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SUMO: 2018 Aki Basho (Day 6)

It’s Day 6, one-third of the way through the Aki Basho, and there still are so many undefeated and one-loss rikishi to say that a real “leaderboard” has formed yet. That’s incredibly competitive sumo, and a super exciting tournament! The 5–0 rikishi include all the yokozuna, one ozeki, and one sekiwake.

The big name match of the day yesterday was definitely sekiwake Mitakeumi against ozeki Tochinoshin. Mitakeumi came in with a perfect 4–0 record, and Tochinoshin was coming in at 3–1 after suffering his first loss on Day 4. Besides the loss, Tochinoshin also got six stitches above his right eye from that match, which only added to the pressure he’s under to get his kachi-koshi quickly and eliminate his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status. For some reason, though, Tochinoshin led with his right shoulder at the tachi-ai [initial charge] and was pushed back at the start. Mitakeumi looked strong, confident, and laser-focused on his goal and won with very little fuss.

The question for me is whether Tochinoshin’s stitches are going to give him trouble at EVERY tachi-ai . . . and if they are, can he manage to get the five more wins he needs to get kachi-koshi? His Week 2 is going to be filled with matches against yokozuna and fellow-ozeki, so he’d better get back on track quickly if he wants to keep his spot at sumo’s second-highest rank.

The weirdest match of the day yesterday was the day’s finale—yokozuna Hakuho against komusubi Takakeisho. Komusubi is the toughest rank on the banzuke [ranking sheet] because you have to start every tournament fighting the yokozuna and ozeki, as Takakeisho’s 1–3 record proved. But the young rikishi has been energetic and given his best against all of his opponents so far, and he brought that same spirit to the Hakuho match. In fact, he managed to get the upper hand against the yokozuna. But Hakuho is still the greatest rikishi of his generation, probably all-time, and his speed and reflexes are still the best in the game. Despite being off balance and with his back to his opponent, Hakuho was able to recover and move far enough out of reach that Takakeisho found himself lunging at open air, only managing to grab at Hakuho’s retreating left calf. This let the yokozuna make an “olé” spin and send the komusubi face down onto the clay. Oh, and of course all this happened over the course of about six seconds. Like I said, weirdest match of the day . . . but still absolute proof of Hakuho’s near-absolute dominance.

I’m sure we won’t see anything like that today, but here are the matches of the day.

M1 Kaisei (2–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (5–0)—Despite coming into the basho with recurring lower back pain, Takayasu has managed to hang tough each and every day. Kaisei, on the other hand, has brought a lot of his A-game here in Week 1, but has had the bad luck of facing a bunch of top ranked opponents (that’s what your Week 1 is like when you’re at M1). (10:15)
Ozeki Goeido (4–1) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–0)—Talk about a marquee match! Two past yusho [tournament championship] winners. An ozeki who is fighting to stay in the yusho race against a sekiwake who is pushing for a promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank. It’s hard to believe they didn’t save this pairing for over the coming weekend! (11:05)
M1 Ikioi (0–5) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (3–2)—Tochinoshin has dropped two matches in a row, and really needs to get back on track NOW if he wants to save his ozeki rank. He’s got a lucky pairing today as Ikioi is having a lackluster basho, and is unlikely to do anything particularly tricky. However, he is a tenacious rikishi, and Tochinoshin has looked a little off his game this whole tournament. (12:05)
M3 Shodai (2–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (5–0)—Like yesterday’s Hakuho bout, all I’m going to say is that this is a very surprising match. (13:00)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (5–0) vs. M2 Chiyotairyu (0–5)—Kisenosato is still undefeated, but of all the yokozuna, he’s the one who’s danced closest to the verge of defeat day after day. It would be good for him to just get a straightforward win, and luckily his opponent today has been having a really disappointing basho so far. (15:35)

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