Tokyo July Basho Day 9 Preview

With the middle day fading behind us, it’s time to accelerate this basho into the finish next Sunday. Also, Abi, get your head together sir. You are starting to make a nuisance of yourself.

Also, I missed seeing Kimura Konosuke read the torikumi? Arrrggghhh!

Tokyo July Leaderboard

LeadersHakuho, Asanoyama
Chasers – Shodai, Mitakeumi, Terunofuji
Hunt GroupMyogiryu, Kotoshoho, Tamawashi, Kotoshogiku, Kotoeko

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – With Abi and Kotonowaka out, we are back to an unbalanced torikumi, so bring forth the Juryo vistors! Today its former top division rikishi, Daiamami. He may in fact be on track to return in September, depending on how he finishes in Juryo. With a 4-4 record, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Its possible he may swap places with Kotoyuki, who is nothing close to his performance levels a year ago (11-4 at Maegashira 16).

Takayasu vs Chiyomaru – I am starting to really lose hope that Takayasu can stage any kind of rally and attempt to claw his way back to even the middle of Makuuchi. Every single opponent seems to want to try some kind of jerk-move to put strain on that left elbow. I do get sick of watching what appears to me to be attempts to intentionally injure him. But then there is that limp at the end of day 8. That knee that blew up in Osaka, as the cameras kept running, showing him groaning in pain on the dohyo. Yeah, sumo can be brutal. I don’t know what he is going to be able to muster against Chiyomaru. I just hope nobody leaves the dohyo in the wheelchair.

Nishikigi vs Shohozan – Both of these guys are not able to really produce much in the way of offense this July, and for Nishikigi that would mean a likely trip to Juryo. He has a 4-5 record against Shohozan, who is not looking at all healthy or strong right now.

Sadanoumi vs Terunofuji – A win today could be kachi-koshi for Terunofuji. What a great mark that would be for a man who has devoted countless hours to battle back from injury and disease and regain a place in the top division. His sumo looks more conservative than his first tenure in the top division, and I think that is probably for the best. But his strength is thus far unmatched by the bottom half of Makuuchi. I wonder if we will see him get higher ranking opponents in the third act.

Shimanoumi vs Wakatakakage – If Shimanoumi can take any solace from this match, its that Wakatakakage has never beaten him in 3 tries. But right now I would say that Shimanoumi is with Nishikigi and Shohozan (and many others) whose sumo is not close to normal due to lack of training during the isolation period. Wakatakakage needs to come up with 4 wins in the next 7 matches, and he has to be careful to avoid a path that leads to a day 15 Darwin match.

Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – Kotoeko has been a puzzle for the past few years. He seems to shift from compact powerhouse with heaps of fighting spirit to a tentative rikishi with below average mass and a bucket full of doubt. Right now we have the genki Kotoeko attending this basho, and I am very happy for him. Myogiryu has won 3 of their 4 matches, so look for two strong, quick rikishi to really deliver hell by the gallon for what may be a quick match today.

Kotoshoho vs Ikioi – The March Juryo winner Kotoshoho has not missed a stride in the intervening 4 months. Coming into day 9 with 6-2, he’s going to have his first ever match with Ikioi. Ikioi is not visibly wounded like many times in the past, but he is certainly not fighting well. Already 2 losses from make-koshi, he could end up with a double-digit loss record without increased effort to rack up more white stars for the remaining 7 days.

Tamawashi vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these verterans of the top ranks of sumo are part of the group of 5 who are 2 losses behind the yusho race leaders. Smart move to have them face off and narrow the field. Frankly, Kotoshogiku is performing well above expectations, much as he did in the mock Natsu basho in May. It will come down to the first step in this match. If Tamawashi can get moving after the tachiai, it’s his match to lose. If Kotoshogiku can land a hand on Tamawashi’s belt, it will be a brawl.

Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin benefited hugely from Kotonowaka’s withdrawal on day 8, and I think the former Ozeki has a sound chance of getting to 8 wins by next Sunday. Ishiura finally showed some quality sumo on day 8 when he took a white star from Shimanoumi with a… get this.. susoharai. Yes, a very nice leg sweep that made me cheer. Please, lets have more of this!

Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – Kaisei is listing to port, and drifting into the shipping lanes again. He had been enjoying some fine Newtonian sumo for a few days, but now he’s at 5 losses, and has resumed his lumbering, stumbling format. Terutsuyoshi may lack the mass needed to shift an iceberg like Kaisei, so this will be a nice test of strength and stamina for Terutsuyoshi.

Chiyotairyu vs Ryuden – Chiyotairyu failed to form the much anticipated Chiyoshogiku singularity form, so it’s 7 more days of fine sumo. Really though, Chiyotairyu… what the hell was that day 8? Yes, I read that he thought it was a matta, but you should have just give Kotoshogiku the full measure anyhow. Both he and Ryuden share worrisome 3-5 records, so they may just want to limp through the rest of July and hope for better training leading up to September.

Takarafuji vs Tokushoryu – Takarafuji is fairly predictable in that he will tend to get a decent 9 win kachi-koshi, then proceed to have losing records for the next few basho. I don’t know if its because he consciously wants to hold a mid-Maegashira slot, or if that’s just how it works out. Although their career record has them dead even, I would give an edge to Takarafuji today, because his ability to defend and extend is sometimes a problem for Tokushoryu.

Onosho vs Yutakayama – Someone has a sick sense of humor. Both of these sad-sack favorites of mine are make-koshi on day 8, and have yet to find a single win. Well, good news, that changes today as one of these damaged athletes is going to walk away with their first white star. History would indicate that Onosho would have a slight edge, but neither of them has fought up to their abilities this basho. Hopefully neither of them finish 0-15.

Endo vs Takanosho – Somewhere in a closet in Oitekaze heya, there is some kind of cybernetic module that plugs into Endo while he sleeps, and loads him up with genki energy that gets harvested from a shrine in Nara. But since COVID, none of his tsukebito have been able to make the trip to reload it. What we are left with a shambling hulk that looks like Endo, but is missing up to 25% of his normal sumo energy.

Daieisho vs Hokutofuji – Matching 5-3 records, a 4-4 career balance and an easier path to kachi-koshi for the winner. Hokutofuji has been a bit underpowered this tournament, and seems to be lacking some of his “big” sumo moves so far. I think this basho is a “best effort” project for most, and hope to keep some workable rank for the net basho, and hope that training conditions will improved. I would give a slight edge to Daieisho today, as he seems to be closer to his typical fighting state.

Kiribayama vs Mitakeumi – Mark me disappointed that Mitakeumi dropped out of the leader group. But heading into week 2, there is plenty that can happen to make him a viable contestant for the yusho, if he can keep winning. Mitakeumi has a tradition of a week 2 fade, which is why he has not made Ozeki. I sincerely hope he can keep pushing into act 3, and get to at least 10 wins. This a first ever match for Kiribayama, so please give him a warm welcome, Mitakeumi.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Please, don’t joke about a Shodai yusho. If he lifts the cup, I will congratulate him, but I will also finally have confirmation that the whole of 2020 has been nothing more than a horrific fever dream brought on by eating that container of 2 week old chanko I found in the fridge at the end of the January basho. Now if I can just find a way to wake myself up and clear that questionable mix from my gullet….

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama looks more Ozeki than anyone I have seen in the rank for a few years. My only hope would be to see him smile as he mounts the dohyo like he used to when he was first promoted to sekitori. I know, hinkaku and all that. The fellow may make Yokozuna in the next year or two, and he has to dial up his stoic energy. But I know inside each time he grabs for the kensho stack, that big schoolboy grin is still in there trying to break out.

Takakeisho vs Enho – Back in the struggling Ozeki segment of the basho, Takakeisho needs to win 3 of the last 7 to clear kadoban. Should be doable, right? but that includes Asanoyama, Hakuho, Shodai and Daieisho. Pre-injury Takakeisho, I would be eager to see him shove at least half of these worthy opponents into next week. But now it’s a worry for each and every one. Enho tends to suffer terribly against Takakeisho, so maybe he can add one of those 3 wins today.

