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SUMO: 2018 Aki Basho (Day 4)

Things are looking pretty good at the Aki Basho. Here we are on Day 4 and all three yokozuna are still undefeated. Granted that’s really how it SHOULD be, but over the past year or two this kind of steady performance at the top of the banzuke has been in short supply. As if to prove that point, kadoban [threatened with demotion] ozeki Tochinoshin got a little over anxious yesterday and wound up giving up a sloppy loss to komusubi Takakeisho, meaning that only one of the three ozeki—Takayasu—still has a perfect record.

Of course, yokozuna Kisenosato only barely pulled out a win in his match yesterday against M2 Yutakayama. He needed a nifty maneuver at the tawara [straw bales that mark the ring’s edge] AND a mono-ii [judges conference] to get win number three . . . but get it he did. 

Speaking of mono-ii, there sure were A LOT of them yesterday! This is a little weird because there were actually very FEW of them during the whole of July’s Nagoya Basho (I think the first one came on Day 8 or something like that). There were four or five of them yesterday alone.

Ozeki Goeido has bounced back strong from his Day 1 loss, and really looked the most dominant of all the top-rankers in yesterday’s bouts. Of course, given his habits, that just might presage a big slip-up today. You never can tell with Goeido. Just when you think he’s firmly going one direction of the other, he’ll have a mental slip and suddenly turn things around (for good AND ill). 

We have our first kyujo [absence due to injury] of the basho. M11 Kyokutaisei has withdrawn after hurting his knees so badly yesterday that he wasn’t able to squat to accept his winning envelopes. His opponent today was supposed to be Ryuden, who could use a freebie to get himself back on track.

Now, let’s have a look at today’s top matches.

M9 Hokutofuji (3–0) vs. M10 Aoiyama (0–3)—Hokutofuji is picking up where he left off in July, looking strong and focused so far this basho. On the other hand, something isn’t clicking for Aoiyama—maybe his legs are still bothering him, maybe it’s something psychological, but he just hasn’t seemed ready in his first three matches. (3:55)
M7 Shohozan (2–1) vs. M8 Kotoshogiku (3–0)—Kotoshogiku has been looking rejuvenated this basho, but I think that’s mainly based on the quality of his opponents rather than any revival in the former-ozeki’s sumo. Today he faces Shohozan, who is a rough and tumble scrapper who doesn’t give anyone an easy time. (5:25)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (3–0) vs. sekiwake Ichinoj0 (1–2)—Another one of the interesting big-name match-ups coming earlier in the basho than usual thanks to the large number of yokozuna and ozeki in competition. Ordinarily, the two sekiwake wouldn’t face each other until sometime in Week 2. Mitakeumi is still on track to make a run at an ozeki promotion (he needs 10 or 11 wins to get there), but he’s got a BIG opponent today. On the other hand, with the exception of an impressive performance on Day 1, Ichinojo has looked like his old. lumbering, clueless self for most of this tournament. (9:25)
Komusubi Tamawashi (0–3) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (2–1)—Tochinoshin lost his first match of the basho yesterday, but since he’s kadoban, he’s got to get himself back on track quickly. For his part, Tamawashi lost a close match yesterday to Mitakeumi, and he’s getting a little desperate to notch a win somewhere here in Week 1. (10:05)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (3–0) vs. M1 Kaisei (1–2)—Kisenosato gets a big challenge today in the form of a big opponent—Brazilian Kaisei. For his part, Kaisei has been bringing his A-game fairly regularly, so this could be a very interesting bout. (13:15)

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