Hatsu Day 10 Preview

Day 10 marks the end of Act 2 and presages the start of Act 3—where we crown a champion, while the survivors fight for kachi-koshi. The red-letter match for today is Takayasu and Takakeisho, with the Ozeki below .500 with a miserable 4-5 record, and Takakeisho pressing hard for 11 wins and a chance to make the case that he should join the Ozeki ranks.

With veteran Takekaze announcing his retirement from competition, we seem to have the start of the long awaited period of cnange. There are a number of rikishi over 30 who are headed into the final stages of their Sekitori careers. For many who have been long term members of sumo’s elite, the thought of soldiering on through the un-salaried ranks makes the choice clear. It’s likely that more veterans will hang up their silk mawashi before this year comes to a close.

As a result, we will see a healthy upward draw of fresh talent from the top of the Makushita “wall”. Many of these rikishi have been Sekitori in the past, or are just on the cusp of being ready for Juryo. In addition to the normal up / down motion that comes at the end of every basho, there are 3 additional slots that might be open in the Sekitori ranks due to the retirement of Kisenosato, Takanoiwa and now Takekaze. This means exciting times for the year ahead, and a healthy crop of fresh talent to enjoy.

What We Are Watching Day 10

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – Normally I would say Kagayaki has make-koshi on the line, but he is fighting winless Daishomaru.

Chiyonokuni vs Ikioi – Possibly time to trim back Chiyonokuni’s commanding 8-1 record, as he faces battle damaged but formidable Ikioi. Chiyonokuni matches are frequently flailing madhouses of body parts moving with violent speed, so we are hoping that Ikioi can avoid further injury.

Takarafuji vs Kotoyuki – These two have a 13 match history, with Takarafuji having a respectable advantage. With Kotoyuki always taping his hands into “flippers”, we know he is not looking for any kind of mawashi battle. Although Kotoyuki is below .500, a kachi-koshi and a safe spot in March’s Makuuchi line up is still possbile.

Yutakayama vs Abi – Two of the “Freshmen” battle it out with an even 2-2 career record. Yutakayama has bulk and strength, Abi speed and reach. Yutakayama needs the win more, but Abi is fighting somewhat better this basho.

Ryuden vs Endo – Surprising to me this is their first ever match. Endo is on his sumo now, and Ryuden has been very rough. I would expect Endo will come out ahead.

Yago vs Daieisho – Another first time match, but as this is Yago’s first upper division basho, it’s not much of a surprise. With the the shin-Maegashira fighting this far up the banzuke, it’s a good test for where he might rank for Osaka.

Asanoyama vs Onosho – Onosho is looking to bounce back from his three-bout losing streak, and another hapless member of the Freshmen group (Asanoyama) is not fighting well this tournament. If he should pick up at least 2 more wins, we can expect Onosho to join the joi-jin for Osaka, and begin his battle for rank in the upper levels of sumo.

Aoiyama vs Kaisei – This battle of the super-heavies favors Aoiyama historically, but Kaisei has been fighting better this basho, his day 9 loss to Ryuden not withstanding. Will their battle break pieces from the dohyo?

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Both of them are doing terribly. But maybe Yoshikaze, staring at a possible make-koshi, can muster some of his flagging fighting spirit.

Chiyotairyu vs Shohozan – Chiyotairyu holds a clear advantage, and I would guess he will launch his “cannonball” tachiai at Shohozan, who if he considers all things, might be well served to move out of the way at the right moment.

Tochiozan vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has gone back to being soft and timid, which is a shame. Tochiozan tends to dominate their matches, and unless “angry” Ichinojo shows up, this will be played to the tune of Tochiozan’s sumo.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Much as I would love to see Hokutofuji win, I think that Myogiryu has a better handle on this sumo this basho. Hokutofuji seems to have stamina problems, and frankly has never been back to his best form since that Ryuden delivered concussion.

