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SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 9)

Week 2 of the Kyushu basho kicks off with komusubi Takakeisho having reclaimed sole possession of the top of the leaderboard. He’s 7–1 and immediately followed by a half-dozen rikishi at 6–2—ozeki Takayasu, M2 Tochiozan, M7 Abi, M9 Daieisho, M12 Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho.

Takakeisho continued to look strong and calm as he beat M1 Myogiryu yesterday. Today, though, he has to face ozeki Tochinoshin, who finally looked like his old self yesterday. For the first time this basho, Tochinoshin had a solid tachi-ai [initial charge] and got himself into his favorite position (left hand upper grip on the mawashi). When he does this, he’s extremely hard to beat. The big question today is whether he can do that again, or if Takakeisho’s wild tsuppari (pushes and thrusts) will hold him at bay. I look for Takakeisho to try that big roundhouse left that took his opponents by such surprise in the first few days of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Takayasu seemed not to be terribly bothered by the back spasm he suffered during his loss on Saturday. He came back strong yesterday and dispatched M4 Shodai without any trouble. Likewise, sekiwake Mitakeumi seems to have regained his rhythm as he easily handled his fellow sekiwake Ichinojo. With a 5–3 record, a promotion to ozeki is still technically within Mitakeumi’s grasp, but he needs to have a near-perfect Week 2 in order to secure it. Since there aren’t any yokozuna to face, I think the Kyokai are going to demand that he get 12 wins in order to be promoted. That means he’ll have to beat ALL of the ozeki and not have any more “off days” against lower-ranked opponents.

Speaking of Ichinojo, he seems to have forgotten all the lessons that have allowed him to remain at sumo’s third highest rank for most of this year. So far this basho, he’s been fighting like the lumbering, guileless behemoth that yo-yoed up and down the banzuke [ranking sheet] for so long. He comes into today’s matches with a 2–6 record and has to have a spectacular Week 2 if he wants to avoid demotion.

Ozeki Goeido got a pretty easy win yesterday over M4 Yoshikaze, putting him at 5–3 for the tournament. He still hasn’t looked at his best, even as he’s won his last three matches in a row, but at least he’s pulled out of the rut he was in during the middle of Week 1. 

We’ve got seven days of sumo left, and the yusho race is in full swing. It should be competitive all the way to the end of the basho, and the only thing I’m feeling confident about is the likelihood that we’ll end up having a playoff to decide the eventual winner.

Today’s top matches include:

FLASHBACK: Mainoumi vs. Terao—Today’s color commentators on NHK were two of my favorite rikishi when I was living in Japan. It’s fun to see a classic match from back then. (2:25)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–3) vs. M3 Ryuden (2–6)—Mitakeumi is trying to salvage his chances for an ozeki promotion. Ryuden is trying to salvage his whole tournament, this being his highest ranking ever. (9:15)
Komusubi Takakeisho (7–1) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (4–4)—Clearly the match of the day. The current leader facing one of his two remaining matches against a higher ranked opponent. Tochinoshin looked good yesterday, but has he really gotten his rhythm back? (12:10)

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