Nagoya Day 15 Highlights

The Nagoya basho is in the record books now, and it was Hakuho who took the cup after the final match. The 45th yusho of his career, he continues to defy all expectations, including (it seems) some of his own. Following a hard fought battle against Terunofuji, we saw a brief flash of elation, a fist pump, a shout, and a smile of victory. There are some sumo fans who will find his behavior unacceptable, but as a fully fledged barbarian who loves sumo, it made me shout and smile myself.

He is literally peerless in the world of sumo, and possibly in the world of individual athletic competition. 45 championships. This basho marks 14 years since his first appearance of Yokozuna. He has out lasted all of his contemporaries (Harumafuji, Kakuryu, Kisenosato). He endured orthopedic surgery 4 months ago that would have left most people hobbling for a year, and came back and beat everyone he faced.

I personally thought the basho would be too much for him to endure, and his body would give up under the grind, but he managed all 15 days, and took home the cup yet again. Some may ask, “But what is he going to do with all of that beef?” (from one of the prizes). I am certain Hokuseiho will eat most of it.

Congratulations to Yokozuna Hakuho, you again prove that you are some kind of bio-engineered sumo machine sent from the future to collect giant macarons.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Akua – Ishiura double arms Akua at the tachiai, as Akua’s opening gambit to get a right hand on Ishiura’s mawashi fails. Ishiura is rewarded with an inside lane, and drives hard to the front, running Akua quickly out. He ends Nagoya 9-6.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyonoo – The first Darwin match goes to Ichiyamamoto, as Chiyonoo loses defensive foot placement, attempts a throw that disintegrates, and gets shoved out. Ichiyamamoto is kachi-koshi, and will remain in the top division, further reducing promotion prospects from Juryo.

Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Kotonowaka gets to 12 wins, and picks up the Fighting Spirit special prize, and generally finally shows us the kind of sumo that we had expected from him from the past year. I am not sure if has been injury, or mental challenges, but this is the kind of sumo that Kotonowaka is capable of, and I hope he can continue to compete at this level of excellence. Well done sir!

Hidenoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru had nothing to offer today in terms of defense, save being incredibly large and round. It took Hidenoumi a few moments to get his hands and hips set, but he found he could move forward and took Chiyomaru over the bales. Hidenoumi ends Nagoya 7-8.

Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – The battle of the mega-fauna was over quickly, with Aoiyama getting Kaisei turned to the side with that left hand, and he then shoves and pushes Kaisei from the side to send him out. Aoiyama ends Nagoya 7-8.

Ura defeats Chiyoshoma – Somehow Chiyoshoma just gave up on sumo and wanted to slap Ura around. It was quite useless as Ura attacked inside anyway. Chiyoshoma panics, tries to pull, and Ura runs him out. Some concern that Ura’s knee seemed a bit painful following the match, but what a finish. 10-5 for his return to the top division. Watch out above, here comes trouble.

Myogiryu defeats Daiamami – Myogiryu’s first surge forward from the tachiai comes up short, but he consolidates his position and attacks again. The second combo works, taking Daiamami out of his defensive position, and Myogiryu picks up a much needed 5th win to finish Nagoya 5-10.

Kiribayama defeats Shimanoumi – I am not sure where that version of Kiribayama was, but it’s nice to see his old, super genki form that got him to the top division. He ends Nagoya at 9-6 with a fast yoritaoshi.

Onosho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi attempts a hit and shift at the tachiai, banking that Onosho would be off balance into the initial clash. But it seems that Onosho was quite prepared for this predictable move, and attacks with vigor. Terutsuyoshi, having gambled on the mini-henka has no defensive position, and absorbs Onosho’s battering as best he can before a final shove ends his efforts. Onosho finishes Nagoya 7-8.

Tokushoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – When this match went chest to chest, it was pretty clear just where it was going to end. We have seen Tokushoryu pull that move at the bales countless times. One fan refers to it as his “super power”. I was glad to see it on display again, but that is how you get Chiyotairyu ending the basho at 4-11.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoeko – Color me impressed. Tochinoshin found some reserve of pain tolerance and rallied from a terrible start to finish with a mild 7-8 make-koshi. But I have to mention that Kotoeko, deeply make-koshi at 2-12, poured on everything he could muster. My heart goes out to him, as he gave it everything he could muster.

