Aki Day 10 Highlights

Asanoyama picked up his second fusensho (default win) today, as Kiribayama went kyujo. He did not look hurt following his day 9 match against Takakeisho, but we hope he recovers and can return strong and ready to fight. Elsewhere, I added to my regrettable predictions list, as Terunofuji lost his match against Takanosho, taking him out of the co-leader group for the yusho. This leaves five rikishi tied at 8-2, but only one—Takakeisho—with prior yusho experience. While it would be delightful to see 2, 4 or all 5 make it to senshuraku tied for the lead, the hype around the yusho race will become a distraction during the next 5 days. It can cause a rikishi to lose focus, and their sumo can suffer. I am eager to see how act 3 unfolds! [We’ll be down to at most 4 co-leaders tomorrow, as Onosho and Tobizaru have been matched up by the schedulers. -lksumo]

Highlight Matches

Wakamotoharu defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo started strong, but could not finish Wakamotoharu. A well executed grip change from Wakamotoharu with his heels on the tawara was the key that reversed the course of the match, and gave him a solid yorikiri against the much larger Ichinojo. Both finish the day 5-5.

Hoshoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – If that was a henka, it was so smart and crisp it actually was a thrill to watch. Hoshoryu moved right at the tachiai, and circled behind Chiyotairyu as sumo’s thunder god moved forward. Hoshoryu stayed to his rear and pushed Chiyotairyu out. Just when I think that Hoshoryu has run out of gas, he comes up with something that shows the seeds of greatness.

Ishiura defeats Kotoshogiku – Ishiura uses straight-ahead sumo, with sharp execution, and picks up a much needed win. Kotoshogiku attempt to set his hands for a pull-down opened a route for Ishiura to get the grip he used for the throw (shitatenage); points to Ishiura for reading the move and exploiting it. That’s loss number eight for Kotoshogiku.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi extends his career record to 5-0 over Shimanoumi. Sadanoumi opened the door for Shimanoumi with a tepid head pull, but was able to hold position and keep Shimanoumi from taking the initiative. Sadanoumi advances to 5-5.

Shohozan defeats Enho – Enho gets his hands inside and against Shohozan’s chest at the tachiai. Shohozan countered with an arm bar grip. With Enho trapped, he rotated and launched Enho across the bales. Sadly that’s loss number 8 for fan-favorite Enho, who has struggled all tournament.

Tokushoryu defeats Kaisei – When a pair of super-heavies face off like this, the action can be slow, but the amount of mass in motion is truly impressive. Kaisei fought for hand position as the two went chest to chest at the tachiai, and finding his left hand inside, he tried a throw. Tokushoryu is naturally very low, and Kaisei could not complete the move. Instead Tokushoryu consolidated his grip and forced Kaisei over the bales.

Wakatakakage defeats Kotoshoho – Wakatakakage keeps his share of the lead with the win, and reaches kachi-koshi. Kotoshoho tried a slap-down early, and that probably cost him the match. Wakatakakage was patient, strong and focused. A well timed grip shift collapsed Kotoshoho and won the match.

Tobizaru defeats Ryuden – Tobizaru picks up win #8 in this endurance contest with Ryuden. Tobizaru stayed low the entire match, and that’s some impressive strength to fight bent over and in battle for that long. Even when Tobizaru reached deep and grabbed Ryuden’s mawashi at the knot, Ryuden stayed strong, stable and fought back. Really strong sumo from both today.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Big Dan fired up the V-Twin early and applied a maximum beating to Meisei’s face straight out of the tachiai. Meisei’s only defense was to drive and dive inside, grabbing a generous handful of Aoiyama’s pasty-white flesh. Compliments to Meisei—he shut down the tsuppari attack, and had Aoiyama on defense. But it cost him most of his endurance, and Big Dan waited him out, keeping his balance centered as best he could. Sensing Meisei was trying to catch his breath and rally, Aoiyama lifted and tossed Meisei for win #6.

Onosho defeats Takayasu – Color me surprised—Onosho beat Takayasu, and looked quite solid doing it. Takayasu tried to open up with a forearm to Onosho’s face, which I am sure was painful, but it opened up his chest for Onosho’s opening attack. A shove back against the former Ozeki was answered by a lunge forward, and Onosho used this over-reaction to apply the hatakikomi. That’s an 8th win for Onosho, and he maintains his share of the lead.

Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – A simple match, it was Kagayaki getting his hands inside at the tachiai, and just applying maximum force to Kotoeko’s chest. I think there were two big pushes and three steps total in that win.

Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Myogiryu took advantage of Hokutofuji’s habit of trying to finish a match with a “drive and dive” move. He employs it frequently, and if he can center you and catch you as he lunges, it’s tough to survive. But Myogiryu was waiting for it, and deflected Hokutofuji’s leap, sending him to the dohyo.

Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – Takanosho once again proves to be Terunofuji’s nemesis, improving his career score to 3-0 over the former Ozeki. The loss knocks Terunofuji out of the leader group for the yusho, and I think it’s an important test for him. In the past, Terunofuji’s biggest problem was his own mind, and he would tend to go into a losing streak after losing a critical match.

Takarafuji defeats Okinoumi – It’s always great to watch two high-skill veterans go head to head, and these two did not disappoint. Okinoumi took control of the match early, though Takarafuji had his arms tangled up nicely. Okinoumi moved to free his hands, and that small change in balance and force was enough for Takarafuji to amplify and swing Okinoumi past him and to the clay. Great move, expertly executed.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – This match was all Tamawashi, with Endo finding himself trapped and gripped from behind just a few seconds into the match. Tamawashi improves to 5-5, and is a strong candidate for a day 15 Darwin match.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Mitakeumi chooses to go chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and makes it work. I have to assume that Tochinoshin’s knee is causing him a lot of pain, because after maintaining force against Mitakeumi for just a few second, he releases pressure and tries to pull Mitakeumi down. Of course that set up the loss just seconds later.

Shodai defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi launched early, and Shodai resorted to a “stand up” tachiai. This resulted in Terutsuyoshi being somewhat off balance when he finally reached Shodai (and that may have been part of Shodai’s intent). Leaving his bag of tricks at the heya this morning, Terutsuyoshi went for straight-ahead sumo, but what was Shodai doing? Wait, was that a waltz? After struggling to sort out who would lead that dance, Shodai lost patience and used a double hand plant on Terutsuyoshi’s face to throw him into the lap of a nearby shimpan. Shodai gets his kachi-koshi, and maintains his position as co-co-co leader.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – The Grand Tadpole seems to have overcome his injuries of the past couple of years, and is fighting well. Daieisho used his longer reach to attack Takakeisho’s face at will, but it seems Takakeisho is used to it. The Ozeki focused his tsuppari center-mass instead, and proceeded to get Daieisho moving back. Once that happens, it’s very tough to stop, and Daieisho could not find his footing to mount a defense. That’s 8 wins for Takakeisho, and he maintains his spot in the leader group.

Aki Day 10 Preview

Welcome to the end of Act 2 of the Aki Basho. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and where we start sorting the survivors from the damned. Sumo great Kintamayama coined the term “Wacky Aki”, for the Aki basho’s tendency to swerve into the unexpected and the unpredictable. It’s hard to think of a more unusual basho in recent years that the current Aki. No fewer than 6 rikishi are tied for the lead in the yusho race going into the final day of act 2, with another 4 just one loss behind. Given the schedules of who has already faced whom, it will be very difficult to run the final days lower-division style, where rikishi with matching records face off to narrow the field.

As stated in our day 9 highlights, you have to give former Ozeki Terunofuji the inside track as of today, because he has already faced, and largely beaten, those who out-rank him on the banzuke. I mused earlier, during his cold, 2-loss start, that perhaps he had been over promoted. Add that one to the pile of regrettable predictions! One thing (to me) is certain—the last 6 days of Aki are going to be intense and unpredictable. Bring it on!

Aki Leaderboard

Once more into the breach!

Leaders – Takakeisho, Shodai, Terunofuji, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Asanoyama, Kiribayama, Takayasu, Kotoshoho
Hunt GroupMitakeumi, Takanosho, Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Aoiyama, Kotoeko, Chiyotairyu, Meisei, Ichinojo

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Ichinojo vs Wakamotoharu – A sure sign of unusual days ahead, a SECOND Onami brother appears in the top division. It’s Wakamotoharu paying a visit (I think for the first time) to face off against Ichinojo. Both are straddling the make-koshi trend line, and I am wondering if there isn’t some nice Darwin match in Ichinojo’s future, with survival in the top division at stake.

Chiyotairyu vs Hoshoryu – I do love first time matches between energetic bright young rikishi and tough, grizzled veterans. Indeed we have sumo’s resident thunder god squaring off against a somewhat less than genki Hoshoryu. Would be a shame if Hoshoryu returned to Juryo for seasoning, but as Wakanohana said in a recent commentary, he’s not “done growing yet” (rough paraphrase).

