Hatsu Day 15 Highlights

Today is the day that the “Original Tadpole” finally came into his own. His struggles over the past several years have been of his own creation, and today he put those problems aside as he won his third yusho, and in all likelihood, promotion to Ozeki at long last. He has been performing more or less as an Ozeki for the last several tournaments, and I am quite happy to see him finally minted in sumo’s second highest rank. I am going to look forward to him continuing to be a tough, aggressive fighter for the next few years. I am hopeful that his elevation may motivate the other two Ozeki, most specifically Shodai, who could really use a boost right now.

The final match was a bit less than many (myself included) had hoped for. It’s now revealed that Terunofuji hurt himself a few days ago, but stuck with the basho as the lone Yokozuna do to his dedicate to giving the fans the full measure. So no playoff with Abi, and no barnyard brawl for the hardware. Sumo fans get a worry when they hear Terunofuji and lower body injury in the same paragraph, so we will have to see how it turns out. We all recognize we only have him for a short while, and to enjoy it while it lasts.

But hearty congratulations to soon to be Ozeki Mitakeumi! Hoist your fishes high, and celebrate with your heya and your supporters. In the immortal words of Futurama’s Bender, “About time!”

Highlight Matches

Kotokuzan defeats Tsurugisho – A bit of an odd slapping match that was favoring Tsurugisho quite nicely. A reversing / escape move that included a pull by Kotokuzan turned the match to his favor, and he sent Tsurugisho out. Tsurugisho drops to 6-9, and I would think back to Juryo. Kotokuzan improves to 10-5, and may have punched his ticket to the top division with that win.

Sadanoumi defeats Oho – The first Darwin match. Oho came out strong but could not follow through. In response, Sadanoumi rallied and drove forward with power, hitting Oho center mass and driving him from the ring. Sadanoumi kachi-koshi at 8-7, Oho make-koshi in his top division debut with 7-8, and will be back in Juryo for March to sort himself out.

Wakamotoharu defeats Akua – Akua chose to open with a nodowa, but could not make it stick. This gave Wakamotoharu a wide open route to his chest, and Wakamotoharu attacked with gusto. As Akua tried to get his foot positioned for a leg trip, Wakamotoharu bodily slammed him to the clay, improving to 9-6.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu’s injury is nowhere close to healed, and Ichiyamamoto makes quick work of him. Both the tournament with 5-10 records, and I have to wonder about Myogiryu’s planning.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko tried to get a left hand inside hold at the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni repulsed him with a mighty shove. Kotoeko worked to deliver thrusts to Chiyonokuni, but we were treated today of the Chiyonokuni of old. Massive thrusting power that was pretty much unstoppable. Kotoeko soon had enough and left the dohyo. Chiyonokuni finishes January 4-11.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tobizaru – Chiyotairyu landed a very well organized pull on Tobizaru during the second step, and sumo’s flying monkey quickly found himself over the bales for his 9th and final loss. Chiyotairyu finishes with 7-8.

Abi defeats Kotonowaka – I think this is the best match Abi had the entire basho. This was their first ever fight, and if these two go at it like this each time, we need to have one of these fights every tournament, maybe every day. Abi had the early advantage but could not finish Kotonowaka off. Kotonowaka rallied, and I think surprised Abi be the amount of focused power he could deliver. Abi is not used to being on defense, but he did manage to keep his feet and keep in the ring until he could switch back to attack mode. As he lunged back in, Kotonowaka was too high, and an easy mark for the hikiotoshi that soon followed. Abi finishes 12-3 with the Shukun-sho. Kotonowaka finishes 11-3 with the Kanto-sho. Well done, both!

Hoshoryu defeats Aoiyama – That has to be the most gentle shitatenage in the history of sumo. Hoshoryu continues to evolve towards a Harumafuji style of sumo, and I love it. The hit and shift at the tachiai, the right hand inside grip, and the stance are all progressing toward the Harumafuji style. He had Aoiyama pacified early and it was just a question of yorikiri or a throw. Hoshoryu ends Hatsu 11-4.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji spent the whole match trying to react to Terutsuyoshi’s sumo. With Terutsuyoshi calling the tune, he was likely to take the win, and we got a final katasukashi from him. Terutsuyoshi softens his make-koshi, finishing at 7-9.