Hakuho vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama has beaten The Boss exactly once in 23 tries. So i am looking for another quick dispatch for Hakuho, who has yet to look like he really has had much of a challenge. He seems to be working his way through the crowd until he faces Asanoyama later in week 2.

Tokyo July Basho Nakabi Highlights

The first week of the tournament over and we have quite the entertaining show on our hands. Unfortunately, before today’s action we received word that promising Kotonowaka has withdrawn due to a knee injury. Herouth sussed out the reason and it sure sounds painful. The young man had soreness after his bout with Kaisei yesterday and couldn’t bend his knee this morning. As a result he has pulled out.

Highlight Matches

Terunofuji (7-1) defeated Nishikigi (2-6): Terunofuji succeeded in grabbing Nishikigi’s belt with his left hand just out of the tachiai. His right arm was just under Nishikigi’s left arm pit, forcing Nishikigi’s left arm into an awkward and useless raised position. Even in this awkward position, Nishikigi was able to resist Terunofuji’s first drive to the edge. However, he was unable to improve his position so the second drive to the edge proved decisive. Yorikiri.

Kotoeko (6-2) defeated Takayasu (4-4): As Bruce predicted, Kotoeko focused on Takayasu’s left arm and immobilized it. He continued to drive confidently into Takayasu, fishing for the belt. For a few seconds, Takayasu was able to get Kotoeko off and force an oshi battle but Kotoeko dove time and time again for the belt. Takayasu grimaced after a kotenage attempt on the arm and shortly afterward Kotoeko edecuted a throw. Uwatenage.

Sadanoumi (4-4) defeated Kotoshoho (6-2): After a strong tachiai, Sadanoumi locked up Kotoshoho’s belt with his left hand. Keeping action in the center of the ring, Sadanoumi lulled Kotoshoho to sleep and then executed a wonderful left-handed throw. Uwatenage.

Wakatakakage (4-4) defeated Shohozan (2-6): Shohozan’s intimidation stare down was ineffective. At the tachiai, Wakatakakage drove for the shoulder. The slight shift forced Shohozan into an awkward sideways position and his own thrusts missed. Wakatakakage pushed forward with Shohozan’s left arm up, forcing Shohozan to slide over sideways and out. Oshidashi. *I miss Tochiozan.

Tochinoshin (5-3) defeated Kotonowaka (4-4): Kotonowaka’s sudden kyujo handed Tochinoshin the walk-over win. The reason for the kyujo is listed as an injury, not dinner. It appears his left knee was injured after yesterday’s bout. Fusen.

Kotoyuki (2-6) defeated Kaisei (3-5): Kotoyuki was the aggressor on this bout, forcing an oshi battle. The strong tachiai led to a quick pull attempt, forcing Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei just barely stayed up but Kotoyuki kept up the offensive, forcing Kaisei around the ring. Tsukidashi.

Chiyomaru (2-6) defeated Myogiryu (6-2): Chiyomaru found his sumo and charged out on the offensive. A strong tachai drove Myogiryu back and then a quick pull unsettled Myogiryu. He got a rare vocal response from the crowd with his well-timed decisive shove. Shoving with his left hand into Myogiryu’s right shoulder, Myogiryu landing on the bales. The impressed “Oooo” reminded me of the crowds of old…followed by the applause brought me back to reality. Tsukiotoshi.

Ishiura (3-5) defeated Shimanoumi (2-6): Ishiura gets more “Oooo” reactions from the crowd with a well-timed left foot trip. His left-handed belt grip rotated Shimanoumi into a spin, once he completed a full rotation, he slipped that left foot behind Shimanoumi’s right leg and then rotated backwards. Having successfully fumigated the dohyo, Ishiura seemed to regain his confidence. Susoharai.

Kotoshogiku (6-2) defeated Chiyotairyu (3-5): A quick belt grab and drive, Kotoshogiku bulldozed Chiyotairyu over the edge with little resistance. Perhaps it was the angle that left Chiyotairyu unable to counter? Yorikiri.