Tobizaru defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s opening salvo only partially connects, and it fails to move Tobizaru back. In response, Tobizaru gets a double inside grip and goes on the attack. Try as he might, Tamawashi can’t shake Tobizaru, or turn the match to his control. Tobizaru, for his part, remains patient and sets up the winning throw well. Hey, where were you the prior 14 days?

Hoshoryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hoshoryu gets to double digits with a solid win over Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji comes in low, probably too low, and is ripe for a slap down, which Hoshoryu delivers with precision.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Ichinojo makes it to 10 with a quick win over Takarafuji. Takarafuji tries to step back and draw Ichinojo into Takarafuji’s defensive sumo, but instead Ichinojo slaps him down – hard! This is the first double digit performance from Ichinojo since March of 2019.

Takanosho defeats Chiyonokuni – The second Darwin match, and a contrast of oshi-sumo styles. Takanosho was relentless against Chiyonokuni’s center-mass, while Chiyonokuni was solely focused on Takanosho head and face. Key tip, if you can endure the bashing to your head, center-mass will carry the match. Takanosho ends Nagoya 8-7 and is kachi-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – As if to punctuate the point above, Daieisho blows past Okinoumi’s defenses and drives thrust after thrust into Okinoumi’s chest. Its about 7 steps forward and Okinoumi is out. Both end Nagoya with deep 5-10 make-koshi scores.

Meisei defeats Kagayaki – The third Darwin match goes to Meisei, who is kachi-koshi to end Nagoya. This match was 100% Kagayaki’s offense with a lot of thrusting power, but Meisei timed Kagayaki’s final finishing charge expertly and stepped out of the way, sending Kagayaki to the clay.

Wakatakakage defeats Mitakeumi – Brilliant reversal by Wakatakakage as Mitakeumi pressed forward to shove him out. Glad to see Wakatakakage finish with at least one strong match, he ends Nagoya at 5-10.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – The final Darwin match, Takayasu opened with a left hand outside grip, and Shodai returns with his own inside grip. Takayasu attempts to rotate into a throw, but can’t maintain the grip. With his back now turned to Shodai, he tries to escape, but Shodai pushes him out from behind to escape kadoban, finishing Nagoya with and 8-7 kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Terunofuji – The grand finale, the brawl to end it all. They spent a good amount of time staring daggers at each other prior to the tachiai. This turned into Hakuho’s match the moment Terunofuji reacted to Hakuho’s attacks. The Boss really had to work for it, and that little celebration at the end? It has sumo fans around the world talking. Its a bit uncharacteristic for a Yokozuna, but given all that Hakuho has been through, maybe understandable. I don’t think he was certain he could pull it off. Hakuho finishes Nagoya at 15-0, a perfect score and his 45th yusho.

That concludes our daily coverage of the Nagoya basho. Thank you dear readers for sharing our love of sumo, and following along through what has been a thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable tournament. We will continue to follow the stories that come out of this basho, including the expected announcement of Terunofuji’s promotion to the 73rd Yokozuna.

Nagoya Day 15 Preview

At last we come to it, the final day of the Nagoya basho. Due to clever work by the schedulers, and a bit of luck, we are about to try to stuff 20 pounds of sumo into a 5 pound bag. If you wanted high stakes, high impact matches, this will be the day for you. I recommend you start by reading lksumo’s excellent write up that explains the promotion / demotion mechanics in play, and who is headed for the Juryo barge of the damed for the slow trip back to Tokyo.

On the menu for the final day:

  • The Brawl to end it all: A Zensho show down for the cup. It’s two men with useless knees at the top of the sumo ranks who are going to fight with everything they have.
  • Four (4!) Darwin matches, including the final one between an Ozeki and a Sekiwake
  • Hoshoryu and Hokutofuji fighting to see who gets to pick up any san’yaku slot that might open up behind Ichinojo, once the dust settles.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Akua vs Ishiura – Both are kachi-koshi, and they needed someone to fill the banzuke gap left by Endo. So lets bring Akua up so he and Ishiura can stomp around the clay for 30 seconds and end up in a heap somewhere. Hell, I would cheer for that.

Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyonoo – Darwin match #1 – If Ichiyamamoto hits he dirt, he’s headed back to Juryo. He won their only prior meeting.

Tsurugisho vs Kotonowaka – The question here, can Kotonowaka rack 12 wins in this basho? For some tournaments, that’s a yusho score! Special prize to be awarded, I think. Maybe even if he can’t beat Tsurugisho (but, in fact he can).

Hidenoumi vs Chiyomaru – Does the 7th win matter if you are already make-koshi? I guess this match can help us find out. They have matching 6-8 records, and a 5-5 career history. Chiyomaru has a size advantage, Hidenoumi has a power advantage.

Kaisei vs Aoiyama – The last battle of the mega-fauna, it’s a pair of 200kg monsters with matching 6-8 scores fighting for that 7th win and a bit of banzuke cushioning. Aoiyama’s sumo has been sloppy and disorganized, while Kaisei fights like bison; he’s too big to really move, but you don’t want to get him excited.

Ura vs Chiyoshoma – High interest match, both are kachi-koshi, both are known for high agility sumo, both can disappear before you can land that migi-yotsu you had your heart set on. Will they mutually henka? I would be willing to offer ¥100,000 if someone would broker that between the two of them. They can even make it a matta so it won’t count. Chiyoshoma has never won against Ura, and a win today by the man in the pink mawashi would take him to 10 wins in his return to the top division.

Myogiryu vs Daiamami – My advice to these guys. Hit the bar before, during and after the match. It won’t chance things very much in terms of your sumo, but you might enjoy it more. Both are 4-10 and are going to visit the lower rungs of the September banzuke.

Shimanoumi vs Kiribayama – Again, matching records for this match, with the number being 8-6. I think Kiribayama is a bit hungrier than Shimanoumi. Maybe that will count for something here. With the senshuraku parties still on hold thanks to COVID, you can’t even bask in the adoration of your fans after your kachi-koshi. Bummer.

Onosho vs Terutsuyoshi – I know that Onosho holds a 2-1 career lead over Terutsuyoshi, but I think that Terutsuyoshi is going to command this match more or less from the second volley. Sure Onosho is going to open big, but he has thus far been so out of alignment that his front end wobble is uncontrollable. So I am looking for Terutsuyoshi to try something big and fun to finish what must be a satisfying tournament for him, including that thunderous streak of 6 wins that started on day 8.

Tokushoryu vs Chiyotairyu – Tokushoryu (6-8), ranked at M15 faces off against M4 Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu’s hideous 4-10 score may punt him toward the bottom of the banzuke, but a Tokushoryu loss today may add his name to the roster of souls rowing the Juryo barge back to Tokyo.

Kotoeko vs Tochinoshin – If Tochinoshin can squeeze out an 7-8 make-koshi, after starting the basho with 4 straight losses, I think it will be a most remarkable feat. He has to rack one more white star, against hapless Kotoeko (2-12). Given Tochinoshin’s 45kg weight advantage, that should not be too tough of a goal.

Tamawashi vs Tobizaru – I think the schedulers ran out of people for Tamawashi to compete against, so they saw his 11-3 master piece of a score and decided Tobizaru’s mirror image 3-11 score constituted a worthy reason to have them fight on day 15. This is also their first ever match, so lord knows what’s going to happen. Maybe in some bizzaro world, what really happened in Saturday’s final match what that Hakuho used an ancient Jomon shamanistic spell to swap sumo with Hakuho, and he’s going to rock up into this match and turf Tamawashi with overwhelming force. (Editor’s note, I intend to be on my 3rd beer by this time, so in fact this will make perfect sense by that time)

Hokutofuji vs Hoshoryu – One of you two gets to be first in line to be disappointed when there is no Komusubi slot for you. A hell of a prize for a match like this, but sumo is a brutal sport. Hoshoryu, at 9-5, won their only prior match, but I think 8-6 Hokutofuji has an edge today, as he has been really dialed into his sumo during week 2.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – This theme really seems to work, let’s try it again! 8-6 Takarafuji vs 9-5 Ichinojo, as the Boulder tries for double digits for the first time since March of 2019. Takarafuji has a 3-13 career deficit against this enormous fellow, so it may be time to open that 4th beer.

