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SUMO: Haru Basho 2018 Nakabi [the Middle Day] (Day 8)

It’s nakabi [the middle day] of the Haru Basho—Day 8 of 15. Both our undefeated rikishi, yokozuna Kakuryu and M6 Kaisei, won yesterday and maintain their one-win lead over M13 Daishomaru, and M16 Daiamami. With the exception of Kakuryu, that’s a BUNCH of unexpected names. The action in Osaka is certainly living up to the pre-basho predictions of unpredictability. 

In particular, Kaisei got a little lucky yesterday. Historically he’s got a reputation for running hot and cold (having an “A” and “B” version of his fighting style), and after performing to the best of his game on Days 1–6, he was a little wobbly in his match against M8 Kagayaki. Indeed, if not for the fact that Kagayaki is habitually one of the clumsiest of rikishi, Kaisei could easily have lost this match. As it was, he flopped on his belly just moments after his opponent inadvertently over-stepped backward out of the ring. Still, in order to win any yusho requires a bit of luck, and that’s just what Kaisei had. Hopefully he’ll make good use of it as we head into Week 2. 

Ozeki Takayasu continues to confound me by looking weak and uncertain of himself, but still managing to pull wins out and stay just on the edge of the yusho [tournament championship] hunt. Yesterday he had a long, drawn out match against M4 Shohozan, who is known for high speed, high energy matches. When Shohozan’s style proved unable to overcome the bigger, stronger ozeki, Takayasu still had trouble finishing the challenger off.

Meanwhile, last basho’s champion, shin-sekiwake Tochinoshin also continues to be two wins off the pace, but he’s looked very strong in doing so. Even his losses have shown him performing strong sumo . . . but the luck that was on his side in January seems at least to be neutral (if not fully against him) this tournament. To make matters worse, after his strong win over M2 Arawashi yesterday, Tochinoshin seemed to be favoring his chronically injured right knee. Hopefully that was just a momentary twinge, because it would be a real shame if his old injury started acting up again now that he’s in the midst of a real run at ozeki promotion.

NOTE: At the start of today’s video are a couple of flashback matches featuring one of my favorite rikishi of all time, the mighty mite Mainoumi. He’s now a frequent commentator on NHK.

M16 Daiamami (6–1) vs. M14 Nishikiki (3–4)—Daiamami continues to look strong and confident this basho. Of course sometime in the next few days they’re going to make him start facing higher-ranked opponents, so he’d better enjoy life toward the bottom of the banzuke [ranking sheet] while it lasts. (1:40)
M13 Daishomaru (6–1) vs. M17 Aoiyama (5–2)—Daishomaru is in just about the exact same position that Daiamami is . . . except he hasn’t looked quite as sharp. Also, he’s facing Aoiyama, who IS performing like a contender. (2:40)
M6 Kaisei (7–0) vs. M9 Okinoumi (5–2)—Kaisei got a little lucky yesterday. The question here is whether he uses that as a reason to re-focus himself and bring a Kaisei-A performance, or as an excuse to get distracted and let Kaisei-B loose on the dohyo again. (7:00)
M9 Ryuden (2–5) vs. M6 Hokutofuji (2–5)—Two young rikishi who aren’t doing very well this tournament, but will be strong competitors in future basho. In any case, they put on quite a show in this match, one of the highlights of the tournament so far. (9:00)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–2) vs. sekiwake Tochinoshin (5–2)—The two sekiwake are both 5–2, and both want to stay on the edge of the yusho hunt. Of course only one can succeed. The match will hinge on which one better executes his game plan. Mitakeumi wants to keep Tochinoshin from moving in close and getting a grip on his belt. As long as he’s making the big Georgian chase him around the ring, he’ll have the advantage. On the other side, Tochinoshin wants to get in close and stay that way, but as long as he keeps his feet moving and avoids standing still and reaching, he’ll be in good shape. (13:00)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (7–0) vs. M4 Shohozan (5–2)—Kakuryu doesn’t like the kind of high-intensity slap-fest that Shohozan specializes in, but that doesn’t have to be a problem. So long as the yokozuna doesn’t slip into his habitual back-pedal, he should handle Shohozan pretty easily. (15:35)


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