Aki Day 14 Highlights

Probably one of the most consequential days of sumo I have seen in the last 10 years. Many questions were resolved, and many disappointments were realized. Firstly, we know that the yusho will be won with a 12-3 record. One of the three (or more) remaining leaders will have that score, and they will take home the hardware. To ensure that they only have one possible playoff match, Okinoumi will face Takakeisho. The chances are better than even that we will see a playoff between the winner of that match and Mitakeumi. This configuration is clouded with controversy, which we will cover below.

We also can now sadly realize that injured Ozeki Tochinoshin will lose his rank and occupy a Sekiwake position for November. He took his 8th loss not in a blaze of glory, but with a simple and frustrating mistake.

Elsewhere on the dohyo, it was henka-madness. I know there are legions of readers who are fine or even love the henka. I think it is normally a sign of weak sumo, and in the top division this kind of tactic should be seldom seen. Not today, as many rikishi in perilous positions resorted to the henka to try and save their record or keep in the hunt.

Last but not least, the gyoji and shimpan are once again a focus, and in crucial matches to boot. I think the NSK might need to think through how they want to handle sloppy calls and sloppy officiating, the fans do notice.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Ishiura – Ishiura had a whole bucket of nothing against the lead Onami brother, and his 7-7 record leaves him prime for a Darwin match. Enjoy.

Shohozan defeats Azumaryu – Shohozan opens strong, and Azumaryu finds himself in trouble, and moving in reverse. He tries a pull at the bales, but does not get Shohozan to drop before he himself steps out.

Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho gets the inside position while Yutakayama goes for an armpit grip / attack. Onosho seems to not care, and is double-arm pushing against Yutakayama’s chest. Yutakayama is getting better thrusts, but Onosho is moves forward, absorbing the blows. Onosho kachi-koshi.

Enho defeats Tochiozan – Enho side steps to his left at the tachiai, disrupting any attack Tochiozan may have planned. Enho continues to try to drive inside and get to Tochiozan’s chest, and eventually finds his mark. Thought they fight for grip and hand placement for several seconds, Enho consolidates his position and drives Tochiozan out and to the clay. Enho kachi-koshi, and Tochiozan make-koshi. Another one for the barge to Juryo?

Takagenji defeats Terutsuyoshi – We finally get to see some strong sumo from Takagenji, and it’s against the injured and only partially functional Terutsuyoshi. Takagenji is headed back to the deeper ranks of Juryo, but I am glad he at least got to fight with vigor again today. If you want to see two rikishi battle it out with all they can muster, this is your match. Great effort by both men.

Kotoyuki defeats Tsurugisho – The fierce version of Kotoyuki was back again today, and his match today is a good study in body mechanics for oshi-zumo. Note how he focuses everything against the center of Tsurugisho’s chest, and drives forward with each blow. Tsurugisho has no time, and no means to respond. Kotoyuki kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got the better of the tachiai, and drove strongly forward. But Kotoeko deftly side-stepped at the tawara and send Kagayaki face first towards chikara-mizu bucket. Kotoeko improves to 7-7, another Darwin match candidate.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – They stalemate at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi shifts and turns to get behind Shimanoumi and drive him out from behind. Experience and agility secure Sadanoumi his 8th win and a move up the banzuke for November.

Daishoho defeats Chiyotairyu – Annnnd. HENKA! You can see Chiyotairyu’s frustration at the end of this match, and you have to feel for the guy. He manages his big tachiai, but Daishoho is faster and inside before Chiyotairyu can impact, he moves to charge again and Daishoho steps to the side. Chiyotairyu now an alarming 2-12.

Shodai defeats Nishikigi – So, where has this version of Shodai been? That looked like real sumo, and even though Nishikigi beat him by a league at the tachiai, he kept his cool, wrapped up Nishikigi and kept moving forward. Nishikigi is now make-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Excellent tachiai from Meisei, getting him an inside position and the start of a left hand inside grip. But Daieisho rallied and launched a pushing attack that Meisei could not endure. A last minute attempt to side-step at the tawara failed, and the one time yusho leader took his 5th defeat.

