Aki Reflections – Tadpoles In Stagnant Waters

tadpole Mitakeumi
Takakeisho moments after sitting on his big purple cushion ringside

Tachiai readers know that we have a cohort of sekitori that we refer to as “Tadpoles”. They are all fairly young, and feature a highly bulbous body shape, and a predisposition to primarily oshi-zumo. This group would include Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Onosho, and the team recognize that they are a force for the future of sumo.

In the days leading up to sumo’s fall tournament, there was a great deal of interest focused on this group. Mitakeumi was on the cusp of meeting the criteria for Ozeki promotion, Takakeisho had returned to San’yaku after his first attempt at Komusubi ended in January’s disastrous 5-10 record, and Onosho had successfully returned to Makuuchi in July after sitting out Osaka for recovery to a damaged knee. With many of the top men of sumo looking questionable in the days before Aki, there was a good chance that we were going to witness tadpoles ascendant.

Instead, the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranged from “fairly genki” to “holy crap”, and fans enjoyed one of the better tournaments in the past two years. To underscore the idea that the Tadpoles represent a piece of the future, both Mitakeumi and Takakeisho managed not just a kachi-koshi, but a respectable 9-6 result. In broader context, Mitakeumi blew his Ozeki bid up in the second week, where he has been known to fade, it’s unknown when he will be able to reassemble enough wins to try again, but we are certain he will. For Takakeisho, his efforts will net him a move from Koumsubi West to East. It should be noted this is only the second time that Takakeisho has held a San’yaku rank, and after only one prior attempt, he was able to hold. The down side being, of course, as a Takanohana deshi, he will face the distractions and swirl around the closing of the Takanohana heya, and transfer to Chiganoura heya. Will it impact him? I would not be surprised.

That leaves us with Onosho, who at Maegashira 6 finished with 4-11. His offense was weak during Aki, and his mobility was poor. Clearly he is not quite healed from his knee surgery, and is struggling to compete effectively now. Under normal conditions, his sumo is at least equal to Takakeisho, but his fans must wonder if the damage to his knee is forever going to limit his ability to compete. Besides his returning to wearing his red mawashi, all of his fans hope that he can get his body healthy and return strong to Kyushu.

Summary – in spite of the sumo death-ray that melted so many, the Tadpoles exited Aki in fairly good condition. Should to top ranks falter for November or January, I am certain that we will see this cohort of rikishi step up and perform well above expectations.

Aki Basho Day 13 Preview

Hakuho-Kisenosato

With just three days left of what has been an exceptional tournament, things really ramp up on Day 13 of the 2018 Aki Basho. Our Yusho race has widdled down to one name at the top: Hakuho. The Boss’ record goes into Friday unblemished, with the trio of Kakuryu, Goeido, and Takayasu trailing him with two losses each. However, Day 13 will bring this group down to at least two men as Kakuryu and Goeido will go toe to toe in what should be the match of the day.

Yago vs. Chiyomaru

Most readers of Tachiai should at least be familiar with the name Yago, as he is the very talented young rikishi highlighted several times by Herouth in her Jungyo tour articles. With his kachi-koshi in hand, and several men at the bottom of Makuuchi with losing records, Yago is looking extremly likely to be making his Makuuchi debut come November. He’ll get his first taste of the top division on Day 13 when he faces Chiyomaru, who is right on the edge of demotion with seven losses.

Aoiyama vs. Takanosho

Top division newcomer Takanosho is just one win away from securing his spot in the Kyushu Makuuchi division, and he can punch his ticket with a win over the man mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama, who took care Ishiura today despite falling for his henka, is already make koshi and is in need of some wins to slow his fall down the banzuke. Takanosho has demonstrated some excellent skill this Basho, and could become a top division mainstay should he continue to hone his skills. Tomorrow marks the first time these two meet.