Ishiura vs Kotoshogiku – Hey, lets put the two orthopedic candidates in the same match, and see if we can use the giant wheelchair! You know, they rent that thing, and I am sure there is some accountant somewhere that pointed out that every day they don’t use it, it’s money wasted. Kotoshogiku holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Sadanoumi vs Shimanoumi – An all umi battle if ever I did see one. This one is all Sadanoumi, I would guess. He holds a 4-0 career record over the younger “umi”. Both are also firmly astride the make-koshi trend line, and I see more Darwin matches hovering on the horizon.

Enho vs Shohozan – A loss today would give Enho a solid make-koshi, and with 5 days to follow, he could end up on the wrong side of the banzuke boundary between the top two divisions. We can all but assume this will be the case for hapless Shohozan, who has a single win thus far at Maegashira 15. Maybe, like the legendary Babe Ruth, he waited to get 2 strikes before blasting the ball over the center field fence. Nah…

Tokushoryu vs Kaisei – Speaking of make-koshi candidates, it’s clear that Hatsu yusho winner’s Cinderella story has reached 5 minutes past midnight. It was a great story while it lasted, but a loss today against Kaisei (10-4 career advantage) will seal the 3rd consecutive make-koshi following his 14-1 yusho.

Kotoshoho vs Wakatakakage – Co-co-co leader Wakatakakage defends his spot on the leaderboard against Kotoshoho today. Kotoshoho has taken both previous bouts, so this is a great test of just how genki Wakatakakage is right now.

Ryuden vs Tobizaru – Co-co-co leader Tobizaru has beaten Ryuden before in Makushita, but for all normal purposes, these two are going to go at it for the first time since 2016. Ryuden is struggling quite a bit this September, but he should be safe from demotion to Juryo as long as his make-koshi is not too brutal [I’d say Ryuden is already safe. -lksumo].

Meisei vs Aoiyama – Both men are just on the positive side of the make-koshi trend line, and only one of them will stay that way following this match. I have to like Aoiyama in this one, as he has shown a lot of bashing power so far. Check your dental work following, Meisei-zeki!

Takayasu vs Onosho – I adore both of these guys, but I think that Takayasu is going to be highly motivated after his day 9 match, which was a complete and total mess. They have fought twice before, with a 1-1 record. But I expect Takayasu to bump co-co-co leader Onosho out of his spot.

Kotoeko vs Kagayaki – Another pair running the make-koshi trend line. I can hear them getting out the ink for the day 15 Darwin Torikumi. I am sure there will only be a couple of 7-7s on the last day, but there sure is a crowd of folks who are on a hazardous course. Kagayaki holds a 8-3 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Both have matching 3-6 records, and once again Hokutofuji is striving to reach the most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo. They are fairly evenly matched, and I think it will come down to Hokutofuji getting his much preferred nodowa in early.

Terunofuji vs Takanosho – Terunofuji has lost both of the prior matches to Takanosho (both in Juryo), but those were the days before this kaiju took his top-division form. I would not be surprised to see the “angry yorikiri” today, something that has not been sighted in a few years.

Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – I could not tell you who has the advantage in this match, but I can tell you that beyond question, the goal for both rikishi will be a see-saw back and forth exchange of clever attack and riposte. So if you like two high-skill big guys carrying on sumo-style, this could be your match! [This will be the 22nd meeting between the two, with Okinoumi trying to even the head-to-head, which currently stands at 10-11. -lksumo]

Tamawashi vs Endo – Endo, it’s not too late to reach into the sumo you reserve for Hakuho and lay down the doom on your remaining opponents. Your fans would take heart, and you would be sent countless perfumed love letters from grannies across Japan. Think it over, this could be your future.

Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – Something tickles the dark, useless rearward creases of the glob of fat and mucus that passes for a brain – “Mitakeumi Darwin match”. I have wanted the original tadpole to gain consistency for a while, and I know he is capable. But something holds him back. Now Tochinoshin on the other hand, he’s just really starting to get on my nerves. Bonus points if he tries a henka again today. Then we will know he has a sense of humor.

Shodai vs Terutsuyoshi – Cartoon sumo is coming for you, Terutsuyoshi! Co-co-co leader Shodai actually has a fair chance at the yusho, but we have seen Terutsuyoshi perform outrageous acts of sumo to clear the road for his stablemate, Terunofuji. So any antics or hijinks today are excused if they are for a greater purpose.