Asanoyama defeats Tomokaze – Take a look at the tachiai in this match, it’s a great example of where Asanoyama is headed over the next few years, if he can stay healthy. You can see him a half-step faster than Tomokaze, who is caught hazardously far forward, with poor body position. What does Tomokaze do? Why try to pull Asanoyama down, of course. How’s that working out for you? Oh? Not at all? Well, good job, now you have Asanoyama at your chest, and your weight is still too far forward. As Asanoyama loads up the throw, Tomokaze amazingly thinks he can try another pull. The shift in weight unceremoniously drops him onto his back in front of the time keeper, earning him his first ever make-koshi. I think Tomokaze has a great future, but he needs to fight in a forward gear as his standard mechanic. Asanoyama is headed higher next year, his sumo mechanics are very good, and he keeps getting stronger.

Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Hokutofuji beats Tamawashi off the line, and gets his nodowa, raising Tamawashi up. Hokutofuji knows what’s coming and widens his stance as Tamawashi attacks in force. But that odd Hokutofuji upper / lower body action comes into play again, he starts moving forward almost independently of the force his upper body is enduring. But Hokutofuji finds his opening and attacks center-mass, and its more than Tamawashi can withstand. Great effort by Hokutofuji to get his 8th win and a come-from-behind kachi-koshi, winning 7 in a row, along with his kinboshi on day 1.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – Annnnd. HENKA!

Abi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji wants to set up some kind of sumo, but once Abi-zumo starts, most people’s plans go out the window and all you want to do is get the guy to knock it off. Sorry! It only stops when you hit the clay or go visit the fans in the front row. Abi improves to 9-5, and I must say he is surprising me by enduring in San’yaku.

Okinoumi defeats Endo – The rikishi executed a masterful bout, but the shimpan and the gyoji blew this one to hell. If Okinoumi should prevail and take the cup, what would be a marvelous cinderella story will be forever marred by this nonsense. Okinoumi got the better of the tachiai, and started driving Endo to the SouthWest corner, and Kimura is in the way, ok – this crap happens. The two lock up on the mawashi and are really fighting it out, again Kimura gets in the way in the SouthWest corner. Endo steps on the bales, and his fighting back with everything he has as Okinoumi goes for the yorikiri. The shimpan’s hand goes up, the gyoji points the gumbo to the east, but the contestants are fighting on. They both move for a throw, but what the hell is happening? Alright, Endo fell last, but according to the referee and the judges, the match was over long before. Replays showed Endo’s heel never getting close to the janome, and there was no mark. WHAT THE HELL. So, sure – call a monoii, review the tape and figure out what is what. Well, not going to work well because the gyoji sorta interfered with the rikishi after the shimpan’s hand went up. This one is screwed up beyond repair, so it looks like they just do the “yeah, we meant to do that” routine and move on. Even Okinoumi does not think he won. Horrific own-goal for the NSK.

Takakeisho defeats Ryuden – Any thoughts that the Grand Tadpole would throttle back were completely wrong, as we see Takakeisho deliver a blast wave out of the tachiai, the first time I think he has done that this basho. Ryuden is generating considerable forward pressure, and has his usual excellent foot placement, but is pushed back by the force of it. He never has a chance to recover or even try to mount any offense as Takakeisho picks up win 11, and punches his ticket to the yusho party. Ryuden is make-koshi, picking up his 8th loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Annnnd. HENKA!

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – A heartbreaking match, as Tochinoshin secures his make-koshi and demotion to Ozekiwake for November. Sadly it did not come as a result of a flat-out, sacrifice everything battle, but rather an inadvertent step out by the Ozeki. The two were fighting strongly, with Myogiryu taking the initiative while Tochinoshin struggled to set up his grip. But as Tochinoshin consolidated his hold and shifted to attack, his foot slipped on the tawara and struck the janome, the match was over, and the gyoji stopped the fight. Sorry to see it end this way. Tochinoshin’s injuries are not something that can be addressed in the next few weeks before Kyushu, and I am not optimistic about his options at this point.

Aki Day 14 Preview

Normally by this point in a basho, the yusho is decided, or down to two rikishi. Today, we get an army of sweaty, large fellows who each want to take their shot. And it’s a wide roster of fresh faces and old favorites than we are used to, and to be honest, any one of them could end up with the goods. With the three top men in sumo all sitting it out, we were bound to get a result that was out of the ordinary. But none of Team Tachiai saw this coming, but now we finally come to the closing brawl to end it all, as you can tell I am delighted.

