Aki Day 11 Preview

Act 3 starts now, and the scheduling team are wasting no time in turning up the heat on this basho. I take a look at the torikumi, and there are some solid, high-interest fights for today. I suspect they are going to do a bit of funnel work – that is to try and herd everyone who is 5-5, 6-4 or 4-6 into a maximum number of 7-7 scores to start day 15. This will give them a chance to set up “Darwin matches” where the winner is kachi-koshi, the loser is make-koshi. It’s a perfect example of sumo’s zero sum approach to a tournament.

We are also going to see much larger gaps in rank between opponents, and some of the high performers from the lower half of the banzuke will get to face some of the big talent near the top, to test their mettle, and see if they have what it takes. The chief among these is yusho race leader and human cuddle bug, Atamifuji.

Aki Leaderboard

Atamifuji is alone atop the leader board, at least for one day. On cue, he’s going to face some of the kanban rikishi to see if he has what it takes to compete for the cup. Today it’s Tobizaru, whom he has never faced before. Hell, this match along is worth staying up all night to see in real time. But what of Takayasu? I just hope he did not wrench his back in his loss to Atamifuji, but they are not giving him any creampuffs either, he gets Daieisho.

To be clear, the best outcome that the schedulers would have would be to have at least 3 rikishi in contention to start Saturday. To do that we have to have Atamifuji lose at least once, and preferably twice. So buckle up, this is where it gets ugly.

Leader: Atamifuji
Chaser: Takayasu
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Hokutofuji, Onosho, Endo, Tsurugisho

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Takarafuji (5-5) vs Kotoshoho (4-6) – Possibly part of a funnel, if they are running one (it’s not clear that they are), with the goal of keeping both Takarafuji and Kotoshoho on course for 7-7 scores to start day 15. Takarafuji has won 4 of their prior 6 matches, and I would consider him to have an edge today against Kotoshoho.

Aoiyama (3-7) vs Hokuseiho (6-4) – Their only prior match was day 3 of Natsu, where Hokuseiho grabbed Aoiyama and delivered an excess height yorikiri. Given Hokuseiho’s low creativity shown on the dohyo so far, I would expect him to try the same thing. An Aoiyama loss would be make-koshi for him.

Mitakeumi (6-4) vs Kagayaki (4-6) – Mitakeumi has never lost to Kagayaki, and I see no reason for this to change today. With a 7-0 career record, and his sumo looking a lot more like his Ozeki days, he’s going to probably toss Kagayaki out of the ring in short order.

Kinbozan (6-4) vs Nishikifuji (4-6) – Another possible funnel match, with the goal of having Nishikifuji pick up a win against Kinbozan. Kinbozan started Aki with 4 straight wins, but has dropped 3 of the last 4. Hopefully he did not pick up an injury fighting Hokuseiho on day 7.

Midorifuji (5-5) vs Sadanoumi (5-5) – Another possibly funnel match, both have 5-5 scores to start the day, thought Midorifuji holds a 4-1 career lead over Sadanoumi. Would Midorifuji be so bold as to try for a katasukashi two days in a row?

Daishoho (2-8) vs Hiradoumi (3-7) – The likely captain of the Juryo barge of the damed, Daishoho, has a chance to hand out a freshly minted make-koshi to Hiradoumi. All he needs to do is win today’s match. He has a 4-1 career record against Hiradoumi, though Hiradoumi won their most recent match on day 6 of Natsu.

Kotoeko (3-7) vs Chiyoshoma (2-8) – Chiyoshoma is already make-koshi, and I think now he needs to find some wins to keep from joining Daishoho on that Juryo barge. He has a tough hill to climb, and today he needs to overcome a 2:1 career disadvantage against Kotoeko. Kotoeko has won the last 3 in a row, and holds a 14-7 advantage overall since 2012. Should Chiyoshoma win, it would be make-koshi for Kotoeko.