Hokutofuji vs. Nishikigi

after an excellent first week that saw Hokutofuji collect seven straight wins, the young up-and-comer has only eeked out one victory in the last four days. Luckily, that one win earned him that all-important kachi koshi, but Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall and may not be able to replicate the fantastic numbers he put up at Nagoya. His Day 13 opponent, Nishikigi, is also looking for his kachi koshi. While tomorrow is the first time these two rikishi have met on the dohyo, Nishikigi holds a fusen win over Hokutofuji.

Kagayaki vs. Takanoiwa

Takanoiwa has been on one hell of a run since taking the Nagoya Juryo Yusho and returning to Makuuchi, and could improve his record to 10-3 tomorrow with a vicotry over the man in the golden mawashi, Kagayaki. Sitting with a 6-6 record, Kagayaki is at a crossroad and is just two wins away from a promotion in November. But on the flip side of that coin, he’s also two losses away from make koshi and will need to rely on his sound fundamental skills to avoid a drop down the banzuke. Neither men are strangers to one another, and their career rivalry sits at 7-4 in Takanoiwa’s favor.

Daieisho vs. Asanoyama

Daieisho has always been something of an enigma to me. He’s very talented, as shown by his long tenure in the top division, but with the exception of his 10-5 Makuuchi debut back in 2016, Daieisho has yet to do anything to really distinguish himself. Aki doesn’t seem to be bucking this trend, and while his solid sumo is enough to earn him a regular paycheck, I feel like he’s not living up to his full potential. Hopefully, he’ll show some of that potential tomorrow when he takes on Asanoyama, who is having another good tournament and is looking for his eighth win. These two young stars of the sport have a very interesting rivalry going, and Daieisho has dominated Asanoyama 3-1.

Onosho vs. Endo

This one may truly be the battle of the disappointments. Prior to Aki, I pegged Onosho as someone who could really shake things up this Basho, and I have to admit that I was wrong. Rather than making a big splash, Onosho has barely made a ripple and enters Friday with an abysmal 3-9 record. Luckily for him, he’s taking on a fellow rikishi whose underperformed this Basho in Endo, who only has one win to his name. While it appears that Onosho is still not fully rehabilitated from his knee injury, what’s afflicting Endo is something of a mystery. Regardless of how tomorrow goes, both men have a hefty demotion waiting for them come November.

Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho

Day 13 brings us the Komusubi clash, yet only one of these rikishi has a chance of retaining their rank for Nagoya. After twelve days, Tamawashi is 3-9 and will be a Maegashira once more in November, while Takakeisho could be one step closer to getting his kachi koshi if he wins tomorrow. Expect Tamawashi to go in swinging, and for Takakeisho charge in face first.

Chiyotairyu vs. Ichinojo

Seems that extra shove from Hakuho has awoken the sleeping giant Ichinojo, who recorded his first back to back win yesterday. It may be too little too late for the boulder, who is one loss away from losing his Sekiwake rank. Chiyotairyu, while already make koshi, has a chance to play spoiler FRiday, and hand Ichinojo his losing record unless the man from Mongolia gets into a pony spanking mood. Their rivalry is tied 3-3.

Mitakeumi vs. Myogiryu

Mitakeumi, what happened? A week ago it looked like you were well on your way to that Ozeki rank. Oh, gods of sumo, you giveth and you taketh away. After losing five straight matches, Mitakeumi comes into Day 13 with a record of 6-6 and his promotion hopes going up in smoke. He desperately needs to win his last three games to keep his Ozeki hopes alive, and gets a bit of a reprieve from the rest of the San’yaku on Day 13 when he takes on Myogiryu.

Shodai vs. Tochinoshin

Tochinoshin can remove his kadoban status with a win over Shodai on Day 13. However, he shouldn’t take the man in blue too lightly. Shodai is afflicted with very unpredictable bouts of excellent sumo, and already has one Ozeki scalp this basho. If he goes super saiyan Shodai on Friday, he could give the Georgian a run for his money. Their career rivalry is tied at five wins apiece.

