Welcome to the 3rd act. We are going to see increasingly large differences in ranks for daily matches, and some head to head fights that are more or less just for the fun of it. In act 3, we sort everyone into make and kachi koshi, and crown a yusho winner. There is also this matter of the Darwin Funnel, which is operating with greater efficiency this time around that I can remember it every running before. We won’t know for a couple more days, but there could be a bumper crop of 7-7 rikishi at the start of Senshuraku.
Leader: Terunofuji, Mitakeumi
Hunt Group: Abi, Takarafuji
Chasers: Tamawashi, Kotonowaka, Kotoeko, Oho
5 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 11
Oho vs Kotokuzan – If you had taken a break from sumo, and came back on Hatsu 2022 day 11, you could rightly say, “Who vs who?”. Oho, whose name conjures up images of delicious pastries, is really Naya, with a new shikona. Kotokuzan is a long serving Makushita guy who found his way into Juryo in Kyushu, and racked up a really nice 11-4 score. Now he is 2 wins away from a make-koshi, and maybe he might just have enough mojo to step into the top division some time in 2022. So give him a sharp look. A win today by Oho will be kachi-koshi for him.
Kotoeko vs Ichiyamamoto – Kotoeko tries again today for his 8th with, and a coveted kachi-koshi. This is a first ever match up with Ichiyamamoto, who will be hitting hard with both hands extended. Kotoeko my take advantage of his shorter stature to duck under and inside, and get chest to chest. That move, should he pull it off, will likely give him the match.
Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – Chiyomaru needs 2 more wins over the remaining 5 matches to reach his 8, and given how he has been fighting, I think he’s got a very good chance of pulling it off. Aoiyama at 5-5 is squarely in the middle of the funnel, and at M16E, he’s probably one of the rikishi on the bubble. He needs 3 more wins out of his final 5 to make it to the safety of 8, and it’s going to be a struggle given his injury challenges.
Tochinoshin vs Chiyotairyu – Tochinoshin has a 10-4 career advantage over Chiyotairyu, but the bulk of that was prior to 2020. So in 2022 at Hatsu, its somewhat an even match of two long serving veterans, both hurt, and both at a fraction of their normal fighting power. Chiyotairyu needs to be careful to keep Tochinoshin’s left hand somewhere other than his mawashi.
Yutakayama vs Terutsuyoshi – This is a brutal match, because the winner gets pushed back into the funnel. The loser steps closer to make-koshi. right now I would give Terutsuyoshi the edge today, even though he does not have a clear career advantage. Terutsuyoshi has been fighting better while Yutakayama seems to be in more pain each and every day.
Sadanoumi vs Kaisei – Another match that looks normal enough on the surface, but if you think of it in terms of the funnel, a ?Kaisei win would put both of them at 6-5, and keep both of them in the undertow. That being said, I do think that Sadanoumi which his matchless speed and excellent agility has a very strong opportunity to get behind Kaisei and move him out with something like an okuridashi.
Tsurugisho vs Akua – I am personally surprised that Tsurugisho has 4 wins, given that it seems he cannot move with power or confidence right now. We have assumed it was some manager of back / leg / pelvic injury since week 1. Is this a chance for Akua to take in his 3rd win? If so, it would push Tsurugisho to be one loss from make-koshi. But if Tsurugisho wins, its back into the funnel for him.
Myogiryu vs Wakamotoharu – Both men come in at 5-5, squarely in the middle of the funnel group. Sadly, one win or one loss is enough for either of them to escape. This is their first time meeting, and it will likely come down to how well Wakamotoharu can keep his balance.
Ishiura vs Tobizaru – Very excited for this match, it’s high speed sumo from both rikishi, and I am hoping for a lot of movement, a lot of combination offensive strikes, and with any luck, a real lightning storm of a match.
Kotonowaka vs Takarafuji – A big 7 rank gap between these two, and it’s to underscore the funnel machinery at work. Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and Kotonowaka comes up to face him in search of the one win he needs for his 8. Tough draw, Kotonowaka. Takarafuji is fighting the best he has in over a year, and he’s going to be tough to overcome.
Okinoumi vs Chiyonokuni – Again, the funnel at work. Neither of these guys will benefit much from a win. Maybe Chiyonokuni, but he’s going zenpai anyhow. So they take both of these guys and they fight each other so they can’t donate a white star to anyone in the funnel group. Brutal…
Shimanoumi vs Endo – This is a solid chance for Endo to stave off make-koshi for another day. Shimanoumi has never won a match against Endo in any of their 6 attempts. But Endo is a big sticky mess right now, so maybe he won’t even be able to pick up a white star in this “gimmie” match.
Abi vs Ichinojo – It’s time to see if Abi-zumo has him operating at a higher power rating than before his punishment and demotion. They have not fought since 2019, and this is not going to be an easy match for Abi. I hope we see Ichinojo grab a piece of Abi and hold him still long enough to put him to the test.
Tamawashi vs Kiribayama – Oh, another brutal match. Tamawashi needs 1 more win to reach kachi-koshi, and so who does he draw today? Kiribayama, whom he has never beaten in 4 tries. True, Kiribayama has not been fighting well this January, so maybe Tamawashi has a chance to take his 8th win today. Oh, and should Kiribayama win? He’s back in the funnel.
Wakatakakage vs Ura – Ok, with all of that ugliness, its time for a bit of fun. Wakatakakage and Ura are both in the funnel, they have never fought before, and they are going to throw the kitchen sink at each other. Will Ura’s grab and tug be able to dismantle Wakatakakage and carry the day? I can’t wait to find out.
Onosho vs Daieisho – I am looking for Onosho to bounce back from his 2 match losing streak today. Not because he’s better than Daieisho by nature, but Daieisho just does not have the mojo this month to really crank up his attacks. So I am looking for Onosho to hand Daieisho his make-koshi today.
Meisei vs Hokutofuji – The winner gets to rejoin the funnel, the loser moves one step closer to make-koshi. Now that Hokutofuji ruined Mitakeumi’s January, he can go back to his relentless drive toward the “Most Power Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo”. Maybe today will be a black star for him.
Hoshoryu vs Takanosho – There were some sumo fans who assumed that Takanosho was on some kind of Ozeki campaign thanks to his 11-4 finish in Kyushu. Well, I think the meter starts when he hits the named ranks, but I am not an Oyakata, and I have no vote in that decision. But at 6-4, Takanosho really needs to get 2 more wins out of the last 5. One of these guys will move ahead to 7-4, and the other is getting pushed back into the funnel.
Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Can Shodai further rally to drive a stake into Mitakeumi’s hopes for an Ozeki promotion? Will we once again hear the Original Tadpole shout “FORK!” or some similar word following today’s match? It would would be just too much for most sumo fans if Shodai suddenly remembers his sumo today, and bashes the curry out of Mitakeumi today. Oh yeah, if Shodai wins – back in the funnel for him.
Terunofuji vs Chiyoshoma – Well, Terunofuji had to fight someone today.