Aki Leaderboard

This isn’t a leaderboard, it’s a roll call! Target yusho winning record will either be 11-4 or 12-3, depending on who loses which matches this weekend. Hoo boy!

Leaders: Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Okinoumi, Tsurugisho
Chasers: Goeido, Asanoyama, Takarafuji, Meisei, Yutakayama

2 Matches Remain

Please consult the excellent write up on the madness from Tachiai’s own lksumo, who is second to none at these things, which is just down the page.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Wakatakakage – Winner kachi-koshi. I think Ishiura deserves a henka today.

Shohozan vs Azumaryu – First time match up between these two, with Azumaryu still needing 2 more wins to lock in kachi-koshi. It looks like yet again there is some manner of log-jam for Juryo demotion, and we will get far more denotable rikishi than there will be promotable rikishi out of Juryo.

Onosho vs Yutakayama – A win today for Onosho and he’s made his 8, but we saw the “wall of hands” from Yutakayama on day 13, and that might just be a formula now for him. Luckily Onosho does not hesitate to take a few blows to his face.

Tochiozan vs Enho – As with the last basho, Enho has stalled in the second week a bit, and needs just one more win to get his kachi-koshi. Should that happen, he would also give Tochiozan his make-koshi, and add his venerable name to the log-jam that is eligible for Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi vs Takagenji – How is it these two are 3-10? That’s just so miserable. I don’t really care which one wins right now, as both of them will need to regroup for November. I suggest they forget this match and visit the Ueno Zoo instead.

Tsurugisho vs Kotoyuki – Tsurugisho holds a 2-0 career advantage over Kotoyuki, but I might look for the “Fierce” Kotoyuki to make a dent in that small lead on day 14.

Kagayaki vs Kotoeko – With Kagayaki already make-koshi, will Kotoeko get the win and head into day 15 ready for a Darwin match? You know they are coming, the schedulers love that stuff. I would encourage Kagayaki to tune up his tachiai a bit more. He’s got the pieces in his box of toys, but he’s not quite assembling in the best possible way. He strikes me as being somewhat in the mold of Kisenosato, so maybe he should seek out the Oyakata’s guidance.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi has won 3 of his last 4 matches, and looks really dialed into his sumo right now. Given that Shimanoumi is struggling, and likely hurt, I would say we may see the Sakaigawa man get his 8th today.

Chiyotairyu vs Daishoho – Guys! Yeah, you – scheduling committee! These are some miserable blinking matches. Truth be told, some well loved sumotori are in shambles this tournament, and Chiyotairyu is probably one of the ones that comes to mind.

Nishikigi vs Shodai – But if not, I am sure Shodai comes to mind instead. Shodai is capable and competent, but he has been the washroom attendant’s soiled cleaning rag this September. But his 4-2 career record over Nishikigi should give some hope that maybe he can pull a few more wins together.

Daieisho vs Meisei – I would guess they want to “weed out” Meisei from contention by putting him up against Daieisho, from whom he has never taken a match. But Daieisho is one loss from make-koshi, and Meisei has been defying expectations since shonichi.

Tomokaze vs Asanoyama – Oh, here’s some red meat! We get yusho-capable Asanoyama going up against “never had a make-koshi” pull-man Tomokaze. Sorry, Tomokaze, but your next loss is a new experience. Take heart in knowing that it’s part of being in the big leagues, and you are in the thick of it.

Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – You could just say “pusher-thruster match” here, but that would miss the glory of this bout. Both men bring a unique take to maneuver – attack sumo, and this is a fantastic clash of styles. 5-3 advantage for Tamawashi, but Hokutofuji is on a mission to pick up win number 8. The winner is kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Aoiyama – As bad as Kotoshogiku’s knees are, I think he’s going to end up winning this match. Something is really wrong with Aoiyama, and I think that he will succumb to the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Abi vs Takarafuji – Well, Takarafuji is coming in with his smooth, under-control sumo, and Abi-zumo is this wild, chaotic maelstrom of flying arms and legs. They are tied 3-3 over their career, so this could be a wild match. Takarafuji, at 9-4, is performing well above his recent average.

Okinoumi vs Endo – At long last, they stop bottom-feeding Okinoumi, putting him up against Endo when right now Endo is quite genki. I like this Endo, because if anyone knows what kimarite Ozeki Sakaigawa Namiemon used on day 4 of Haru in 1872, it’s Endo, and he can and will replicate it. Of course Okinoumi is the ultimate everyman / Cinderella story, and I still think we may see him on the “brawl to end it all” after the final match on Sunday.