Nishikigi vs Tamawashi – I expect Tamawashi to swat Nishikigi around and leave him for Tuesday pickup with the rest of the landfill material in Ryogoku. But Nishikigi must never be counted out. Coming in with a 4-5 record, one has to wonder if he will be able to squeeze out yet another kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Pretty clear that Goeido is banged up enough that his sumo is quite limited, and he struggles to generate forward pressure. Most folks assume its his arm, but his reconstructed ankle has never been quite right. Against Kotoshogiku, there is a decent chance that the Kyushu Bulldozer will trap Goeido and belly bump him out for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – The match of the day. This one, in all likelyhood, will decide of Takakeisho can make his 11 and vie for a promotion to Ozeki. He faces a battle damaged and flu ravaged Takayasu. Takayasu has him on strength, reach, stamina, mass and sheer aggression. Takakeisho has maneuverability and a total confidence he can win on any given day, no matter who his opponent is.

Okinoumi vs Hakuho – Barring some unfortunate injury, it will be win 10 for Hakuho (1105 career), and ratchet him one win closer to the yusho. His magic number is currently 14.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview

toilet-paper-stacking

Day 2 has a large mawashi to fill, as day 1 brought us more than expected. While there was great action across the top division for day 1, surprisingly little is being said about Kisenosato. Everyone expect this to be a rough ride for him, and sadly that is turning out to be the case.

In an article unearthed by Herouth, members of the YDC share their worries about Kisenosato, which is an unusual step and likely prefaces some more dramatic back-channel discussions with the ailing Yokozuna. Kisenosato went into battle on day 1 attempting to use his damaged left arm, and was roundly trounced by Mitakeumi. Now Mitakeumi is no push over, but Kisenosato had to know that leading left is no longer a viable attack strategy. The article mentions that he is falling back into the same bad, failed gambits that he used during his zero-win basho at Kyushu. For Kisenosato fans, this may be the last basho.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Daiamami vs Takagenji – Takagenji visits the top division, and we hope his dohyo etiquette is set to “excellent”. Daiamami did not look especially bright day 1, and I am sure he would like to even up his score with a win.

Yago vs Yutakayama – These two are similar in many ways, with the exception that Yutakayama is nursing multiple injuries. Yago may be on a energetic upward grind that may continue for the next few basho. The jury is out on Yutakayama and the status of his injuries.

Ikioi vs Abi – If Sadanoumi has Abi figured out, I am going to guess that Ikioi has as well. Hopefully Ikioi can exit the match without any blood this time, and I predict that Abi is going to bring out some of his alternate sumo if he faces an increasingly losing record.

Endo vs Asanoyama – Being an Endo fan is a rough ride, as the “Golden Boy” has a tough time maintaining rank above Maegashira 6. But he showed some good sumo against Takarafuji on day 1, and maybe he has it back together this time.

Daieisho vs Onosho – I expect Onosho to continue to dominate his matches. This basho is more of a test for his recovery more than anything else, and I think he will be slugging it out in upper Maegashira by mid-year.

Kotoshogiku vs Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain vs the Kyushu Bulldozer! Their series is always a battle to see who will win the tachiai, and set the terms of the match. Naturally Kotoshogiku wants to take Aoiyama to his chest and bounce him around and out, where Aoiyama will want to stay mobile and rain blows down on Kotoshogiku. Aoiyama’s mobility looked excellent day 1, so I may have to give him the edge this time, even though Kotoshogiku holds a 14-5 series lead.

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – The real question I have: Does Yoshikaze have any genki left in the batteries? Both men are fading stars of the era, and have long and well earned reputations as top division rikishi. But both are more frequently “muddling through” their matches, and show fewer sparks of their fondly remembered brilliance.

Takakeisho vs Shohozan – Shohozan’s poor footwork / ring rust on day 1 cost us a prolonged slug fest. He will need to focus on his stability in the face of Takakeisho’s increasingly complex wave-action attack modes.

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I am looking for Shodai to return to his improved form that we saw in Kyushu today. I think getting tossed around by Takakeisho may have woken him up. And if not, I am sure a couple blows to the head by Tamawashi may help.

