Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.

Nagoya Day 13 Preview

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji has my attention as the likely match of the day. Can Hokutofuji move the boulder?

The basho is running screaming into the final weekend, and it looks like it will probably come down to Hakuho vs Kakuryu for the hardware in the final match of the final day. This is a fairly decent way to end a basho, and I think most fans would be satisfied, in spite of the fact that we had the entirety of the Ozeki corps kyujo, and one Yokozuna banged up.

On the way to day 15, there are some rikishi who were doing well in the first few days that seem to have stalled out, and I am sure their fans are worried. This would include Hokutofuji, Abi, and Enho. This underscores my belief that we are going to have an exceptionally brutal final two days.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Tomokaze drops out, and it’s almost down exclusively to the two Yokozuna. If Terutsuyoshi wins day 13, I would guess they will put him against someone in San’yaku to make sure that the chances of a Maegashira 16w taking the yusho go closer to zero.

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Terutsuyoshi

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Tochiozan vs Nishikigi – Both are make-koshi, and will avoid the Darwin death match syndrome that seems to be in the wings for so many of our upper division rikishi. This is to figure out who is going to get dropped how far down the banzuke. If the bulk of the top division finish 7-8 or 8-7, it’s going to make for a very interesting banzuke.

Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Because I think that a bloody final weekend is what is in store, I am going to guess that Takagenji, how having secured his 8th loss, is going to rally and hand Sadanoumi a black star for day 13, bringing him close to the perilous 7-7 final day score.

Kotoeko vs Enho – Enho looks like he may have injured himself on day 12. He’s dropped the last 2 in a row, and I know he wants to hit 8 today and avoid the Darwin matches on day 15. Kotoeko has his 8, but he may want to run up the score.

Yago vs Daishoho – Yago has likely been condemned to ride the slow, smelly barge back to Juryo with our dear Yoshikaze and beloved Kaisei. But he can still help give Daishoho his 8th loss.

Shohozan vs Toyonoshima – Two tired, hurt veterans with 5-7 records going head to head. One of them will get a make-koshi today. The match of eternal sadness.

Kotoyuki vs Okinoumi – It could be expected that Kotoyuki will jump around like a mad penguin on a hot plate; I imagine Okinoumi will once again try to grapple with Mr 5×5 and slow the tempo of the match down. If he can put the match into that mode, he will probably pick up a much needed 7th win.

Onosho vs Terutsuyoshi – Somehow Onosho has pulled to 6-6, but he has his first ever match against compact sumo atomic reactor Terutsuyoshi, who is not the kind of fellow who would think 10 wins are enough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Both are coming in with 6-6 records. They have split the 6 prior matches. They are quite evenly matched, and who can tell right now which one has an advantage here. We will get to see if Chiyotairyu hurt anything other than his pride in the fall to end his match on day 12.

Meisei vs Chiyomaru – Can Meisei rally to extend his 2-0 career record over Chiyomaru today? Meisei really looks like he has nothing left, and each match is increasingly difficult for him. If he can win today, Chiyomaru will be make-koshi.

Shimanoumi vs Endo – Both are 7-5, so someone exits this match with a kachi-koshi. Endo won their only other meeting.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Oh dear, Hokutofuji has been fighting so well, but here he has to clear a boulder from his patch to kachi-koshi. Or will the boulder clear him?

Asanoyama vs Aoiyama – Asanoyama needs to “win out” to get his kachi-koshi, which would be another notable achievement for a young rikishi who has greatly improved his sumo. As we saw on day 12, if you let Aoiyama set up his oshi attack, there is not a whole lot that will stop him.

Shodai vs Ryuden – Shodai holds a 3-0 career advantage over Ryuden, who is already make-koshi. Shodai’s sumo was surprisingly good on day 12; can he make it two in a row?

Abi vs Daieisho – I would imagine that Abi was quite embarrassed to lose on day 12 due to falling down. Given his lanky frame, it’s an occupational hazard! Daieisho is fighting quite well, and has a 4-3 career advantage over Abi, so it should be a fight worth watching.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is suffering this basho, and Takarafuji has the patience to hold on and win if he can stalemate Tamawashi, which is a big if. A loss today would put Takarafuji at 8, for a make-koshi.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi holds a 10-4 advantage over the Kyushu bulldozer, and he needs one more win for his 8th. I would expect that Kotoshogiku is going to once again struggle for traction, and it will come down to Mitakeumi not giving Kotoshogiku any opening.

Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Given Hakuho’s degraded state, this match is far from a sure thing. Myogiryu has been especially energetic this basho, and Hakuho’s day 12 caution indicates he is saving what he can for day 15 against Kakuryu. The goal here – don’t get any more hurt than you already are, Boss!

Kakuryu vs Tomokaze – Well, Tomokaze, you should take this as recognition of how far you have come. You get to fight a Yokozuna, and if you manage to put dirt on him, you are going to make the final 2 days even more exciting and unpredictable than they already are. But be aware that Kakuryu is showing some of his best sumo in years.

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

If you only occasionally catch video of sumo matches, today is the day to make a point of watching them. NHK video on demand, Kintamayama, Jason, Natto – hell, watch them all. It was a day of surprises and “did you see that” events. Well worth the time it will take to see it all.

One of the least enjoyable elements on day 9 is yet another Tagonoura top-ranking rikishi, with an injury to his left upper body, sent back to the dohyo to compete. To be clear I am not in Japan, or Japanese in any way—but I really have to wonder—is this a sumo cultural thing, or is sports medicine more or less nonexistent in Japan? Is Tagonoura Oyakata completely hands-off in managing the health of his men? I know that Chiganoura Oyakata gets it.

I hope Tagonoura realizes that Takayasu is an important “bridge” element between the current generation that is aging out of their top division roles they have held for so long, and the next generation who are forming up nicely. Someone has to rule the roost for a short while as the new crop get experienced enough to hold down the top ranks. Wreck Takayasu, and you lose that to his detriment and that of the sport’s future. Does he want to get 8 wins so he’s not part of an entry in sumo’s record books? Sure, but shut up Takayasu, and go see a doctor. Put his ass on the Shinkansen and get him to Tokyo to lower the temptation to get back on the dohyo.

With that rant of frustration complete, there are some bloody wonderful matches to talk about. Let’s get started!

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi defeats Kaisei – This is not a highlight; Kaisei is also too hurt to compete. It’s over good sir, you are make-koshi. Get medical attention now.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is really starting to fade out now; I think we are in a 2-4 basho period where a lot of these old mainstays are going to fade down to Juryo and quietly make their exits. Prepare for a rolling parade of intai ceremonies for some long-famous names of the sumo world. Terutsuyoshi’ sumo was dead solid today. He kept his attack on Tochiozan’s center-mass and just relentlessly drove forward.

Kotoyuki defeats Nishikigi – Kotoyuki’s tsuppari attack was especially effective today against Nishikigi, who has a tough time with a pushing fight due to his poor eyesight. Unable to grab a hold of Kotoyuki, Nishikigi was little more than practice ballast for the day.

Enho defeats Takagenji – Enho delivers the high intensity sumo again today. He was able to get enough exposed body on Takagenji to get to work, and finished it with a leg pick. The look of frustration on Takagenji’s face tells the story of his maddening inability to stand up to the Fire Pixie.

Kotoeko defeats Yago – I am going to assume Yago is headed back to Juryo after 4 tournaments in the top division. He’s clearly working through some manner of injury(s), and may need a period of recuperation to return to good form. Kotoeko’s relentless focus on center-mass left Yago unable to escape or respond.

Daishoho defeats Chiyomaru – Daishoho goes bowling, using Chiyomaru as the ball and the front row of the zabuton ranks as the pins. It’s a strike! Chiyomaru sometimes thinks his enormous belly is proof against a mawashi grip, but Daishoho fought for and obtained a grip that he employed with great effect.

Tomokaze defeats Kagayaki – Tomokaze met Kagayaki’s tachiai and raised Kagayaki up before immediately swinging his arms to bring him down with a lightning hatakikomi.

Myogiryu defeats Toyonoshima – I honestly thought Toyonoshima would bring more to this match, but Myogiryu rode him like a rented bicycle. This seems to be a good rank for Myogiryu, but it’s certain we will see him tested in the joi-jin in September.

Shimanoumi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan’s mobility-focused sumo takes a hit with the slick Nagoya dohyo robbing him of traction at the worst moment. It took a moment for Shimanoumi to realize that his opponent was starting to fall forward and shift his balance to assist Shohozan’s slide into defeat. Faster reactions Shimanoumi!