Ryuden vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho has yet to lose to Ryuden, but I can’t help but wonder if Takakeisho is going to bide his time. I am not saying throw the match, but he just came off injury, he has reached 10 wins to take back Ozeki, does he need another yusho right now? Maybe not….

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – These last two matches are complete barn-burners, dripping with meaning at the surface and in deeper thought. Goeido and Mitakeumi have been more that competitors, they have spoiled each other’s basho for a few years now. They will compete with that legacy of “I owe you one” on day 14, and it literally may decide who is in the playoff on day 15.

Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – You could look at the 12-9 career record and assume they wanted to give wounded Ozeki Tochinoshin a chance to stake his final claim on day 15 against Goeido. But nothing is easy for Tochinoshin right now. He’s too hurt, too banged up, but he’s going to get up there on Saturday and he’s going to put it all on the line. It’s going to hurt, and its going to be more than anyone should ever go through, but he’s going to fight Myogiryu with all the strength he can muster. Good luck big man.

Aki Day 13 Highlights

The much hoped for grand brawl has formed, and the final two days of the basho are going to be fantastic. We know for sure that the yusho winner will have no more than a 12-3 record, and that puts 4 rikishi in contention with another 5 possible should all of the leaders take at least 1 loss over the next 2 matches. The yusho will not be decided until senshuraku, and it will quite possibly involve at least 2 rikishi in a playoff for the cup. In the last big story of Aki left open, Tochinoshin’s kachi-koshi hope stayed alive today with his defeat of Ryuden. If he can beat Myogiryu on day 14, his fate is decided in the final match of the basho. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan is most pleased. This one is coming down to the wire, and Team Tachiai is giddy with excitement.

It reflect on the fact that you have Tsurugisho, in his first Makuuchi tournament, a valid yusho contender going into the final weekend. You have Okinoumi, a long serving veteran who has been a stable mid-Maegshira for forever, with occasional flashes of awesome along the years. He’s likely toward the end of his career now, but he’s in the mix for the cup. The two leading tadpoles (and Sekiwake), Mitakeumi and Takakeisho, are the men to beat. Both have a yusho to their name already, and both are capable of performing under the pressure of the final weekend.

It’s a great time to be a sumo fan!

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Azumaryu – One sided match that was all Takanosho with zero offense from Azumaryu. Good chance we may see Takanosho back in the top division for November.

Yutakayama defeats Enho – Yutakayama worked hard to generate a high-intensity battery of tsuppari that Enho could not penetrate. Enho employed multiple attack plans, but was completely shut down by Yutakayama’s wall of flying hands. I know some readers may have wondered why I have been a Yutakayama backer in the past few basho. I think that he is Asanoyama’s future foil, and a rival for Abi.

Onosho defeats Nishikigi – It took him the whole first week, but Onosho seems to be back in his groove, with 4 consecutive wins. Nishikigi opened strongly, getting Onosho backed to the tawara, but Onosho seems to like this kind of start to a match, and once again rallied strongly and drove Nishikigi out. With that red mawashi finally kicking in, a kachi-koshi is still very much possible for Onosho.

Shohozan defeats Meisei – Shohozan now kachi-koshi while kicking Meisei out of the leader group for a second consecutive day. For yet another day we had matta-madness, and frankly I think it’s quite overdone now. By the time the match finally was allowed to continue, both rikishi were hesitant at the first step. This kind of gyoji action has the potential to really ruin sumo. The match itself was the kind of brawl we would normally expect from Shohozan, and it was great to see him finally execute “his brand of sumo”.

Sadanoumi defeats Takagenji – Not sure how, but I feel sorry for Takagenji right now. Not that Sadanoumi did anything to cause this, other than give him a hearty denshamichi today. Just that his sumo is nowhere to be found right now, and I am going to guess it’s mostly his off-dohyo troubles. That’s ok, little Genji, we will save a spot for you to come back later.

Kotoyuki defeats Tochiozan – Kotoyuki has now won 4 of the last 5, and seems to be locked into his “fierce” mode. Tochiozan getting perilously close to being the subject of a day 15 Darwin match, which would make long term sumo fans uncomfortable. Just within the past year, there was talk about a resurgent Tochiozan possibly becoming a late-career San’yaku regular.

