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SUMO: Nagoya Basho 2017 (Day 9)

Week 2 of the Nagoya kicks off with one man undefeated and alone atop the leader—yokozuna Hakuho. He’s 8–0, one win away from tying the 58th yokozuna Chiyonofuji for second place on the all-time career wins  chart, and just four wins away from passing the great former ozeki Kaio for top honors in that category. Hakuho is looking energetic and inspired this tournament, so it’s going to take some equally inspired sumo to derail him.

Tied for second place here on Day 9 with matching 7–1 records are shin-ozeki Takayasu and M8 Aoiyama. And behind them, just four rikishi are still ostensibly in the hunt for the yusho with 6–2 records—yokozuna Harumafuji, M6 Onosho, M10 Chiyonokuni, and M13 Takarafuji.

One of the most interesting matches for me yesterday was the first-time meeting between Hakuho and M4 Ura. For the past six months we’ve been watching Ura make his way up the Maegashira ranks and noting how even some very accomplished rikishi had trouble adapting to his size and style of sumo. Hakuho, however, seemed not the least bit fazed. Indeed, he was inconrol from the instant of the tachi-ai [initial charge] and in just a dozen seconds or so left Ura flat on his back, nose bloodied, and wondering what the heck had happened. 

Today Ura will get a chance to discover if that was just Hakuho’s magic touch, or if that’s what it’s like to face a yokozuna, as he’s scheduled to face Harumafuji today. Meanwhile, Hakuho will fight another new face—the other M4, Kagayaki, who will hope to at least avoid the bloody nose that Ura suffered. 

M15 Chiyomaru (4–4) vs. M10 Shohozan (5–3)—Two rikishi still on the cusp between kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and make-koshi [majority of wins] and going all out to advance their cause. One of the hardest fought matches of the day. (3:20)

M8 Aoiyama (7–1) vs. M11 Chiyonokuni (3–5)—Aoiyama got buffaloed by Onosho yesterday and knocked off the top of the leaderboard. The question is, can he get himself back in focus and return to his winning ways, or has his magic bubble been burst? (4:47)

Ozeki Takayasu (7–1) vs. komusubi Yoshikaze (4–4)—Takayasu shouldn’t have any trouble hitting kachi-koshi in his debut basho as an ozeki, but he’ll have to do well in Week 2 against fellow ozeki and the yokozuna if he wants to reach double-digits. He’d do himself a big favor today by shutting down giant-killer Yoshikaze, who has already notched wins against two yokozuna and an ozeki this tournament. (11:06)

M4 Ura (5–3) vs. yokozuna Harumafuji (6–2)—Ura got completely schooled in his first ever match against a yokozuna yesterday. We’ll see if he learned anything in particular from that experience. After a slow start, Harumafuji has looked rock solid, but he rarely faces opponents who can match him in speed like Ura can. Luckily, the yokozuna still has experience and tenacity on his side. (12:35)

Yokozuna Hakuho (8–0) vs. M4 Kagayaki (3–5)—Hakuho remains laser focused and in terrific shape physically. Yesterday, he beat an opponent who was equally in the groove . . . his opponent today isn’t nearly that on the ball. Kagayaki is a strong up and coming rikishi, but he’s still learning the ropes when it comes to fighting against top-ranked opponents. (13:25)

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