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SUMO: 2018 Hatsu Basho (Day 14)

We’ve reached the final weekend of the Hatsu Basho, and Day 14 finds M3 Tochinoshin still atop the leaderboard with a 12–1 record, which is two wins above his closest competitors—yokozuna Kakuryu and ozeki Takayasu at 10–3. That means Tochinoshin needs to win just one of his remaining two matches in order to secure his first ever Makuuchi Division yusho [tournament championship].

Today Tochinoshin will fight M9 Shohozan. That may sound like a mismatch, but Shohozan has beaten the big Georgian the last two times they fought. Of course, Tochinoshin was severely hampered by knee injuries in both those bouts, but it’s still a trend that needs to be broken. And so often in sumo it seems that the greatest threat comes in the match that you “should win.” Shohozan is a scrappy pusher-thruster, and if he can keep Tochinoshin from getting a solid grip on his belt, he may be able to outmaneuver the big Georgian. Still, I think that Tochinoshin is going to win this bout and secure the yusho.

In the meanwhile, Kakuryu and Takayasu will got head-to-head, so even if Tochinoshin loses his match, one of them will remain in contention after today’s bout. The loser will be mathematically eliminated.

Kakuryu looked terrible yesterday, suffering his third loss in a row, this time to sekiwake Mitakeumi. He hardly even seemed to be in the match at all, letting the younger rikishi beat him to the tachi-ai [initial charge] and then force him upright and back him out of the ring. I stick by my guess from yesterday, it looks like Kakuryu may be having some lower back pain. On the other hand, Takayasu looked terrific yesterday, blowing his opponent—M4 Arawashi—backwards at the tachi-ai and then straight off the dohyo with three quick, powerful tsupari thrust attacks. So I have to say that I rather think Takayasu has the edge in this match.

Unfortunately, my usual source for these videos (Kintamayama) is traveling for the next couple of days, so I’ll be going to a secondary source. The plus side of this is that this video is from the NHK World program Sumo Highlights, which is done in English and has replays on all of the matches they show, so you’ll get more details about what is going on. On the negative side, it is a 25-minute show AND they leave out a bunch of the low-ranking matches, so you DON’T actually get to see ALL of the action.

In case you’re following some of the lower-ranked rikishi, here are the results of the matches that are not covered in today’s video.

M17 Daiamami def. M12 Sokokurai by shitatenage [underarm throw]—Daiamami now 7–7 with a make-or-break match tomorrow, Sokokurai drops to 5–9. 
M13 Daieisho def. M11 Kotoyuki by hikiotoshi [slap down]—Daieisho, who was on the leaderboard in Week 1, goes to 9–5 while Kotoyuki drops to 7–7.
M15 Nishikigi def. M10 Aminishiki by oshidashi [frontal push out]—Nishikigi advances to 7–7 and a chance to pull out kachi-koshi tomorrow, while Aminishiki falls to 2–9–3 and may well be headed back down to Juryo.
M6 Ikioi def. M10 Terunofuji by yoritaoshi [frontal crush out]—Ikioi picks up just his third win (3–11), but Terunofuji is still winless (0–7–7) and almost certainly headed to Juryo next basho.
M5 Okinoumi def. M13 Takekaze by oshidashi—Both rikishi have had terrible tournaments and both now have 5–9 records. 

Now for the TOP matches of the day:

M3 Tochinoshin (12–1) vs. M9 Shohozan (9–4)—This is the match of the day. If Tochinoshin wins, he will secure the yusho [tournament championship]. Shohozan is well matched to fight him, and force Tochnoshin to fight in a pushing/thrusting showdown rather than his preferred on-the-belt power sumo. Should be exciting. (8:30)
M6 Takarafuji (7–6) vs. M1 Ichinojo (8–5)—Despite his loss to Tochinoshin yesterday, Ichinojo has looked TERRIFIC here in Week 2, showing real sumo moves rather than simply looming and leaning on his smaller opponents. It’s actually been fun to watch. If this is a real change for him, it could signal a big change in his fortunes. Takarafuji, on the other hand, has been steady-if-uninspired all tournament and still has a chance at his kachi-koshi. (14:40)
Ozeki Goeido (7–6) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (8–5)—Goeido finally snapped out of his slump yesterday against Okinoumi. He still needs one more win to get his kachi-koshi, and tomorrow he has to face yokozuna Kakuryu, so he’d BETTER get it today. Yesterday Mitakeumi also snapped out of his losing streak and GOT his kachi-koshi by defeating Kakuryu in a close match. If he wins today, he keeps alive his hope for possible double-digit wins. (18:50)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (10–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (10–3)—Both rikishi are 10–3, but Takayasu has gotten there by snapping out of a mid-basho slump and now looks even stronger than he did at the start of the tournament. Kakuryu, on the other hand, started with ten straight wins and is now in the midst of a three-match losing streak. He seems to have fallen back on all of his worst habits. (19:55)

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