Natsu Day 14 Highlights

Day 14 started with the news that Ura had withdrawn from the tournament after injuring his ankle in his match against Abi. He had already racked up 9 wins, and will have a final score of 9-6. We hope he can get things back together in time for Nagoya in July. He was fighting quite well this tournament, and we would love to see him contend for the cup in week 2 again some time soon. As a result, Wakatakakage got a free win today, which is kachi-koshi for him.

Today was the day that the Darwin funnel fell to ruin. Out of the vast number of rikishi who could have ended today with 7-7 scores (22 I think), only 4 actually ended up that way. As a result, there were a large number of make and kachi koshi marks decided today. As pointed out in the day 14 preview, this is a risk on day 14 if the schedulers are in fact running a funnel plan. They did a great job of keeping the bulk of the top division tied up and moving through for the second week, my compliments to them.

The yusho race is down to two, Yokozuna Terunofuji and Maegashira 4 Takanosho. They fought already (Takanosho won) so they won’t fight again unless there is a need for a playoff after the final match of day 15. The winning record for the emperor’s cup this time will be a somewhat meager 12-3.

Highlight Matches

Mitoryu defeats Kotokuzan – Whatever sumo Kotokuzan had in March that got him into the top division for Natsu has long since run off, leaving him unable to really fight at this point. With today’s loss he is 2-12, while Mitoryu improves to 6-8. I feel bad for Kotokuzan, given how hard he worked to get to Makuuchi. Hopefully he can fix his health problems and come back.

Midorifuji defeats Chiyoshoma – A nice, deep right hand grip for Midorifuji at the tachiai. I was curious what he was going to do with it. He tried a couple of things, and Chiyoshoma stayed on his feet, and locked in. his second surge found leverage, and he swung Chiyoshoma around for a shitatenage. Two men escape the Darwin funnel with Midorifuji kachi-koshi at 8-6, Chiyoshoma make-koshi at 6-8.

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – This kind of reminded me a bit of butsugari, with Kagayaki pushing against Okinoumi, and Okinoumi deciding he was not putting enough effort into it and thrusting him down at the bales. Go regroup in Juryo, Kagayaki. Come back when you are fighting well. Okinoumi advances to 8-6, and is kachi-koshi for Natsu.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho had the advantage for the bulk of this match, but could not convert that to a win. This is youth and inexperience. Myogiryu is a seasons vet, and knew that he wanted to wait Kotoshoho out for a time. He let Kotoshoho lean in and push, then broke Kotoshoho’s balance, powering the throw. That’s loss number 8 for Kotoshoho and he is make-koshi for Natsu. Myogiryu improves to 6-8.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shimanoumi – The conversion of Chiyotairyu from his starting for to today is tremendous. I recall watching his day 2 and 3 matches and wondering if the thunder-god had run out of energy. It seems it just took a bit longer to get him ready to fight. He blasted Shimanoumi away from the center of the dohyo, and just kept hitting him center mass. This was solid, powerful oshi-zumo done well, and it carried Chiyotairyu to kachi-koshi at 8-6.

Takarafuji defeats Yutakayama – I would like to think this 3rd win was enough to keep Takarafuji in the top division, even if it’s in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke. A couple of mistakes by Yutakayama, 1) Attacking Takarafuji’s neck – there isn’t one 2) Not defending against Takarafuji’s right hand mawashi grip. The loss for Yutakayama was his 8th, and he is make-koshi for Natsu.

Kotoeko defeats Azumaryu – Azumaryu’s balance was off at the initial merge following the tachiai. This allowed Kotoeko to turn him to the side, and attach his left hand low and deep on Azumaryu’s mawashi. From this position, Azumaryu had few defensive options, and Kotoeko quickly drove him back, and walked him out. Kotoeko improves to 6-8.

Wakamotoharu defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto had a narrow window of time to put Wakamotoharu out of the ring, and he nearly achieved that goal. But Ichiyamamoto did not defend well, and was attacking high. Wakamotoharu secured a right hand grip, and shut Ichiyamamoto down. As Wakamotoharu attempted a grip shift, Ichiyamamoto drove forward to finish Wakamotoharu off. By the thinnest of margins, Wakamotoharu got his revised grip, and executed a throw. the both went crashing out of the ring. A monoii ensued and the match was called for Wakamotoharu. He gets his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for Natsu.

