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SUMO: 2018 Aki Basho (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Aki Basho and our leaderboard is beginning to thin out. At the very top, still unbeaten, are yokozuna Kakuryu and yokozuna Hakuho. One loss behind them are ozeki Goeido, ozeki Takayasu, and M13 Ryuden. 

Interestingly, both Hakuho and Kakuryu seemed to dodge bullets yesterday. Hakuho got wrapped up in a tense match against sekiwake Mitakeumi, who is quickly losing ground on his hopes to attain an ozeki promotion at the end of this basho. Mitakeumi unexpectedly got the better of the tachi-ai [initial charge] and grabbed a very dominant belt grip on the yokozuna. But that is quite analogous to grabbing a tiger by the tail, as no matter what Mitakeumi tried, Hakuho had an answer for. They wound up standing in the middle of the dohyo, leaning on each other, and each waiting for the other to make a move that could be exploited. After nearly a minute of this, Hakuho made an incredible fake-out by tapping his foot against Mitakeumi’s calf. The sekiwake interpreted this as the yokozuna going for a leg trip and made a counter-move . . . but the fact is that Hakuho never intended to go for that maneuver, so he was perfectly balanced and easily rolled Mitakeumi off the dohyo. It was such a brilliant misdirection, that I laughed out loud and immediately scrolled back the video to watch it again. When all was said and done, Mitakeumi knew he’d been played, and let out a frustrated howl on the way back to the dressing room. 

Kakuryu, on the other hand, faced M3 Endo, and while he won without too much fuss, he did find himself momentarily maneuvered into giving in to his greatest weakness—moving backward and pulling his opponent. Endo, may be having a terrible basho (he’s make-koshi [majority of losses] after losing yesterday’s bout), but he’s still a tricky, skilled sumo technician, and he made the right moves against the yokozuna—he just couldn’t capitalize on them. 

The third yokozuna, Kisenosato, managed to get back in a winning way by out-muscling ozeki Tochinoshin. It was a terrific power-sumo match, despite the fact that neither rikishi is at the top of his form this tournament. I have to admit that I thought Tochinoshin had the edge, but Kisenosato has an incredible ability to lower his center of gravity and resist being moved. And once that throw failed, Tochinoshin was off balance and fell prey to Kisenosato’s powerful grip. A great match that leaves Kisenosato just one win away from his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] that will save him from having to retire. Unfortunately, it also leaves Tochinoshin still needing three wins to get kachi-koshi and escape his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] condition. 

Interestingly, ozeki Goeido is looking the strongest of all the contenders, much as it pains me to say so. He neatly handled komusubi Takakeisho, who has been giving trouble to most of othe the top-rankers all basho. Can it be that Goeido shook off his usual mental sluggishness in the early days of the tournament, and now really is focused going into Week 2? He’s certainly proven that he’s capable of that once in a blue moon, and if we’re in such a phase now he will surely be one of the yusho [tournament championship] contenders down to the wire. On the other hand, I’ve seen Goeido lose focus too many times to actually put any faith in him. 

Let’s have a look at some of today’s top matches.

M13 Ryuden (8–1) vs. M16 Ishiura (2–7)—Today’s matches opened with a biggie. Ryuden is having a great tournament and is on the leaderboard, only one loss behind in the yusho race. Meanwhile, Ishiura is having a terrible basho, ranked at the bottom of the banzuke [ranking sheet], and is only one loss away from make-koshi and a guaranteed demotion out of the top division. There’s A LOT at stake in this bout! (0:10)
M12 Takanoiwa (7–2) vs. M7 Tochiozan (3–6)—Not much to say about this match-up, but the bout is won by a kimarite [winning technique] you don’t see very often. (3:15)
M1 Kaisei (4–5) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (5–4)—Tochinoshin has another power-sumo match-up today against the big Brazilian, Kaisei. The ozeki needs to turn his luck around and quickly if he wants to hold on to his rank. (10:00)
Ozeki Goeido (8–1) vs. ozeki Takayasu (8–1)—The biggest match of the day, two ozeki squaring off, each one just a single loss behind the leaders. One of them will remain in the yusho hunt, the other will fall back to the pack. (10:55)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (7–2) vs. M3 Endo (1–8)—Kisenosato needs just one more win to get his kachi-koshi, which shouldn’t be a struggle for a yokozuna, but in this case is understandable. This will probably be his best chance for an easy win for the rest of the tournament, so he’d better take advantage of it. (12:25)
Sekiwake Ichinojo (3–6) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (9–0)—Hakuho usually has no trouble with the lumbering Ichinojo. But as I noted at the beginning of the tournament, Hakuho seems to have lost a little bit of his raw power in recent months, which could be a problem when facing a 500 lb. opponent. (14:00)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (9–0) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (6–3)—Mitakeumi had a very strong showing yesterday against a yokozuna, but came up short. It’s for certain he wants to make up for that today. In order to do that, he’s going to have to shake up Kakuryu and force him away from the straight ahead sumo he’s been doing all basho. (15:35)

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