Abi vs. Takayasu

Following his climatic Day 12 victory over Kakuryu, Takayasu gets rubber band man himself, Abi. With Endo proving to be about as harmless as a kitten this September, Abi has been getting his fair share of play time with the top members of the San’yaku. While this hasn’t done wonders for his record, the experience he’s receiving from taking on the best of the best will no doubt help his skill set grow. Plus you never know, it wasn’t that long ago the rubber band man beat Kakuryu, he may just surprise us all again tomorrow.

Kisenosato vs. Hakuho

This is it, the long-awaited, first ever Kisenosato-Hakuho Yokozuna showdown!!! Though how I wish the circumstances surrounding it were better. For someone who missed the dramatic events that led to his Yokozuna promotion, I never really got the whole Kisenosato craze. That being said, watching his redemption story unfold has been exhilarating and he’s made a true fan out of me. While there’s still three more days of sumo to go, I believe that Aki has been a tremendous success for Kise and I’m happy to see him back. Tomorrow, he faces his toughest competition: the Dai-Yokozuna and Yusho race leader, Hakuho. The Boss comes into Day 13 with Twelve wins and looks nearly unstoppable. While the deck is definitely stacked against Kise, I expect that with his Yokozuna pride on the line, he will bring his A-game when he meets Hakuho on the dohyo. Hakuho leads their rivalry 44-16.

Kakuryu vs. Goeido

As stated above, the Musubi no Ichiban for Day 13 has tremendous yusho implications. Both Kakuryu and Goeido find themselves tied for second place in the Yusho race, but one of them will leave the Kokukigan with their championship hopes potentially dashed, while the other will be hoping Hakuho slips up enough to force a Day 15 playoff. There is so much on the line for both men in this match. Kakuryu has dominated the series with Goeido 28-16.

Aki continues to be an all-time great basho, and now that we are reaching its end the dial is getting turned up to 11. The next three days of sumo are looking to be some of the best yet, and I’m so jealous that Bruce gets to be there to see it all live. Cheer extra loud for all of us!!!

Day 10 Highlights

Takayasu Salt
Image courtesy of the Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Act two is in the record books, and the yusho race is down to three credible contenders. Entering into the final 3 days, the Ozeki and Yokozuna will face each other daily, and the level of competition will ratchet higher. It’s still possible that Aki will be won with an unbeaten 15-0 record, which would be a great mark to achieve during a year of tournaments plagued by injuries and absent rikishi.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – With no room for another loss, and his position in the top division at stake, Ishiura finds his sumo. Today’s match was some of his best, and one has to wonder where this has been for the past year.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – I swear, you can see Nishikigi get nervous as Yoshikaze pulls him to his chest, and Nishikigi realizes he is in contact with the Yoshikaze mystery rash. You know, if its all over your torso anyhow, why not use it to help win? Dekimono-kiri anyone? In better news, it does look like the rash is clearing up.

Takanosho defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi starts strong, but Takanosho rallies after he lands a nodowa. With his neck pinned back and his body too high, Sadanoumi can offer little defense as Takanosho drives forward and wins.

Kotoyuki defeats Kyokutaisei – Much to my surprise, Kotoyuki looked strong and forceful today, and did not go sailing into the zabuton. Instead he won over Kyokutaisei, who may have compounded his right knee injury.

Takanoiwa defeats Tochiozan – Takanoiwa reaches kachi-koshi on day 10, cementing his return to the top division after almost a year recovering from injury and battling his way back up the banzuke. Kimarite is listed as sotogake, for that leg trip he applied to Tochiozan at the tawara.

Kagayaki defeats Aoiyama – Kagayaki’s first ever win over the Bulgarian meat mountain. Clearly Aoiyama desperately needs some recovery time, and is now make-koshi.

Onosho defeats Daishomaru – A quick but effective hatakikomi, notable in that it’s only Onosho’s 3rd win of the tournament.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Myogiryu’s speed and intensity prevents Kotoshogiku from setting up any offensive sumo.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – After a blazing 7-0 start, Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall, and is now on a three-match losing streak. Hokutofuji invested too much time trying to get his nodowa to pay off, all the while Asanoyama was moving forward and maneuvering Hokutofuji’s body into an increasingly perilous position.