Onosho (7-3) vs Myogiryu (6-4) – Another pair with a lengthy history where one rikishi dominates the other. Onosho holds a 14-3 lead against Myogiryu, with the last Myogiryu win being in 2019 on day 15 of Kyushu. An Onosho win today is kachi-koshi for him.

Gonoyama (6-4) vs Endo (7-3) – I swear, every day as I read the torikumi, my eye catches on Gonoyama, and my brain goes, “damn, that might be a really hot match”. I guess Gonoyama is my favorite of the moment. He has Endo today, who beat him in their prior encounter on day 9 of Nagoya. Both are having solid tournaments, but a win today for Endo is kachi-koshi.

Ryuden (3-7) vs Tamawashi (0-10) – Shall we save Ryuden from make-koshi for another day? Sure, why not. Put him up against the battle damaged Tamawashi and let him pick up a win.

Shodai (4-6) vs Oho (3-7) – A win today for Shodai would push him closer to the middle of any funnel that might be underway, while at the same time a Oho loss would be make-koshi for him. Its plain to me that Oho needs (at minimum) a tune up and valve train alignment, so the sooner he is make-koshi, the better. Shodai won their only prior match on day 14 of Nagoya.

Shonannoumi (5-5) vs Asanoyama (5-5) – What the hell, Asanoyama? Ok, here you are fighting the perennial Makushita door stop Shonannoumi. But I can’t honestly say that I think you are going to walk away with this one, in spite of the fact he has never won against you in 4 attempts. Good luck today, sir.

Abi (6-4) vs Ura (5-5) – Will the “Ura goes flying” tally increase by 1 today? We can only hope. He’s been especially energetic this tournament, ending up in flight any number of times. I do hope that the NHK highlight reel splices them all together to give like a super cut of Ura aloft. Abi leads their series 5-2, and will probably boost the man in pick off the clay today.

Hokutofuji (7-3) vs Tsurugisho (7-3) – Winner today gets kachi-koshi, and I do like Hokutofuji’s chances. Mostly because in spite of his 160+ kg bulk, he is still quite mobile, this is a problem for Tsurugisho who has the bulk but not the agility to do much against Hokutofuji’s independently articulated lower body. This one will be fun to watch no matter what.

Atamifuji (9-1) vs Tobizaru (5-5) – It’s time to test young Atamifuji against something he’s not used to – some flying monkey sumo. Given the battery of combos Tobizaru is likely to deliver in the first 10 seconds, I will consider it a victory if Atamifuji can even keep his feet. First ever match, with a Atamifuji loss possibly knocking him out of the sole possession of the lead.

Nishikigi (5-5) vs Meisei (4-6) – I like this match because I find it unpredictable. They have a 4-4 score over their careers, with both winning a match this year. If Meisei can set up a throw, he tends to win by shitatenage. We all know that Nishikigi only serves one big wide flavor – yorikiri. I can’t wait to see which way this one goes.

Daieisho (6-4) vs Takayasu (8-2) – Time to find out if Takayasu hurt himself in his day 10 loss to Atamifuji. He leads the career match up 11-7 against Daieisho, including both prior matches this year. An Atamifuji loss to Tobizaru would draw Takayasu back into a share of the yusho lead should he win today.

Kirishima (6-4) vs Kotonowaka (6-4) – Its time for the kadoban Ozeki to finish out their last victories and get on with sumo. I think the chances are quite strong that Kirishima will dispatch Kotonowaka today, given his 8-3 career record, with wins in 3 of the 4 prior matches this year.

Takanosho (5-5) vs Hoshoryu (4-6) – Hoshoryu needs to win 4 of the last 5 matches to reach the safety of 8. His sumo is good enough, its just a question on if his brain can make it happen. He’s fairly evenly matched against Takanosho, who needs 3 wins to reach kachi-koshi himself.

Wakamotoharu (6-4) vs Takakeisho (7-3) – A Takakeisho win today will clear kadoban for the Ozeki. He will need to keep Wakamotoharu away from any kind of grip to make that happen, a feat he can only pull off about half the time. Takakeisho lost their most recent match, day 14 of Natsu.