Halftime? (I Lost Track)

Terutsuyoshi (4-4) defeated Ikioi (2-6): “ちくしょう.” A slight deflection from Terutsuyoshi at the tachiai but Ikioi was ready. After a short oshi battle, Ikioi reached around Terutsuyoshi to attack from the back but Terutsuyoshi countered with the same attack to Ikioi’s back was able to push Ikioi out awkwardly. Yorikiri.

Tamawashi (6-2) defeated Tokushoryu (4-4): A bout of champions. Tamawashi’s right-hand in Tokushoryu’s face forced Tokushoryu high. He then followed with a well-timed pull, Tokushoryu in a heap at the center of the ring. Hatakikomi.

Takarafuji (3-5) defeated Ryuden (3-5): Ryuden pitched too far forward trying to get that left-hand in. Takarafuji twisted and shoved into Ryuden’s right side.  Tsukiotoshi.

Kiribayama (3-5) defeated Enho (4-4): Enho missed with his slap at the tachiai but connected with the belt. Kiribayama’s right hand grip from above and Enho’s left-hand grip from below. Twice Enho pulled and almost got Kiribayama off balance but each time Kiribayama recovered. When it was Kiribayama’s turn to go on the offensive, he did not disappoint, pulling Enho across the ring and into the dirt. Uwatenage.

Takanosho (5-3) defeated Yutakayama (0-8): Onosho kept up solid pressure on Yutakayama after a brief oshi-battle. Yutakayama extended a bit awkwardly with his right and Onosho’s sustained effort forced the mountain out over the bales and to an early make-koshi record. Yorikiri.

Sanyaku

Daieisho (5-3) defeated Onosho (0-8): After the tachiai both rikishi attempted to decapitate each other with matching facial shoves. Onosho tired of the nodowas, turned his head, perhaps searching for the exit. One final shove from Daieisho and Onosho capitulated, joining Yutakayama as make-koshi. Okuridashi.

Okinoumi (4-4) defeated Endo (2-6): Okinoumi’s solid tachiai worked Endo back a step. His height meant his extended body was too long for Endo to secure that right-handed belt grab. As Endo kept reaching, Okinoumi drove forward, forcing an impotent Endo over the edge and into the crowd empty purple mats. Endo left running away from the dohyo, as seems quite common. Yorikiri.

Shodai (7-1) defeated Mitakeumi (7-1): No wild, cartoon nonsense from Shodai today. Solid tachiai. Perhaps the shoulder blast stunned Mitakeumi? Mitakeumi forced Shodai high but couldn’t follow with a real attack and seemed lost. So, he lost. Shodai’s left arm under aite’s right armpit gave him leverage to bring high-flying Mitakeumi back to Earth. Tsukiotoshi.

It’s a two-horse race for now. How will Asanoyama and Hakuho respond?

Hokutofuji (5-3) defeated Takakeisho (5-3): Takakeisho’s scowl vs Hokutofuji’s stomp. Stomp wins quickly with a sudden sidestep. Solid tachiai but Hokutofuji shifted left and brought his right arm down on Takakeisho’s head. Takakeisho could not find a way to pull. Rather, it was Hokutofuji. Hatakikomi.

Asanoyama (8-0) defeated Aoiyama (3-5): Asanoyama did not let Aoiyama’s thrusts dissuade him from latching on to Aoiyama’s belt. Once Asanoyama grabbed that belt, Aoiyama knew it was over and the V-twin went into reverse, stepping out. Yorikiri.

Hakuho (8-0) vs Kagayaki (3-5): Hakuho derives his power from that copper-infused mawashi. A strong tachiai from Kagayaki but the blow to the face really angered the master. Hakuho decided he did not need to mess with a belt grab and instead grabs Kagayaki’s head and shoved it to the clay. Bruce was prescient. Wakanohana wonders, “who can stop Hakuho?” Aoiyama?

Tokyo July Basho Day 8 Preview

Welcome to nakabi! It’s the middle day of the July basho being held in Tokyo, and we are still on track to see the three leaders of the yusho race possibly get their kachi-koshi today. But before we dive into the creamy goodness that the scheduling team has cooked up for the middle Sunday, a few thoughts on day 7…

It seems that others are starting to wonder if Shodai is actually some kind of cartoon character who has escaped from toon town. He seems to at least have some built in chaos generator that he engages when he’s not sure what to try next, and unlike most rikishi who end up with some horrible, mangled loss, his opponents end up falling over, stepping out, or otherwise ending the match with a black star. I am not sure what kind of trans-dimensional conduit he is using to generate an improbability field, but don’t be surprised if two disheveled looking fellows pop out of the air on a Chesterfield sofa in the middle of today’s match.