Chiyonokuni defeats Shohozan – It was a given that these two would show a lot of action, and it did not disappoint. Repeatedly charging each other, it was more a game of bumper cars at first. The match ended before there could be any bloodshed when Shohozan lost his footing and stepped outside the bales.

Takarafuji defeats Abi – Takarafuji shows us how its done. He patiently absorbs Abi’s double arm thrusts, carefully deflecting part of each thrust and circling a step to his left each time. Forced to constantly adjust his stance, Abi’s rhythm is disrupted. Takarafuji reads this with great skill, finds an opening, and drives Abi out. Great tactics from Takarafuji today.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu picks up his make-koshi. The NHK team did not necessarily concur with the gyoji’s indication that Shodai had won the match, but none of the judges asked to review the gunbai.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Both rikishi fought with a lot of power, with Tamawashi finishing the match with a burst of strength that lifted and threw Ikioi from the dohyo. That was big!

Takakeisho defeats Yutakayama – Solid Takakeisho style oshi-zumo today, Yutakayama was powerless to mount any kind of useful defense. Why did he come back from kyujo again?

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin sores a much needed win against Kaisei, keeping the chances of him clearing kadoban plausible. The two were chest to chest from the start, and both men were trying to outmuscle the other. Both were able to lift each other, but struggled to do more than stand in the center of the dohyo, keeping their opponent at bay. Kaisei tired first, and Tochinoshin lifted him enough to carry him out. Tochinoshin’s magic number is now 2.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – The two Ozeki surprisingly decided to go chest to chest and fight it out yotsu-style. This seems to have been a smart move for Takayasu, as Goeido’s mobility did not factor into the match, and Takayasu was able to contain and control his fellow Ozeki. For fans of unusual winning moves, we got to see Takayasu apply a kainahineri, or a two handed twist down. This leaves Takayasu as the sole rikishi one loss behind the Yokozuna.

Kisenosato defeats Endo – As expected, Kisenosato picks up his kachi-koshi and completes his return to active sumo competition. A series of matta marred the match, and when they finally launched on the fourth attempt, Kisenosato charged forward ahead and took Endo out quickly. With win number 8, the pressure on Kisenosato subsides a bit. He can remain an active, competing Yokozuna, and work to improve his performance at Kyushu. The sumo world breathes a sigh of welcome relief.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – Glad to see Ichinojo actually put in an effort today. He had Hakuho working to keep the giant contained, and several times Ichinojo was able to generate good forward pressure. However, Hakuho remains undefeated and tied for the lead.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Points to Mitakeumi for a strong tachiai and backing the Yokozuna to the tawara, but Kakuryu rallies and hands Mitakeumi his 4th defeat. This likely puts his Ozeki bid on hold until Kyushu unless he can find a way to overcome both Kisenosato and Takayasu. Frankly, Mitakeumi is not looking genki enough to pull that one off, as stamina is starting to play a role in everyone’s sumo.

Aki Day 9 Highlights

Kisenosato - Tochinoshin Day 9
Image courtesy of the Sumo Association Twitter Feed

The basho is rushing towards the close of act two, and the damaged are being sorted from the survivors. Nowhere was that more clear than the final match of the day which  saw Kisenosato and Tochinoshin battle for a single white star that only one of them could claim.

From now to Senshuraku on Sunday, we will see the highest ranking rikishi battle daily, while the lower ranks face increasingly unusual pairings. Many rikishi will have double digit losses this tournament – the fully-staffed upper ranks guarantee it. So don’t worry if one of your favorites is doing poorly; they will have another chance at glory in November.

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Points to Okinoumi for defeating Yoshikaze without actually touching his rash covered torso. It was painfully obvious that Okinoumi wanted no contact with Yoshikaze’s mystery rash.

