It’s the opening day of act 3 for this 2021 Haru basho. In act 3, we sort everyone into make/kachi-koshi, and someone takes home the yusho. Fans of Takayasu are on pins and needles, as of today, he is 2 wins ahead of everyone else. Being a supporter of the big hairy guy has been a rough road. Much like his senpai, Takayasu has never quite been able to win a yusho. He has done quite well multiple times in his career, but never well enough to best everyone else. With 5 matches to go, he has a chance to do it this March. I caution myself and other Takayasu fans – a lot can happen in the next 5 days. I personally think Takayasu will lose at least one more match. The group 2 behind him have a tall order if they want to snatch the yusho away from him – they more or less have to win out and hope that the former Ozeki loses twice. He has beaten 2 of the 3 Ozeki, with only Shodai left to face on day 11. He has Takanosho, Hokutofuji and Wakatakakage yet to fight. Good luck sir!
At this point I like to start trying to guess the winning record. Right now Takayasu has 9-1, so theoretically he could go 14-1. I personally think the winning score will be 12-3 for this basho, and that opens the possibility of one rikishi in the group 2 behind might be able to challenge. Call me a twisted sumo fan, but part of me wants to see Takayasu fight Tobizaru. Their only other match ended with a Takayasu loss via kekaeshi in November.
Hunt Group: Asanoyama, Terunofuji, Tobizaru, Chiyonokuni
5 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Hidenoumi vs Chiyoshoma – Hidenoumi has been running an odd pattern this basho: win 2, lose 2. As he just picked up his second win in a row yesterday against Midorifuji, I am calling for him to hit the clay today against Chiyoshoma, who holds a marginal 6-4 career record advantage.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – Kaisei looked a bit shaky against Hoshoryu on day 10, I think he suffers from stability problems this basho, compounded when he is forced to move laterally. I am sure this was not unnoticed by Terutsuyoshi, and I suspect we may see Terutsuyoshi try to keep Kaisei chasing him in search of a hand hold.
Yutakayama vs Aoiyama – Yutakayama has put forth a notable effort to attempt to save his Maegashira status. In spite of a 1-5 start, he has won 3 of the last 4. Today, he faces a pretty tough fight against a genki Aoiyama, who has a good recipe of standing Yutakayama up, and batting him down.
Akiseyama vs Tsurugisho – Every time you can start to think that Akiseyama is just a ridiculous fat guy who somehow wandered into the Kokugikan, he shows some really impressive sumo. Day 10 against Tochinoshin is an example. It was not pretty, but it got the job done. A bit like Akiseyama. He holds a 10-3 career advantage over Tsurugisho.
Chiyonokuni vs Daiamami – I have a hunch that the schedulers are saving a match or two for Chiyonokuni later in act 3 that could have high impact. I am not sure, but maybe Terunofuji (2-1 advantage). Daiamami should be an easy mark for the Grumpy Badger today. Kachi-koshi for Chiyonokuni if he can make it happen.
Kotoeko vs Tobizaru – Kotoeko has won the last 3 against Tobizaru, using a variety of kimarite. If Tobizaru hopes to be in a spot to try and snatch the yusho in the final weekend, he needs to overcome this disadvantage and put Kotoeko out today. A Tobizaru win today is kachi-koshi.
Kotonowaka vs Ryuden – A loss today would be make-koshi for Kotonowaka, who needs to regroup, heal up whatever is plaguing him, and try again in May. Ryuden has to win 4 of the next 5 to avoid make-koshi himself.
Midorifuji vs Kagayaki – Two more rikishi who I had expected at the start of the basho to perform well, but have been sputtering during acts 1 and 2. This is their first ever match, with a Kagayaki loss today netting him a make-koshi for March.
Tochinoshin vs Chiyotairyu – Also right at the make-koshi line is Tochinoshin. He can take some comfort in his 8-3 career record over Chiyotairyu, who I fully expect will be a Darwin candidate for Sunday.
Hoshoryu vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi surprised Chiyonokuni on day 10, pulling the Grumpy Badger out of the hunt group, and saving himself from his 8th loss. He gets a first ever match against Hoshoryu today, and it will come down to Okinoumi getting a controlling grip within the first 2 steps.
Meisei vs Ichinojo – Both men enter todays match with 6-4 records, and Meisei having a history of beating Ichinojo. But the Ichinojo of this Haru basho is more genki than I have seen in some time. I am looking for a good fight, and maybe a “Bad Pony!” ending.
Tamawashi vs Wakatakakage – Is anyone else looking at today’s torikumi and saying: “Wakatakakage at 6-4? How did that happen?”. But it did happen. This should be a roving oshi-zumo slap and smash festival for the middle of our sumo day.
Takarafuji vs Shimanoumi – Well, at least the schedulers put two of the sadder cases together for this day 11 match. Maybe Takarafuji can rally enough to supply his second only win of this basho and send Shimanoumi to make-koshi.
Onosho vs Daieisho – I almost wonder if already make-koshi Onosho can stop Daieisho’s rally today. He has a 9-5 career advantage, and was one of an elite group of rikishi who beat Daieisho on his way to the cup in January.
Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – Their history favors Mitakeumi, but I am hoping that Hokutofuji can make a strong showing of today’s match. As is too frequently the case, Mitakeumi’s sumo has been all over the map this basho, which is sadly why he is not Ozeki Mitakeumi.
Terunofuji vs Takanosho – In four attempts, Terunofuji has not been able to beat Takanosho. In addition to getting double digit wins, Terunofuji needs to show strong, good form to qualify for Ozeki promotion. I think a first ever win over Takanosho would help make that case. Terunofuji still needs to find 3 more wins out of the 5 remaining matches to hit double-digits.
Shodai vs Takayasu – There are 19 prior matches between these two, and they favor Shodai 11-8. But looking a bit deeper, Shodai has won the last 7 consecutive matches against Takayasu. If Takayasu is going to realize his hopes of taking home the yusho, he will put Ozeki Shodai down today.
Takakeisho vs Kiribayama – Takakeisho fans are just hoping he can find 2 more wins and get his 8 for March. Can he pick up another white star today against Kiribayama? Yes, if he can keep Kiribayama away from his belt.
Myogiryu vs Asanoyama – For yet another basho, Asanoyama finds himself chasing the yusho race leader, having to win out to have a chance to contend for the cup. As we are now on the cusp of a “Nokozuna” age, one of these guys needs to become consistent and start dominating tournaments. At one point I was certain it would be Asanoyama, but he seems to have fallen into the Ozeki trap – fighting well, but just well enough.