Endo defeats Yutakayama – Endo got the inside lane early, and kept his attention on trying to convert thrusts into some kind of hold. Yutakayama responded by attacking high and keeping Endo back. Endo gave up on the hold attempts and just put power into Yutakayama’s chest, sending him back and out. This match was a great one to watch Endo’s foot placement and gait, I personally think that was the difference that delivered him the win. Endo finishes 7-8.

Ishiura defeats Tamawashi – I am sure Tamawashi had a fight plan, but Ishiura’s forceful tachiai seems to have knocked it right out of his head. With Ishiura at his chest pushing hard, Tamawashi had one shot to stop matters, but could not organize his body to escape at the edge. There was the start of a pull in there, but he was never able to put it in motion. Ishiura finishes 11-4, his best score ever.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – The next Darwin match was this battle of the bigs. Tochinoshin got his left hand outside right away, but we knew there was just too much of Ichinojo for Tochinoshin to lift him. That did not stop him from trying a few times, but please remember, he is a Boulder after all. After the lift attempts fell flat, it turned into a stamina match, and this was going to favor Ichinojo. As time extended, Tochinoshin tired, and Ichinojo incrementally took control of the scrum, walking Tochinoshin out to win by yorikiri. Tochinoshin take the loss and finishes make-koshi with 7-8 near the bottom of the banzuke. Ichinojo is kachi-koshi with 8-7 to finish Hatsu.

Ura defeats Chiyomaru – Last of the Darwin matches, Ura opened strong, putting pressure on Chiyomaru’s chest. As Chiyomaru moved to circle away, his right knee buckled and he hit the clay. It’s always a worry when someone of that size takes a fall in that manner, and I do hope Chiyomarau is ok. He finishes make-koshi at 7-8, while Ura is kachi-koshi at 8-7 for his final score.

Kiribayama defeats Okinoumi – The two grappled chest to chest at the tachiai, and struggled to see whose left hand was going to turn into an advantage first. In the struggle, Kiribayama broke contact, Okinoumi circled to his right, and Kiribayama found himself behind the veteran. A hearty push from behind finished him by okuridashi, and Okinoumi picked up his 11th loss of January to finish 4-11. Kiribayama’s final score improved to 6-9.

Wakatakakage defeats Onosho – The offense favored Onosho for this fight, but Wakatakakage did a fantastic job of keeping his balance and keeping in the match. He also knew that if he could endure Onosho’s attacks, he would find a moment where Onosho was too far forward. Of course that moment came, and Wakatakakage pulled him forward and down to win by katasukashi. Onosho finishes January with an impressive 10-5, Wakatakakage improves to 9-6. Both had fantastic tournaments.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Meisei got perhaps half of a good hit in at the tachiai before Daieisho turned him and pushed him around. Meisei was completely off balance, had no stance to use in defense, and was ejected with prejudice. Daieisho improves to 7-8 for a final score.

Takanosho defeats Takarafuji – With this win, Takanosho saved himself a san’yaku slot. He found himself in trouble early, but managed to rally and catch Takarafuji unprepared to defend (what?). In fact, Takarafuji lost 4 of his last 5 matches, and I have to wonder if he got hurt around the middle weekend. Takanosho was able to break Takarafuji’s stance and drive him out the west side to improve to 7-8.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – I am sure Shodai is glad this basho is done. Likewise Chiyoshoma. What a train wreck for both of them. Sure, Shodai actually got a nice throw in there, but his sumo was rough again today, and he was far from the sumo that got him to this rank. I hope he can sort himself out in the next 6 weeks, and clear kadoban early. Chiyoshoma finishes Hatsu with 4-11, Shodai a painful 6-9.

Mitakeumi defeats Terunofuji – The much anticipated “Brawl to end it all” was less battle royale than many hoped. Terunofuji opened strong, but on the second clash, Mitakeumi got both hands inside and employed his large, bulbous tadpole body to move Terunofuji back. Unable to generate enough forward pressure to counter Mitakeumi’s advance, Terunofuji stepped back and out, giving the win to Mitakeumi. An amazing 13-2 score for Mitakeumi to finish Hatsu, his third yusho, and I would guess promotion to Ozeki.