Takanoiwa defeats Kyokutaisei – I always wonder why these guys come back from kyujo. They were busted up enough to seek medical treatment, and it’s clear they don’t have the mojo to compete. Kyokutaisei is make-koshi, and I am sure he is going to try and pick up enough wins to keep himself in the top division.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki put up a solid fight today, but ends the match with his obligatory crowd-surfing run, which ends with him cuddling Daieisho. Kotoyuki’s sumo is not quite together enough for Makuuchi this basho, so it will be a long shot for him to stay in the top division for Kyushu.

Daieisho defeats Ishiura – Also on the express Juryo return voyage is Ishiura, who has not been able to win in spite of putting his back into his sumo. The man has talent, and is clearly driven to excel, but something is missing (besides a kachi-koshi).

Ryuden defeats Shohozan – Ryuden masterfully shuts down Shohozan’s mobility advantage, and traps him in a painful embrace. Unable to clear the hold and unleash his barrage of blows against Ryuden, Shohozan struggles to free his arms, as Ryuden makes him dance to his tune. Every time he nearly breaks free, Ryuden locks him up once more. Actually a fantastic display of a specific, narrow strategy executed with grim determination to great effect. Ryuden scores his 8th win, and looks to be on track for double digits.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – I am fairly certain that after the basho we may learn that Onosho’s knee is going to require further work. He simply cannot generate much forward pressure right now, and Takarafuji contains him and drives him from the ring. It’s important that Onosho get this thing healed up and working, as he has a lot of great sumo coming his way over the next few years.

Kagayaki defeats Hokutofuji – A bit of a surprise as Hokutofuji’s hot streak turns cold. It’s true that Kagayaki executed well, Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai / nodowa did not last more than a moment, and Kagayaki successfully landed a right hand inside, with his left setting up the arm-bar. From there he rotated and rolled into the kotenage for the win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama foolishly goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer and gets left in the ditch. The crowd loves to see him do it, and Asanoyama should have known better.

Abi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan could not pierce Abi’s “wall of tsuppari” to produce any meaningful offense. Abi advances to 6-3.

Shodai defeats Myogiryu – Back to weak tachiai from Shodai, but he is able to execute the kotenage while traveling in reverse. Myogiryu had higher intensity, but Shodai remained calm and executed.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama finally picks up his first win, after returning from kyujo. Chiyotairyu delivered his typical thunderous tachiai, but ceded the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama who used it to dominate Chiyotairyu and control the match.

Kaisei defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi lost this one at the tachiai, as he was beaten off the shikiri-sen by slow moving Kaisei. From there he was always reacting and could not quite generate any offense. This is Tamawashi’s 8th loss and he is now make-koshi and will almost certainly be out of the Komusubi spot next basho.

Ichinojo defeats Ikioi – Ichinojo decides to execute some sumo today, and easily tosses Ikioi aside for the win. Ikioi won the tachiai and pushed Ichinojo to the tawara. But rather than surrendering today, Ichinojo rallied and won. Ikioi’s win over Mitakeumi seems even more bizarre and worrying in this context.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni had command of the early portion of this match. He set the tone and tempo, and Takayasu was forced to follow. But yet again Chiyonokuni found himself stepping a foot out of the ring and losing. Somehow his typically good ring sense is gone, and his feet are costing him dearly needed wins. The disappointment on his face following the match betrays his frustration.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Excellent work today from Goeido. He endured a flurry of blows to get inside of Takakeisho, who could only get one wave of attack in before Goeido applied pressure center-mass and advanced. I declare Goeido 2.2 to be one of the better upgrades in a while.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – This match was entertaining because it featured a number of odd elements, including a lengthy pause in the middle with Hakuho nearly upright. In fact, he glanced across Mitakeumi’s back, taking stock of Mitakeumi’s body and leg position. Feigning a leg trip, Hakuho tap’s Mitakeumi’s calf, and breaks the deadlock, to Hakuho’s waiting attack. Ladies and Gentlemen, example 32 of dai-Yokozuna sumo. Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid is close to failure now, it seems.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo’s make-koshi bout was another example of Endo going through the motions in spite of some undisclosed injury that has left him in no condition to fight as a Maegashira 3.