Takayasu vs Myogiryu – Between the fever and the fact that Myogiryu holds an 11-5 advantage over Takayasu, I am looking for the Ozeki to have another crummy day on the dohyo. Takayasu is not overly nimble when genki, and he will be hard pressed to deal with Myogiryu’s mobility.

Nishikigi vs Tochinoshin – I am looking for Tochinoshin to bounce back today, too. I think Nishikigi caught Goeido trying to file down some ring-rust, and cashed in. Tochinoshin was rough on day 1, but Nishikigi likes to go chest to chest, and that will put Tochinoshin in the drivers seat.

Hokutofuji vs Goeido – I think Hokutofuji has one chance, and that’s to land that handshake tachiai again today. Goeido is going to be spun up and fierce after letting Nishikigi literally roll him around like a piece of discarded mochi. I look for the Ozeki to accelerate inside of Hokotufuji’s initial nodowa gambit and put maximum pressure full ahead. If he finds him mark, Hokutofuji may wonder what happened.

Kisenosato vs Ichinojo – Much to Josh’s delight, I am starting to stack my toilet paper horde for the approach Kiseno-pocolypse. Before he was a tragic Yokozuna, he was one of the most solid Ozeki the sport had seen in years. In spite of his damaged body and his deconditioning, Kisenosato has the capacity to find a way to win. If we see the same Ichinojo that chased Takayasu out of the ring, the Mongolian behemoth may find himself enjoying the rarely seen Tagonoura sandwich with tonight’s ice cream.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Herouth pointed out that at the end of day 1’s match, Kakuryu looked disappointed at Tochiozan for a somewhat pathetic henka attempt. Day 2 will bring a more meaty battle against Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi dispatched a disoriented looking Kisenosato with solid sumo, and I predict he will will give Kakuryu a straight ahead fight.

Tochiozan vs Hakuho – The boss is back, and he’s looking lean, strong, and aggressive. Tochiozan needs better sumo than day 1, or he’s going to be on the receiving end of one of Hakuho’s famous flying lessons.

Kyushu Day 13 Highlights

Takakiesho

We had a solid day of sumo for Friday, a good number of ‘koshis were decided (make- and kachi-), and everyone works their sumo while fans wait for what Team Tachiai stalwart PinkMawashi calls the “Taka Bowl”. With the basho in a No-kozuna status since Act 1, the completion has been impressively equal. With no grand champions harvesting white stars from the upper Maegashira (like we saw at Aki), and the Ozeki corps only ⅔ genki, the field has been wide open. The result is not quite the sumo that some fans are used to, with a handful of ur-rikishi winning everything every day with overwhelming sumo.

The Juryo ranks finds Mr 5×5 – Kotoyuki, with double digits wins. At Juryo 3, we will likely seem him return to the top division yet again, where he always seems to struggle, and frequently crowd-surf. The other story is the strength of Yago and Kotokaze, two rikishi from Oguruma who are young, strong and on the ascent. With Yago on the ferry to Makuuchi for January, and Kotokaze on the path for later in 2019, we could see a lot of new power from the stable that gave us long-serving veterans Yoshikaze and Takekaze.

Highlight Matches

Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Don’t blink. Solid tachiai, then Daishomaru outright decks Yutakayama, sending him sprawling to the clay. Boom! Yutakayama gets a headache, and his make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma defeats Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma hands Sadanoumi a make-koshi while avoiding one himself. Impressive lift and twist at the tawara! There was a brief mono-ii as the shimpan wanted to make sure Chiyoshoma’s toe did not touch out during the lift. Sadanoumi went from a solid opening week to a string of losses. Injury? Stamina?

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Onosho succumbs to the Kyushu Bulldozer’s preferred attack, and rides the hug-n-chug express all the way to kuroboshi (black star) land. Kotoshogiku secures kachi-koshi in front of his adoring home town crowd, and everyone can celebrate that.