With that, dear readers, we conclude our daily coverage of the 2022 Hatsu basho. We enjoyed bringing you this tournament, and we thank you for sharing your love of sumo with us. Follow us as we await the official elevation of Makiteumi, and the work up to Osaka. Also, rumors in the air about a possible return to jungyo later this year. To everyone who took the time to join us – Thank you!

Hatsu Day 15 Preview

I cannot remember a time in recent years where day 15 was this impactful. There are a number of matches where much is on the line, and this is before we get to the 4 men who may make a bid for the emperor’s cup. Our ace prognosticator, lksumo, has done a wonderful job of laying out the promotion / demotion options left to be sorted out on day 15. Go read that if you have not already.

After all of the work in the early part of week 2, Darwin’s funnel blew to bits on the chaos of day 12, but we still managed 3 Darwin bouts for the final day of sumo this January. I recoil because more than a few of them are rikishi I really want to see do well, but this is the nature of Darwin matches. One man loses and is make-koshi, one man wins and is kachi-koshi.

Then there are the yusho contenders. We get our first look at who will take the wild-card slot with the bug-tussle between Kotonowaka and Abi in the first half. The winner waits for the final match, to see if they get a shot at the cup. If Terunofuji should prevail, there will be a 3-way barnyard brawl for all of the hardware, including the glorious macaron of victory. I am so jazzed, I can hardly write this preview.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Kotokuzan vs Tsurugisho – Kotokuzan comes to visit from Juryo to try his sumo against ailing Tsurugisho, who is already make-koshi. Kotokuzan can finish with double-digits if he can put Tsurugisho in the top division opener today. They have never fought before.

Sadanoumi vs Oho – First of the Darwin matches, this is a rough welcome for shin-maku rikishi Oho, but this is what happens when you run out of stamina in week 2. He has dropped the last 4 in a row, and now he’s facing demotion back to juryo if Sadanoumi can use his superior speed to win today. I hope Otake oyakata works on your endurance, sir. You have a big future ahead of you, and we can’t have you checking out after the middle weekend.

Wakamotoharu vs Akua – With Wakamotoharu already kachi-koshi, this is just for the score, and maybe Akua can scrape together one last win to finish with 5. He’s getting a big boot down the banzuke no matter what, but maybe he can cushion the ride.

Myogiryu vs Ichiyamamoto – Unless Myogiryu turns in a lot better sumo than he did day 14, his return was a complete waste. He’s 5-9 at the moment, and another loss would give him a 5-10 that will see him toward the bottom of the top division in Osaka. Ichiyamamoto with 4-10 may need a win to keep people from considering him for a return to Juryo.

Chiyonokuni vs Kotoeko – Hey, lets take two compact, power-style sumo athletes and make them bash each other about on the final day. One is pretty genki right now, the other looks like he needs an undercarriage rebuild. Oh and make sure they are from 2 of the biggest, best known stables.

Chiyotairyu vs Tobizaru – Matching 6-8 records here, so this is all about who gets to finish with a 7th win and maybe a small demotion for March. I like Tobizaru’s odds on this one, has his 3-1 career advantage would seem to indicate that he has a good formula for dealing with Chiyotairyu.

Kotonowaka vs Abi – The wild-card match, the winner gets a chance at the cup of Terunofuji can beat Mitakeumi in the musubi no ichiban. They have never fought before, and have matching 11-3 records. Both have over-performed this January, and frankly this may be the more exciting match out of the “deciders”.

Hoshoryu vs Aoiyama – Oh my, what have we here. Are they really going to make Hoshoryu grab a double hand full of pasty white dumping meat to pick up his final win? Well, I recall a match with vivid horror where, when confronted with the reality of the situation, brave Harumafuji grimaced and applied a death grip to Aoiyama’s pendulous mammalian protuberances. The reaction was swift and crippling, though I am sure the Yokozuna was forever changed by that moment.

Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – Which one of these guys will get their 7th win? We know Hokutofuji is in his comfort zone, having used powerful sumo and reached make-koshi. So I think gives a slight edge to Terutsuyoshi. I would like to see him try an inside throw against Hokutofuji, and make it work.

