Time for day 9, the day I originally predicted might be the final day of this basho. Given the slow forward grind of COVID-19 in the world, there was a brave attempt made to conduct this Osaka tournament, in spite of the risk to the over 600 men competing. A number of new rules were put in place to keep everyone as safe as they could, and allow the competition to go forward. There have been a few withdraw with fevers, the most high profile of which is none other than Chiyomaru. Is it influenza? a cold? the dreaded doom virus? Well, we won’t know any time soon. So let’s just wish him well and press ahead. I am sure there will be plenty of time later to worry about it once the tests are back.
It’s time to start week 2, and our march toward next Sunday’s awarding of the Emperor’s Cup. In spite of the concern and lack of crowd, the sumo will go on. During the second week, some of the veterans may run low on stamina, and some of the rikishi with a lot on the line may lose their mental edge. It’s a fascinating time to be a sumo fan – who has the steel to accelerate into the final weekend?
With Chiyomaru out, we get a Juryo rikishi visiting to fill the torikumi. No, not Terunofuji, none other than Kise heya’s Hidenoumi, who was last seen in the top division at Osaka 2018, where he finished with a pride obliterating 3-12. Still, it nice to see him, even if just for a day, and we hope he has a good match.
High interest matches today? Asanoyama has to beat Shodai in the Sekiwake battle, Takakeisho needs to gamberize and win against “Big Unit” Yutakayama, and Hokutofuji takes on Mitakeumi in a match that may feature a lot of action.
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunter Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Ishiura, Kotonowaka
8 matches remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Kotonowaka vs Hidenoumi – Welcome back for the day, Hidenoumi. We know it’s been a while, so with any luck you will rally and make a return to the top division this year. Kotonowaka as split the series 1-1 with you, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen today.
Azumaryu vs Daiamami – Daiamami has lost 2 of the last 3, and Azumaryu has lost 3 of the last 4. It’s a battle to try and save a kachi-koshi for these two today.
Kaisei vs Meisei – After a terrible start, Kaisei has won 4 of the last 5, and I think his Newtonian sumo is going to continue strong today in his first ever match against struggling Meisei, who clocks in with an astonishing disadvantage of 70 kg. Advice to Meisei – go find a music store and spend a couple hours bench pressing whatever pianos they have in the showroom.
Ishiura vs Ikioi – In spite of his age, and apparent bodily damage, Ikioi has been doing well. He has split the prior 6 matches with Ishiura 6-6, but I hope his normal high-energy tachiai is tempered today, as Ishiura may be feeling henka-envy from his stable mate Enho.
Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi come in with 4-4 records, and are looking to get closer to the magic 8. Both can work in high-mobility matches, so I expect this one will be a running fight that will come down to who loses balance first.
Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Oh my this is a good one. Both of them big, strong and quite genki this March. Both have solid winning records, and if Aoiyama wins today, its his kachi-koshi.
Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – These two have met 41 times over the years, and Kotoshogiku holds a 1 match edge after all of that. But today is not a good day to put that rivalry to the test. Its clear that Tochiozan is a shade of his normal self, and will offer only token resistance to Kotoshogiku, provided the Kyushu Bulldozer has any mojo left in those knees.
Shohozan vs Nishikigi – A loss today, and Nishikigi is make-koshi. Sad though it is, its pretty obvious he too is hurt.
Takanosho vs Tamawashi – Also prominently featured in the “likely damaged” list is Tamawashi, who comes into day 9 with just 2 wins. A Takanosho victory would be kachi-koshi for him. This is their first ever match.
Takarafuji vs Kiribayama – Another glorious first time meeting, veteran and patience sumo master Takarafuji will take on Kakuryu’s stable mate Kiribayama. Both are in good shape to make their 8 wins this March, and I am interested to see if Takarafuji’s defensive style is less effective against Kiribayama, given his training sessions with Yokozuna Kakuryu.
Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – One day, maybe today, Sadanoumi’s speed sumo is going to be the deciding factor in a match. He has to win 5 of the next 7 matches for a kachi-koshi, where Kagayaki only needs 3.
Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – 24 career matches between these two, and where did it get them? Even at 12-12. Both of them are having terrible tournaments, with Tochinoshin one bad fall from a extended outage with that gamey leg, and lord knows what is hampering Myogiryu. Should Myogiryu lose today, that would be his 8th and a make-koshi.
Onosho vs Tokushoryu – Much as we have loved the Tokushoryu Cinderella story, a loss today and the Hatsu yusho winner will be make-koshi. He seems to have reverted to mostly Juryo class sumo, rather than his winning style in Tokyo. Onosho is still on a solid path for a kachi-koshi, which might put him closer to the named ranks. I am eagerly hoping for Onosho – Takakeisho battle in week 2.
Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Both of these rikishi have managed to keep a respectable record through the first half of the basho, and both have a kachi-koshi in reach. If Okinoumi can make it to 8, it would be his highest ranked kachi-koshi since 2016. He leads their career series 10-4.
Enho vs Endo – Its the Ishikawa home town battle of the cutest, and which one will end up the most kawaii? Their only other match up (Hatsu), Enho was declared fairest of the land.
Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – I expect Hokutofuji to continue to work on “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” today, although I have to ask what the hell happened to Mitakeumi on day 8. They are evenly matched, but right now Hokutofuji needs to win 6 out of the next 7 to save his position at a named rank.
Asanoyama vs Shodai – The Sekiwake fight we have anticipated. Shodai shrugged off his his losses on day 5,6 and 7 to bounce back against Ryuden. He could well and truly destroy Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid for March with a win today. I am sure Asanoyama knows this, so this is a great test of how he performs in the clutch.
Takakeisho vs Yutakayama – These two oshi-zumo hard hitters are going head to head, and they have only met once before (Takakeisho win). Given some of the visuals from day 8, Takakeisho might not be quite alright. I am going to guess Yutakayama will go low and inside at the tachiai and try to shut down the tsuppari machine before the first wave.
Abi vs Kakuryu – Is Abi even healthy enough for this match? He looked a bit shattered at the end of his match with Hakuho on day 8, and I have to wonder if that knee is going to make it the final 7 days. Fingers crossed.
Hakuho vs Ryuden – Calling it now, Ryuden gets a flying lesson. Hakuho continues his march towards 15.