Kisenosato defeats Tochinoshin – What I like to call a “Darwin” match, only one was going to survive, even though fans wanted them both to win. Kisenosato is now all but assured of a kachi-koshi as he faces Endo on day 10, and Tochinoshin is now in deep trouble in an attempt to clear kadoban. The big Georgian struggled to generate forward pressure, in spite of getting a favorable grip. Kisenosato was too high for most of the match, and it was alarming that Tochinoshin’s multiple attempts to throw the Yokozuna failed. Tochinoshin needs to find 3 more wins to reach safety.

Aki Day 9 Preview

Kisenosato day 8

The blinding hot forge that is the Aki basho is burning bright now. Three rikishi are cast into the fire, and it’s not certain that any of them will emerge with the outcome they seek. Many more are lined up to take their turn in the forge, and the basho is getting serious.

First and foremost, it’s gut check time for Yokozuna Kisenosato. With an Ozeki opponent, we think he is tired, and low on stamina. He faces a mandate to reach 8 wins before the end of the basho, and is entering the toughest part of his schedule. The past 3 days have been rough for Kisenosato, and there may be worse to come.

Tochinoshin needs to find 3 wins. Its clear he is quite a bit less than his normal amazing self, but he’s got to gamberize to his utmost. While we are sure that a fully healthy Tochinoshin could bust out 10 wins as an “Ozekiwake” in Kyushu, it would be a huge gamble that he could get his body ready.

Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid hangs by a thread. Dropping the match to Ikioi left him little room for what could be considered normal losses – to Hakuho and Kakuryu. But now he needs to reach deep and win no matter what. Perhaps this will motivate him as nothing else has. We suspect he is kind of a strange rikishi, as he does not train as hard as he competes.

In the midst of these story arcs unfolding, the scheduling team has begun to match opponents from further across the banzuke than the first week had seen. Today seems to be “first time” day, with many rikishi facing each other for their first match.

Aki Leaderboard

The leaderboard underwent a dramatic shift on day 8, with only the two Yokozuna remaining in the undefeated group. The road to the yusho will get steeper, and more difficult with each day.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Goeido, Takayasu, Hokutofuji, Ryuden
Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Takanoiwa ,Yoshikaze

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – Yoshikaze needs two more wins to lock in his kachi-koshi, but his day 9 opponent has a distinct advantage (11-8) over their career. Fans continue to wonder what that ugly looking rash covering his body could indicate, but none of the options are good. Okinoumi’s superior mass and reach will be his primary tools for shutting down Yoshikaze’s speed and maneuverability based attacks.

Takanoiwa vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei returns from kyujo, and shows up just in time for a first ever match with Takanoiwa. These returns mid-basho from kyujo seldom go well, and frequently compound an otherwise addressable injury. Kyokutaisei is probably not doing himself any favors.

Ishiura vs Daieisho – Watching Ishiura now is painful. We can almost know for certain he is returning to Juryo again, and it’s just a question of how bad his final score will be. Daieisho is not doing much better, but has a career 5-2 advantage over Ishiura.

Takanosho vs Daishomaru – A first time match, and it could be a good one. Daishomaru is in dire need of wins, and will take his oshi-sumo up the middle against Takanosho. Takanosho is keeping an even pace in his first ever top division tournament, and should be considered to have an edge in this match.

Shohozan vs Ryuden – Another first-ever match, it brings Maegashira 7 Shohozan against Maegashira 13 Ryuden. Let me guess, matta matta matta followed by somewhat questionable tachiai. Sorry, I think Ryuden has a lot of potential, but he needs to clean up his sumo. There is a good chance that Big Guns Shohozan just uses him as a speed bag for 20 seconds and then pitches him to the yobidashi.