Aki Day 10 Highlights

With day 10 complete, act 2 of the Aki basho is closed. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. The yusho race is a bit odd as of today. With Atamifuji winning his head to head with Takayasu, he’s alone atop the leader board. Takayasu is the only rikishi who is close, occupying a sole position on win behind. Everyone else is 2 wins behind Atamifuji, and only one rikishi in that group has prior yusho experience, Ozeki Takakeisho.

Clearly if they want to make a race out of this, we are going to see Atamifuji face some high ranking rikishi soon. They need him to pick up 2 more losses in order to open it back up for the final weekend. But let’s be clear, it will take some doing to set that up, but I am eager to watch them try. Step 1 – Tobizaru on day 11.

Highlight Matches

Hokuseiho defeats Nishikifuji – Sometimes, being enormous is a valid sumo strategy. Hokuseiho uses his enormity well today, after Nishikifuji grapples him tightly, Hokuseiho find he is not too tough to lift, and gently carries him over the tawara. Hokuseiho now 6-4.

Kinbozan defeats Tsurugisho – Kinbozan steps to the side and deflects most of Tsurugisho’s forward rush at the tachiai. It was not what I would call a henka, and Tsurugisho certainly did not keep his eye on Kinbozan. A quick left hand grab and toss from Kinbozan, and Tsurugisho is out by uwatedashinage. Kinbozan now 6-4.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – Endo gets in a solid tachiai, which stands Myogiryu up. Myogiryu decides his best option is to try a pull, which fails. Endo exploits that Myogiryu is no longer defending and runs him out. Oshidashi win for Endo, and he is now 7-3.

Midorifuji defeats Kagayaki – Oh Kagayaki, what the hell man? Kagayaki has lost to Midorifuji 3 times out of their 4 matches. Each time its more or less the same thing, a quick grapple, a partial turn and then katasukashi. Look, Kagayaki, next time try something a little different, ok? I love a Midorifuji katasukashi, but some variety would be welcome. Midorifuji now 5-5.

Kotoeko defeats Daishoho – The mini-elimination match goes to Kotoeko, giving Daishoho his 8th loss, and relegating him to demotion to Juryo. Daishoho did not defend his chest well, and allowed Kotoeko to grapple and push at will. Kotoeko now 3-7.

Hiradoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Perhaps joining Daishoho on the Juryo barge of the damed is none other than Chiyoshoma, who picked up his 8th loss today. As with most days this September, Chiyoshoma fought well, but was unable to close the deal. His attempt to throw Hiradoumi collapsed, and Hiradoumi crumpled him to the clay, improving to 3-7.

Atamifuji defeats Takayasu – The big match of the day, its another day that ends in “y” for Takayasu fans. Takayasu fights well enough, but goes for a pull early in the bought, and gets hurled to his back by Atamifuji. Atamifuji now sole leader at 9-1.

Kotoshoho defeats Oho – Oho decided to accept Kotoshoho’s invitation to a face hitting battle. It went on for some time, until the two broke contact. When they re-engaged, it was a perfect chance for one of them to get the other off balance. Both tried, but Kotoshoho connected well, and heaved Oho from the ring. Kotoshoho improves to 4-6.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi tried to use his speed and agility to get out of Onosho’s way when he was charging forward. It nearly worked, but served to remind Onosho that he needed to bracket his opponent. The next time he made contact, he held Sadanoumi with both arms and rushed him out. Onosho improves to 7-3 by yorikiri.

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – We got to see a little bit of Aoiyama’s classic V-Twin attack, but it really did not have the power it did even 6 months ago. Ryuden endured it well, and kept moving forward. With his crummy knee, Aoiyama can’t hold ground well, and had to step back. Sadly he was too close to the tawara, and a foot crossed the bales for a loss. Both end the day 3-7.

