Hello again sumo fans! Very few people have ever confused me with a Yokozuna, and one more key difference is that unlike them, I’m back in action again on Day 12 at Kokugikan. This means I’m here to bring you the preview of the day’s events, and what I will be looking for in the top division matches. So without further ado:
Leaders: Takakeisho, Meisei
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Okinoumi, Takarafuji, Tsurugisho
Peloton: Goeido, Endo, Enho, Shohozan, Yutakayama
What We Are Watching Day 12
Quick little burst from Juryo: The schedulers continue to keep 9-2 leaders Ikioi and Kotonowaka away from each other, so we could be in for some senshuraku fun to decide the title. Future caddy Ikioi gets 7-4 Daishomaru in an attempt to add some intrigue to the race, while Kotonowaka contents himself with a duel against Hokkaido’s melon man, 6-5 Kyokutaisei. In Makuuchi action…
Yutakayama vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma, owner of one of the most sported yukata designs in sumo, gets a chance to stress his makuuchi credentials. His dance partner is the rusty pusher-thruster of Tokitsukaze-beya who is finding his way back into form. I think Yutakayama will be heyagashira by Haru and I think he’ll show why in this match, as long as Chiyoshoma doesn’t pull any rude tricks.
Takagenji vs Nishikigi – Sometimes a makekoshi can lift the pressure and weight off a rikishi’s shoulders and allow them to perform better, kind of like when a team gets relegated from the Premier League and all the sudden beats the team at the top of the table. Nishikigi is very much not at the top of the table, but with six losses on his ledger he will desperately be looking to knock off the doomed Takagenji. The two have only met once previously, on the hot dirt of Nagoya where the Chiganoura man was the victor. I fancy Nishikigi to even the score here.
Tochiozan vs Daishoho – It has been a laborious tournament for each of these men, who have winded their way to rather different results. Tochiozan hasn’t looked marvellous but can still eke out a kachikoshi. Daishoho needs wins to stave off relegation to Juryo. Difficult as it may be to watch, another laboured battle may be the tonic for Tochiozan, who lacks the power but perhaps possesses the better grappling ability and stamina than his counterpart here.
Onosho vs Kagayaki – Onosho has shown a bit of life in recent days, and has rebounded to 5-6, the same score as his opponent. “Tactics” Kagayaki has a 5-4 edge in the rivalry and the ability to win by keeping himself square to his man and blunting the smaller rikishi’s thrusting attack. Kagayaki is of course much taller and Onosho will likely be the attacker, looking to push up and raise the centre of gravity in search of a push out win. This feels a bit like a coin flip.
Sadanoumi vs Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho could actually be a bit of a weird dark horse at the moment as he may have had a lot of the matches that he would have against other contenders. That doesn’t mean he has a straightforward shot either at the yusho or even a special prize however: matches like this against a 6-5 rikishi looking to secure a kachikoshi still keep the stakes high, even if the opponents may be lower on the banzuke. Sadanoumi has a 2-1 edge and is better on the belt, and Tsurugisho is probably a better thruster, so this may come down to which style wins out at the tachiai.
Terutusyoshi vs Azumaryu – I haven’t been too impressed with Azumaryu in recent days, but with four matches left, he needs to win two for a kachikoshi. Terutsuyoshi has been largely pretty disappointing after his revelatory Nagoya basho. The goal here for the small man needs to be keeping Azumaryu off the mawashi.
Shohozan vs Kotoyuki – Shohozan has not looked amazing in this tournament but somehow finds himself a win from a kachikoshi and on the distant edges of the slow race for honours. Kotoyuki’s story is as always: uncontrolled momentum. Shohozan has been blasted at the tachiai before but if he can get some tsuppari/harite going and wind Kotoyuki up a bit, or even get a mawashi grip, he can deal with the Sadogatake man. Kotoyuki has a 4-3 edge in the head to head.
Okinoumi vs Meisei – Here’s the undisputed highlight match of the first half of the day’s action, pitting the new unheralded co-leader against the former unheralded leader. Okinoumi leads the career series 2-0, but neither of those matches came in a 2019 which has shown great development for Meisei. That said, I don’t think his sumo has matched up to his 9-2 record and a few of his victories have seemed more fortuitous than commanding, so I think this really comes down to whether Okinoumi, a more experienced practitioner of mawashi work as well as beltless throws, can escape the rot of his 3 bout losing run.
Enho vs Takarafuji – It’s a battle of two of the closest stables in sumo, an intra-ichimon affair as Miyagino-Hakuho’s Enho takes on Isegahama’s Takarafuji. Further to that, it’s a clash of wildly different sumo styles – and I don’t mean yotsu vs oshi. In this fascinating match, weaver of magic and bringer of chaos Enho comes up against an opponent in Takarafuji who specialises in defensive sumo and prefers to stalemate his opponents, kill off their attacking manoeuvres and shepherd them to defeat. While a first time meeting would tend to favour the trickster, Takarafuji will have seen plenty of Enho up close and personal and I think he will be wise to kill Enho’s movement and end his faint title hopes.
Ishiura vs Kotoeko – Ishiura has hit an ice patch and gets brought up the banzuke to take on the similarly fading Kotoeko. Ishiura has taken 4 of 6 from Kotoeko, using some serious kimarite (I love a tottari, even moreso when deployed by someone from Tottori). Ishiura has a habit of being a bit streaky so while I think he’s overall in the better form, I think this becomes more of a coin flip.