Ishiura defeats Terutsuyoshi – Well, I guess it was henka o’clock in Tokyo today. Weak ass sumo from Ishiura, taking a win from now 3-10 Terutsuyoshi. Nobody likes a heel, sir.

Tsurugisho defeats Takarafuji – With his win over Takarafuji, Tsurugisho is now at 10 wins in his first top division basho. Not unusual for shin-maku rikishi, but this time out, it’s enough to get him a lead spot in the yusho race. Takarafuji gave him a great fight, but as Tsurugisho is pushed back to the tawara, he suddenly “hulks out” and you see him flex and lift Takarafuji into a match winning sukuinage. Where has that been this basho?

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – I love the move Okinoumi applied in this match. Kagayaki is too well positioned and too stable once he gets his feet set to push around much, or to slap down. So Okinoumi reaches inside with Kagayaki’s arms latched around his shoulder, and pulls him down, essentially imploding his stance. Although the kimaraite is listed hatakikomi, it’s the implosion pull that won the match. Really neat move. Okinoumi remains tied for the lead

Kotoeko defeats Daishoho – Kotoeko won this through sheer grim determination and gutting it out. Both men fought with fury at the tachiai, until the settled down to an endurance test in the middle of the dohyo, each holding a right hand inside grip. When Daishoho’s stamina started running low, Kotoeko was able to break his grip, which set up the yorikiri. Kotoeko saves himself from make-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is an absolute mess right now, and really is not putting up much offense or defense. He picks up his 11th loss while Daieisho dodges the make-koshi mud-ball once more.

Asanoyama defeats Tamawashi – Asanoyama showing some remarkable versatility today, he adapted well to Tamawashi’s oshi-zumo form and found a moment when the former Sekiwake was off balance and attacked. I will state that Asanoyama seems to have an impressive level of strength supporting his sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Shodai – Now I am really feeling sorry for Shodai, and that’s an odd state for me. Aoiyama attempt a push-pull, and it nearly blows up on him, but Shodai never squares his hips, and is pushed to the side for the loss.

Hokutofuji defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze opens strong, and stalemates Hokutofuji with great effect. But his bad habit of pulling asserts itself, and he finds himself under renewed attack. Well, it worked so well the first time, why not try it again? Well Tomokaze is getting an ugly lesson in top echelon rikishi, as his second pull against Hokutofuji is his last. Give it up Tomokaze, bring your real sumo against these guys and you will do just fine. This cheap stuff is not for the big fights.

Endo defeats Kotoshogiku – I gained still more appreciation for Endo’s skill as a technician because of this match. Granted Kotoshogiku’s forward pressure is a fraction of what it should be if his body were not so damaged. But Endo absorbs his attacks, and patiently sets up his win. With a kachi-koshi at Komusubi, we see Endo stick in the san’yaku for the first time ever. It’s been a long time coming, but maybe it’s finally his time. Oh, there was also the terribly painful interview following his kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Shimanoumi – As with any Abi match, its a wild storm of thrusting and pushing, but today it featured a twisting pull at the end. Abi completes the Komusubi kachi-koshi sweep, making the November san’yaku ranks the most hotly contested in sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu tries an hatakikomi as Mitakeumi is rushing forward to win, but Myogiryu touches out before Mitakeumi could land. A monoii results, but the gumbai is upheld and Mitakeumi retains his slot as co-leader for the cup. Mitakeumi tends to fade out in week 2, but he’s won 4 of the last 5, and with his 10th win, he is probably getting in position for another bid to become Ozeki shortly.

Tochinoshin defeats Ryuden – You know this hurt, you can see it especially in that step Tochinoshin takes just after he forces Ryuden out. Ryuden’s sumo was great this match, but Tochinoshin seems to have access to at least some of his amazing strength. Once the Ozeki got his left hand outside grip, you knew he was going to lift, even if that was the end of his knee and by extension his sumo career, he was going to do it. Bold move, and it worked. 2 more to go.Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Classic Goeido sumo. Takakeisho had no time to react or even adjust his stance. This is unusual for Takakeisho, who usually has the faster first move. The biggest issue for Takakeisho is Goeido got the drop on him at the tachiai, and by the time the Goeido locomotive crashes into him, he is still low in his crouch. I would guess that Takakeisho correctly worried Goeido might deploy a henka, and slow-rolled his tachiai. Instead he got a face full of Goeido, and a fast trip to the clay. I love this form of Goeido, and I wish he could do it every match. So fast, so overwhelming.