Takanosho vs Chiyonokuni – I can’t believe we have to wait this long for the second Darwin match, but it’s high time that someone face the music. Chiyonokuni has yet to win one against Takanosho, and I am going to guess today may not be his day. Winner kachi-koshi, the loser gets to clean out the chikara-mizu spittoon.

Okinoumi vs Daieisho – In the final battle of the “They really should have done better”, it’s 5-9 Okinoumi facing off against 4-10 Daieisho, to see if they both end up with double digit losses. 19 prior matches, no definitive advantage for either. Both are likely fighting hurt, both need to recover and return strong for September.

Kagayaki vs Meisei – The third Darwin match, with a unlikely 12 rank banzuke spread between the two of them. Suffice to say Kagayaki is the underdog here, and I would expect that Meisei will get his 8th and shut down the promotion lanes.

Wakatakakage vs Mitakeumi – The match exists to allow fans without a DVR (who can pause the action) to visit the toilet. While I loves me some Wakatakakage sumo, this is a very one sided match given the parameters of this basho. The one thing that I am really looking forward to for this one is the hope that the day 15 announcer is Raja Pradhan, and we can listen to him fire off Wakatakakage about 20 times before the lead Onami brother gets a face full of clay.

Shodai vs Takayasu – The final, and most grand of the Darwin matches of recent memory. The human daikon up against the hairy beast of Ibaraki. I am going to guess that Shodai is going to be highly pissed off after day 14 against the boss, and he is going to try to lay the doom on Takayasu. It’s not that far fetch given that Shodai has a 12-9 career advantage over the former Ozeki. This Darwin match has a bonus gooey toping, if Shodai loses, it’s kadoban time for him.

Hakuho vs Terunofuji – Here it is, we talked about it before the basho even started, the “Brawl to end it all”. We hoped, we made tuna offerings to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, and prayed to all forces of heaven to bring this about. Both 14-0, both ready to hoist the cup. I could cite the 9-4 career advantage that Hakuho has, but who cares. The last time these two fought was May of 2017, and both are radically different men now. As Team Tachiai has been proclaiming, Terunofuji has been delivering Yokozuna level results for most of this year, but this July he took it up yet another notch. I think Hakuho will finally have his hands full.

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Over the course of day 14, a magical feast of sumo was set for us to enjoy on senshuraku, the final day. Four Darwin matches, rank battles and the “Brawl to end it all” to finish it all off for the Emperor’s Cup. For the first basho in a year to feature Hakuho on day 15, the Sumo kyokai milked it for every drop, and I could not be happier with how it has unfolded.

Four more rikishi hit kachi-koshi today, and the safety of 8 wins, and a total of eight who enter day 15 with 7-7 records.

No matter what happens tomorrow, the yusho will go to a perfect 15-0 score, which has not happened since March of 2019, when Hakuho took the cup in Osaka. From the two leaders, this has been nothing short of maximum sumo for the full 14 days, and sumo fans around the world are happy to see such dominant execution from not just one, but two rikishi during this Nagoya basho. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, with day 15 yet to come.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Wakamotoharu – Nice ottsuke from Daiamami today shut down any attempt by Wakamotoharu to get that left hand inside to set up an attack. Daiamami shuts it down, and then marches him out. Simple, clean, effective. Daiamami improves to 4-10.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichiyamamoto – Tochinoshin found a way to stay in the ring as Ichiyamamoto attacked well early. But then his left hand found its mark. That right knee is still little more than gristle and old UCC coffee cans taped together, but out came the sky-crane. Ichiyamamoto had never faced Tochinoshin before, so he had no idea what this guy was capable of. 140kg of rikishi left the clay as Tochinoshin bodily carried him out to advance to 6-8. Ichiyamamoto ends the day at 7-7, and will face his first top division Darwin match to decide if he gets to stay in Makuuchi.

