The middle Sunday is upon us so it’s time to start looking at the yusho race in earnest. With no Yokozuna left in the competition and no wrestlers left with unblemished records, this is a free-for-all. Ten men are tied for the lead or one win back, and even those with two (or even three) losses are not out of it yet. The winner may not need 13 or 14 wins. If 11 or 12 can claim this, more than half the field are still technically “in it”. And for some odd reason, the Kyokai has chosen to have many so called Darwin bouts today to thin the herd quickly.
As for the other big storyline that Leonid has already mentioned, the Ozeki situation is getting dire for Takayasu and Goeido. Both men sit on three wins but Takayasu needs seven more while Goeido still needs to win five of the final eight to avoid Takayasu’s fate.
What We Are Watching Day 8
The Enxo bout – This is the first ever meeting of Endo vs Enho. Endo is a yorikiri specialist. His footwork and beltwork have been spectacular this tournament and he’s won the bouts he has needed to and seems to be enjoying sumo again. Sometimes when he was wearing the Gold mawashi he’d carry himself with his head down and just not look happy to be there. I think Enho will be a very interesting puzzle for him. I don’t think The Prince of Throws will get craned out or squished but we’ll have a fascinating technical bout.
Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – This is the big Darwin bout this early in the basho. With Shodai’s fall last night, Takakeisho is the top-ranked rikishi in the lead for the yusho. Okinoumi is one back so both men should have extra riding on their wins today as the yusho talk will start in earnest. The winner will be still in it. If Okinoumi loses, he may well be out altogether while a Takakeisho loss will tip Endo for the crown.
Shodai vs Asanoyama – Yesterday’s sole leader fights against the lead prospect for Ozeki status. Quite frankly, this is a battle between two future Ozeki and one may walk away from this tournament with the cup.
Yutakayama vs Terutsuyoshi – Lower down on the banzuke, we have another up-and-comer in Yutakayama who will grapple with a top pixie. Terutsuyoshi is having his best start to a tournament since July when he picked up the jun-yusho and a special prize to boot. Yutakayama, on the other hand, is off to his best start in makuuchi.
Kagayaki vs Aoiyama – This is a strength vs strength bout. Both men are oshizumo specialists so this will be a slapfest and not a grappling bout. Aoiyama’s technique, however, relies on a hatakikomi kicker. If Kagayaki can shift things to the belt, he’ll likely have the edge.
Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs this. He can only lose one bout this week to reclaim his Ozeki status. There will be no easy wins against aging Yokozuna. Instead, he’s got to fight his way through a lot of top ranked Maegashira with their own sanyaku ambitions. Unfortunately for Takayasu, Hokutofuji’s oshizumo strength is Takayasu’s weakness and Hokutofuji is pretty successful at keeping opponents off his belt.
Abi vs Goeido – Goeido is pretty successful at getting to his opponent’s belt. Will he be able to force the issue with Abi? The worst news for Abi is that even when Goeido is forced into an oshi bout, he wins more than half the time, though he’s very susceptible to hatakikomi, especially when he’s not in the mood to move forward.