Takarafuji vs Onosho – Normally I would say that Onosho would be the clear favorite, but not only is he missing his red mawashi, most of his sumo has gone walk-about as well. So lets see if Takarafuji can finally score his first win against Onosho.

Kagayaki vs Hokutofuji – I am sure Hokutofuji feels quite disappointed in his first loss, but his match today against Kagayaki could be a bit of a “gimme”, as he has a 5-0 advantage over him. I think getting his kachi-koshi might cheer him up quite a bit, yes! Kagayaki’s sumo, which is normally very organized, seems to be pieced together with all of the left over parts best recycled on clear glass day.

Kotoshogiku vs Asanoyama – A very interesting contest, with Asanoyama’s youthful vigor bringing a foil for Kotoshogiku’s guile and experience. Asanoyama is not afraid to go chest to chest, but we all know that Kotoshogiku will have the advantage in that case.

Tochiozan vs Abi – Abi’s sumo is, by its nature, an all or nothing affair most days. But during Aki it has been working for him thus far. Tochiozan will need to figure out how to get inside Abi’s long reach. Every rikishi that has done that so far in Aki has been able to beat him.

Shodai vs Myogiryu – Shodai’s win on day 8 over Takayasu was the kind of event that could turn his performance in this basho around. On day 9 he faces a very intense and focused Myogiryu, over whom he holds a 4-1 advantage. We are starting to see that Shodai’s improved tachiai is becoming a habit, and it’s a matter of time now before it pays off in higher performance.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama’s elbow is still damaged, so let’s bring him back, let the Yokozuna throw him around, then let an enormous fellow who uses his tachiai to help compact salarymen into morning commuter trains have a go. I just want Yutakayama’s left forearm to remain attached, please.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – It’s the 8-8 record between these two that caught my attention. Kaisei is at his best when he can land a grip, and Tamawashi prefers to remain mobile, and keep his opponent trying to react to his sumo. Tamawashi has strength and speed, Kaisei has Newton, Einstein and Hawking. If Tamawashi disappears in a blue flash and suddenly Kaisei looks somewhat more compact, the singularity in the giant belly button is to blame.

Ikioi vs Ichinojo – I give up. Ikioi, what happened on day 8? Was it because you wanted to give Kisenosato a clay sandwich in the worst way? Summon that Ikioi today as well please. We know that Ichinojo will likely put forth some effort and then decide to let you win.

Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu – Takayasu looked quite disappointed after Shodai took him apart on day 8. I am sure it gave Chiyonokuni a lot of hope about his day 9 challenge to the Ozeki. Chiyonokuni only needs a small gap in Takayasu’s offense to launch a blistering attack that could find the Ozeki disappointed again.

Goeido vs Takakeisho – I want to see Goeido the Executioner again on day 9. That guy is both awe inspiriting and terrifying. But Takakeisho can give as good as he will receive from Goeido. If Takakeisho can survive two wave cycles, I am sure that Goeido will get frustrated and impatient and try to pull him down. That will be his ticket to handing the Ozeki his second loss.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – The bright fire of Hakuho’s sumo threatens to consume Mitakeumi’s bid to be Ozeki. He has beaten Hakuho twice in their 8 prior matches, and its unknown just how solid the dai-Yokozuna is right now. This will be his toughest challenger to date. The stakes are huge, the drama high, and there is just the thinnest change that Mitakeumi might pull it off.

Kakuryu vs Endo – Endo is just going through the motions right now, and it’s ugly to witness.

Kisenosato vs Tochinoshin – The Aki crucible reaches it’s day 9 hottest, as it blasts two men who both must win. Their 10-9 history is meaningless here. Both are less than 100%, with Tochinoshin likely in better condition. The one saving grace for Kisenosato is that you can count on Tochinoshin to prefer a mawashi battle, and thus it will allow Kisenosato his best chance at defense. The match of day 9, possibly THE match of act 2.