Tobizaru defeats Oho – I think this match is a thumbnail of why Oho may not be ready for the top division. He came to the ring today with a pretty good thrusting routine, but it was predictable, repetitive, and failed to do much against Tobizaru. I was amazed that each of his combo’s was nearly identical. He did get Tobizaru in trouble for a moment, but Tobizaru rallied and sent him out of the ring. Both end the day at 6-8.

Meisei defeats Endo – Another funnel match that went the wrong way, this high intensity oshi battle came about after Meisei broke Endo’s grip attempt at the tachiai. Endo matched Meisei blow for blow for a time, but Meisei eventually pushed through Endo’s defenses, and delivered power to Endo’s body. The resulting oshitaoshi send Endo flying into the waiting Tochinoshin, and make-koshi at 6-8 for Natsu, while Meisei is kachi-koshi at 8-6. Quite the change from his 1-14 in Osaka.

Nishikigi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji immediately found Nishikigi at his chest, and pushing forward strongly. If you are Hokutofuji, you tend to pull your opponent in this position, and he did. This failed, of course, and resulted in Nishikigi chasing him around the ring, and eventually out. Nishikigi is our first Darwin score with a 7-7.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – This match was all Tamawashi, who was in a mood to get his 8th win today. He attacked without pause, shutting down whatever Tochinoshin was going to try. Traditional “stand him up, then pull him down” sumo from Tamawashi, he improves to 8-6.

Takanosho defeats Kiribayama – Takanosho’s right forearm did a lot of work in the opening moments of this match. Much as we saw Ura do a few days ago, he used it as a shield against his opponent. The match went into a half-grapple / half-push mode, that ended with Kiribayama attempted a leg trip, but did not have the balance to keep upright. Takanosho pushed him forward, and Kiribayama touched the clay. Takanosho maintains his share of the lead with 11-3

Takayasu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Wild tachiai from Terutsuyoshi, I think I saw him kick Takayasu in the shin. As the fight progressed, Terutsuyoshi pout a vice grip on Takayasu’s right hand and backed away. Takayasu deftly put his right on Terutsuyoshi’s shoulder, pulled his hand free, and slapped Terutsuyoshi to the clay. Takayasu improves to 5-9.

Hoshoryu defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama started well, and we even got to see the V-Twin attack for a moment. But Aoiyama tried some kind of pivoting escape move, and accidentally turned his back on Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu seized this opening, and drove Aoiyama from the rig, pushing him from behind for an okuridashi, increasing his score to 8-6 and securing his kachi-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Sadanoumi – This was always going to be a tough fight for Sadanoumi. Daieisho opened strong with his traditional mega-thrusting attack. I was impressed with Sadanoumi’s counter, and he managed to get Daieisho moving back and away. But it was a bit too far forward, and Daieisho slapped him down. Both end the day at 10-4, but the loss knocks Sadanoumi out of contention for the cup.

Kotonowaka defeats Abi – Abi’s initial attack cluster went wide of their mark, and he found Kotonowaka pushing ahead rapidly. Abi stepped to the side, and attacked again. He caught Kotonowaka off balance and had the power to finish him, but Kotonowaka stepped out of the way, and pushed Abi down. Kotonowaka is kachi-koshi at 8-6, Abi is the third rikishi with a Darwin 7-7 score.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – The answer to “Who is the next kadoban ozeki?”. That would be Mitakeumi, who will need 8 wins in front of his home town crowd in Nagoya to maintain his Ozeki rank. In this battle of the tadpoles, it was all Takakeisho. Mitakeumi’s lack of defense underscores my hunch that he has some kind of back or hip injury that is preventing him from defending well. Takakeisho ends the day 7-7, and is the 4th and final rikishi with a Darwin score. Mitakeumi is make-koshi at 6-8.

Terunofuji defeats Shodai – Readers know that I think the chief gyoji, Inosuke, has more than a couple of problems, and at time it impacts important matches – like it did today. I do hope the NSK considers if it’s time for this fellow to hang up his gumbai and enjoy his retirement. In the match, Terunofuji captured Shodai early, and ran him around the dohyo, and then placed him out of the ring. Terunofuji improves to 11-3, and is tied with Takanosho for the yusho heading into day 15.