Abi kyujo? For being a gibbering moron? You don’t say… Did you see Mitakeumi’s face? A combination of puzzle and disappointment, as I honestly think he was looking forward to stuffing Abi into the salt basket today.

With the arrival of nakabi, it’s time for us to take our first serious look at the leader board

Tokyo July Leaderboard

Leaders – Hakuho, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi
Chasers – Shodai, Myogiryu, Kotoshoho, Terunofuji
Hunt GroupTakakeisho, Tamawashi, Kotoshogiku, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Nishikigi vs Terunofuji – Oh sure, Nishikigi won their only prior match, but does anyone doubt that Terunofuji is going to carry around Nishikigi like a toddler in a grocery store? Terunofuji seems to be a man on a mission right now, and that mission one I am enjoying.

Takayasu vs Kotoeko – If Kotoeko follows form, he is going to put a portion of his focus on trying to re-injure that left elbow. I keep being annoyed and disappointed by this, but I know that’s part of sumo. Right now I am just hoping that Takayasu is going to find a path to 8 wins. Oddly enough this is their first ever match, and I have to worry it’s going to be Kotoeko with the advantage.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoshoho – Another of the 4 first time match ups that grace day 8, and it’s 6-1 Kotoshoho getting a shot at Sadanoumi. I know Sadanoumi is going to try to control the form of the match by getting the first offensive move in at the tachiai. He’s surprisingly fast of the shikiri-sen, and I think the first move will be his to make. Kotoshoho has never had a make-koshi tournament, which I am sure will change, but for his debut in the top division, he seems to be unstoppable.

Wakatakakage vs Shohozan – Another first time match, fading brawler Shohozan vs the leading Onami brother, Wakatakakage. Both of them currently have losing records, and I am expecting Shohozan to finish the tournament with a make-koshi. Time to find out if Wakatakakage’s sumo can stay focused while Shohozan bats him around.

Kotonowaka vs Tochinoshin – Both of them have matching 4-3 records coming into day 8. Tochinoshin needs to focus on keeping Kotonowaka’s mobility down, and getting his offense established. Kotonowaka will try to evade Tochinoshin’s left hand seeking his mawashi.

Kaisei vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki’s basho is horrific and grim right now. He’s almost as bad as Onosho and Yutakayama, but not quite. No word from the tsukebito crew searching for his lost sumo, and until it turns up somewhere (did you check the soba shop at the Ryugoku station?), he’s going to struggle. For Kaisei it means that he gets to once again enjoy being huge, and with an 8-4 career advantage over Kotoyuki, it may be win 4 for Kaisei.

Chiyomaru vs Myogiryu – Challenging Kotoyuki for the “have you seen my sumo?” award for July is Chiyomaru, who had not managed a single win until day 7. This is a mirror of Myogiryu, who has only suffered a single loss. While it would be nice to see Chiyomaru rally from a 0-6 start, its more likely he is headed for double digit losses and a early berth on the barge of the damned headed slowly for Juryo.

Ishiura vs Shimanoumi – This match really is likely to require fumigation, as both of these rikishi come in with 2-5 records, and are headed for make-koshi. I am going to count Ishiura among the rikishi who really are suffering this tournament due to lack of sumo practice matches against rikishi of his own calibre. It’s clear his body is not moving well, and his sumo instincts are all but missing. Hopefully in the run up to September the sumo association will be more permissive of training between stables. That is unless Abi does something stupid to ruin it for everyone.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyotairyu – Two massive bodies are going to impact some time around 4:45 AM Central US time, and it’s possible it may be detected via LIGO, and as such would be the first detection this close to the earth. Now, for it to really work out that way, one of the two would need to complete absorb the other in a flash of radiation, but we can always hope for something unexpected. The resulting Chiyoshogiku would likely continue to absorb most of greater Tokyo, to the horror of the world, at least until he collapsed into a pinpoint and exited the known universe in a dazzling flash of blue light. Kotoshogiku holds a 16-3 career lead.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ikioi – The word I was looking for was “amiuchi”. A rough translating into the barbaric English tough is “What just happened?” I will be looking to see if any other rare words appear on screen following Terutsuyoshi’s day 8 match with Ikioi. Such as “ちくしょう”, “すごい”, “うそ!”, or even “おっと”

