Haru 2021 Day Nine
Midorifuji won when he had absolutely no business doing so, thanks to a kainahineri. That's the two-arm twisting thrust down, and it was a real surprise to Daiamami.
Match of The Day
Maegashira 7 East versus Maegashira 10 West Ryuden
Neither of these veteran rikishi look particularly nimble anymore, and their respective leg injuries are preventing them from doing better. Yet they both gave their all in this match, and, even if it wasn't pretty, it was fun sumo. Ryuden worked a little more, and he got the yorikiri win.
Takayasu kept his place at the top of the yusho arasoi, while Terunofuji and Chiyonokuni kept pace. Takayasu's nifty slap down of Onosho shows he is dialed in and will be tough to beat. Terunofuji once again bottled up an opponent, this time when Myogiryu got a favorable position. Chiyonokuni kept his energy against Tamawashi for a straight ahead hikiotoshi.
So let's consider the lower end of the Banzuke. There is one rikishi who stands out for a terrible performance from Maegashira 9 down. That is Kotoshoho, who is out injured. Otherwise, everyone has at least 4 wins through 9 matches. This is not a basho offering up a sacrificial lamb in the lower Maegashira ranks everyday. The early Makuuchi matches seem like they will be toss ups.
This creates an odd scheduling problem as the basho unfolds. Ideally, the bottom 16 rikishi and the top 16 rikishi in Makuuchi should all face each other. That gets ruined by injury and prohibited matches pretty quickly. Then, a standout rikishi will not face the poor performing wrestlers he hasn't faced, but go up the rankings. Chiyonokuni, Tobizaru, and Terutsuyoshi are the obvious candidates to get a bump in opponent strength. Yet who gets avoided is less clear.
At the top of the Banzuke, a similar issue holds. There are a few more disastrous performances here, from Takarafuji, Onosho, Okinoumi, and Shimanoumi. Yet the Sanyaku seems to be holding. Even Daieisho, who started poorly, has rallied. Shodai might not be performing as well as he could, but he's 4-5 and can still avoid going Kadoban in May. Most others at the top are more focused on the yusho.
More than usual, scheduling matters in such an even basho. Not only does it make a difference how long it will be until Chiyonokuni sees the Sanyaku for the first time, individual matchup histories will grow in importance. There's a shape to this basho, and Takayasu has now won eight straight since his opening day loss. Below that outstanding performance at the top, it feels like the thing to watch is who will fall.