Natsu Day 14 Preview

It’s the final weekend, and we have a least a 3 way race for the yusho. The chances that all 3 of the current leaders will drop a match today are very slim. In fact, I am going to say the chances are fairly high that one of them will take home he Emperor’s Cup on Sunday. Right now the favorite has to be Terunofuji, who has prior yusho experience, and is a Yokozuna. Readers on the site, can commentators on Twitter have pointed out that Terunofuji is not fighting anywhere close to his normal level of power and aggression. But I think it will likely be enough to carry the day.

The “Darwin’s Funnel” process finishes today, and this part relies on some level of luck. Everyone who is still part of the funnel group has either 7 wins or 7 losses to start to day, and the trick is to get as many of them as possible to 7-7. In many cases it means pairing a 6-7 with a 7-6, and hoping the win/loss allocation goes as planned. There are currently 18 rikishi in the funnel, which is both ridiculous and unprecedented.

Natsu Leaderboard

The winning score for the yusho will be no higher than 12-3, and may even be 11-4. Poor performance across the board.

Leaders: Terunofuji, Takanosho, Sadanoumi
Chasers: Daieisho, Kiribayama, Ura, Aoiyama

2 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Kotokuzan vs Mitoryu – Both are make-koshi, and Mitoryu is visiting from Juryo. Kind of an ugly match to start the top division on the penultimate day.

Midorifuji vs Chiyoshoma – Funnel match, for this to work out, Chiyoshoma has to win so that both finish the day 7-7. A Midorifuji win would give him kachi-koshi, and Chiyoshoma make-koshi for Natsu.

Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is already make-koshi, and had better wind up in Juryo in July. An Okinoumi win today would be kachi-koshi for him, a loss will send him into the Darwin pool. They have a 6-7 career record.

Kotoshoho vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu is already make-koshi at 6-8, and Kotoshoho needs to win to avoid make-koshi today. He has not beaten Myogiryu in either of the 2 prior attempts.

Shimanoumi vs Chiyotairyu – Sort of a “mini-Darwin”, the winner will get kachi-koshi, the loser will get a Darwin match on Sunday. Shimanoumi leads the series 6-4.

Takarafuji vs Yutakayama – I look at Takarafuji’s 2-11 score, and I feel great sadness. This has to be the result of some injury that we don’t know about, and it’s just terrible. He’s against Yutakayama who needs a win today to avoid make-koshi, and qualify for a Darwin match on Sunday.

Azumaryu vs Kotoeko – Both are 5-8 make-koshi to start day 14, and this is to see if Azumaryu gets punted back down to Juryo, I expect. Kotoeko holds a 5-1 career advantage.

Ichiyamamoto vs Wakamotoharu – Both have 8-5 kachi-koshi (the converse of the prior match) so this is to see who gets the bigger boost up the banzuke. Ichiyamamoto’s oshi-zumo is orthogonal to Wakamotoharu’s yotsu-zumo, so I am looking forward to see who will dictate the form the battle takes.

Oho vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru starts the day with a 5-8 make-koshi, and Oho needs to win the last 2 to secure his first ever winning record in the top division. They have never fought before.

Endo vs Meisei – This is one of those matches where the win/loss needs to come out right. An Endo win means both have 7-7 records at the end of the day. An Endo loss means Meisei is kachi-koshi, and Endo make-koshi for the Natsu basho.

Hokutofuji vs Nishikigi – The is an interesting match in that Hokutofuji is already make-koshi at 4-9, while Nishikigi is part of that massive funnel group. He needs one more win, today, to make it to 7-7. He has a 3-3 career record against Hokutofuji.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Sadly, Tamawashi is also in the funnel group at 7-6, and needs a loss to center him at the dreaded 7-7 score. He is up against kachi-koshi Tochinoshin, who is fighting surprisingly well for a one-legged man, and holds a 22-12 career lead over Tamawashi.

Kiribayama vs Takanosho – Kiribayama has an excellent chance to play spoiler here, and knock one time yusho race leader Takanosho down to his 4 loss mark. Both are already kachi-koshi, they are fighting for a Emperor’s Cup slot, and position for any san’yaku slots that might open up. Takanosho holds a 10-1 career advantage.

Takayasu vs Terutsuyoshi – Both have matching, ugly 4-9 make-koshi scores. I think this fight is to see which one gets to have a double digit loss record first. Ouch. Takayasu won their only prior match.