Takanosho defeats Ikioi – Takanosho maintains his enthusiasm and finds a way to stalemate Ikioi’s repeated attempts to throw him. To be fair, Ikioi is a big, sore mess right now. Takanosho uses Ikioi’s perpendicular throwing stance to advance and motor him out. Both are now 4-9.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi goes to double digits with a big win over Shohozan. It’s impressive that Okinoumi managed to get Shohozan contained, and then packaged for shipment for a clay facial. When Okinoumi is in good health and his body cooperates, he is a solid sumotori for mid-rank Maegashira. May his fine health continue.

Meisei defeats Abi – Abi-zumo seems to be past its sell-by date for now, as fellow shiko-peacock Meisei shrugs off the double-arm attack in the opening seconds. A quick left hand to the armpit and a strong lateral shove and down goes Abi.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s normally un-glamorous sumo seems to have taken on a lethargic sludge in week 2, and Endo finds his 8th win against the increasingly make-koshi Kagayaki. We know Kagayaki is strong, and is becoming quite the master of sumo mechanics, so we have to wonder if he’s nursing an undisclosed injury.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – Maegashira 3 vs Maegashira 15, you have to wonder what this match was for except to transfer a white star to Nishikigi. Granted, I am really impressed by what Nishikigi has been able to do in Kyushu, and he made fairly easy work of Daiamami, who ends the match with a make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – The experience and efficiency of Tochiozan’s sumo was on display in this match. Asanoyama put a lot of vigor and energy into his sumo, but it’s striking to see how minimal Tochiozan’s body movements are. The bout ends with Tochiozan hurling Asanoyama from the dohyo in dramatic fashion. Tochiozan kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, interesting times indeed.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi expertly executes a mini-henka (a completely different animal from the henka), and Hokutofuji buys it. I still see a great potential for Hokutofuji, but in this basho he has gotten himself too far forward more than a few times. Part of it is that handshake tachiai, which – when it works – gives him a half-step advantage in the match. But it also broadcasts he’s coming forward with authority. If you can watch the match in slow-motion replay, note that Hokutofuji lowers his head and takes his eyes off of Tamawashi’s center mass. Tamawashi times his move to the left perfectly to coincide with this breaking of focus, and by the time Hokutofuji senses the opening gambit, he is unrecoverable. Tamawashi is also kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2. There’s going to be a scramble for the higher slots, I think.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai has found an interesting solution to his tachiai mechanics. He has become increasily skillful at absorbing the initial charge and rapidly gaining control of the initial merge. Myogiryu was fast enough and strong enough to maintain the inside position, and kept Shodai reacting.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Notable in that it looks like Kaisei appears to have tweaked his left leg as he resisted Ryuden’s effort for a throw. Kaisei went down in an awkward way, and was visibly hurt following the match.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Takakeisho remains in the lead, but Aoiyama made him work for it. Aoiyama can deliver a IJN Yamato class pounding when he can get set up, and certainly brought the big armament out today. But what really caught my eye was that Takakeisho was not quite able to set up his wave action attack. Aoiyama’s solid offense and long reach (compared to Takakeisho’s much shorter reach) seems to have kept the yusho race leader constrained. But impressively, Takakeisho adjusted and tossed the man-mountain to the clay anyhow.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Excellent example of just how powerful Ichinojo is. Yoshikaze was tossed around like a pony, and had almost nothing to say about it.

Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi inches closer to the make-koshi line against some off-balance but effective sumo from Chiyotairyu. I don’t think Chiyotairyu had a firm stance for any moment of this bout, but he managed to maintain control of Mitakeumi and win. For Mitakeumi fans (which includes me), many Ozeki applicants fail their first attempt, and are forced to swallow demotion, re-group and re-ascend in stronger form. I look forward to the next evolutionary stage of Mitakeumi!