Chiyotairyu defeats Okinoumi – Hit and shift, followed by a push from behind. Simple, elegant and effective.

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Once again, check out how poor the traction is on that dohyo. I think we are going to see more injuries as people slip and fall. Kotoshogiku takes full advantage of Onosho’s balance problems and drops him face first to the clay after a pushing match.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Daieisho spent half the match circling away from Takarafuji, working to ensure that Takarafuji never put a hand on his mawashi. The tactic worked, leaving Takarafuji only really able to work defense, but with poor ring position.

Endo defeats Aoiyama – The part where Endo plants his face in Aoiyama’s pendulous man-boob for the win demands some kind of special prize for Endo. The only thing worse than watching it in real time was the slow-motion replays. At least they did not try to interview him about it following the win.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama continues to shine, and prevails after almost losing traction on that dohyo and falling for a loss. He keeps Ryuden moving in reverse and keeps his hips surprisingly low. If he can stay healthy, I think he is going to be a big deal. His sumo looks better every tournament, and his confidence keeps going up. Perhaps a little statement from Asanoyama to the banzuke committee about which of the two should have been ranked Komusubi. -lksumo

Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – You may not have realized how satisfying it might be to see Tamawashi go flying off the dohyo, but I am thankful that Hokutofuji was thoughtful enough to take the time to create this masterpiece and present it to the fans.

Abi defeats Mitakeumi – I jumped up and shouted. We knew that Abi-zumo 2.0 has been under construction for at least a year, and when he finally pulled it out and fired it, it was as glorious as we all hoped. It started with the traditional double arm thrust to the upper body, but he immediately released pressure and landed a deep right-hand outside grip while his left took a hold of Mitakeumi’s neck. In a blink of an eye Abi executes a flowing uwatenage that had a bit of Harumafuji spiciness to it. I kept rewinding, and watching it again. Watch out sumo world, now that there are two attack modes, you may not quite know what’s coming.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – There has been no word on Takayasu’s condition since the bout on day 8. Many of us expected him to go kyujo, but for some daft reason, here he is on the dohyo, barely able to move that left arm. Shodai is no fool, and attack hard against the Ozeki’s damaged left side, and Takayasu could only respond. Shodai’s sumo is highly chaotic at times, and when you think you have him beat, you get the surprise that he was in fact setting you up. This happened to Takayasu. With Shodai at the bales, I am sure the Ozeki was ready to win, but instead he took a roll off the dohyo. I am equal parts outraged and sad. Takayasu is in no condition to compete, and he’s out of the yusho race as certain as I am writing this from Texas.

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – But the Great Sumo Cat was not done with us today, dear readers. Member in good standing of the damaged elbow club, Hakuho, found out just how powerful Ichinojo can be. After Hakuho tossing a few humiliation elements into their past matches, the Boulder reduced the dai-Yokozuna to an ineffective, struggling mess. The zabuton fly as a well-earned kinboshi is minted in the Nagoya heat. Will this loss be enough for Hakuho to recognize the limitations his injury has imposed? Perhaps. He faces “arm breaker” Tamawashi day 10.

Kakuryu defeats Meisei – I give a lot of points to Meisei: he put in an enormous effort against Kakuryu. But Big-K is dialed in and contained his wildly shifting and twisting opponent. Kakuryu takes sole possession of the lead, and I would think he is genki enough right now to keep the lead.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

It’s the middle day of the glorious Nagoya tournament, and NHK World Japan will be live for the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi across their global streaming platform. Sadly I don’t think we will get to hear John Gunning, who was doing commentary with Ross Mihara for day 7, but the NHK Grand Sumo crew always do a fantastic job. If everything goes well, both Yokozuna could make kachi-koshi today, as they are unbeaten going into day 8.

Also with day 8’s preview, we take a look at the basho leader board. Act 2 is doing its job remarkably well – shaping the yusho race. There are 4 rikishi in numerical contention, with 3 actually likely to battle it out for the cup. But until someone starts putting dirt on the Yokozuna, it’s theirs to lose.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Takayasu, Terutsuyoshi
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, Myogiryu, Tomokaze, Enho, Kotoyuki

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kotoyuki vs Azumaryu – Azumaryu is up from Juryo to fill the Tochinoshin gap, and he draws against a surprisingly genki Kotoyuki who somehow is part of the leaderboard. Ok, fine – Mr 5×5, please take it into week 2. I would love to see you make a case for the cup.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – They don’t come much bigger than Chiyomaru, and they don’t come much smaller than Enho. If you wanted a bout of contrasts, here it is. Enho will need to find a way to get under that enormous belly in order to get to work.