Tamawashi vs Tokushoryu – I think Maegashira 7 is a great rank for Tokushoryu, and I would not be surprised to see him finish 8-7 or 7-8 this July. The Hatsu yusho winner still has enough sumo to be a challenge to many of his opponents. Today’s fight is a fairly even match against a somewhat bloated Tamawashi, who is already up to 5 wins.

Takarafuji vs Ryuden – I count Takarafuji as another in the cadre of rikishi who seem to have little or no fighting edge this tournament, and I would peg that on the oft mentioned lack of join training in the days leading up to the first day of competition. Ryuden has also looked vague and uninspired. Lack of a big crowd? Lack of joint training?

Enho vs Kiribayama – The final first time match up of the day, and I would really like to see Enho fold Kiribayama neatly and store him in a clean dry place.

Takanosho vs Yutakayama – Like Onosho in the match following this one, I am fearing a day 8 make-koshi for Yutakayama. I cheered when his hard work to recover from injury and demotion returned him to the joi-jin, but now he is doing so poorly, I wonder if he is hurt again. If not, he has to be one of the most frustrated people in all of sumo right now.

Daieisho vs Onosho – A loss today and that’s make-koshi for Onosho, who really has not found his groove at all this July. He’s far enough up the banzuke that he’s not really in any kind of danger of ending up in Juryo. One has to wonder if he got injured in the first 7 days, or if he has just fallen into some kind of sumo-doldrum. He holds a 7-4 career advantage over Daieisho, but I am not expecting that to make a difference.

Endo vs Okinoumi – I don’t think I have seen Endo get his frontal grip set once this entire tournament. That may be the key to his crummy score (2-5). The other rikishi are watching for it, and can shut it down before he can use it to gain any kind of offensive advantage. Endo has, in the past, been very good with plan b/c/d type sumo, but that seems to not be working for him right now.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – I think THE match of the day, this one is just too ripe to resist. Its the Sekiwake showdown, and it’s Shodai’s cartoon sumo versus the original tadpole. Mitakeumi looks hard, focused and intense right now, and Shodai seems to be having some sort of reality dysfunction. Their career record is 10-10, so this one is going to be worth staying up for. Bonus points if Shodai gets a delivery from ACME moments before the match.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – I know Takakeisho is on a solid track to get his 8 with and clear kadoban. But given how many Ozekis have been through the grinder in the past 2 years, i get worried. Hokutofuji typically has a solid, wide stance that is resistant to Takakeisho’s oshi zumo, and I predict if Takakeisho is going to get a win, he is going to have to find a way to pull. Dangerous territory for a man with very short arms.

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – Big Dan Aoiyama seems about a half step slow right now. Against Asanoyama this means he may not be able to initiate his preferred attack mode, which a pushing style I call “V Twin”. Aoiyama has yet to really dial in his sumo this basho, but should be able to make his 8 once he finishes his tour of the named ranks.

Hakuho vs Kagayaki – Hakuho is happy to have these matches with the likes of Kagayaki. He was concerned about the lack of degeiko leading up to the start of this basho, and while his first 8 matches don’t quite make up for not having days of bouts against less rikishi, it’s better than nothing. Now much as I love Kagayaki and his sumo, its going to be a quick and ugly bit of sumo, and we are probably going to get Kagayaki face down in the clay. I am predicting the boss gets his kachi-koshi today while he continues to wait for Mitakeumi and Asanoyama.

