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SUMO: Haru Basho 2018 (Day 6)

Welcome to Day 6 of the Haru Basho—sumo’s Spring Tournament being held in the city of Osaka. We’re heading into the middle weekend with a relatively short leaderboard. Only three rikishi remain undefeated—yokozuna Kakuryu, M4 Shohozan, and M6 Kaisei. Of course, there are seven rikishi still only one win off the pace, so we’re set up for an exciting yusho [tournament championship] race as we move toward Week 2.

M17 Aoiyama fell off the leaderboard yesterday when he lost to M15 Myogiryu, but the fact of the matter is that he had a win stolen from him by a bad call by they gyoji [referee] and a refusual by the shimpan [ring judges] to call a mono-ii [decision review]. On replay from EVERY angle it was clear that Aoiyama actually won the match and deserves to still be one of the leaders. But bad calls are a part of sumo. The big Brazilian just has to gather his fighting spirit and regroup today. He’s still in the trailing-by-one group, and may yet get his chance to battle for the yusho.

Another rikishi who suffered his first loss yesterday was M14 Ikioi, who was slapped face-first into the dirt by M16 Daiamami. Really, the half-henka move Daiamami used, hitting on the tachi-ai [initial charge] and then backing away, seemed really unnecessary, particularly given that Ikioi has been visibly suffering from a thigh injury . . . but there was nothing illegal about it.

We’re going to see some big-name marquee match-ups beginning today, as NHK tries to take advantage of sumo’s recent booming popularity to pull in big ratings. Today we’ll see an old rivalry renewed as Kakuryu faces off against former-ozeki Kotoshogiku, and the ultimate street-fighter match up between Shohozan and Goeido.

And in the injury report, although the doctors said that M12 Kotoyuki’s leg injury would take a week to heal, he’s back in competition after missing only 2 days. He’s still winless at 0–4–1, but at least this way he’s got a fighting chance to save his

M17 Aoiyama (4–1) vs. M13 Asanoyama (4–1)—Aoiyama was outright robbed of a win yesterday. The question is, how will he react today? If he channels it into his sumo, he can be even more dominant than he was the first few days, but if he gets distracted by the unfairness of it, he could go on a two or three day losing streak that takes him out of contention for the yusho race. And his opponent today is no pushover—Asanoyama has been having a good basho, too. (2:40)
M6 Kaisei (5–0) vs. M8 Daieisho (3–2)—For the first third of the tournament, we’ve seen Kaisei-A for every bout. Can he keep up the focus and continue to show us his best sumo day after day? Or will he slip a little and let Kaisei-B show up for a bout or two? (6:30)
M1 Endo (3–2) vs. sekiwake Tochinoshin (3–2)—three wins during Week 1 is a very good start for anyone ranked at Maegashira 1, but especially so for Endo who, though a crowd favorite, has always struggled when ranked near the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. But the week isn’t over yet, and he for sure wants to add to his winning total. Meanwhile, Tochinoshin must rebound from a hard-fought loss yesterday. The thing is, it was pretty much bad luck that did him in—he followed his game plan admirably and looked strong, fast, and nimble. If he brings that again today, I don’t think Endo will have an adequate answer. (11:25)
M4 Shohozan (5–0) vs. ozeki Goeido (3–2)—I’m not a fan of the type of brawling, slapping, brutal sumo that these two rikishi favor, but I DO have to admit that it’s always entertaining when they go head-to-head. Shohozan is fighting to keep a piece of the lead, but Goeido MUST win if he wants to have any chance to remain involved in the yusho race. (14:00)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (5–0) vs. M3 Kotoshogiku (1–4)—Kakuryu is looking strong this basho and Kotoshogiku really isn’t. But this is the 48th time they’re facing each other, and the record is pretty close to even (25-22 in the yokozuna’s favor). When two rikishi know each other that well, anything can happen. (14:30)

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