Hoshoryu vs Aoiyama – Decider day part 1 for Hoshoryu. If he wins today, he is kachi-koshi with at least an 8-7 final score. If he loses, he joins the pool of rikishi that could face a 7-7 stand off “Darwin” match on Sunday. He is up against 9-4 kachi-koshi Aoiyama, who holds a narrow 3-2 career lead.

Sadanoumi vs Daieisho – Co-leader Sadanoumi (M12w) is quite far up the banzuke, fighting Daieisho (K1w) in an effort to hold on to his piece of the lead. He has actually take 4 of the 9 career matches, but the two have not fought since January of 2019.

Wakatakakage vs Ura – I am disappointed that Ura is not part of the 10-3 group today. But that escape move that he used against Abi was complete rubbish, so that’s the result. I would be delighted if he can put Wakatakakage on his back and send him to a 7-7 Darwin score to end the day. Tall order given that he has never beaten Wakatakakage before.

Kotonowaka vs Abi – A “Mini-Darwin” match, the winner is kachi-koshi, the loser joins the Darwin pool. Abi won their only prior match, but I think Kotonowaka can give him a big fight if he can break away from Abi’s double arm attack.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – Loser of this match gets to join Shodai in the kadoban petting zoo for July. Winner is a 7-7 Darwin candidate, and given who it is either faces Terunofuji for the decider, or faces Shodai.

Terunofuji vs Shodai – If Shodai rallies today and uses the “Wall of Daikon” against the Yokozuna, I am going to be royally pissed off. He’s been lackluster this whole month, and if he only wakes up for a big stack of kensho, then consider me disgusted. Terunofuji needs to win today to stay in contention for the cup. He has a 9-4 record against Shodai on the clay.

Natsu Day 13 Highlights

Photo shamelessly stolen from NSK’s Twitter feed – Actual photographer unknown

Brilliant day of action, and I have to call out Kotoshoho for impressive improvisational sumo. He showed an ability to switch to plan b/c/d that was almost reminiscent of Hakuho. He ultimately lost the match, but the ability to do that while in the heat of battle is pretty impressive.

The top news must be that Wakatakakage was able to achieve what he was asked, and thanks to some poor traction under Takanosho’s feet, put the yusho race leader into the dirt with just 2 days left to go. This opens up the yusho race to Takanosho, Terunofuji and (what?) Sadanoumi. Yes, dear old speed master Sadanoumi made Hoshoryu look like a chump today, and earned his way into this weekend’s three way battle for the cup. Ura was not so fortunate, as a poor choice of escape moves left him easy meat for Abi-zuno, dropping him from contention.

Highlight Matches

Hidenoumi defeats Kagayaki – After a Kagayaki opening surge, Hidenoumi gets his hips down, finds his hands in working position, and attacks. He quickly gains control of the match, pushing Kagayaki back and then out the East side. At long last Kagayaki, the last man on the banzuke, is make-koshi. If he is not in Juryo in July, it will be borderline criminal. Hidenoumi improves to 8-5.

Oho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu opens strong, but Oho keeps his head in the match, and one eye on his opponent. He catches Myogiryu too far forward and swings him down for a very welcome win. Oho improves to 6-7, Myogiryu picks up his 8th loss and is 5-8 make-koshi for Natsu.

Midorifuji defeats Nishikigi – Midorifuji tried a tentative pull quite early in the match, and it got Nishikigi off balance enough that Midorifuji was able to get him moving quickly. With Nishikigi too far forward, Midorifuji swung him to the clay in a really nice combo move. I am not sure I have ever seen back to back katasukashi before. Midorifuji improves to 7-6.

Okinoumi defeats Kotokuzan – Ah, poor hapless Kotokuzan. He is able to absorb most of Okinoumi’s tachiai, but Okinoumi just keeps moving through him, running him out the West side three steps later. Okinoumi improves to 7-6.

Meisei defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho tried for an immediate throw in the tachiai, and ended up with terrible body position, giving Meisei a double inside grip. The combo that came next represented a most impressive improvisation to try and recover any kind of fighting position, putting Kotoshoho in control of the match with a Terunofuji style double arm lock grip on Meisei. Meisei stalemates him in the center of the dohyo, probably working out what the hell just happened, prior to surging forward and ramming Kotoshoho across the West side bales by yorikiri. Meisei improves to 7-6. Fantastic match by both men.