Tochinoshin defeats Takanoiwa – A much needed win for the Ozeki, who struggled a bit even though he was able to land a left hand grip on Takanoiwa. Takanoiwa’s athleticism and keen balance were on display today, as he managed to thwart Tochinoshin’s offense against several solid, strong moves to win. The match ended with Takanoiwa losing grip on the dohyo, and falling backward, with the kimarite listed as koshikudake (inadvertent collapse), and is considered a non-winning move.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Though the outcome was fairly certain, Daieisho put up a good fight, and the Ozeki put up an odd offense. Multiple attempts to pull Daieisho down left Takayasu off balance, but Daieisho was too reactive to capitalize on these moments. Will Takayasu uses this strategy in the Taka Bowl on day 14? I think that Takakeisho won’t pass up these openings. Bring on the doom-match of day 14!

Kyushu Day 12 Highlights

shohozan

Day 12 was a solid day of sumo, but it did bring a couple of questions to the front. The first for me is that with a number of lower ranked rikishi approaching double digits, and fighting very well this basho, will the NSK once again decide that “nobody deserved a special prize”? Many fans were shocked by that declaration at Aki, as several rikishi put together successful campaigns in the face of a resurgent Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.

The yusho race narrowed considerably, and that was clearly intended given the day 12 schedule. The matches involving the chasers were all solid sumo that saw each candidate produce a fierce effort.

For those readers who are keeping up with Juryo (and who wouldn’t with Herouth doing a masterful job covering it), Oguruma rising star and certified sumo battle-cruiser Yago secured his kachi-koshi at Juryo 1 East, meaning short of some kind of bizarre incident, we will see this sumo phenomenon in the top division in January. He has been in Juryo for the past 5 tournaments – 7 total over his short 10 basho career. His sumo looks strong, low and heavy.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – A notable match because Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi and engages in a solid yotzu match against Daiamami. Is it just me, or is Daiamami looking surprised there? Even though he is make-koshi, it’s great to see Chiyonokuni rack up a much-needed win.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Okinoumi continues to rack up wins, and it’s wonderful. Meisei denied a kachi-koshi today, and he seems a bit frustrated. Okinoumi could hit double-digits this tournament, and might end up with a substantial re-ranking upward for January. While his fans might cheer this, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic medical condition that sometimes impacts his sumo, and I would hate to see it worsen.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Yutakayama very effectively kept Endo from going for his mawashi, and instead set the tone and format for the match, which took the form of a windmill thrusting contest. Endo’s last minute attempt at a pull down failed, and Yutakayama got a much needed win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Aoiyama – As much as I admire and respect Kotoshogiku, I was really pulling for Aoiyama to prevail. Aoiyama opened strong, and began with his expected thrusting attack, but could not stop Kotoshogiku going chest to chest with him. At that point, I think Aoiyama began to worry, and that may have been the start of trouble. The Kyushu Bulldozer’s knees are not what they once were, but he contained and pushed with enough force to move Aoiyama out. With this loss, Aoiyama falls out of the group 1 loss behind Takakeisho.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Yusho leader Takakeisho’s friend Onosho does him a solid favor and quenches the higher ranked Daieisho’s aspirations for a day 15 parade. From the match you can see just how much Daieisho was putting into this match, he met Onosho thrust for thrust, but left himself open for the hatakikomi at just the wrong moment.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – I bring this match up because it’s clear just how hurt Ikioi is, watching him gather his strength just to stand following his defeat. The man is a true competitor, and its amazing to see true determination and courage on display.

Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Bit by bit we see Takanoiwa get his sumo back. I would assume by the middle of 2019 he is back to being a serious full time contender for the upper Maegashira / lower San’yaku. Chiyshoma is now one step closer to make-koshi, and he is perilously far down the banzuke for end November with a losing record.

Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Both men are make-koshi, but this is a match to watch. Firstly, Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day. Second, is I have started to take note of Takanosho, this guy, much like Asanoyama, seems to have a very positive attitude about competition, even on days when he loses.

Shohozan defeats Chiyotairyu – If any wonder why I call Shohozan “Big Guns” or refer to him as a “Street Fighter”. Behold exhibit A. His match with Chiyotairyu featured a few loud and forceful blows the the face that probably left a mark, and certainly got the crowd’s attention.  Chiyotairyu goes chest to chest, removing the immediate threat for more blows to the face. Sadly for Chiyotairyu, he’s somewhat stuck at this point, as his yotzu card is not strong, and his stamina tends to be expended in the first few seconds. Shohozan correctly waits him out, injecting a few harassing moves moment to moment, and bides his time. Shohozan wins his kachi-koshi, and the home town fans are delighted.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – The happy rikishi staves off make-koshi for another day, but its sadly at the expense of long suffering Takarafuji.