Yutakayama vs Endo – Another pair of 6-8s, these guys along with the prior couple were once on track for Darwin matches, but we will have to watch the slug it out for the 7th win instead. If Endo is not too banged up, this should be his match.

Tamawashi vs Ishiura – I title this: “Just how genki is Ishiura now”. He’s got 10 wins, but if he wants an 11th, he needs to fight someone 9 ranks higher, who has a 3-1 advantage over him. That would be Tamawashi, who snapped a 3 match losing streak to send Ura into a Darwin match.

Tochinoshin vs Ichinojo – What are you going to do with your mega-fauna on the final day? You can’t send them out to graze yet, and if you let them run wild, they may just gather a crowd of fans who want to hug them and take photos. Fun as that may seem, it would be against COVID protocols, and we can’t have that in Japan, now can we? So let’s up the on the clay and make them fight in a Darwin match. They have a 25 match history that favors Tochinoshin 16-9, but in his current condition it may not matter. One thing that is likely, Tochinoshin will not be employing the Sky-crane against 200kg Ichinojo.

Ura vs Chiyomaru – The final Darwin match, and this one is the most worrisome of all. I really would like Ura to score his 8th win today, but frankly I think Chiyomaru deserves it more. Ura has a slight 5-4 edge in their 9 match history, but has struggled against high-mass rikishi this basho. So I think if Chiyomaru can be patient and set him up, Ura is ripe for a thrust down about 20 seconds into the match.

Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – I am sure everyone wants to see these two fine rikishi end with matching 5-10 records. They have had a miserable basho, and I am sure they just want to get in to a nice hot bath and start working toward Osaka.

Wakatakakage vs Onosho – Onosho will finish with at least 10 wins. A win today would give him 11-4, which matches his best ever score in the top division. There is a big difference between an 11-4 at Maegashira 12, and an 11-4 at Maegashira 5, so our junior tadpole has come a long way indeed.

Meisei vs Daieisho – Two more for the “lets get this over and done with” list. We finally get the Komusubi fight nobody has been waiting for, and it’s to see who has the worst record in san’yaku.

Takarafuji vs Takanosho – Sorry, spoke too soon. Should Takarafuji thump Takanosho today, he might just be in contention for the worst final score out of the san’yaku rikishi. I am going to guess Mitakeumi sucked up all of the nutrients at this rank and left the rest of them without any means to power their sumo.

Chiyoshoma vs Shodai – I will be honest, Shodai, as an Ozeki, has been relegated to fighting a Maegashira 5 on the final day, and I feel embarrassed for him. I can see why he has been moved aside for a contender who is actually showing up each day with some powerful sumo, but it’s got to sting the lone surviving Ozeki quite a bit. Maybe this is as good an indication as any what the promotion committee my have in mind. Should Chiyoshoma win, they would end with matching 5-10 scores. Ouch.

Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi – The “Brawl To End It All”, If Mitakeumi wins, he takes his 3rd yusho, and I would guess a promotion to sumo’s second highest rank. I don’t expect him to win. He’s not good against Terunofuji (4-12) and even though he is in top form for him, there is a lot that will happen to distract him tomorrow. The thought of the yusho and all it brings must weigh on his mind. The biggest change Mitakeumi has is what I suspect is fresh damage to Terunofuji’s left knee. The signs are there, but well hidden. I am sure he is going to try as hard as he can to set that aside and fight with overwhelming Kaiju power tomorrow. But if he wins, he needs to win at least one more match after that. A tough man who may be in that much pain. An ultimate sumo day ahead of us, dear readers, I would not miss it for the world!

Hatsu Day 14 Highlights

Please remember, there are no spoilers in live sports.

Abi-zumo delivered today, and he put himself back into contention for the yusho. His access to a playoff match now rests on hopes Terunofuji can defeat Mitakeumi in the “Brawl to end it all” tomorrow. That outcome may trigger a 3 way playoff between Mitakeumi, Terunofuji, and whomever wins the wildcard match between Abi and Kotonowaka. Kotonowaka and Abi have never faced each other.