Tokushoryu defeats Kaisei – Tokushoryu hit and shift left at the tachiai by Tokushoryu had almost zero effect, and Kaisei responded by landing a deep left hand grip. Kaisei appeared to have advantage as the two pressed forward against each other. Tokushoryu lifted with his right, got Kaisei off balance and threw him down with a sukuinage for the win. Tokushoryu improves to 6-8, Kaisei picks up his 8th loss, and he is make-koshi.

Tsurugisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi hits fast at the tachiai, and latches on with his left hand, his head buried in Tsurugisho’s chest. This only slows Tsurugisho down for a moment, who is strong enough to lift Terutsuyoshi and carry him over the bales. Tsurugisho improves to 8-6 and is kachi-koshi for July.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyonokuni – I once again marvel at just how frantic Chiyonokuni’s thrusting attacks can be. Shimanoumi tries to respond, but Chiyonokuni is delivering 3 hits for every 1 he receives. Shimanoumi decides thats not going to work and takes Chiyonokuni to his chest. Shimanoumi’s left hand drives the rest of the match, setting up the uwatenage that drops Chiyonokuni to the clay. Shimanoumi improves to 8-6 and is kachi-koshi. Chiyonokuni is 7-7 and it’s Darwin for him.

Kotonowaka defeats Takarafuji – Kotonowaka is really on his sumo this July, and we have not seen anything like this level of performance from him since January during his second tournament in the top division. Takarafuji got his preferred grip at the tachiai, and even the esteemed Murray Johnson said of Kotonowaka, “Now, he’s in trouble”, and for a moment it looked like he was. But Kotonowaka was able to blunt each of Takarafuji’s probing attacks, as the veteran inched Kotonowaka closer to the bales. But Kotonowaka was well aware of the edge of the ring. He lifted and pivoted and placed Takarafuji out to rack his 11th win. Wow, the sky’s the limit for you sir.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ishiura – Chiyoshoma had his hands up early at the tachiai, in an attempt to keep Ishiura at a good distance while the Chiyoshoma set up his match plan. Chiyoshoma gets the right hand deep, near the mawashi knot, and finds a shallow right hand grip. He did not wait a moment for Ishiura to defend, as Chiyoshoma has the uwatenage cocked, and he lets it fly with glorious effect. That’s Chiyoshoma’s 8th win and he picks up a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Onosho defeats Chiyonoo – Chiyonoo let Onosho get both hands inside and square his shoulders. At that point, Onosho could push forward with all of his considerable strength without fear of slap down, and he drove Chiyonoo quickly out. Chiyonoo drops to 7-7 and will enjoy a day 15 Darwin match, while Onosho improves to 6-8.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi picks up his 6th consecutive loss, as he yielded the inside route to Kagayaki. Perhaps he was looking to get a hand hold on Kagayaki’s mawashi and work for a belt attack? None of it was working for him, he tried a pull, which failed as well. All this time Kagayaki keeps up the pressure against center mass, and Okinoumi finds himself pushed out to drop to 5-9. Kagayaki improves to 7-7, and joins the Darwin group.

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – I don’t know whats broken inside of Kotoeko, but I do hope that he can get it fixed. As with all other matches of this basho, Kotoeko attacked with vigor, but Chiyomaru endured and gave as well as he received, up to the point where Kotoeko was off balance, and then Chiyomaru delivered the hatakikomi. Chiyomaru improves to 6-8.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Woah! Hokutofuji charges in at full power, Tamawashi puts a left on Hokutofuji’s shoulder, and a right hand on his neck and just tosses 162kg of Hokutofuji bodily to the clay. Tamawashi improves to 11-3. One of the biggest oshitaoshi I have seen in a while.

