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SUMO: Haru Basho 2018 (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Haru Basho, and our undefeated co-leaders—yokozuna Kakuryu and M6 Kaisei—now have a two-win cushion between them and the group of seven 7–2 rikishi who most closely trail them. Yesterday, the only remaining one-loss rikishi—M16 Daiamami—lost for the second time, creating that gap and giving the leaders some breathing room. Still, the pressure is about to mount, particularly for Kakuryu, who over the next six days will have to face both ozeki, both sekiwake, and a komusubi.

Kaisei will have to face tough opponents, too . . . but not of that same level. Of course, Kakuryu is a yokozuna, so he SHOULD be able to hold his own against that group. But for the past three years, he’s been a relatively weak yokozuna who averages 3–4 losses among sanyaku opponents per basho. If he wants to win this yusho [tournament championship], he’s going to have to out-perform his historical average. And the truth is that even in his last two matches—againstM4 Shohozan and M4 Shodai respectively—Kakuryu was showing signs of fatigue and weakness. He was lucky to have won BOTH of those matches, and he knows that he can’t count on that luck holding for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, those seven would-be contenders have to keep winning and HOPE that things turn in their favor. And every time two of them go head-to-head it will just rachet up the pressure for the whole yusho race.

M17 Aoiyama (7–2) vs. J1 Takekaze (7–2)—Today Aoiyama is facing a familiar face, visitin from the Juryo division. Takekaze is doing well in the J1 slot and will probably be back up in the Makuuchi division for May’s tournament, but today he makes a one-day return. Both rikishi need just one more win to secure their kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. (0:10)
M11 Tochiozan (3–6) vs. M16 Daiamami (7–2)—Daiamami stumbled yesterday, creating a buffer for the leaders. Now he’s tied with half-a-dozen other contenders for second place, but he needs to get right back to his winning ways if he wants to stay in the yusho hunt. Something has been wrong with Tochiozan all tournament. It’s not clear exactly what it is, but he’s off his game. (2:45)
M14 Ikioi (7–2) vs. M11 Yutakayama (6–3)—Ikioi came into this tournament looking like a near certain candidate for kyujo [absence due to injury], but he’s fought through an obvious thigh problem AND done so in a winning way. Now he needs just one more win to secure his kachi-koshi, and to stay at least tied for second place. (3:15)
M8 Kagayaki (4–5) vs. M13 Daishomaru (7–2)—Kagayaki is a rikishi who clearly has a learning/skill gap between himself and the top rikishi in the division. He definitely is strong enough to thrive and survive in the M9–16 ranks, but he never seems to be able to put up winning numbers once he’s ranked above that. He’s running about 50/50 so far this basho, so he might be able to break that streak. (4:50)
Komusubi Ichinojo (7–2) vs. M6 Kaisei (9–0)—Probably the most meaningful match of the day. It will show us whether Kaisei is ready to take his strong showing so far and pit it against the sanyaku rikishi. At the same time, it will show us how Ichinojo is going to react against an opponent who is roughly his equal in size, weight, and power. (9:20)
Ozeki Takayasu (7–2) vs. M4 Shodai (5–4)—Takayasu is going to have to stop pussy-footing around and show some strong sumo if he wants to beat Shodai. He doesn’t need to be especially graceful about it, Shodai hasn’t been performing that well this basho, but he has been stable and strong. Takayasu will have to WIN this match, rather than hope for it to be handed to him.(13:20)
Sekiwake Tochinoshin (7–2) vs. ozeki Goeido (6–3)—The match I’m most looking forward to. Both rikishi have been looking strong, and both need to dig in and show the world wat they’re worth. Tochinoshin needs the win to get his kachi-koshi and a share of second place, but Goeido is still a win behind him, and so needs those things even more desperately. I expect this to be a high-energy, power sumo match.  (13:55)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (9–0) vs. M5 Chiyomaru (4–5)—This will probably be Kakuryu’s last match against a Maegashira-ranked opponent, so he’d better make the most of it. (15:05)

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