Chiyoshoma defeats Terutsuyoshi – Chiyoshoma had his arms forward at the tachiai, and caught Terutsuyoshi before he could completely stand up. Pushing forward, Terutsuyoshi was unbalanced, and Chiyoshoma stepped back and slapped him down. Simple and effective, Chiyoshoma ends the day at 6-7.

Aoiyama defeats Shimanoumi – Quite strong sumo from Aoiyama today. Not quite the whole V-Twin attack, but he took command at the second step, and put his hands on Shimanoumi. Pushing with everything he could muster (and that’s quite a bit) he never let Shimanoumi get any offense started. Aoiyama improves to 9-4.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoeko – Yutakayama was able to disrupt Kotoeko’s balance with a strong shove at the tachiai. A second volley a moment later sent Kotoeko stumbling, forcing him down. Yutakayama improves to 6-7, Kotoeko is make-koshi at 5-8.

Wakamotoharu defeats Azumaryu – Wakamotoharu applies an arm pit lift at the tachiai, which wrecks Azumaryu’s opening attack. From there it’s a left hand inside grip for Wakamotoharu, and a strong surge forward to quickly toss Azumaryu in the make-koshi bin at 5-8, while securing kachi-koshi for himself at 8-5.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – Big tachiai from Chiyotairyu, but Tamawashi responds with a massive thrust center mass. Chiyotairyu can’t really hold ground this basho for some reason, and is propelled back and out by the third step. Both end the day 7-6 and will have to try for kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – This sad battle of the fujis has a somewhat questionable ending, where it looked to me that Takarafuji had slapped Hokutofuji down before stepping out. But the gyoji called it a Hotutofuji win, and the call was not reviewed. Hokutofuji improves to 4-9.

Kotonowaka defeats Tobizaru – Today was a great example of Tobizaru using combo attacks in a match. There are advantages to this, it keeps your opponent guessing where you are going to hit next. Of course the problem is, you allow your opponent opportunities to steady his defense because you don’t overwhelm any part of his body. Kotonowaka played this perfect, waiting out Tobizaru’s frantic monkey-sumo. Kotonowakaka gets a hand on Tobizaru’s mawashi, and takes control, finishing him a moment later with an oshitaoshi. Kotonowaka improves to 7-6, Tobizaru make-koshi at 5-8.

Kiribayama defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin let Kiribayama get a deep double inside grip, and then wanted to try a kimidashi. It seems the sky-crane was not in working order today. It devolved into a yotsu endurance match, and Tochinoshin had poor body position. Kiribayama waited him out, and when the time came, walked Tochinoshin back for a yorikiri win, improving to 9-4.

Endo defeats Takayasu – Takayasu kept Endo back with some strong oshi/tsuki sumo for a moment. But Endo was relentless, closing in and getting a right hand grip, immediately converting that to an uwatedashinage, rolling Takayasu to the clay. Endo improves to 6-7.

Daieisho defeats Ichiyamamoto – As assumed in the preview, Ichiyamamoto was completely outclassed today. He got in a good double hand combo at the tachiai, but Daieisho stood him up, and immediately slapped him down. Daieisho advances to 9-4.

Sadanoumi defeats Hoshoryu – The wages of hubris are defeat. Captain stare down seems to discount Sadanoumi’s incredible speed, and gets overwhelmed from the moment of launch. Though Kiribayama tries a throw as Sadanoumi is rushing him out of the ring, he is off balance and it implodes before the rotation can complete. It was close, but the monoii confirms that Sadanoumi won, and he advances to 10-3.

Abi defeats Ura – A sloppy escape move by Ura as Abi was pounding him threw this match away. Ura turned and presented his back to Abi, and it was off to the races for Abi. Abi improves to 7-6, knocking Ura out of contention for the yusho.

Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – Wakatakakage completed the task assigned him today, getting dirt on Takanosho for the 3rd time this basho. To be fair there was a bit of a slippiotoshi from Takanosho, but Wakatakakage played his part perfectly, and is rewarded with an improved 7-6 score. With that, the yusho race opens up, and we have the final weekend battle for the cup.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – This match was all Mitakeumi. Shodai was able to make a bit of a stand at the tawara, but Mitakeumi kept up the pressure, locking Shodai down, and preventing any cartoon moves at the tawara. Shodai is kadoban, make-koshi, and hereby directed to get his act together. Mitakeumi improves to 6-7.