Aki Day 13 Preview

Aki Post Banner

This has been a weird basho. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. When watching Day 12 inside the arena, I found myself alternating between shaking my head and cheering enthusiastically. The tournament has swung wildly between some of the most exciting sumo we have seen in ages, and slippy/slappy/pulldown action.

Less than sixty top division bouts remain, and we will see a victor crowned. What sort of victor will it be? Well, three names were culled from the race on Day 12, and the yusho arasoi should get thinner than a 40 year old’s oicho-mage after another day of action.

Day 13 is also a pivotal day as it will crown several lower division yusho winners.

Aki Leaderboard

Leader: Takakeisho
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Okinoumi, Takarafuji, Meisei, Tsurugisho
Don’t Stop Believin’: Goeido, Asanoyama, Yutakayama

Three Yusho Decided Day 13

Let’s start off with a quick sweep of the nether regions, where the wheat will be separated from the… slightly less sellable wheat. Wheat that’s perfectly good for the mill but not the sort of stuff you’d see in a high-end depachika.

Jonokuchi: The very first bout of the day decides the yusho, with former blue chip prospect and Ms1 Murata looking to seal the deal against less-heralded fellow injury returnee Omura.

Jonidan/Sandanme: Both of these divisions has 3 undefeated rikishi, so it’s splitsville with one of the divisions being won outright on the day and the other heading for a playoff over the weekend:

  • In Jonidan, bottom ranked 6-0’ers Aomihama and Sadanohana do battle, while…
  • In Sandanme, top ranked 6-0’ers Tsushida and Sadanohikari lock horns. Both sets of winners will hope that…
  • Sandanme’s Fujinowaka and Jonidan’s Motobayashi lose their match against the other.

Motobayashi is of course no stranger to strange yusho permutations having beaten two of his Naruto-beya stablemates to the Jonokuchi yusho last time out. Tsushida is the only other prior yusho winner – also in Jonokuchi.

Makushita: The highlight bout of the title matches on the day is unquestionably an intriguing battle of two former Makuuchi favourites. Immediate injury returnee Chiyonokuni takes on the most prominent rikishi in the unsalaried tiers: former Ozeki Terunofuji, who continues his long old slog up from Jonidan. They’ve met twice, each winning once. Neither will be promoted to Juryo with a win, but the winner will be much better placed for promotion in November.

In Juryo, the highlight of the day sees leader Ikioi against his nearest chaser Kotonowaka in a match which won’t decide the title, but may go some way to clearing it up.

What (Else) We Are Watching Day 13

Takanosho vs Azumaryu – Back to the top division then, and Takanosho gets called up again in a sneak preview of Fukuoka action, having clinched his kachikoshi from Juryo 2. Azumaryu has a 3-2 edge over his rival and has cooled off a bit in the preceding days.

Yutakayama vs Enho – After being pulled up to the dizzy heights of second half action, burgeoning superstar Enho finds himself near the bottom of the day’s fight card against an opponent who is just barely on the fringes of the title race. Somehow, this is their first ever meeting. It has been said ad nauseum on the commentary this tournament that Enho fights better against much larger opponents, and I tend to agree his chances will be improved here against an opponent who may not be able to cope with his dynamism and movement. While I correctly predicted he might struggle to finish off Takarafuji, I think this match gives him a bit better potential to score his kachikoshi and end the giant Yutakayama’s spirited title challenge.

Onosho vs Nishikigi – I’m glad this is happening now because it has all the hallmarks of one of those horrible Day 15 Darwin matchups. These guys are indeed both .500, but have a couple days to work out their winning record regardless of what happens. It’s a clash of styles, with Onosho’s dynamic pushing attack against Nishikigi’s preference to lock up his opponent’s arms. Onosho’s in good nick right now so I think he’ll win the day – provided he can stay on his feet.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Shohozan’s unlikely dalliance with title contention ended on Day 12, and Meisei’s took a real hit. Both will want to turn things around for different reasons: Shohozan can seal kachikoshi and Meisei still finds himself just one win off the pace and in with a real shout of a special prize. Their meetings have been split one apiece, but I think Meisei is just about in the better shape here, especially if it’s a mawashi battle. Shohozan has still got it but appears to have lost a step, compensating with increased work on the belt. That plays into Meisei’s hands though, so I’m tipping the energetic youngster.

Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Takagenji is clearly impacted by off-field activity and will hope to be back soon. Sadanoumi has to be unforgiving and punishing, as this is as good an opportunity as any to score one of the two remaining wins he needs this tournament. Sadanoumi leads the rivalry 2-0, and I’m backing him to make it 3.

Tochiozan vs Kotoyuki – Speaking of losing a step, Tochiozan has looked a bit blasé in this tournament, which isn’t a very good recipe for a match against the pushing attack of Kotoyuki. What he does still have however is ring sense, something that is very much his opponent’s achilles heel. Kotoyuki has lost at least two matches in this tournament from winning positions, and can’t afford to do that again here. I think Kotoyuki will win the tachiai with his trademark thrusting attack, but whether he’s able to actually put the veteran away is another matter.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi must have summoned the henka genie with his olé move on Day 12, as the genie has arrived to battle him on Day 13! Ishiura has faded badly in terms of results since his hot start and at 6-6 needs to find the wins needed for this tournament to be a success. For makekoshi Terutsuyoshi, it’s all about damage limitation to make sure a bad situation doesn’t get worse. Ishiura tends to henka in desperate situations… surely he won’t here, right? These guys will see plenty of each other in keiko sessions given the close relationship of their heya, so I think we’ll see some straightforward little man sumo, and it could be a bit feisty.

Tsurugisho vs Takarafuji – These guys both improbably find themselves one off the pace heading into the final weekend. What a story! Tsurugisho has exceeded all expectations in his top flight debut. Takarafuji, meanwhile, did very well to stick to his incredibly disciplined style of sumo to take Enho out of the equation on Day 12. This is a first time matchup. Tsurugisho would do well to start with a pushing attack because he doesn’t want a mawashi battle against a more experienced yotsu practitioner who will have designs on simply wearing down the opponent until he can sniff out and exploit a weakness. While a win for the rookie would add to the chaos that has been this Aki basho, I’m going to tip Takarafuji to stay right in the yusho race with a win here.

Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – Okinoumi upended his cold spell and the yusho race by knocking Meisei off the top of the leaderboard in some style on Day 12, and keeping himself in unlikely contention. Kagayaki is 5-7 and will be desperate to avoid makekoshi, but Okinoumi really shouldn’t lose this. While Kagayaki is very good when it comes to his ring sense and overall control, I don’t think he’s better than a healthy, in-form Okinoumi at oshi or yotsu-zumo, including the execution of throws. I’m going to tip the veteran to grab his 10th win.

Daishoho vs Kotoeko – Daishoho is makekoshi and faces a 5-7 rikishi hoping not to suffer the same fate. As evidenced by his win over Tochiozan on Day 12, Daishoho does seem like a rikishi who performs better when the pressure is off. This will be a belt match, with both rikishi preferring the mawashi. The previous 12 meetings have been split evenly. This is kind of a boring one so the boring analysis is: the winner will get a better grip from the tachiai and win by trying to move forward. Prove me wrong, guys. Woof.

Daieisho vs Chiyotairyu – I know I have been singing Daieisho’s praises to the heavens in this tournament, but this guy has just had a really good basho for a 5-7 rikishi. He is establishing his style of sumo all the time, and he backed that up by how he dealt with Asanoyama. Chiyotairyu on the other hand has been neither been able to establish his style of sumo from the tachiai nor recover in order to get his pushing and thrusting attack going. If he were a little more genki this might be the closest we’d get to a good old fashioned street fight in this tournament, but Daieisho might see the light at the end of the tunnel here and keep the chains moving in his quest for an unlikely winning record.

Tamawashi vs Asanoyama – Tamawashi has ended the title challenges of Abi and Endo in consecutive days and the arm-breaking cavity merchant will look to make it a hat trick by finishing off Asanoyama’s slim hopes at a second yusho. As with yesterday, Asanoyama does not handle Tamawashi’s style of sumo particularly well as evidenced by the goose egg he’s sporting from three prior meetings. That all being said, I’m going to break with the prediction I made yesterday and tip him to upset the form guide in this one, as Tamawashi can be a little vulnerable to being escorted out by an opponent who’s able to land a quick belt grip. And that might just keep things interesting into the weekend.