Mitakeumi defeats Gonoyama – This match did live up to my expectations, it was a power forward thrust and grapple masterpiece. I am so happy we got to see Ozeki Mitakeumi again, and it was for a great cause – give Gonoyama some real challenges to overcome. I am likewise impressed by Gonoyama’s ability to stay in the fight, and give Mitakeumi a real battle. This new guy has a lot of potential. But they both tired, and Mitakeumi was able to swing Gonoyama out like a wayward piece of furniture. Both end the day 6-4.

Takarafuji defeats Shonannoumi – Impressively even fight, both men were committed to a yotsu-zumo battle, and we got a big struggle to see who could out brute the other. The loss came when Shonannoumi broke contact and attempted a hatakikomi, but stepped out before he could complete the move. Takarafuji gets the win, and both end the day 5-5.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – I thought for a moment that Tamawashi was going to score his first white star today, but a quick move at the bales by Shodai sent him out first, and into Kisenosato’s lap. Shodai improves to 4-6 by sukuinage.

Abi defeats Takanosho – An Abi henka – Takanosho should have been on the lookout for that one. It’s over almost before it started, and Abi is now 6-4.

Hokutofuji defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru can’t get Hokutofuji off balance with his downward slaps, and is relegated to getting his monkey butt shoved out of the ring. I will point out to readers that once again Hokutofuji’s lower body seems to be its own independently operating sub-system, intent on winning matches no matter what the upper body is doing. In this way he is a close human analog to a typical Chicago Bears team, where the defense (lower body) is just as likely to win the game as the upper body (offense). Hokutofuji improves to 7-3 as the match ends with Tobizaru in the crowd to greet the fans.

Kotonowaka defeats Meisei – Meisei was unable to generate any offense against a very stable Kotonowaka, and was shoved out in short order. Kotonowaka now 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Daieisho continues his dominance over Asanoyama. Asanoyama catches a full Daieisho thrust right in the neck, and is unable to maintain his footing following that much force. A quick tsukiotoshi, and Daieisho improves to 6-4.

Hoshoryu defeats Wakamotoharu – Lightning fast grab from Hoshoryu, he lifts Wakamotoharu and runs him to the bales, dumping him unceremoniously into the east side salt basket. Hoshoryu now 4-6.

Takakeisho defeats Ura – A quick Takakeisho tachiai blast catches Ura full in the chest, tossing him back with force. But the acrobat Ura has just enough in him to strike Takakeisho down as he is once again launched into the air. They land in a heap, and the gumbai goes to Ura. Takakeisho is clearly down first, and the shimpan call for a rematch. Good enough! Second match, Takakeisho stands his ground and slams Ura into the clay as he rushes forward at the tachiai. Hatakikomi win for Takakeisho, and he is now 7-3, one win from clearing kadoban.

Nishikigi defeats Kirishima – Kirishima allowed Nishikigi to get his battle hug, and immediately knew he was in trouble. A strong move by Kirishima to break contact, but it only removed any chance he had to evade the yorikiri that followed. Nishikigi now 5-5.

Aki Day 10 Preview

Just a quick look at the leaderboard, then on to the previews. I get the feeling the schedulers might try to set up a funnel soon. It’s the final day of act 2, and we get a head to head between the two leaders in the first half of the top division torikumi.

Aki Leaderboard

Takayasu fans are on pins and needles right now. They have been left disappointed so many times now, that I can’t blame them. But mathematically, one of the two leaders is the favorite to take the cup. I can see Atamifuji and Tsurugisho getting some big matches starting tomorrow. We can probably count on a fairly low score for the yusho this time out.

Leaders: Takayasu, Atamifuji
Chasers: Tsurugisho
Hunt Group: Kirishima, Takakeisho, Wakamotoharu, Hokutofuji, Gonoyama, Onosho, Endo, Myogiryu

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Nishikifuji (4-5) vs Hokuseiho (5-4) – A fun match to start the day, perhaps a bit out of order, but sure. We get to see the enormous Hokuseiho try to pick up his first win against Nishikifuji. Their only prior fight was day 13 of Osaka, which Nishikifuji won by sukuinage. Given that both are straddling the winning / losing record line, this may help ensure both contestants are motivated.