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – I was fairly certain that Takakeisho was not going to be able to best Terunofuji, given the Ozeki’s poor condition this May. But he gave it a hell of an effort, and my compliments to him and his fighting spirit. He manage to keep Terunofuji from achieving a grip for an impressively long stretch of time, attacking fiercely and disrupting everything the Yokozuna tried. but Terunofuji has acres of patience these days, and waited for his chance. It came, he grappled Takakeisho, and gave him a yoritaoshi. Terunofuji improves to 10-3.

Natsu Day 13 Preview

We enter the final weekend of the basho, and its time to kick off the closer to the nearly non-existent yusho race. The job at hand – put dirt on Takanosho. The candidates for the task are Wakatakakage, Ura, and maybe Yokozuna Terunofuji Kiribayama or Sadanoumi, as Takanosho has already fought and defeated Terunofuji, and he’s faced all other san’yaku opponents except Takakeisho, who is in the same stable [lksumo]. Can Onigiri-kun survive without picking up at least 1 loss? Would be a great story if it happens, but count on him getting at least one more loss.

At the end of today, at least one Ozeki will be kadoban, and we may face a situation where all 3 of them are kadoban at the start of Nagoya in July. Please don’t get me started on Shodai. But I suspect that just maybe they have decided to see if they can get all 3 of these guys kadoban. Rather than a Darwin match, for them it might be a Darwin basho. I admit to a certain sick fascination with this approach, and maybe its worth a try, brutal as it may be.

Natsu Leaderboard

I am thinking that either Wakatakakage gives Takanosho his 3rd loss today, or Ura will give him that loss tomorrow or day 15. He may also face Sadanoumi. He has already beaten Terunofuji.

Leader: Takanosho
Chasers: Terunofuji, Ura, Sadanoumi

3 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – If at first you do not succeed… After Chiyotairyu’s lame ass henka handed Kagayaki a win, they bring Hidenoumi (7-5) up to face 5-7 Kagayaki. The schedulers love these make-kachi-koshi matches. Furthermore, a win today would pretty much punch Hidenoumi’s return ticket to the top division.

Myogiryu vs Oho – First ever match between these two. They are both at 5-7, and thus the loser will be make-koshi for Natsu. The only way either of them can escape make-koshi now is to win their remaining 3 matches, passing through the funnel and enduring a day 15 Darwin match. Golly.

Midorifuji vs Nishikigi – Prime funnel match with both rikishi at 6-6. The trick is to give both of these men one win and one loss over the next two days and deliver them as 7-7 Darwin candidates on day 15. These two are pretty evenly matched in terms of capabilities, with Midorifuji having the agility advantage, and Nishikigi having the size advantage.

Okinoumi vs Kotokuzan – First ever match between these two. This is a chance for 6-6 Okinoumi to pick up a win from 2-10 Kotokuzan, who is destined to drop far down the banzuke for Nagoya.

Kotoshoho vs Meisei – Back to prime funnel competition. Both are 6-6, and both will be matched to ensure 1 win and 1 loss over the next two days. Kotoshoho took their only prior match in September of 2020.

Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Chiyoshoma (5-7) is hobbling before and after his daily matches, and that ankle remains taped. So in my mind its just a question of when he’s going to get his 8th loss. He has a dead even 5-5 record against already make-koshi Terutsuyoshi (4-8), who is at this point looking to pick up wins to cushion his fall down the banzuke for July.

Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama is already kachi-koshi at 8-4, and he’s lined up against 7-5 Shimanoumi, with Shimanoumi looking for his 8th win. Like most of the matches today, their career record is quite even, with Shimanoumi having a slight 4-3 edge. While it may be a slight advantage for Shimanoumi, if Aoiyama fights like he did on day 12, Shimanoumi is going to be exiting in a hurry.

Yutakayama vs Kotoeko – Both are 5-7, loser is make-koshi. You can think of this match as a mini Darwin match, with both men having fought pretty well this tournament, but I think Yutakayama is somewhat more injured right now. I expect Kotoeko to want to go chest to chest, and Yutakayama wanting to use hit-and-move oshi zumo.