Yoshikaze defeats Abi – As expected, Yoshikaze learned well from Ikioi, Endo and Okinoumi. You can see him apply upward pressure at Abi’s elbows, disrupting his preferred double arm thrust attack. Time and again Yoshikaze drives inside, just to be awarded a hand to the face. His persistence is rewarded by control of the inside, and he pushes Abi back, back and out. Although it’s at a bit slower speed and lower energy than a few years ago, Yoshikaze still has the goods when he can rouse his fighting spirit.

Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – I have to wonder if Myogiryu has run low on stamina, his brilliant opening week seems to have turned into a bit of a rout. Tochiozan succeeds in getting him turned sideways, and off balance for the win.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Shodai was on his sumo today. Hokutofuji put a fair amount of genki into the tachiai, but Shodai absorbed it masterfully, and kept Hokutofuji from executing any successful offense. Shodai instead stalemated Hokutofuji, and waited for his opening, which he found and exploited with exquisite timing.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Takakeisho seems close to unstoppable at this point. Tamawashi always has strength and balance, but in reaction to the “Wave Action” attack, it seems that few can maintain their footing for long. After the second wave, Tamawashi is too far forward, working to bring maximum force to bear on Takakeisho, who senses the imbalance and deftly steps aside.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – As stated in the preview, Nishikigi surprises every couple of days, and today he was somehow able to use an off balance position to load up enough energy to push Kaisei out. Dare I say it? Nishikigi could still end this basho with a winning record at Maegashira 3. A new day in sumo indeed.

Ichinojo defeats Ryuden – In hitting his make-koshi, Ryuden gave Ichinojo a solid fight. But it seems the Mongolian giant is working through whatever pain or injuries are blunting his sumo. Twice Ryuden had Ichinojo’s heels on the tawara, twice he rallied. Ichinojo closes the match with a hearty lift and drop. Well fought both.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – I am worried about Tochinoshin, and I think Goeido’s kyujo may rescue him from a make-koshi and a kadoban status for New Years. Takayasu seems to be focused and driven to bring himself to his eventual showdown with Takakeisho as a fierce contender who is ready to claim the Emperor’s cup by eliminating the upstart contender.

Kyushu Day 11 Preview

Kyushu Banzuke 2

Welcome to the final act of the Kyushu basho. This is where we crown the yusho winner, and a lot of people suffer. For Makuuchi and Juryo rikishi, fifteen solid days of top form sumo is exhausting, and the final five days in particular are a huge grind. Many of the rikishi are already losing energy, while others seem to be limitless heading into act three.

During act three, many of the normal match ranges amongst the rank and file are set aside, as the schedulers are eager to shape the yusho race and sort the make- from the kachi-koshi. We see this kicking in already on day 11, and you may notice my rank annotations on some matches from here on out to highlight the wide gaps between competitors.

Kyushu Leaderboard

Leader: Takakeisho
Chasers: Takayasu, Daieisho, Aoiyama, Onosho
Hunt Group: Goeido, Okinoumi

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Arawashi vs Yago – While we give our heartfelt condolences to Arawashi for his impending demotion to Juryo, we marvel at the possibility that our Juryo visitor for the day, the 6-4 Yago, might get two more wins and possibly make a top division debut in January. Yago is a bit of a protege, and we will be looking for his typical good fighting form. Sadly Arawashi is in no condition to give him much of a fight.