Kinbozan (5-4) vs Tsurugisho (7-2) – I would not be surprised to see the scheduling team keep big problems out of Tsurugisho’s path for now. They need him as a foil for the two leaders, and that means they would like to keep him one win behind. He has a 3-1 record against Kinbozan, and I think has an edge in this fight, with the bonus being a win will give him kachi-koshi.

Myogiryu (6-3) vs Endo (6-3) – 19 Career matches, the most recent going to Endo – day 14 of Nagoya. Both come in with matching 6-3 records, so the loser of this match will be eliminated from any consideration in the yusho race.

Midorifuji (4-5) vs Kagayaki (4-5) – This pair have matching 4-5 records, and Midorifuji has won 2 of their 3 prior fights. Right now Kagayaki is very much hit or miss, with plenty of misses, even when he wins. Midorifuji won both most recent matches, both of them via katasukashi.

Kotoeko (2-7) vs Daishoho (2-7) – The loser today will be make-koshi, and the winner will get to survive another day. They have 17 career matches with Kotoeko leading 10-7. Let me simplify, it’s Kotoeko’s job to deliver a make-koshi to Daishoho, and ensure he is the captain of the Juryo barge.

Chiyoshoma (2-7) vs Hiradoumi (2-7) – Likewise, the loser of this match will also be make-koshi. The bias given the 2-1 advantage to Hiradoumi is that Chiyoshoma will pick up his 8th loss, and possibly join Daishoho on the barge back to Juryo.

Takayasu (8-1) vs Atamifuji (8-1) – This match makes me a big grumbly. I would rather they hold this off for a few days, but here we go. Take both the leaders, and put them head to head. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is just to make sure that only 1 person leads the yusho race at the end of act 2. This is their first ever match.

Kotoshoho (3-6) vs Oho (3-6) – On paper, Oho should dominate this match. Kotoshoho has shown in the past that his sumo is up to the task of defeating Oho, but this September, I don’t think he’s fighting well enough to be assured of pulling it off. They share a 4-5 career record, with Oho winning the 2 most recent fights.

Onosho (6-3) vs Sadanoumi (5-4) – Likely to be a Onosho win, if for no other reason – Sadanoumi is on the short end of their 3-7 head to head record. Onosho has won 2 of their 3 prior matches this year. Onosho wins in these matches tend to be oshidashi, where Sadanoumi wins when he is able to set up a throw.

Aoiyama (3-6) vs Ryuden (2-7) – An even 7-7 record between two injured long serving veterans. In all likelihood, both are headed for make-koshi, but a Ryuden loss today would be his 8th. Ryuden won both their prior matches this year.

Gonoyama (6-3) vs Mitakeumi (5-4) – A high interest, first time match. In fact, I am very interested in all of Gonoyama’s matches. We can assume that Mitakeumi will keep his arms tight to his body and put a lot of thrust down the center line. I am interested in watch to see what Gonoyama does in that situation. At 172 kg, there is a lot of Mitakeumi to try to overcome.

Takarafuji (4-5) vs Shonannoumi (5-4) – Another pair that are straddling the winning record / losing record line on the final day of act 2. Should these kind of matches constitute the start of some kind of funnel, the goal would be for Takarafuji to pick up the win, leaving them both at 5-5.

Shodai (3-6) vs Tamawashi (0-9) – We are going to get to watch what could be 15 continuous days of Tamawashi losses. Todays beneficiary of the white-star donation project is Shodai. At 3-6, he could certainly use the win.

Abi (5-4) vs Takanosho (5-4) – Abi has only lost to Takanosho once in 7 matches, Day 15 of November, 2011. Much as Takanosho could really use the win, this should be an Abi pick up today.

