and time again to keep him off. Endo tried a pull but Hokutofuji wasn’t going to fall for it. He wasn’t advancing with enough momentum. When Endo did get his arms inside, Hokutofuji locked them in under his arm pits and would not let them go. He then tried to take a page from Kaiju and kimedashi walk Endo back and out. The bales offered Endo just enough resistance to keep him from going out. But Hokutofuji twisted his body down to the right, forcing Endo into the clay. Kotenage.

Shodai (6-2) defeated Myogiryu (3-5): Damn it, Shodai, don’t get into this habit. He pulled at the tachiai. His left hand came close to a disqualifying grip on Myogiryu’s top knot but he didn’t lock the fingers in. This forced Myogiryu off-balance and Shodai stepped in behind Myogiryu and forced him out. Maybe they should have called the hair pull to scare Shodai straight. Okuridashi.

Yutakayama (2-6) is kyujo. <note to see yesterday> Asanoyama (5-3) picked up the freebie win.

Daieisho (3-5) defeated Mitakeumi (4-4) : See, Shodai? See what pulling will do to your Ozeki hopes? See? Watch Mitakeumi in this bout. Tired of the absolute pounding he’s getting from blow after blow rained down by Daieisho, Mitakeumi chose to pull. Well, essentially “retreat” rather than “pull” because it wasn’t accompanied by a swipe at Daieisho’s head to try to force him off balance. Daieisho pursued, carefully, and forced Mitakeumi out. Oshidashi.

Tochinoshin (4-4) defeated Takakeisho (6-2): And we have a crazy race, folks. Turns out Tochinoshin doesn’t need the belt, either. A grip on the head works just fine. F’ing pulls. Who needs ‘em? This is how you execute. Tochinoshin didn’t pull. He met Takakeisho head on. But while Takakeisho blindly bulled forward at the tachiai, Tochinoshin worked his hand up behind Takakeisho’s head and forced him down, deflecting his attack to the side and shoving T-Rex into the dirt. He didn’t need to pull back 8 rassifrassin feet to execute this. Push down, get interview. Done. Hatakikomi.

Summary

What is this, the fucking Belmont? We’ve got a nine-horse race heading into the final week. Even Kiribayama’s up here in the lead. Onosho’s got a shot! Takayasu may just raise the cup, yet! We’ve got ourselves a Juryo-like free-for-all in Makuno-freaking-uchi. Asanoyama’s only one win back. Takarafuji is in this! This is blinking nuts! Will the field narrow before we get to the final turn? Join us tomorrow for more insanity. A little less coffee then, I promise.

At least someone out there will have a gem of a bingo card. With 9 guys in the lead, people will have possible yusho-winners all over the place. I think my best row is Ryuden, Ichinojo, Tamawashi, Okinoumi, Takarafuji. Shohozan and Tokushoryu have ganged up to block Shodai for me. Gee, thanks, guys!

Aki Day 8 Preview

My applause to the scheduling crew—they have given us a fantastic fight card for nakabi, and I can’t wait for some of these contests. With both Yokozuna out, nobody is going to get his kachi-koshi on day 8. But my prediction of a giant brawl in week 2 looks like it could manifest itself, if someone can get dirt on Takakeisho.

Do readers remember Chiyonokuni? The guy was a tireless scapper until he picked up a series terrible injuries, and twice found himself droped from the sekitori status. He is currently (fingers crossed) 6-1 in Juryo. He’s too far down the banzuke at J11w to make it back to the top division for November [unless he can pick up the yusho with 13 or 14 wins -lksumo], but I am hopeful he can continue to show strong sumo for the rest of the year.

Further down the banzuke, fan favorite Ura reached kachi-koshi in the Makushita joi-jin with a spotless 4-0 record. He would need another win or two to punch his ticket to return to his pink mawashi, and fans around the world are on pins and needles waiting to see what the second half of the basho will deliver for his bid to make it back to sekitori status.

Aki Leaderboard

With our preview of the middle day of the basho, it’s time to look at the yusho leaderboard. It’s still a giant mass of rikishi who are within range, but right now Takakeisho should be considered to have the edge. With the day 7 losses in the 5-1 group (ahem, Shodai..), it’s going to be necessary for someone to put dirt on Takakeisho if anyone chasing is going to be in contention going into the final weekend.

LeadersTakakeisho, Kotoshoho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Shodai, Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Takarafuji, Takayasu, Kagayaki, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Chiyotairyu
Hunt GroupAsanoyama, Mitakeumi, Takanosho, Meisei, Shimanoumi, Ichinojo

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Meisei vs Shohozan – Sadly, a loss today would be an 0-8 start for Shohozan, and a perfect make-koshi run. I think that sums it up.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – What fresh hell is this? Ishiura’s back? I am guessing he is trying to get a couple of wins in an attempt to stay in the top division. Last reports were that his ankle had converted from a useful joint near his foot to a block of wood. Shimanoumi holds a 4-1 career advantage. Well…ok.