Tokyo July Basho Day 7 Preview

We head into the middle weekend of this Tokyo July basho, and I have to say I am completely thrilled by the fact we are already down to three 6-0 rikishi, each of which has prior yusho experience, and each of which could reasonably take the cup. Of course if you have Hakuho 6-0 on day 7, he has to be the favorite to win it. With Kakuryu out of the tournament, the final match of the basho will likely be against Takakeisho, which given his kadoban status might just decide if he can keep his rank. Let’s hope it does not come to that.

Close behind is a whole crew at 5 wins, and they represent some great contenders. I not with some joy that Terunofuji is hanging tough, 1 loss behind the leaders. But Shodai? Shodai! He looks like he has decided that the Ozeki promotion lanes are still open, and he is going to push Mitakeumi out of the way and take the next slot. Frankly given his sumo thus far, it’s not out of the question that by the end of the year he could get himself in position to begin a try for 33. While many think I hate the guy, it was only disappointment that he seemed at times to lose focus, get sloppy and let sumo happen rather than dominating his matches. I know he has come under Kakuryu’s tutelage, and I think perhaps that may be helping him.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Kyokushuho vs Chiyomaru – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho comes up to have his with with winless Chiyomaru. The “round one” has been having a terrible start to the basho, and it would be a real shame for him to exit Sunday already make-koshi. I hope he can find a reserve of Genki and make a stand. Sadly Kyokushuho holds a 9-4 career advantage over the man in green.

Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage won their only prior match, but right now Terunofuji seems to be focused, hard and driven. His body is nothing like it was on his first debut into the top division, but I see the same intensity and mental toughness that he can bring to sumo when he tries. The worry is that he might lose his fighting spirit, and get discouraged. Stay strong Kaiju!

Kotoshogiku vs Nishikigi – Kotoshogiku is fighting well so far, but his body sometimes starts to give him pain and worry in the second week. Drawbacks of being old and getting into fights for a living. The rapid attack chest to chest sumo from Kotoshogiku does play well into Nishikigi’s preferred attack plan, and I think this has the makings of a very good match.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki managed to lose his sumo somewhere about 3 weeks ago, and he has had his tsukebito out looking high and low for it. Its easy to spot, as it looks like an adorable stuffed penguin, but smells of curry. If you see it, please do let someone know, as I am sure he is eager to have it back. Until then, he’s little more than geiko ballast for the opponent of the day, And that’s speed fighter Sadanoumi on day 7.

Kotoeko vs Tochinoshin – I had to check a few times, but yes – first time match between these two! Color me happy that Tochinoshin is well ahead of kachi-koshi right now, and we are far enough into the basho that I can say the extended break seems to have helped that damaged knee repair at least some. Fans of the man who has the strength of a bear, which has the strength of two bears are rejoicing.

Shimanoumi vs Kotoshoho – Is Kotoshoho just having a great first top division basho? Or is he some kind of next-generation steamroller that is crushing everything he can? Of course we will need to wait for the fall to find out more, but he certainly seems to be loading up one of the much lauded double-digit debuts served with a sansho garnish. Shimanoumi has looked completely discombobulated this tournament. I think it’s beyond what I would refer to as “ring rust”

Takayasu vs Myogiryu – This match is, to me, the one to watch in the first half. You have former Ozeki Takayasu who is still struggling to execute his sumo up against another veteran in Myogiryu who seems to be on a bit of a hot streak. Myogiryu holds a 12-9 career advantage, but Takayasu seems highly motivated, and just healthy enough to put some effort into his sumo. But I have notice that every single opponent throws some kind of attack against that injured left elbow. I know its part of the sport, but come on!

Kaisei vs Kotonowaka – Kaisei is only 2-4, but rather than his lumbering and lethargic self, he has put some effort, movement and power into his sumo this tournament. It would make me very happy for him to find a road to 8 wins and leave this odd July basho with a kachi-koshi. His career record with Kotonowaka is 1-1, and I am looking for speed and mobility to have problems with Kaisei’s Newtonian sumo.

Shohozan vs Ikioi – A pair of grizzle veterans who somehow get onto the dohyo every day and fight it out. What keeps them going? Aside from the gallons of chanko, vast oceans of beer and grim determination? I am going to guess their love of sumo. So keep in mind, what you see today on the dohyo between these two today, it’s an expression of love.