To myself, the matter of Mitakeumi’s Ozeki big looks pretty cut and dried to me right now. He has muscled aside Shodai to take the role of challenger in the final match of the tournament. He is performing as the rival Ozeki now, regardless of his rank today. Should he prevail in tomorrow’s final match, he will take his third yusho, which is more than either of the current Ozeki. What seemed like a long shot 2 weeks ago, now looks fairly likely to me.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Ichiyamamoto – Nishikigi, visiting from Juryo, makes short work of Ichiyamamoto. That’s win number 8 for Nishikigi, and he should be be back in the top division for March. Ichiyamamoto drops to 4-10.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – We had hoped this was going to be a high energy, high mobility match, and Ishiura and Kotoeko certainly delivered. After battling back and forth, Ishiura was able to get a quick pull and thrust combo to land against Kotoeko with the two near the tawara, and Kotoeko was out. Ishiura improves to 10-4, his best score since his top division debut in November of 2016.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – Chiyotairyu moved for an early pull down on the second exchange out of the tachiai. It did not work, but it broke Aoiyama’s balance enough that he got Big Dan moving, and moments later thrust him out. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-8.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – Yutakayama employs a combo or right hand nodowa and left hand hazu to hurl Sadanoumi into the west side salt basket. The fall was spectacular enough that Yutakayama hustled over to make sure Sadanoumi was still in once piece. Yutakayama improves to 6-8, and Sadanoumi punches his ticket at 7-7 for a Darwin match.

Akua defeats Oho – Four losses in a row for Oho, and now as the bottom man on the banzuke, he’s got a 7-7 Darwin score. Akua kept him off balance and reacting, and it went poorly from there. Akua moves up to 4-10.

Chiyonokuni defeats Terutsuyoshi – The ghost of Chiyonokuni took a bit more material form today. Terutsuyoshi took an odd leap at the tachiai, and it left him off balance, out of position and a bit lost. Chiyonokuni made sure he never recovered, batting him about and using a double arm shove to send him into the front row. Chiyonokuni improves to 3-11, Terutsuyoshi is make-koshi.

Wakamotoharu defeats Tobizaru – In traditional Tobizaru style, he was all over the place today, and never quite on point with his sumo. Wakamotoharu stayed focused and centered, and kept control of the match to the point where he chucked Tobizaru into the waiting Okinoumi. That is his first win against Tobizaru in 6 attempts. Wakamotoharu picks up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi, Tobizaru his 8th loss and is make-koshi.

Tsurugisho defeats Chiyoshoma – Tsurugisho henka! Well, as much as someone of such ponderous bulk can henka. But there was early lateral motion involved to be certain. Tsurugisho improves to 6-8.

Tochinoshin defeats Okinoumi – The good news, Tochinoshin is not yet make-koshi. But he now has a 7-7 Darwin score. Tochinoshin got his left hand outside early, and there was not much Okinoumi could do from that position. He did try to rally, and put up a good fight, but Tochinoshin finished him with a slow motion uwatenage to improve to 7-7.

Tamawashi defeats Ura – Tamawashi finally finds his 8th win after 3 straight days of losses, and is kachi-koshi at 8-6. Ura gives him a solid grab-and-tug fight, but steps out to lose the match a moment before Tamawashi hurls him eastward in spectacular fashion.

Endo defeats Ichinojo – It was just like a regular match, but happening at ½ speed. Endo got solid hand placement early and converted it to a deep right hand inside grip. At this point Ichinojo found he was not set up to defend, and could not default to his “Boulder” tactic. Endo ran him about for a moment and then sent him out on the west side by yorikiri. Endo improves to 6-8, while Ichinojo has a 7-7 “Darwin” score.

Wakatakakage defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru tried a bit of a hit and shift at the tachiai, but it was poorly executed, and did little more than remove any defense Chiyomaru might have employed. Wakatakakage attacked and quickly took Chiyomaru out on the east side for his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for January. Chiyomaru joins the small group of 7-7 rikishi waiting for their day 15 Darwin matches.

Hokutofuji defeats Kiribayama – Quite a messy bit of sumo from these two today. I think the theme from this is that Hokutofuji was staying in contact with Kiribayama no matter what. Once he had that grip, his lower body kept him in the match in spite of the fact that his upper body could not really find a decent avenue of attack. So it was down to carefully moving Kiribayama back a piece at a time until he could walk him out. Hokutofuji improves to 7-8.