Myogiryu defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru really put some effort into today’s match, but he left sense center of balance back in the heya again today, and found himself stumbling at the moment he should have put the doom on Myogiryu. Myogiryu obliges with a hatakikomi to send Tobizaru to a blistering 11th loss for Nagoya. Myogiryu improves to 4-10.

Takanosho defeats Hidenoumi – The schedulers made sure there were no winners to this match, only someone who lost somewhat more than the other. Takanosho opened strong, landed a nodowa, and drove Hidenoumi out for his 8th loss and make-koshi. Takanosho picks up his 7th win and joins the Darwin clan for day 15 special treatment.

Ichinojo defeats Kiribayama – The Ichinojo matta is almost obligatory now. I think he’s had one almost every day this week. When the fight gets underway, it’s all a contest for hand placement. Ichinojo manages to get a right hand inside, but Kiribayama establishes an arm bar, and it’s stalemate. Another volley of grip change and struggle for placement, now Ichinojo has right hand outside. But still no one has enough leverage to attack, stalemate again. Ichinojo executes a grip shift to go right hand inside, consolidates his stance, lowers his hips and delivers the yorikiri. Ichinojo improves to 9-5.

Aoiyama defeats Daieisho – Aoiyama reaches in for an immediate pull down in the tachiai, catching Daieisho before he can take his first step, and drops him to the clay. Ugly win, but it worked. Aoiyama improves to 6-8.

Chiyotairyu defeats Wakatakakage – Chiyotairyu, where has that been for the last 2 weeks? That’s traditional cannonball tachiai from him, straight into a thrusting combo delivered center mass. Wakatakakage can’t withstand that much force, and finds himself thrusted out of the ring. Both end the day with dismal 4-10 records.

Ura defeats Meisei – We mused about Ura appearing so late in the day when he is ranked at only Maegashira 13, but the schedulers knew what they were doing with this one. Meisei comes in hard and fast, and nearly overpowers Ura in the opening salvo. Ura is forced back and has to absorb a volley to his chin to stay in the match. But Meisei can’t finish him. Ura goes low, gets a left hand outside grip, and goes to work. The key to what happened here seems to be a right hand grab and tug against Meisei’s left, which caused Meisei to pull that left arm back, opening up a route for Ura’s right hand to find Meisei’s mawashi. Meisei was too high following his opening attack, Ura drops his hips, and rushes him out for the win. Ura improves to 9-5, and Meisei joins the Darwin crowd.

Mitakeumi defeats Hoshoryu – Points to Hoshoryu for a well executed match. He comes in hard with a straight ahead opening gambit, but there is just too much Mitakeumi for him to really move. Mitakeumi absorbs this first salvo, closes the distance and grapples. With Hoshoryu pinned against his body, he marches forward to score his 8th win, and secure kachi-koshi in Nagoya.

Terunofuji defeats Takayasu – Takayasu opened well, getting his hands inside and piling up the pressure against the Ozeki’s chest and neck. But as we have seen several times in the past week, Terunofuji has remarkable hip flexibility and power. He shifts his upper body to the right and shuts down Takayasu’s attacks. The two stalemate for a minute, neither able to get any hand placement or deliver power into their opponent’s body. Again Terunofuji’s hips come into play as he applies a lot of lateral force into Takayasu, which turns him just a bit to the side. With Takayasu turned and off balance, Terunofuji attacks and runs Takayasu out. 14-0 for Terunofuji, just amazing sumo this month. If they don’t give this man a rope, they will wish they had.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – A number of commenters on Twitter wondered what Hakuho was up to with this match. He lined up at the tawara, and had to take two steps to first contact. I thought it was brilliant, as it shut down all manner of Shodai cartoon sumo. In fact, you could imagine that Hakuho wanted to use cartoon sumo himself against Shodai. As his frequently the case with Hakuho, he delights in using his opponent’s favorite techiques against them to win. It clearly confounded Shodai, and whatever he had in mind for a fight plan was out the window. Hakuho keeps out of Shodai’s battle-embrace, and keeps slapping him in the face. When Hakuho does dive in, he outright tackles Shodai for the win. 14-0 for the Boss. Frankly I loved this match. I am quite certain Shodai had no idea what to do with Hakuho’s sumo today. Bloody brilliant.