Hokutofuji (6-3) vs Tobizaru (5-4) – Tobizaru’s flying monkey sumo has little to no effect on Hokutofuji, as evidenced by Hokutofuji’s commanding 7-0 career match record against Tobizaru. Of course its always possible that today will be that magical, golden day, but don’t hock your car to bet on it.

Kotonowaka (5-4) vs Meisei (4-5) – Another set of straddlers, and I am starting to smell funnel oil. Ok, maybe wait until act 3 to say for certain. A Meisei win would bring them both to 5-5.

Daieisho (5-4) vs Asanoyama (5-4) – Remember you can’t spell funnel without “fun”. At least we hope one of these two guys has some fun. Daieisho was hoping for a shot at Ozeki not that long ago. Now he has to hope he can make his 8 and keep his Sekiwake slot. They have a 17 match record between them (10-7), with Daieisho tending to get Asanoyama so disrupted that he flys off the dohyo.

Wakamotoharu (6-3) vs Hoshoryu (3-6) – Normally, I would be biased to say this would be a Hoshoryu pick up, a much needed pick up, too! But he’s fighting so poorly right now that I am not sure that he can hold his own against Wakamotoharu. They have both won 2 and lost 2 this year, and if the pattern holds, it will be a Wakamotoharu win.

Ura (5-4) vs Takakeisho (6-3) – Takakeisho needs just 2 more wins to clear kadoban, and I think he should be able to dominate Ura today. He has a 12-3 match history against the man in the pink mawashi, who managed to throw himself so hard on day 9, he was airborne.

Kirishima (6-3) vs Nishikigi (4-5) – Like Takakeisho, Kirishima needs 2 more wins to clear kadoban. Nishikigi has never won against Kirishima in a head to head match, and it’s not likely he will today either.
Career Record (2-1[-1]) :

Makushita Final Four

Please see this post for background on the Makushita yusho and promotion races. Last time, we had a group of six rikishi leading the yusho race at 4-0: Ms6e Takerufuji, Ms21e Asashiyu, Ms27w Asahakuryu, Ms39e Oshoryu, Ms47w Chiyoarashi, and Ms50e Daiseizan. They were paired up in rank order on Day 9, and Asashiyu, Asahakuryu, and Chiyoarashi prevailed.

Normally, the two highest-ranked 5-0 rikishi would be matched up, and Chiyoarashi would fight Makushita veteran and occasional Juryo visitor Sd2w Kitaharima, the highest-ranked undefeated rikishi in Sandanme. But as the “Asa” prefix suggests, both Asashiyu and Asahakuryu hail from Takasago beya, which means that they can’t face each other. This probably means that Asashiyu will get Chiyoarashi instead, with Asahakuryu facing Kitaharima, although Asahakuryu is ranked higher than anyone who’s gotten a Sandanme opponent in a similar situation in recent memory. Should the two Asa’s go 6-0, they’d have to face 5-1 opponents, raising the possibility of a big 6-1 playoff for the title, which we last saw at Hatsu 2021, with a whopping 9 rikishi involved. Anyway, we’ll find out how this all plays out on Day 11.

After 5 rounds of bouts, 6 wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are still mathematically in contention for a Juryo spot. Ms3w Hitoshi is the only one who is already kachi-koshi at 4-1. Ms1w Yuma, Ms2e Hidenoumi, and Ms5w Kiryuko are all 3-2, while Ms2w Tsushimanada and Ms3e Kaisho are 2-3. The only action tomorrow will see Yuma visiting Juryo for an important bout against J13w Asakoryu (5-4). At this point, it’s hard to tell who might get a coveted sekitori promotion, especially with only one spot currently open in Juryo due to Wakatakakage’s absence, and only the hilariously favored J12e Shimanoumi (2-7) mathematically needing more wins than losses to stay (I fully expect him to escape demotion yet again with a 6-9 record, and perhaps even with a 5-10).

Look for the next update after Day 11 action.