Onosho defeats Meisei – Onosho hits double digits for the second time in six months. Meisei had early advantage, and was moving quite well. But Onosho broke contact with a big lateral move that left them both off balance. Onosho lunged in, connected with Meisei at center mass, and the mega-thrust was on. Two steps later, Onosho had his 10 win, improving to 10-4.

Daieisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu got one combo in, and then it was all Daieisho. A big thrust to the middle of the chest, and he kept Myogiryu moving in reverse. Daieisho improves to 6-8.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – You can see Takarafuji try to set his feet to defend and drag the match out, but Mitakeumi’s forward pressure is just too great, and he is forced to give up territory again and again. Takarafuji tries an escape that works, but just for a moment, and Mitakeumi pushes him over the bales. 12-2 for Mitakeumi, and he’s at 32 wins in the last 3 basho now.

Kotonowaka defeats Takanosho – Takanosho came in strong, and I would say a bit too strong and a bit too eager. Kotonowaka gave ground, and I think this convinced Takanosho to press his advantage. But all that was really happening was that he was moving himself closer to the bales, where Kotonowaka pivoted and threw him into the front row. Kotonowaka improves to 11-3, and remains just behind the leaders. Takanosho make-koshi at 6-8, and he will vacate his Sekiwake position for March.

Hoshoryu defeats Shodai – We saw the “wall of daikon” today, as Shodai poured on the big-body sumo against Hoshoryu, sending him face first into the tawara. Hoshoryu emerged bloody to find a monoii, as the shimpan discussed the result of the match. It was deemed to close to decide, and a torinaoshi rematch was declared. The second match, Hoshoryu did not let Shodai go chest to chest, but kept him at about a half arm’s length. At that distance, Shodai’s sumo fell apart, and Hoshoryu danced him about before sending him to visit Terunofuji in the front row. Hoshoryu improves to a commanding 10-4.

Abi defeats Terunofuji – Abi succeeded in breaking Terunofuji’s balance on the third volley, and it was all down hill from there. Unable to lower his hips or set his feet again, Abi dialed up the power and sent the Yokozuna out the west side. Abi takes the kinboshi, and both end the day at 11-3.

Hatsu Day 14 Preview

It’s the penultimate day of Hatsu 2022, and as of today we have a 2 way tie for the cup, but it will come down to the final day. Unless something quite out of the ordinary happens, the yusho will go to Terunofuji, Mitakeumi or Abi. Yes, Abi still has a path to the cup, but it’s a long shot.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Nishikigi vs Ichiyamamoto – I would guess a bit of an exchange match. Should Nishikigi win, he’s kachi-koshi and likely to make a bid to return to the top division. Ichiyamamoto will likely end with a record that could drop him to Juryo. So maybe they are having them fight it out. Ichiyamamoto has a 3-0 career lead.

Ishiura vs Kotoeko – Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who can toss whom about with more power. Ishiura has been looking really sharp the last few days, and I am eager to see these two compact powerhouses fight it out. Ishiura holds a 6-3 career advantage.

Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – Their make/kachi-koshi have already been decided, so maybe its just a “hey look, 21 match rivalry” kind of event. Both are not quite at full power, so it’s anyone’s guess how this one is going to play out. I would think Aoiyama is a bit less banged up, so maybe he will have an edge.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Sadanoumi needs one more win for his kachi-koshi. Should he lose today to Yutakayama, it’s 7-7 for him, and he may find himself in one of the very small number of Darwin matches tomorrow. Since the funnel blew to bits on day 12, the schedulers have stopped trying to march folks to 7-7, and my just take whomever shows up.

Oho vs Akua – I feel for Oho, who has lost 3 in a row. But part of being in the top division is the stamina to still fight with a lot of power (maybe even more power) at the end of week 2. If he drops this match to the injured Akua today, he will be 7-7, and my guess he may face a Darwin match on Sunday.

Chiyonokuni vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi is going to try to win his last 2 and see if he can finish kachi-koshi. He’s got the ghost of Chiyonokuni today, who threw away a perfectly good zenpai. I think Kokenoe Oyakata told him that if he finished 0-15, he would have to organize Chiyomaru’s bodily functions.