Yago vs Sadanoumi – The series favors Sadanoumi 2-0, and Yago fans are hoping he can win his first today. I don’t have any news on what manner of malady is plaguing Yago, but it has to be something. You don’t go from a decent battler to someone squeezing by without an injury.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kagayaki – Terutsuyoshi would love to hang on to his slot in the chase group, but he has never won against Kagayaki (0-2). Kagayaki suffered a horrible case of ring rust in the first week, but seems to be back on his sumo. This will be a pivotal match.

Kaisei vs Nishikigi – Two sumo nice guys go head to head, but the outcome is fairly certain. I am sad for Kaisei. He’s hurt and not doing well, but he seems intent to solider on.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan continues to be a half step behind his normal level of sumo, and that might not be good enough to defeat Kotoeko this time around.

Toyonoshima vs Takagenji – Toyonoshima opened Nagoya losing 5 straight, and has now won the last 2. Did he learn from the prior 2 days matches against Takagenji? Lets see if Toyonoshima goes chest to chest and waits him out.

Myogiryu vs Daishoho – First time meeting between these two, but frankly I expect Myogiryu to put Daishoho without too much trouble.

Chiyotairyu vs Shohozan – Oh good, two heavily armed battle boys here to slug it out. If Shohozan can keep his balance and survive the first 10 seconds, he has a good chance of winning this one.

Okinoumi vs Shimanoumi – Another great first time match between an veteran Makuuchi mainstay who is holding his own this tournament, and a young, hard charging rikishi who seems to have some good upside potential. I give experience a small advantage here.

Kotoshogiku vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze won his first 5, and has dropped the last 2. The main weakness of his opponent today is poor strength from his lower body. If he can overpower Kotoshogiku after the tachiai, the veteran may not have enough strength to slow him down.

Onosho vs Takarafuji – I am looking for Takarafuji, who has excellent mobility, to take full advantages of Onosho’s apparent balance problems. Onosho will be well served to keep Takarafuji in front of me, and to overpower him early and keep moving him back.

Asanoyama vs Endo – Both are going to go yotsu, and it’s going to be fantastic. Endo is the far more versatile rikishi, and I expect that he will set the tone of the match. Asanoyama will try to keep it in his comfort zone, but I expect Endo to try for that shallow / mae-mitzu straight from the tachiai.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – Although Hokutofuji holds a career 7-1 advantage over Aoiyama, I am expecting this to be a real brawl. Hokutofuji is looking more composed and more on point than he has in a long time, but Aoiyama has upped his sumo prior to Nagoya and is showing excellent balance and ring sense.

Abi vs Ryuden – At some point Abi-zumo is going to come roaring back, and this might be the day, as Abi holds a 3-1 career advantage over Ryuden. Ryuden has been leading with his head the past two days, and maybe that might be slowing him down.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Both are in the hunt group, both are fighting well, and both are my favorite to win this match. Mitakeumi does hold a7-4 career advantage on the Boulder.

Goeido vs Meisei – If Goeido loses to Meisei, he’s really really hurt his ankle. This is like a bait minnow you feed to your bigger, fancy fish. You feel a bit sorry for it, but you know your fish needs to eat.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two used to beat each other senseless occupying the Sekiwake ranks, and their career record is 12-12. If Takayasu is going to contend for the cup, he needs this win.

Kakuryu vs Daieisho – I am expecting a straight-forward win for the Yokozuna.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Given how much I deride Shodai, you would think I am going to make some quip about The Boss catapulting him back to toon town. But this is a very serious, very important match that I think is a must-win for Hakuho. Not only because he wants “yet another yusho”, but I think he may be near the limit of what his body can support for this basho. He needs his 8th win before he starts knocking heads against Takayasu, Mitakeumi and Tamawashi. So he’s got to beat Shodai, and I expect him to use every psych-out and mind game in his considerable arsenal to make sure Shodai defeats himself before the tachiai. Bonus points to Kakuryu if he can give his tachi-moshi one hell of a pep talk today.