Asanoyama vs Kiribayama – Hey, it’s day 10 and Asanoyama has to fight someone. Sure, lets throw fellow 6-3 rikishi Kiribayama into the mix and see what pops. Asanoyama has to hope that 1) he does not drop another match, and 2) 6 other guys all lose some time in the next 6 days.

Daieisho vs Takakeisho – Even though Daieisho has a fairly crummy score for Aki, he and Takakeisho are tied up at 5-5 over their career. This could be a solid challenge to knock the Ozeki out of his position as co-co-co leader.

Aki Day 9 Highlights

Only one rikishi in the leader group (Takayasu) lost today, so we have six (6!) men headed into day 10 in contention for the yusho. This is going to be a wild run to the weekend, I do predict. It’s easy to favor Takakeisho in the yusho run, but his sumo is still very narrow, and I expect he will struggle with Shodai and Asanoyama. I have to like the chances of Terunofuji. Holding a Maegashira 1 slot, he’s already fought both Ozeki and all 3 Sekiwake. The rest of his schedule are people lower down the banzuke, and he is really fighting well. Stay tuned, sumo fans.

Highlight Matches

Kotonowaka defeats Shimanoumi – Kotonowaka is now one win away from a kachi-koshi, and a likely return to the top division. A couple of times he tried to pull against Shimanoumi, but Shimanoumi was not prepared to respond.

Shohozan defeats Ishiura – Shohozan picks up a very welcome first win against the injured Ishiura. Furthermore, Ishiura demonstrated why his return is such a gamble. Ishiura’s twisting fall from Shohozan’s hatakikomi rolled the dice on compounding that injured ankle. Ishiura now make-koshi.

Tobizaru defeats Meisei – Tobizaru stays in the leader group with this wild roaming brawl. Lots of hit high / hit low / pull me / push you exchanges in this match. If you want to see a pair or rikishi really mix it up, this is your match.

Kaisei defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu discovers first hand just how massive Kaisei truly is. Hoshoryu got a right hand inside with a solid grip, but then could do nothing with it. Sometimes, being enormous is a sumo strategy. Both finish day 9 at 4-5.

Onosho defeats Kotoshoho – Great work by Kotoshoho, wrapping up Onosho. The only knock was that pull attempt just following the tachiai. But with Onosho’s known balance issues, it had possibilities. But Onosho got is hands into Kotoshoho’s armpits, and that was the end of Kotoshoho’s offense. Onosho remains with the leader group.

Enho defeats Ichinojo – This match was as awkward as a couple of 13 year olds at their first school dance. But at least Enho staved off make-koshi for another day.

Tokushoryu defeats Kotoshogiku – You can visibly see the strain on Kotoshogiku’s knees as Tokushoryu presses ahead against Tokushoryu. But of course Tokushoryu spins up his near magical tsukiotoshi, but the result is a slow motion collapse as Kotoshogiku goes down. Both end the day at 2-7.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not find enough energy to really move Aoiyama back, and the match became a battle of shoving that Aoiyama was bound to win. Both exit day 9 with 5-4.

Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – Ryuden tried for a right hand frontal grip at the tachiai and missed. As a result Kotoeko got a left hand inside, and his right hand looped around Ryuden’s left. This was a perfect pivot point and the resulting kotenage took only a few steps to develop. Solid sumo today from Kotoeko.

Sadanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Standard Kagayaki oshi-fare, but Sadanoumi was expertly working thrust-and-shift. This kept Kagayaki working to react, and it paid off for Sadanoumi, when Kagayaki lost his balance and opened the door for Sadanoumi to rush forward and push Kagayaki out from the side.

Wakatakakage defeats Takayasu – It’s a new day indeed when you can see Wakatakakage overpower Takayasu. For a moment it’s a straight up power struggle, and… Wakatakakage gets the advantage? Takayasu attempts to break contact, and Wakatakakage catches him from the side and plows ahead. Wakatakakage stays with the leader group.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – This match went to beans for Takarafuji when he attempted to reach for Tamawashi’s belt, lost his balance and Tamawashi expertly let him continue the fall. Really amazing reaction speed from Tamawashi here.

Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – The tachiai between these two seems to be an equal exchange. Terunofuji gets his hands low, and Hokutofuji gets his hands in Terunofuji’s arm pits. In a typical match, the armpit hold would degrade the opponent’s offense and raise them up. But it seems Terunofuji has been spending nights and weekends having his tsukebito poke him in the armpits while on the bench press. Seemingly immune to Hokutofuji’s hazuoshi pushes Hokutofuji around, and then releases pressure, bringing Hokutofuji to the clay. Terunofuji stays with the leader group.

Takanosho defeats Endo – Endo seemingly blows the tachiai, ricocheting to his right, and Takanosho follows and pushes him away and down. I am sure Endo wishes he could have a do-over on this one.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Okinoumi – Well, this restores my faith that Terutsuyoshi has not turned into a complete goon, as he shows solid, attack-forward sumo today. Okinoumi tried a pull down, and that was all the advantage Terutsuyoshi needed to take over offense, which Okinoumi was unable to recover. Both end the day at 3-6.

Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Mitakeumi remembers his massive body, and decides to use it to move forward today. And guess what? He wins. Maybe Mitakeumi can forego his week 2 fade, having pre-faded in week one.

Shodai defeats Daieisho – The first match ended with both men exiting the ring together, and a rematch was called. The second try was an 80% re-hash of the first, but this time Daieisho really took his frustrations out on Shodai’s face and neck. Shodai, to his credit, kept his cool and waited for his moment. It came when Daieisho reached in with his left and lost balance. Shodai stays with the leader group.

Takakeisho defeats Kiribayama – Sadly, Kiribayama did not seem to get the memo that Takakeisho’s on-off switch is located on his mawashi. Instead Kiribayama decides he is going to engage the grand tadpole in a pushing match, and there are few things on planet Earth that Takakeisho enjoys more than a good game of Pengo. Takakeisho stays with the leader group.

Asanoyama defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin, that stuff was beyond it’s expiration date yesterday. I am not surprised that Asanoyama was ready. With the crummy henka a disaster, Tochinoshin tries for, and gets his left hand outside grip, but can do absolutely nothing with it. Asanoyama gives him a hearty uwatenage, and sends him home.

Aki Day 9 Preview

This is why we can’t have nice things. Look at what happened day 8! The entirety of the leaderboard hit the clay, and now Bruce gets his wish. A giant drunken barnyard brawl where half the banzuke is in contention for the cup at the start of week 2. I am sure the scheduling team is oscillating between giddy excitement and horrified concern about how they are going to bring this unruly cloud of rikishi together to determine a winner by Sunday.

Its clear to me, at least, that should either Ozeki pick up the yusho, there really should not be any talk about a Yokozuna promotion. Both of them are looking shaky, and that’s the last thing you need from a Yokozuna. I think both of them are still able to get 8, and maybe even 10. But total dominance on the dohyo is the sign of a Yokozuna, and neither of our current Ozeki have reached that level of performance yet. Furthermore, I think their path to get to that level of performance may have been damaged by COVID-19. With the shut down of join / inter-stable training, neither of the Ozeki has a chance to forge their technique to the level needed to become a Yokozuna. It takes a hard and hardy substance to forge strong metal. It’s no different in athletes. Without worthy competition to train against, frequently, the skills stagnate or worse yet, atrophy. With the 2 surviving Yokozuna injured and fading out, the future Yokozuna for a post-Hakuho era may be significantly handicapped.

I do think sumo will survive, and new champions will rise. But until the NSA opens up training rules, the best we can hope for is what 2 week 2 promised to be. Its going to be massive fun to watch, but for fans who long for the next Ozeki and Yokozuna – not happening any time soon.

Aki Leaderboard

Well, jump ball everyone!

Leaders – Takakeisho, Shodai, Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Takayasu, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Kotoshoho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Asanoyama, Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Chiyotairyu, Meisei, Ichinojo
Hunt GroupMitakeumi, Takanosho, Tochinoshin, Aoiyama, Kotoeko, Shimanoumi, Hoshoryu

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Shimanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka comes to visit from Jury to fill the Yutakayama gap, and he is looking like a good bet to return in November. He is 2 wins away from his kachi-koshi at Juryo 2, so just a few more wins will put him into a promotable spot.

Shohozan vs Ishiura – Ishiura was able to overcome whatever doom is in his ankle to take his first win of Aki. Now he is against the paper-mache version of the formerly fearsome Shohozan. With any luck, lksumo might chime in with his idea of just how many wins Ishiura must gather in to maintain some toe hold on the top division.

Meisei vs Tobizaru – Co-co-co leader Tobizaru has yet to take a match from Meisei (3 tries), but he has been showing the best sumo of his career this September, and I would think that day 9 may be his time.