Wakamotoharu vs Tobizaru – We have Wakamotoharu at 7-6, Tobizaru at 6-7. I know I said the funnel is dead and shattered, but here is a little piece of it still trying to make the Darwin list full. Tobizaru has a 5-0 career advantage over Wakamotoharu, so the likely outcome here is a pair of 7-7 rikishi, ready for battle on day 15.

Tsurugisho vs Chiyoshoma – Both are make-koshi, but this may be to see if Tsurugisho will end up with enough losses to open another slot in the top division. Not that there are that many promotable records from Juryo. Chiyoshoma holds a 4-2 career advantage over Tsurugisho, but the size different is 60kg. I hereby authorize a Chiyoshoma henka for this match.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – A pair of grizzled and injured veterans hobble to the dohyo, organize their remaining appendages, and do battle. Their 18 match history favors Tochinoshin 10-8, and I think another win would help him stay in the top division one more basho. This match is going to be painful and probably slow.

Ura vs Tamawashi – Oh the evil bastards. A mini-Darwin with two favorites. The winner gets kachi-koshi, the loser goes to 7-7 and joins the Darwin group. Tamawashi has lost his last 3 in a row, and I wonder if he is just plain out of gas right now. I would love to see him reach his 8, but Ura is looking really sharp right now.

Endo vs Ichinojo – Will Endo decided that he is already make-koshi and throttle back, or will he decide to channel whatever frustration he may have into the giant flabby thorax of Ichinojo? Now the Boulder has a 10-4 career advantage, but Endo could give a flip about that. When Endo wants to fight, he’s going to bring his sumo and you are going to work hard or get dirty. An Ichinojo win would be kachi-koshi, a loss and he joins the Darwin crew.

Wakatakakage vs Chiyomaru – Well well, second mini-Darwin. Loser goes to 7-7, winner is kachi-koshi. Wakatakakage has won his last 3 in a row, so maybe he’s on a hot streak in the final days of Hatsu. Wakatakakage will try to go chest to chest for something like a yorikiri, and Chiyomaru will try to slap him down.

Hokutofuji vs Kiribayama – Both are 5-8 make-koshi, so this is to see who drops furthest down the March banzuke. I am going to guess that Hokutofuji has the advantage here. He’s due for a win. But both of them have lost their last 2 matches.

Meisei vs Onosho – Why yes, I would like to see Onosho hit double digits this January. He’s at 9-4 now, so he has 2 chances to get there. He may even be up for a special prize if Mitakeumi takes the cup, I would guess.

Myogiryu vs Daieisho – Myogiryu is back! I think he wanted to try and rack up at least 1 more win to try and preserve some traction on the banzuke for March. Currently at 5-8 from Maegashira 10, he’s going to have his hands full with the Komusubi, and Daieisho holds a 10-2 career advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has a unique opportunity to help his stablemate Terunofuji. We know the Isegahama clan is very tight, and I am certain that Takarafuji is thrilled he has a chance to play a role in getting a contender out of the Yokozuna’s path. If he can put Mitakeumi on the clay, that might leave Terunofuji as the sole leader of the yusho race. So I am going to be looking for Takarafuji to put it all on the line today. Could be one hell of a match.

Kotonowaka vs Takanosho – A staggering 16 rank difference between these two, I don’t quite recall the last time I have seen a spread this huge. Takanosho can “win out” and keep his Sekiwake slot, but he’s got to take down the very genki Kotonowaka. I really like the chances of this match being a big slug fest deluxe.

Hoshoryu vs Shodai – Shodai’s already kadoban, already make-koshi, and sort of shunted off to the side. He may not face the Yokozuna on the final match of the tournament, and frankly I am a bit annoyed that they don’t treat him like an Ozeki most of the time. I wish that this would motivate him to higher performance, but if I had to guess this just makes him depressed. He has never beaten Hoshoryu, and I have to wonder if the torikumi group is just taunting him now.

Terunofuji vs Abi – Abi does indeed still have a path to the cup, but he’s got to beat Terunofuji to get there. This is not going to be easy, as the Yokozuna is big, stable and patient in the extreme. Abi will want to crank up the double arm thrusts, Terunofuji will want to capture and crush. My money is on the Kaiju. He won their only prior match.