Kotoshoho vs Ichinojo – Kotoshoho is having a brilliant basho, and I am delighted this young fellow is fighting well this September. He’s beaten Ichinojo the last 2 outings, and may deliver again today.

Chiyotairyu vs Kaisei – Another battle of the megafauna, but advantage clearly to Chiyotairyu regardless of Kaisei’s 14-4 career edge. Chiyotairyu is lighter, faster and more intense than ever at the moment, and I think he’s going to take care of Kaisei.

Hoshoryu vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku came back on day 7, and scored a win. I think his match against Hoshoryu may be a tougher challenge, but Hoshoryu seems to have gotten into a bit of a rut, losing his last 2 matches. I am sure his uncle is all over him before and after each match. That’s got to be terrible, as Asashoryu was always such a calm and rational fellow.

Sadanoumi vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru continues to outperform my expectations, and I am delighted that we have yet another young, high-energy rikishi in the top division who seems to genuinely be happy just to mount the dohyo and throw guys around. I would give him an edge over Sadanoumi solely on momentum. This is their first-ever match.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – I will venture an outrageous suggestion. Ura has drained Tokushoryu’s genki energy to power up his sumo in Makushita. Hey, as reasonable as anything else I could come up with to explain why the Hatsu yusho winner is at 1-6 going into the middle day of a basho just 8 months later.

Ryuden vs Onosho – I so want Onosho to bounce back and get out of his losing streak, but I am certain that Ryuden has a solid match plan. Out of their last 4 encounters, Ryuden has taken 3. That means Onosho is going to need to keep his mind on his defensive footwork and try to make sure he does not over-extend. Yeah, may as well ask water not to be wet.

Enho vs Aoiyama – An element of hope—Enho is 2-0 against Big Dan, and maybe he can evade the fate he suffered on day 7 when 170 kg of Kotoshogiku fell on him at the end of the match.

Kiribayama vs Kagayaki – Now here’s a match to be excited about! Kagayaki with the height and reach advantage, Kiribayama with the speed advantage. Both are going to be pushing and thrusting, so it’s power vs mobility. I think this one has great potential.

Wakatakakage vs Takarafuji – Another brilliant first-time match for nakabi! Wakatakakage is a busy fighter, eager to engage in a hit-and-shift offense. He will face the careful, deliberate sumo of Takarafuji for the first time. I am going to guess that the veteran is going to give the youngster a glorious lesson in endurance.

Takayasu vs Terutsuyoshi – I worry that Terutsuyoshi is going to unleash more of his weapons-grade baloneium sumo today, and maybe re-injure Takayasu. Not sure why, but this basho Terutsuyoshi is annoying to me. I am sure it’s just a passing mood. This is their first-ever match, and I would give the advantage to Terutsuyoshi just for speed and brazen sumo.

Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – A nakabi score of 5-2 at Maegashira 1 is excellent for a man who was all but written off in 2017. It’s been a long climb back from Jonidan, and now he’s back facing the top men in sumo. While the goal should be kachi-koshi, I think our dear Kaiju is going to blow past that. I just have to wonder how long those knees can hold out.

Okinoumi vs Takanosho – Okinoumi had a single win before he put Shodai down on day 7. He’s a high-skill rikishi with an almost encyclopedic knowledge, but his long career in sumo may limit how much energy he can deliver on any given day. But this kind of match is great for Takanosho, who probably gets tired of being Takakeisho’s attention. At least he can fight someone who can reach his belt today.

Hokutofuji vs Endo – I call this the disappointment derby.

Shodai vs Myogiryu – We hit the middle day of the tournament, and it’s time to see what Shodai’s made of. He’s has a solid run to 5-2, and he has been showing his best sumo ever. But the first week is, in many cases, easier than the second, and endurance plays an increasing role. Not just physical stamina, but the ability to maintain the intensity and focus into the final 8 days. A lot of sumo fans were heralding Shodai’s upgrades as the dawn of him as a force in the sport, and that very well may be. But first he’s got to survive strong through the coming week. I am eager to see how it goes.

Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi fans are used to disappointment. What is this, his 4th try to reach 33 wins? I think given the restrictions on practice, there is ample cause for Mitakeumi to be less consistent than is needed to make Ozeki, but it’s sad to see him struggle again. Thankfully, he’s up against another chronic under-performer today, Daieisho! At least Mitakeumi has an 8-3 career advantage over Daieisho.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – I am always excited for this match. These two started their top division careers on parallel tracks, and are more or less built by nature to be each other’s rival. But thus far Yutakayama has struggled to reach Asanoyama’s level of consistency. My big hope for Asanoyama for Aki is that he not exit the tournament kadoban. His sumo has been hit or miss, and I am going to place the cause squarely between his ears.

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – If Tochinoshin can get a hand on Takakeisho’s belt, we know it’s going to be a bad day in tadpole land. As the favorite to lead the yusho race into week 2, the Ozeki will have his hands full today.