Azumaryu vs Wakamotoharu – Another mini Darwin match, its 5-7 Azumaryu against 7-5 Wakamotoharu. If Wakamotoharu wins, he gets kachi-koshi, and Azumaryu a make-koshi. I think if Wakamotoharu can remain calm, lock up Azumaryu and wait him out in the center of the dohyo, he will probably take this match, and a winning record for May.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – I am surprised that we get to the final weekend, and Tamawashi is in the middle of the funnel at 6-6, after being part of the leader group at one point. But Tamawashi has lost the last 4 matches, and 5 of the last 6. Now he is up against 7-5 Chiyotairyu, who needs a win today to reach his 8. They have 21 career matches, with Chiyotairyu having a tiny 11-10 lead.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – The sadness of the make-koshi track matches cannot be summed up. Here we have two really good rikishi fighting it out to see who will have the worse record at the end of the basho. This happens when people compete hurt, and I am going to guess both of them are nursing some undisclosed injury. Hokutofuji (3-9) has a 8-3 career record against Takarafuji (2-10), and is probably less injured.

Tobizaru vs Kotonowaka – Simply put, Tobizaru (5-7) got robbed in his match against Shodai on day 12. But them’s the breaks. I think today is going to be a bit more straight forward for him when he takes on 6-6 Kotonowaka. Tobizaru is fighting to stave off make-koshi today, so I expect him to have an elevated sense of urgency as he fights Kotonowaka.

Kiribayama vs Tochinoshin – Both men start the day with 8-4 kachi-koshi, so this is all to map out who gets the bigger promotion on the July banzuke. I like Tochinoshin’s chances here, as his yotsu-zumo form has been pretty good given the prevalence of his injuries.

Takayasu vs Endo – There is no hint what the intent is today with this match. Takayasu has a 13-8 career advantage over 5-7 Endo. That is to hand Endo his 8th loss today, and lump him into the make-koshi track, where Takayasu landed on day 10.

Ichiyamamoto vs Daieisho – A bit of a head scratcher match. They are both 8-4 kachi-koshi, and there is a massive 15 rank difference between M15 Ichiyamamoto and Komusubi Daieisho. They have never fought before. I guess we get to see if Ichiyamamoto has the mojo to take the fight to Daieisho.

Hoshoryu vs Sadanoumi – These two fight about once a year, and I am looking forward to this year’s match up. Sadanoumi (9-3) is fighting some of his best sumo ever, and is part of the leader group. He shows up daily with an excellent blend of speed, agility and utter commitment to his offense. Hoshoryu needs one more win for his kachi-koshi, and I want to see him have a significant challenge to reach his 8.

Ura vs Abi – Ura, also part of the 9-3 leader group, gets a turn with 6-6 Abi. Abi wants 2 wins over the next 3 days to escape the funnel with a kachi-koshi, and he knows how to defeat Ura. His day 12 match against Ozeki Mitakeumi was a textbook example of how Abi-zumo can just completely swamp any opponent if Abi can make all the parts line up. With his long arms flailing, he’s also a perfect mark for Ura’s grab-and-tug technique. Of course if Ura changes the planck constant mid match again, who knows whats going to happen.

Wakatakakage vs Takanosho – I think this is the biggest match of the day. The goal is to let Wakatakakage advance a step closer to kachi-koshi, and knock Takanosho down one peg to join the troupe at 9-3. Takanosho does have a 7-5 career advantage, but Wakatakakage has taken 3 of the last 4 matches. This one is high stakes, and we get to see if Takanosho can take the stress.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – The time has come for the Ozeki to fight each other going into the final days of the basho, and what a brutal start to that period. Both are 5-7, and the loser will be kadoban for July and go home with a make-koshi. They have 27 career matches, with Mitakeumi having at 15-12 lead. Will there be a monoii that cancels out a clear win today? Odd mistakes keep happing around Shodai, and they all go in one direction. Mitakeumi, please put him in the dirt, and leave no doubt.

Terunofuji vs Takakeisho – Not only is it time for the Ozeki to fight each other, it’s time for them to have their turn with the Yokozuna as well. Takakeisho has the leading record in the Ozeki corps at 6-6, and he is especially susceptible to the kind of attack that Terunofuji has resorted to this basho to keep himself in the battle. I expect Terunofuji to capture Takakeisho, give him a lengthy, firm battle hug, and then walk or carry him out of the ring.