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SUMO: 2018 Aki Basho (Day 7)

We’ve made it to the middle weekend of the Aki Basho, and the number of undefeated rikishi is down to four—yokozuna Kakuryu, yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Takayasu, and M9 Hokutofuji. Both yokozuna Kisenosato and sekiwake Mitakeumi lost for the first time yesterday, but they’re still with a strong group (which includes ozeki Goeido) that trail the leaders by just a single loss.

Kisenosato had been living dangerously for the previous few days, showing his strength by pulling wins out of bad situations, and proving to fans that he still has the strength and skill of a yokozuna. But at the same time, those matches also showed that he’s still only running at about 75% of his former ability. The big question is how he’ll do over the course of Week 2, when he starts having to face the ozeki and his fellow yokozuna. Will he be able to notch a few wins? If not, he may yet have trouble securing a kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and if that happens there’s a very real chance that he will retire from sumo.

Mitakeumi, on the other hand, lost to Goeido who, after stumbling out of the gate on Day 1, has seemed to gather strength and confidence as Week 1 went along. Mitakeumi is on a push to get promoted to the rank of ozeki, and in order to do that he’ll need to notch at least 10 or 11 wins, and some of those are going to have to come against ozeki and yokozuna opponents. I’d have said that Goeido was going to be his most likely place to get a win, but ozeki Tochinoshin has been looking out of sorts AND had to get six stitches above his right eye after a head-bonking tachi-ai [initial charge] the other day.

Tochinoshin is also in a tough spot because he is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] and he MUST get kachi-koshi in order to avoid that fate. He’s lost two matches in Week 1, though he came back with a win yesterday against M1 Ikioi, bringing Tochinoshin to a 4–2 record today. He needs four more wins to seal the deal, but it seems like at least two of those are now going to have to come against fellow ozeki or yokozuna opponents. 

There’s a lot of good sumo today, but here are the marquee matches.

M9 Hokutofuji (6–0) vs. M11 Sadanoumi (4–2)—One of our co-leaders, Hokutofuji, who is ranked a little below his actual ability, so he really should have a relatively good shot at staying in the yusho hunt. If so, they’ll begin scheduling him tougher opponents around the middle of Week 2. (3:20)
M6 Onosho (2–4) vs. M4 Abi (4–2)—Two future stars, who have been having a little bit of trouble this basho. Onosho seems to be unable to get into the rhythm that made him so devastating in recent tournaments. Meanwhile Abi has been relying solely on thrusting attacks from his long arms, but his high-ranked opponents have figured out how to defend against that. (7:30)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–1) vs. komusubi Takakeisho (2–4)—After losing yesterday, Mitakeumi has to get back on the winning track quickly if he wants to keep his hopes of an ozeki promotion alive. Meanwhile, 2–4 isn’t a bad record for a komusubi (who has had to face mostly yokozuna and ozeki in Week 1), and Takakeisho has looked strong and aggressive in all of his matches so far. (8:50)
Sekiwake Ichinojo (2–4) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (4–2)—A pairing that fans of power sumo ALWAYS look forward to. Tochinoshin needs to get another couple of wins under his belt before he starts facing the top rankers. Meanwhile, Ichinojo needs to remember what winning sumo feels like. (10:40)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (5–1) vs. M4 Chiyonokuni (2–4)—Kisenosato wants to bounce back from his first loss yesterday and get back in a winning way. It’s important to him that he get his kachi-koshi quickly and LOOK like a yokozuna should look. Making matters even more challenging for him, about two minutes before this match, a previous combatant fell off the dohyo and onto Kisenosato’s right ankle. (13:15)

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