Hey! We made it to day 10! The closing day of act 2, and the act 2 mojo has been quite strong. 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. It’s clear that Hakuho, whatever his aches and pains may be, is still the greatest living rikishi, and perhaps the greatest ever. He is undefeated at 9-0, and the only rikishi 1 loss behind are ranked far down the banzuke. Suffice it to day, I think we are looking at a Hakuho yusho.
We are awaiting with eager anticipation the results of Chiyomaru’s COVID-19 test results, which we expect at some point on Tuesday. Should he test positive, that will be the end of a foreshortened Haru basho. What does that mean for the yusho, the May banzuke, and everything else? Nobody knows for sure, and I would guess that if we ever get that far, the sumo kyokai will decide what to do. There is no real precident for this sort of thing, and that is enough to make any Japanese organization quite uncomfortable.
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Ishiura, Kotonowaka
6 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 10
Kotoyuki vs Daiamami – Hey sumo fans, guess who is back? None other than “The Penguin” Kotoyuki! He was on a rather impressive run of sumo until he got injured just before Hatsu, and dropped from Maegashira 3 all the way down to Juryo 1. He is back to visit for a match against 4-5 Daiamami, but Kotoyuki’s sumo is looking poorly again.
Kotoshogiku vs Azumaryu – The 5-4 Kyushu Bulldozer mounts the dohyo again today to push toward his 8. Frankly, I am really impressed that Kotoshogiku can continue to lay down winning sumo in spite of his injuries. The only prior match went to Azumaryu, but given the fact that Azumaryu is not fighting so well, it is probably an even fight.
Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama hit his 8th win on Monday, and now it’s all down to him running up the score. As we have seen throughout his history in sumo, Big Dan is not one to back off the throttle just because he is kachi-koshi.
Ishiura vs Kaisei – Henka complaints aside, Ishiura has been doing very well this basho, and in fact there is a good chance he can reach kachi-koshi today, if I can prevent the massive Kaisei from invoking the icon of all massive objects in motion—Isaac Newton. Should Ishiura fail to get out of Kaisei’s way, there are few forces short of Ichinojo that can slow him down. Stay nimble!
Meisei vs Ikioi – Yeah, sure, Meisei holds a 2-0 record, but does anyone think that Meisei has any mojo right now? I think he has laid in a course for make-koshi, as is proceeding at full impulse.
Kotonowaka vs Terutsuyoshi – A win today gives Kotonowaka his 8th, and the glory of the kachi-koshi interview. Say, ever wondered what would happen if there were a make-koshi interview? Get Raja Pradhan to do it, they give him all of the terrible jobs.
Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – I can’t belive it, but there is a solid chance that Nishikigi will be able to dodge make-koshi for another day. The exquisitely skilled Tochiozan is a walking bandage right now, and I would not expect him to do much if anything with vigor.
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Say, lets take two really strong rikishi, make sure they are really hurt, and watch them fight. No, that’s not theoretical, that happens day 10 (again) as we see the battle-damaged former Ozeki Tochinoshin take on the relic of “Big Guns” Shohozan. A Shohozan loss today means make-koshi, which we all know is coming, but we just don’t know when.
Chiyotairyu vs Kiribayama – A first time meeting between Chiyotairyu and Natsu basho kanto-sho winner, Kiribayama. Is he, at his relatively feather weight (94 kg vs 166.8 kg), ready for the overwhelming, thunderous tachiai? Word to Kiribayama, the occasional henka is not only useful, it can be amusing to the fans.
Takarafuji vs Takanosho – Another first-time match. We get to see the kachi-koshi Takanosho encounter the “defend and extend” sumo of Takarafuji. Takanosho is a straight-ahead yorikiri kind of guy, so I am really keen to see what happens when Takarafuji invites him to go chest to chest, but makes sure there is nothing he can do with it.
Sadanoumi vs Tamawashi – Both of these rikishi seem to be setting course for the same make-koshi system that Meisei is headed to at full impulse. Both are high-skill, capable rikishi who just seem to be having a stinker of a tournament. A Tamawashi loss today would be his 8th, which, given Sadanoumi’s 9-3 career advantage, may be the outcome.
Yutakayama vs Kagayaki – Oh, now this one looks tasty! Yutakayama really gave Takakeisho the business on day 9. For his longterm followers, it was not really out of character, but I am going to watch what he does with Kagayaki. They have split their prior 8 matches, so this is a great bell-weather bout on whether Yutakayama is doing better than his normal level.
Okinoumi vs Tokushoryu – Can Tokushoryu come back from 2-7 to rescue a kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2? Most unlikely, but given that his sumo fundamentals are strong (if narrow), and he has a toolkit of winning moves, it’s just possible. The more likely outcome is that veteran Okinoumi rides him like a hoppy toy around the edge of the dohyo before sending him on a jog around where the spectators should be for his 8th loss.
Daieisho vs Abi – I think Abi is still injured from Hatsu, and his double arm attack is still front and center in his sumo, but that sore knee means he lacks the stable platform to give his double arm thrust sufficient power to overwhelm his opponents. On top of that, Daieisho is on a hot streak, winning his last 6 in a row.
Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Loser gets make-koshi, that’s really all you need to know here.
Mitakeumi vs Endo – Mitakeumi unleashed an uwatedashinage on Endo in their January match, handing him his 3rd consecutive loss in the middle of the basho. If Mitakeumi can repeat that performance, it will be his 8th win, and a well deserved kachi-koshi for March. Endo seems to have hit a dead spot, losing 2 of his last 3.
Asanoyama vs Enho – Asanoyama is on a narrow path to an Ozeki promotion bid, and he needs quality wins to even get serious consideration. A loss to Enho on day 10 would most likely shut down the hype train for March, and cause him to try again next basho, whenever that happens.
Takakeisho vs Shodai – Fans should consign themselves to the very real possibility that Takakeisho will be kadoban following March. It’s pretty obvious he has an injury, and he’s just gamberizing as hard as he can. He holds a 7-3 career lead over Shodai, but right now Shodai is fighting better than Takakeisho is. The Ozeki needs 3 of his last 6 to make his 8, a tough climb for a man in pain.
Hakuho vs Onosho – This is some sort of twisted nod to Onosho’s fightback to the top ranks of sumo. He has finally completed his quest to return to the highest levels of competition, as he faces the dai-Yokozuna on day 10. True, Hakuho has and likely will mop the dohyo with him, but… what an honor!
Ryuden vs Kakuryu – In the “time to take your lumps” bucket with Onosho, it’s Ryuden’s turn to face Kakuryu. Ryuden is more aggressive, and I would love to see him unleash something unexpected and dangerous before Kakuryu shuts him down and sends him flying.