Chiyoshoma vs Okinoumi – A win today would be an Okinoumi kachi-koshi, and it would be Okinoumi’s third in a row. For a man with a chronic injury that might have ended his career, his perseverance is humbling.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Aoiyama is, at times, a sumo puzzle. When his health is good, his body is working and he is on his sumo, he’s a bit unstoppable except for rikishi in the named ranks. He appears to be in that mode going into day 11, and he faces a disrupted Yutakayama, who is still not quite right after injury, kyujo and returning to a beating or five during Aki. Should Aoiyama win again on day 11, we will see him face higher ranked opponents soon.

Kotoshogiku (M9e) vs Daiamami (M15e) – First match between these two, and I can almost imagine that they are feeding the smaller rikishi into the maws of hometown favorite Kotoshogiku to see what he will do. I think a kachi-koshi for the “Kyushu Bulldozer” could come before day 14, and maybe he can run up the score.

Onosho (M13e) vs Shohozan (M7w) – I have been saying since the start of the basho that Onosho was woefully under-ranked. Now it’s time for him to deliver some of his typically aggressive sumo to another hometown favorite, Shohozan. Both of these rikishi like to knock their opponents around, but I am going to give an edge to “Big Guns” today, as he seems to soak up the enthusiasm from the crowd.

Abi (M7e) vs Endo (M12w) – Endo has yet to beat Abi, so lets see if he can use the same disruption technique that saw Abi lose the prior two days with the same effect.

Daieisho vs Kagayaki – Daieisho holds a share of the chase group, and will look to hand Kagayaki his make-koshi today to remain one loss behind Takakeisho. Kagayaki is in no danger of a deep demotion at this point, and I expect that he will benefit from a period at the bottom end of Makuuchi.

Shodai vs Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa holds a 5-2 career advantage, but is only fighting at a fraction of his normal power. Shodai, aside from his tachiai, is showing consistent and strong sumo for the past 5 days, and I give him the advantage today.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Ryuden is also one loss away from make-koshi, which is not an uncommon result when a rikishi joins the joi-jin for the first time. It’s a rougher schedule at the top, and Ryuden will walk away from Kyushu with plenty of sore joints and bruises, but also a couple of great wins over high ranking opponents.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has never beaten Nishikigi, and given how he faltered in his match against tournament leader Takakeisho on day 10, we have to wonder if it was nerves or indication that he’s running out of gas in the marathon to senshuraku. Nishikigi has surprised everyone a few times, and I am sure we will all be watching to see if he can do it again. While I think a kachi-koshi is unlikely this time, I think he may actually be able to hold his own at Maegashira 3 some time in 2019.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – It took Tamawashi a while to get warmed up, but he seems dialed into his sumo now. I expect he is going to give Myogiryu a fierce battle on day 11. Myogiryu holds the edge in agility and speed, Tamawashi the edge in strength and precision. This will either be over in the blink of an eye, or a great battle.

Takakeisho vs Tochiozan – After opening strong, Tochiozan has lost 4 of the last 5 matches. But he is the same rikishi who defeated Takayasu, Goeido and Kisenosato last week, and given the right scenario, he could be trouble for yusho race leader Takakeisho. The odds are against it, as Takakeisho holds a 5-1 career advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze – What’s going to happen here? Lord, who knows. I would like to think Mitakeumi is going to break out of his doldrums against the always intense Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze is still on a trajectory that could see him secure a kachi-koshi, but he is not nearly as genki right now as he was during Aki.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Go ahead Goeido, I dare you.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s opponents seem to have gotten very good at keeping the Ozeki away from a working mawashi grip this tournament, and it would seem to be frustrating the Georgian’s sumo. Chiyotairyu has a lot of fast power, but seldom shows much stamina, which Tochinoshin seems to possess in buckets. So I am going to expect for the Ozeki to let Chiyotairyu discharge his opening gambit, then get to work.

Ichinojo vs Takayasu – It seems that Takayasu might give Ichinojo his 8th loss today, and many in the sumo world would be sad to see the big Mongolian behemoth vacate the Sekiwake slot that had to be enlarged, at great cost, just to hold him. The one redeeming thought in this match up is that Takayasu has a lot of trouble winning against Ichinojo, with a slim 5-4 margin. A loss by Takayasu would disrupt his chances to contend for the yusho.