Chiyotairyu vs Tokushoryu – What would it look like if two camper trailers suddenly decided to do battle? What if you hooked one to a piece of earth moving equipment and another to a Tesla model S? Chiyotairyu has shown some of his better sumo early on, but like Tokushoryu has managed no better than a 3-3 record. Chiyotairyu holds a distinct 7-4 advantage in the series.

Ishiura vs Ryuden – A battle of disappointing sumo, both of these long serving top divisions mainstays is having a crummy start to this tournament. I would like to think that Ishiura could have continued his good sumo from March, but I would count him (heck, Ryuden too) as a rikishi who is hampered by lack of adequate prep before the basho. With any luck the sumo kyokai will take this into account leading up to Aki, and make sure that the kanban rikishi have ample opportunity to hone their sumo prior to shonichi in September.

Enho vs Tamawashi – Enho has twice gotten knocked back into a squat that was a prelude to a loss, and frankly he is not really doing much in the way of good sumo right now. This is his first match against master basher Tamawashi, who appears to have enjoyed a great many of his baking projects during the government mandated isolation period. This is their first ever match, and I am just hoping Enho comes through uninjured.

Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – Both of these rikishi are struggling as well. From Maegashira 5, I expected Hokutofuji to dominate most of his matches, and re-assert his position in the joi-jin for September. But I now have my doubts, as he seems to lack the fire, the blistering tachiai and the “oh my god” crazy offense that has been the hallmark of his sumo. Hokutofuji won their only prior match, so maybe he can end the day at 5-2.

Takanosho vs Onosho – Tachiai readers know I am a fan of the red tadpole, Onosho. But right now he is not just battling Takanosho, his fighting spirit is all but extinguished. I try to keep in mind that Onosho tends to suffer from ring rust, and tends to be very streaky. I would be delighted if he could turn things around from a 0-6 start. But more likely, Takanosho will catch him too far forward over his toes and put his face in the clay.

Endo vs Yutakayama – Also in the screaming “WTF” category is the original head of the Freshmen, Yutakayama, who has a stinging 0-6 start. If its any consolation, he is facing Endo who is almost as big a mess as “big unit”, Yutakayama, whom I fear is in for a day 8 make-koshi.

Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Although he is only at 3-3, I have been delightfully surprised by the quality and intensity of Okinoumi’s sumo this July. In this all Komusubi battle, its advantage Okinoumi as his sumo looks better this tournament than Daieisho’s and he holds a 10-5 career advantage.

Abi vs Mitakeumi – I want to see Mitakeumi continue to just dominate every match this tournament. He came out the winner in the mock Natsu basho in May, and he looks sharp, strong and focused right now. Abi is holding on to a middle of the road 3-3 record now, but is hardly looking a likely candidate for a kachi-koshi. I am hoping for at least 10 wins for original tadpole.

Shodai vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama will try to stand Shodai up, and slap him down. I am looking for Shodai to uncork some cartoon sumo similar to his day 6 looney toon ballet against Endo. Will Big Dan’s V-Twin be enough to overcome whatever Shodai comes up with at the last minute?

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Come on, you are pulling for an Asanoyama yusho. You know you want one. First of a matching pair needed for a new rope to be woven in September? Yeah, too soon with the Boss still owning the dohyo and dispatching all challengers. But that day may yet come. I expect him to try to limit Takarafuji’s effort to extend the match. He holds a 6-1 career advantage.

Takakeisho vs Kagayaki – The kadoban Ozeki, Takakeisho the grand tadpole, is not looking genki, much as what happened in the May basho simulation. Kiribayama really took control of the day 6 match, and left the senior Ozeki powerless to do much but lose. Kagayaki has a 4-1 career advantage over Takakeisho, and I think the low, deliberate and fundamentals driven sumo may disrupt any thrusting offense that Takakeisho may try to muster today. Please, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, don’t let it come down to a 7-7 day 15 battle against Hakuho….

Hakuho vs Kiribayama – Hey, Kiribayama! Welcome to the big leagues. Please enjoy your flying lesson. The clay facial is a free perk of a match against Hakuho.