Kotoshogiku vs Tomokaze – Man alive, did Kotoshogiku ever get done by Enho on Day 11. He now faces makekoshi which seemed a bit unlikely earlier in the tournament, but those losses can pile up quickly. Tomokaze has beaten Kotoshogiku in their only prior meeting, and finds himself just two wins now from another incredible kachikoshi to continue his streak and push him further into the joi in Fukuoka. He has started doing more positive sumo since his bid to become the first all-hatakikomi yusho winner fell apart. The veteran is very capable of winning this if he lands his grip early, but the youngster’s in the better form, so I’ll tip him to send Kotoshogiku down the banzuke.
Daieisho vs Asanoyama – This is a very dangerous match for Asanoyama. Daieisho obviously hasn’t been perfect, but I think his 4-7 record is very misleading and he has worked hard to execute his oshi-zumo style in almost all of his matches. He also absolutely owns Asanoyama, winning the last 6 out of their 7 matchups. This may be the match more than any other that determines whether Asanoyama can take the next step in his development, never mind challenge for the yusho: will he be a left-hand-outside-one-trick-pony like a certain kadoban Ozeki or, when the chips are down, can he win a match that absolutely opposes his preferred style?
Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Hokutofuji comes into this match in great form, hoping to come from behind and salvage a decent record in this basho off the back of several strong wins. He has a 6-2 career edge over Chiyotairyu, who looks lost. We all know Hokutofuji likes to slap himself but he will kick himself if he doesn’t win this.
Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Shimanoumi fights deep into the second half of the day’s action in a match littered with disappointment, as the 4-7 Kise-beya man takes his talents to Kasugano’s 2-9 Bulgarian. Big Dan has showed glimpses of his potential during this basho but has more often appeared listless. This presumable oshi-battle will be a good match for Shimanoumi to show whether he’s more often been outclassed or just outgunned.
Abi vs Shodai – Speaking of whipping boys, Abi will look to get his kachikoshi run back on track against 2-9 Shodai. Shodai isn’t a great opponent for Abi as evidenced by the Tokitsukaze man’s edge in their rivalry, so Abi needs to really use his double arm tsuppari to blow him away at the tachiai and sustain the blows. Sometimes Abi can make make one solid push off the shikiri-sen but then not make any forward progress after that no matter how many blows he lands. We know Shodai is just going to stand up and take it, and then look to evade the flailing arms in search of a belt grip. Shodai is already makekoshi and if Abi wants to hang around in san’yaku these are the matches he needs to win.
Tamawashi vs Endo – Tamawashi may have said he didn’t like picking up fusen-sho but the 6-5 cake decorator may have a few other thoughts if he ends this basho with 8 wins. 7-4 Endo had a lovely win against Shodai on Day 11 and is just hanging around the periphery of the yusho race. This incredibly streaky rivalry (6 for Endo, then 11 for Tamawashi) may have turned back towards Endo after he broke Tamawashi’s run against him in Nagoya. Endo has displayed the better sumo this tournament, and while he’s been hit and miss against pusher-thrusters in this tournament, he’s been more good than bad and I back him to win here.
Myogiryu vs Takakeisho – Myogiryu hasn’t faced anyone above Maegashira 4 this basho, so it must be some shock for the Maegashira 6 to find himself all of the sudden pulled up to face the past and future Ozeki and tournament leader after his return from kyujo. I tend to agree with Bruce’s point yesterday that kyujo returns seldom go well, but I think he might still get his 8 wins if he fights in the same manner as his Day 11 victory. Takakeisho can seal his return to Ozeki in this match, and he has incredibly won all six of their past meetings. Like his stablemate Goeido, Myogiryu is speedy, well rounded when it comes to his skills and maddeningly inconsistent. I wouldn’t rule out a shock but Takakeisho will be the presumptive favourite to finish the first job here and shift his focus to an unlikely and heroic Emperor’s Cup win.
Ryuden vs Goeido – 6-5 Ryuden has really turned his tournament around with four straight wins, perhaps none more impressive than the tide-turning victory over Mitakeumi on Day 11 which up-ended the yusho race once again. Goeido seems to bounce back from every loss with that angry scowl, and he seems to show up when he has something to prove. He is one win from ending his latest kadoban spell, but I’m not sure he’s going to get it here. He’s still technically in the yusho race, but the key for him is to suffocate Ryuden straight from the tachiai in the manner of his win against the hapless Chiyotairyu on Day 11. Ryuden tends to grow into matches and grow in stature and pull victory from the jaws of defeat, and Goeido can’t let that happen, because….
Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – This may be the highlight match of the second half of action. These two know all about each other (Mitakeumi is said to frequently go to Kasugano for degeiko), and the Georgian has an 8-3 edge in this rivalry. So, let’s look at it tactically:
Mitakeumi on paper is the kind of rikishi Tochinoshin does not want to face. He possesses an explosive pushing and thrusting attack, and Tochinoshin’s main defence in those matches lately has been pulling or slap-down attempts. This being said, Mitakeumi is also a good mawashi handler, but not in the league of Tochinoshin. The Dewanoumi man is also maddeningly inconsistent, conceding matches where he appears to lose focus when he should be in the thick of a title race.
Now let’s think about this: After this match, Tochinoshin is likely to face two mid-Maegashira opponents before Goeido on Senshuraku. Goeido will meanwhile get the two Sekiwake who are in the thick of the yusho hunt. What price on a couple of kadoban 7-7 Ozeki going head to head on the final day?