Nagoya Day 14 Preview

Oh, final weekend, here you are! What a joy and delight this July tournament has been. We have two top men in sumo going into day 14 undefeated, and the winning score will be at least 14 or 15 wins, a worthy tournament indeed. Both Hakuho and Terunofuji have fought very well, and I am delighted that they have a big show down at the end of day 15.

While we have two who are flying towards sumo’s stratospheric heights, there is a broad set of 14 rikishi caught in what I have named “Darwin’s funnel”. The schedulers clearly are trying to shape the field to have as many rikishi as possible start day 15 with 7-7 records, setting up a series of “Darwin matches”, where one man takes home a winning record, and the other a losing record. Survival of the fittest in a pure and brutal form. Its tough to guess how many of these rikishi will end today at 7-7, but the list of candidates includes kanban names like Takayasu, Shodai, Mitakeumi, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, Takanosho and Kagayaki. What a roster!

The final question left unanswered, will Terunofuji get promoted to Yokozuna. It seems that the Shimpan, who have the final say, are already thinking this one over, including his oyakata who is the lead. Herouth brings us the details

No matter what happens in his match against Takayasu today, the last match on Sunday will decide the yusho, it only means that Terunofuji would need to beat Hakuho twice to take the cup. This means that no matter what, Terunofuji has achieved the jun-yusho for Nagoya 2021. This will be his 6th yusho or jun-yusho since his return to the top division, out of 7 basho. Honestly, a 13-0 record with that count in the past year screams “Yokozuna”, but I suspect that Terunofuji is not quite done with Nagoya yet. But he may, in fact, have convinced the judges that he is ready.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Daiamami vs Wakamotoharu – I have to wonder if Wakamotoharu (7-6) might end up in the top division for November. One of the big factors that has kept turnover from Makuuchi back down to Juryo low is the tendency to have a lack of demoteable or promotable records at the end of the basho. We may be heading to that again in July. Wakamotoharu has a 4-0 career advantage over Daiamami, who at 3-10 is unlikely to reverse that trend today.

Tochinoshin vs Ichiyamamoto – A first ever match, and I am sure Ichiyamamoto (7-6) knows enough to attack from his left against Tochinoshin’s (5-8) right. We saw that the former Ozeki can still muster a fractional sky-crane if he can get his hands set and his feet planted. So Ichiyamamoto will be wise to keep moving and not let Tochinoshin get that left hand outside grip.

Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Kaisei (6-7) is in the heart of the funnel right now, and can only exit it by accepting make-koshi, or winning out. He has make-koshi Tokushoryu (5-8) today, whom he dominates with at 10-5 career record. They both will want to go chest to chest, so this will be a straight up mega-fauna yotsu battle. Yosh!

Tsurugisho vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi (8-5) has a solid chance to send Tsurugisho (7-6) to Darwin land today. Sure Tsurugisho has a 8-6 career advantage, but Terutsuyoshi has a 6 match winning streak, and is already kachi-koshi. He finally found his sumo in week 2, and he has been belting out the wins.

Chiyonokuni vs Shimanoumi – The winner of this match will be kachi-koshi, the loser will be eligible for a Darwin match tomorrow. I love it, this is brutal stuff and only one of them is going to make it to 8 today. They have a 1-1 career history, but to my eye, Chiyonokuni is fighting better this tournament. Both are 7-6.

Takarafuji vs Kotonowaka – Both Takarafuji (8-5) and Kotonowaka (10-3) will leave Nagoya with winning records, but it seems Kotonowaka is looking to run up the score. The Great Sumo Cat approves of this kind of behavior, and I would love to see if Takarafuji can employ the “frustration defense” against Kotonowaka today.

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – Oh lord, what a great match. Might we see the blazing double henka today? I think perhaps not. But Ishiura at 8-5 has less motivation than 7-6 Chiyoshoma. A win today and he gets a well deserved kachi-koshi. A loss, and it’s Darwin time for him.

