It’s nakabi [the middle day] of the Haru Basho, and who would have predicted the situation we have here on Day 8? There are two undefeated rikishi remaining, and they’re both from the same heya [training stable]—yokozuna Kisenosato and sekiwake Takayasu. What makes that really interesting is that since they ARE from the same stable, they will not fight during the tournament so it’s possible for them BOTH to end up with perfect zensho [no loss] 15–0 records on senshuraku [the final day]. If that were to happen, they then WOULD fight each other in a playoff.
Of course, there IS still a whole week of sumo to go. And there are two rikishi still hot on the heels of the leaders with 6–1 records—ozeki Terunofuji and M10 Tochiozan—who will certainly have a chance to go head-to-head with the leaders before all is said and done.
Speaking of Terunofuji, did you see his match yesterday against M1 Takekaze? The one where the ozeki flat out lifted his opponent off his feet in the center of the dohyo and just carried him across the ring and deposited him on the far side of the tawara [rice straw bales]? When asked about using the uncommon kimarite [winning technique] tsuridashi [lift out], Terunofuji reportedly said, “I was in a position to do a yaguranage [inner thigh throw], but I felt sorry for him. The tsuridashi was no big deal.” Yaguranage is a very rare kimarite, last having been seen in 2009, and before that in 1975 . . . so I’m actually kinda sorry the big guy didn’t try it.
M15 Chiyoo (3–4) vs. M10 Tochiozan (6–1)—Tochiozan continues to hang tough in the yusho [tournament championship] race, and down at maegashira 10 he’s going to continue getting relatively easier draws for at least the first half of Week 2. It’s up to him to keep winning and earn a shot at bouts against his fellow leaders. (2:40)
M12 Ura (3–4) vs. M9 Kotoyuki (2–5)—Neither Ura nor Kotoyuki are having particularly good tournaments, but they both always bring high energy and great enthusiasm to their matches. Going head to head, there’s no telling what might happen. (3:45)
Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (5–2) vs. M2 Sokokurai (2–5)—Kotoshogiku continues to bull his way toward what once seemed like a highly unlikely achievement—double-digit wins and a return to the rank of ozeki. He’s halfway there, and really this is probably the most dangerous part of the effort for him. He has to fight the tendency to let up and lose focus. Because while Sokokurai SHOULDN’T be a major challenge, if Kotoshogiku isn’t laser-focused on what he’s doing, the M2 has the skills to steal away a win. (9:20)
M1 Ikioi (1–6) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (7–0)—I can’t figure out Ikioi this basho. He’s looked strong and full of energy when he faces a sanyaku rikishi, pushing his opponent to the verge of defeat but not being able to close the deal . . . but then when he faces a lower ranked opponent, Ikio seems listless and distracted, and gets beaten in fairly ignominious fashion. And it shows in his 1–6 record. If he doesn’t want to end up near the bottom of the banzuke [ranking sheet] next tournament, he has to figure out how to WIN some of these matches. (10:05)
Komusubi Mitakeumi (3–4) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (6–1)—Mitakeumi is still a little out of his depth at the rank of komusubi. He’s clearly a young rikishi with a bright future ahead of him, and he’s got the strength and energy to square off against the best that sumo has to offer . . . he just doesn’t have what it takes to BEAT them with any consistency. On the other hand, he’s learning valuable lessons in those losses, and immediately using them to beat his lower ranked opponents. I think that today is bound to be another lesson-learning day for the young komusubi, but I still like his chances to pull out kachi-koshi [majority of wins] before the basho is done. (11:36)
M3 Shohozan (1–6) vs. yokozuna Kisenosato (7–0)—Kisenosato has to watch himself against Shohozan. the M3 is a little firecracker, coming out of the tachi-ai [initial charge] strong and making attacks that are powerful and fast. He’s not a terribly subtle rikishi, but if you don’t START a match against him with tight mental focus and a plan for how to deflect or distract Shohozan’s flurry of blows, it’s easy to get buffaloed out of the ring before you know what’s happened. Kisenosato has been completely focused, so far this tournament, but the knock against him in the past has been that he would lose concentration at about this time in the basho. If he keeps his newly found sense of focus, though, he’ll be able to find an answer to anything that Shohozan throws his way. (13:40)