Shodai vs Aoiyama – As Bruce related, Shodai is better than his 2-10 record. With both of these guys in such poor form (five wins between them from 24 matches in this tournament), it’s the kind of match you mark down as “toilet break” or “refill the drink.” Make it fast though, because this should be over quickly. If Aoiyama gets the V-Twin firing and can move Shodai back from the tachiai, he should win this. And if he doesn’t, Shodai will grab the mawashi and get his third win.

Hokutofuji vs Tomokaze – Rescuing us from that dreariness is another first time matchup, and a thoroughly intriguing one at that. Tomokaze is 6-6 and needs to find two wins from three to keep his amazing kachikoshi streak alive, after he started pulling again for some reason yesterday. Hokutofuji is in his now typical strong finish, fighting back with five straight wins and some fantastic oshi-zumo this week. Here’s a stat for you: Hokutofuji is 16-5 over the final weekend (Friday-Sunday) of his past seven tournaments. That’s some indication of his perseverance. He will open up with his typical pushing-thrusting attack here, and Tomokaze in current form is probably going to look for a pull. That isn’t quite as awful as it sounds in this case, as Hokutofuji can be very prone to the hatakikomi/slippiotoshi. Hokutofuji is the favourite, but only just.

Kotoshogiku vs Endo – Kotoshogiku is on the brink, but managed to keep himself afloat with his comfortable win over Tomokaze on Day 12. Endo started strong but has fizzled in the second week. These matches have been split pretty evenly since Kotoshogiku’s Ozeki demotion and I think this hangs on Endo’s focus as much as anything. After all, we know what Kotoshogiku is going to give in every match.

Abi vs Shimanoumi – These guys lock horns for the second time, Abi having won the first earlier this year. Shimanoumi has a decent oshi-attack, but I don’t think it’s on the level of Abi’s tsuppari. Shimanoumi is already make-koshi and while he will be still looking to finish strong, Abi has a chance to lock in his san’yaku position for another tournament and I expect him not to have to wait until Day 15 to do it this time.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu came back from injury strong on Day 11, but then just flat out collapsed against Takakeisho on Day 12. Mitakeumi, meanwhile, rebounded from his own collapse with a thunderous win in a very tense, high stakes, matta-strewn affair against Tochinoshin. These two are actually fairly similar in terms of their ability, Mitakeumi simply operating on a higher level, perhaps apart from when it comes to throws. But I don’t think this match is going to get that far. Mitakeumi is the person that needs to keep the title race relevant into the final days, and he needs to establish a strong oshi attack. I don’t think Myogiryu defends particularly well against high level opposition so if Mitakeumi takes the initiative, he should win.

Tochinoshin vs Ryuden – Ryuden has been all over the shop lately, and we got to see a lot of him against Goeido in a match that was run multiple times due to various matta. For Tochinoshin’s part, he simply needs to win every match to avoid demotion. Their head to head record is 1-1, Ryuden winning most recently in Nagoya. Ryuden is in some ways a good opponent for the Georgian, in that he will allow Tochinoshin to get the belt. But he is also in some ways the absolute worst opponent, because very few rikishi manage to defend at the edge after giving up a belt grip like Ryuden. That effort, and his ability to turn losses into wins at the tawara, has won many fans. There’s nothing worse than seeing your heroes die a slow death and I think Tochinoshin will probably draw the pain out further by just about winning this.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – This is an enormous match to end the day, and for both men. The subtext is perhaps the most interesting. Goeido is safe from demotion, but this is a yusho he should have contended for, and a loss here will officially knock him out of the running. A Takakeisho win may be a symbolic changing of the guard and a big moment in the transition to the new generation of stars. Goeido leads the rivalry 7-3, and has beaten Takakeisho fairly consistently over time. As an all-rounder with a blistering attack, he is one of few rikishi with the tools to overwhelm the perplexing youngster. Goeido is certainly prone to the type of slap down technique that Takakeisho has mastered, but I think the youngster may find it harder to win just with oshi-zumo than against other opponents. I’m going to go out on a limb and tip the veteran Ozeki for the win here.