Onosho vs Chiyonoo – Onosho (5-8) has a chance to toss Chiyonoo (7-6) bodily back into Darwin’s funnel, if he manages to summon his best sumo and attack with measured aggression. They have never faced off in the top division, but during their tenure in Juryo then went 4-4. Their last match was in 2016.

Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – The best that Kagayaki (6-7) can manage coming out of today would be a 7-7 score, and a trip to a Darwin match tomorrow. He has a 6-6 record against Okinoumi (5-8), and the things that catche my eye are the 5 straight losses Okinoumi has sustained since day 9’s loss to Terunofuji.

Kotoeko vs Chiyomaru – A make-koshi battle, with Kotoeko (2-11) looking to be in free fall territory in terms of rank. It’s a real shame, as I think that for starters, he a solid rikishi. But I also think due to the odd results coming from Natsu, he was over promoted on the back of his 9-6 record in May. Chiyomaru (5-8) is likewise make-koshi, so this match is really all about figuring out who gets the bigger demotion.

Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – I am certain that this match is going to be fun. They are both kachi-koshi, so there is no real threat in any loss. Both are expert thrusters with a strong mobility aspect to their sumo. They have a 13 match history with a 1 match lead to Tamawashi (10-3). I am looking forward to see if Hokutofuji (8-5) can continue his good sumo that we have seen since opening day.

Myogiryu vs Tobizaru – Matching 3-10 records. The only good news about this match is that one of these dismal and roundly defeated rikishi gets to pick up their 4th win. But I worry that Tobizaru can find some way to foul that up.

Takanosho vs Hidenoumi – One of these guys gets make-koshi, the winner gets invited to play Darwin on Sunday. I kind of like Takanosho’s chances on this one.

Kiribayama vs Ichinojo – This pair have matching 8-5 records, and following lksumo’s write up, I am going to guess they are looking to see if Ichinojo can rack up enough wins to make a bid for an san’yaku rank in September. They have only had 1 prior match, which went to Ichinojo.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Another battle of the make-koshi duds. One of these guys may end up with a 5-10 record at the end of the basho. I do like that we saw some of the old fire from Daieisho (4-9) on day 13. Maybe he can rally again and dispatch Aoiyama (5-8) for good measure.

Wakatakakage vs Chiyotairyu – More candidates for double-digit losses. Rising star Wakatakakage (4-9) is going to take a few tournaments before he can get his sumo together enough to try the joi-jin again. I think he’s another rikishi who, thanks to the crazy results in May, ended up over promoted and is getting hammered. My only thought for Chiyotairyu (3-10) is that he’s got to be injured in some way, and that’s a shame given the improvement to his sumo from last tournament.

Ura vs Meisei – Someone decided to haul crowd favorite Ura (8-5) up the banzuke form M13 to face a Komusubi. In addition, this is their first ever match. Meisei (7-6) needs one more win to hit kachi-koshi. Should he fail to get his 8th today, it’s a Darwin match for him on Sunday.

Hoshoryu vs Mitakeumi – I am sensing a bit of a theme here, and I DO like it. We have san’yaku hopeful Hoshoryu (9-4), needing a few more wins to raise the chances up against Mitakeumi (7-6) for the first time. Mitakeumi is on the bubble as well, and needs a win today to escape a Darwin match on Sunday. Mitakeumi is in his traditional week 2 fade, having lost 4 of his last 5 matches, and generally showing us scruffy sumo.

Terunofuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu has a 12-8 career advantage over Terunofuji. Yes, most of that is from before 2018, and since returning to the top division, the score has been 4-1 in favor of Terunofuji. This matters only just a little bit, as Terunofuji seems to be operating at the highest levels of sumo right now, and I would guess that Takayasu is going to be Darwin fodder on day 15.

Hakuho vs Shodai – Shodai showed us on day 13 that he has not lost all of his cartoon sumo moves. He nearly got the upper hand against Terunofuji, causing the Yokozuna hopeful to shift into 3rd gear to dispatch the human daikon. His record of 2-9 against Hakuho portends a pasty, blubbery mess taken airborne for a 7th loss, and a Darwin match against Takayasu.