Hoshoryu vs Kaisei – Readers have noted that I have suggested that in matches where Kaisei can move and stay in control, he can win. Today, I think his enormity may be enough to confound Hoshoryu, who has never fought against Kaisei before.

Kotoshoho vs Onosho – A head to head battled between Co-co-co leaders, this will (thankfully) narrow the field. This is also a first time match between the lagging tadpole Onosho, and the young, fresh Kotoshoho. This will come down to who gets their hands inside at the tachiai, and if Onosho can keep his balance over his feet.

Enho vs Ichinojo – Good lord! He, schedulers – we know this is a quintessential big man / little man match. But its becoming aparent that Enho is not quite right. Lets not feed him to the monster just yet. Oh, it’s sumo and the monster needs to eat? Well then, in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, please don’t make him wear a pony costume today.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoshogiku – You would thing, “hey, to long-serving grizzled vets. They probably have like 218 matches between them”. But no, this is only their second ever match. Both of them are late in their careers, and running on what little sinew and gristle is left in their bodies.

Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Now THIS is a match. To heavyweights in a clash of styles. Aoiyama loves to swat and bash his opponent into submissions. Chiyotairyu plays human wrecking ball and relies on his mass and lower body to provider his offense. Someone is going to hit the clay today.

Ryuden vs Kotoeko – Both of these rikishi are close to the make-koshi trend line, with Ryuden the more likely bet. His size will give him an advantage today, but only if Kotoeko agrees to stay in one spot long enough to get caught. Career record of 5-2 favors Ryuden.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Odd as it may seem, Kagayaki is 1 loss behind the yusho leaders now, and could conceivably contend for the cup. He may hav a slightly easier than normal time with Sadanoumi today, as it seems that taped shoulder continues to bother him a bit more each day.

Takayasu vs Wakatakakage – The only prior match featured a hearty tsukiotoshi sending Takayasu to the clay (July), Takayasu, who is a co-co-co-leader, is fighting better this tournament, and I give him a good chance to even the score.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – This Aki is the best I have seen Takarafuji look in at least a year. So I am going to give him a clear advantage over Tamawashi on day 9. I have to wonder if having a resurgent Terunofuji to train against has helped to greatly improve Takarafuji’s sumo.

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Speak of the kaiju! This match is a real bell-weather, as Terunofuji has lost to Hokutofuji in all 3 prior meetings. The last one was November of 2017 (my how time flies), that featured a freshly de-frocked Ozeki Terunofuji unable to generate any effective offense.

Takanosho vs Endo – I admire Endo’s ability, and I keep hoping that “today” will be the day where it clicks for him and he fights like the bad-ass sumo assassin we all know he can be. He won the only 2 prior matches against Endo, so maybe he can at rack up a much needed white star.

Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Its sad that I look at this match and immediately wonder what kind of punk nonsense Terutsuyoshi might try today. I think Okinoumi has seen it all at this point, so I would urge Terutsuyoshi to fight a solid, fundamentals based match. It’s his best chance against a master technician like Okinoumi.

Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – A sad thing seems to have happened in some parts of the US, or maybe it’s just the Dallas, TX area. I am having a tough time finding anything other than really poor grade or super high end sake right now. It could be global supply chain disruption due to COVID-19, or it could be the legions of Mitakeumi fans trying to drink their way through this basho. I would like to say that Mitakeumi is a clear favorite, but couple the 4-4 career record, and the fact that Mitakeumi has taken to sumo in reverse-gear, it’s anyone’s guess who has advantage here.

Shodai vs Daieisho – Shodai finds him back in the lead of this basho (along with 8 other really large men), but this may in fact energize him and drive him to higher performance. The 3-5 career record favors Daieisho – with Shodai losing 3 of the last 4! If prior matches are a guide, it will come down to Shodai’s right hand, and Daieisho’s ability to block Shodai’s primary weapon.

Kiribayama vs Takakeisho – Kiribayama won their only prior match. and I do hope that he keeps his eyes on Kiribayama during the tachiai. Both of these rikishi hold a share of the lead, so only one will remain at the end of this match.

Asanoyama vs Tochinoshin – Asanoyama should invite Tochinoshin to a hearty contest of strength today. I am fairly sure that bandaged knee could not maintain pressure against Asanoyama’s classic yotsu style. No tricks, no hopping about, just see if Tochinoshin still has the body for a straight up contest.