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SUMO: 2017 Aki Basho (Day 12)

It’s Day 12 of the Aki Basho and the race for the yusho [tournament championship] is suddenly very nearly decided. With ozeki Goeido’s win over sekiwake Mitakeumi and M3 Chiyotairyu’s loss to komusubi Tamawashi, there’s now a two win difference between the tournament leader and his closest competition with only four days left in the basho.

I’ve got to start by giving Geoido his due, after Day 1 he’s found a way to win against every opponent he’s faced, and in sumo that’s ALL that matters. But as a fan, I’m still incredibly underwhelmed by his performance and severely disappointed that he seems to have sewn up the yusho. Goeido began the tournament relying on henka against opponents that he should have beaten handily in straight-up matches, and since then has performed boring and often sloppy sumo. But relieved from the responsibility of facing five of the toughest opponents on the banzuke (due to the fact that three yokozuna and two ozeki are kyujo [absent due to injury]), boring and sloppy sumo seems to be all he needs to outpace the remaining competition.

I had great hope the Mitakeumi was going to at least push Goeido into a challenging match, but the young sekiwake got unlucky in the match yesterday. Off the tachi-ai [initial charge] he tried to get a belt grip on Goeido and missed, then immediately tried to get a defensive position by forcing Goeido into an unbalanced stance. But the ozeki moved forward to quickly and suddenly Mitakeumi found himself in an unrecoverable situation. He didn’t do anything wrong per se, things just didn’t go his way. Or, rather, things did go Goeido’s way . . . which has been the story of the middle part of this basho.

So here we are, Goeido with a 10–1 record, followed most closely by M3 Chiyotairyu, M9 Takanoiwa, and M16 Asanoyama with 8–3 records. And Goeido only having one challenging opponent left on his schedule—yokozuna Harumafuji—who he won’t face until senshuraku [the final day].

The most excitement over the coming days will be as we watch rikishi trying to stave off make-koshi [majority of losses].

M9 Takanoiwa (8–3) vs. M14 Okinoumi (5–6)—Takanoumi is one of the three rikishi tied for second place. In order to keep any kind of pressure on Goeido, he and the others must win their matches today. His opponent, Okinoumi, has looked lackluster all tournament and has a good chance of dropping down to Juryo if he can’t somehow pull out a kachi-koshi, a feat that requires him to win three of his remaining four matches. As I always say, desperation makes for exciting sumo. (2:20)
M16 Asanoyama (8–3) vs. M9 Arawashi (7–4)—Asanoyama is another of the second-place trio. It’s his first basho in the Makuuchi division and he’s already secured his kachi-koshi, so he can count on a promotion in November. But it will be a much BIGGER promotion if he can manage to reach double-digit wins and keep the yusho race exciting in the process. Arawashi, on the other hand, needs just one more win to secure his kachi-koshi. (3:20)
M3 Onosho (7–4) vs. M7 Chiyonokuni (6–5)—The last few days, Onosho has looked like the 21-year-old up-and-comer that he is—highly skilled, but so inexperienced that the doesn’t even know how much he doesn’t know. He still needs one more win to get his kachi-koshi, though, so he needs to snap out of that head space and get back to the sumo that he was doing in Week 1. (8:15)
M1 Tochinoshin (2–9) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (4–7)—This match has nothing to do with the yusho race, but it does feature Tochinoshin and his wounded knee and already make-koshi record showing real sumo spirit against Hokutofuji, who must now win ALL of his remaining matches in order to get kachi-koshi.  (8:45)
M3 Chiyotairyu (8–3) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (7–4)—Chiyotairyu is the last of our second-place trio, and today he faces former-ozeki Kotoshogiku, who is looking for his eighth win that will give him kachi-koshi AND a probable promotion back into the sanyaku ranks. I’ll be honest, I’ve rewatched this match a dozen times already and I still am not quite sure what to make of the results. (9:55)
M5 Takakeisho (7–4) vs. sekiwake Yoshikaze (7–4)—Two tough as nails, high energy, pusher/thruster rikishi who both are one win away from kachi-koshi. Yoshikaze, in particular, has won seven straight matches after starting off the basho in very poor shape. This might be the most exciting match of the day. (11:45)
M4 Shohozan (5–6) vs. ozeki Goeido (10–1)—Goeido and Shohozan are cut from the same cloth. They’re both combine rough and tumble, street brawl style sumo with bulldog-level aggression and ferocity. In their head-to-head series, Goeido has won twice for every time Shohozan has, but the matches are always interesting. (12:50)

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